Anyone who’s read my books, Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year
will know they feature families and several different kinds of mothers. Professional women struggling to juggle the work and the family; a pastor’s wife expected to mother the congregation as well as her five growing children; a mother who has escaped a violent teenage marriage, been forced to abandon her child, and worked in a women’s refuge … Though all are western mothers, and only one has suffered the trauma of the stillbirth of a malformed baby.
This Sunday is Mothers’ Day
or as it used to be known, Mothering Sunday. The middle Sunday in Lent, when (as you may already know), domestic servants had a day off to go and visit Mother.
Many of them would be just kids, really: girls the age we now count legally as children, girls who’d now be in school, girls too young to marry, and who we count as being too young to be seduced into sex. Sent out to earn a living as young teens, some as young as twelve, living in a servants’ attic, eating in the servants’ kitchen surrounded by adults. A visit home to Mother and the sisters and brothers was a real treat. They might take Mother a bunch of flowers, picked from a hedgerow along the way …
In fact, it’s a day about showing love.
So, here we are on Mothers’ Day
with cards, shop windows and catalogues of possible gifts, and for churchgoers a service where little bunches of flowers are given out to the mums.
The churches have also, so as not to leave out the childless, so as to be inclusive, led the way to this becoming an all-women’s day.
It’s a good intention: but is there actually a reasonable argument for keeping this day to specially celebrate and be thankful for mothers? For what they do, for what they go through to produce, nurture, and protect, children? Hoping not to hurt anyone’s feelings, I think there is.
We might up-date celebrating mothers by being aware of mothers world-wide.
Well off, well educated, mothers in Western countries, aren’t in the majority of women on the planet. And we have health care to ensure that (usually) pregnancy, birth, and the post-natal days are safer than ever before. Clean water, a warm home, an income, maternity leave, all work towards happy motherhood. Postnatal depression can be treated.
Most young girls here have not gone through FGM, with all that does to intercourse and giving birth.
Most have not, at puberty, had an arranged marriage, which nicely puts an end to education, can lead to pregnancy before they are fully grown and developed, can lead to dangerous childbirth, or at worst to death.
Most western women do not develop a fistula from going through complicated, protracted labour and delivery in a poverty stricken area without enough doctors, nurses, or trained midwives: for us, the minority, there are maternity units with skilled staff who can perform a safe caesarean.
But all these events give a very realistic picture of being a mother in, say, somewhere like Afghanistan, or many African countries..
Mums in the refugee camps in Europe
Having fled war, mothers living in makeshift shelters are having keep an eye on their young girls. Living in a tent, or substandard group housing, girls are vulnerable to abduction, presumably to be used for sex. It isn’t nice: it’s a terrible worry for parents. Especially for mothers, who know what sex with an older, maybe roughly forceful, man would be like for their young girls.
So, it’s a day about love?
I would really love to see Mothers’ Day become a day when we think about the reality of being mothers. While being thankful to our mothers, and for our own safe birth, let’s do more than that.
That’s not to say we need to deny ourselves giving and receiving flowers, chocs and hugs … But whether or not we are mothers, inclusivity might mean showing empathy to mothers less fortunate: giving to an organisation which cares for women as mothers.Let’s make Mothers Day about love and generous inclusivity
Find out about fistula, FGM, and other related topics:
Celebrate books and reading:
Hawkesbury LitFest … Saturday 23rd April, all day
at Hawkesbury Upton … author readings,
talks, poetry, children’s activities … in a Cotswold