THIS WEEK is all about mother. Yesterday, several markets and stores opened for extra hours to give shoppers a chance to get that special something for their matriarch. But as the nation feverishly prepares for this weekend’s observance of Mother’s Day, we must also take time to reflect on the deeper role of mothers in our society, acknowledge the fact that several perform the role of “mother” in the configuration of the Caribbean family, and ask whether society can do more to support moms.
Mother’s Day celebrations actually date back to the Greeks and Romans. They held festivals to honour the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. In Britain, Mothering Sunday was a day designated by the Anglican Church during which the faithful returned to their “mother church” and inevitably reunited with their families. Some historians think it was the return to the “mother” church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those employed as domestic servants or apprentices, being given a day to visit their mother. The modern-day Mother’s Day, an American holiday, began in 1908.
A mother is a crucial force in any person’s life. She bestows the gift of life, she is integral in nurturing and supporting. She is often the greatest source of joy, but can also be our harshest, most honest critic. Mother’s Day is how we as a society express love and gratitude, but her value goes beyond the fretful festivities of one day. While moms love being served breakfast in bed, flowers, nice lunches and afternoon tea, there are more enduring ways to say “I love you”. Like pitching in around the house, listening, giving mom her uninterrupted “me time”, showing her you truly care.
Today, many are of the view that the commemoration has become too commercial; that its message is now trivialised.
Mother’s Day should be a celebration of all who mother, whether they are biological parents or not. For motherhood is not something limited to biological processes. Mothering is as much about emotional and social ties as it is about the facts of life. Especially in the Caribbean, where close family friends are often adopted as “aunts”, where elderly neighbours become “grannies”, we need to admit how many “non-mothers” play a maternal role in our upbringing.
And we need to ask hard questions, too. Are we as a society showing the kind of care and affection that we should to one another? What is the use celebrating Mother’s Day when sons and daughters are being shot in the street, kidnapped and trafficked out of the country? A society that is not guaranteeing the security of its citizens, that is not supplying adequate healthcare, that is poorly administering grants is a society that is undermining everything mothers work for.