Deep thoughts about the meaning behind Mother’s Day

Published 8:42 am Monday, May 15, 2017

By Mimi Becker

Contributing writer

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For most families it ranks right up there with Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving as a must-do on the calendar. As with any occasion, there are celebrations with family members, flowers, gifts and food preparations. There is also nostalgia and, perhaps, sadness as there will be family members who are no longer with us to be celebrated in person.

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The history of Mother’s Day is conflicted. According to, the idea of the day is credited to Anna Jarvis in 1908. With the stroke of Woodrow Wilson’s pen, it became a national U.S. holiday in 1914. As time moved on, Anna became upset with the commercialization of the observance and spent the better part of the rest of her life trying to undo Mothers Day’s place on the calendar. It seems her best of intentions ran afoul of retailers who immediately seized upon the perfect mechanism to add some green to their coffers on the backs of well-intentioned children and spouses. What family doesn’t scramble around, today it is through e-mail, to determine how best to honor Mom?

While moms won’t look a gift horse in the mouth — they are certainly appreciative of the cards, flowers and gifts — I’m going to go out on a limb and venture the guess that they would be very content with a visit or a call. Sunday would be nice, but any day is just fine.

As Mother’s Day goes, it is children and spouses that bear the main responsibility of noting the day appropriately. However, I have begun to appreciate the well wishes exchanged between mothers. Coming out of church, at a restaurant or out shopping, women wish each other a happy day. The older I get, the more I understand. No slight to children and spouses, I have three of one and one of the other, but mothers do share a common bond. Well wishes on Mother’s Day to each other have special significance.

It is not the biological experience of birthing; many women are mothers who did not get there that way. Motherhood clearly has meaning reaching far into the depths and history of society. Those old Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring mothers, theirs centered around goddesses, of course. Early Christians had a “Mothering Sunday.” Honoring motherhood has ties to traditional spiritual belief.

There are societies which are described as matriarchal in which power, lineage and property are transferred through the mother. Today there are several operating matriarchal societies. I’m sure it would surprise no one to learn they are predominantly small groups in somewhat isolated geographic areas. In more well-known examples, some Native American tribes placed women in roles of authority and property control. Mother’s Day was lots of days.

Do you think the women of the Eastern Woodlands sat around a communal camp fire and discussed the issues of balancing motherhood and proper crop management while beating corn into several forms of meal? I’ll put money on it. Unfortunately, they didn’t figure out a way to put it all down in record form, most likely because they didn’t have time — with the issues of not enough storage and the men were taking way too long to return with the hunt bounty which had to be processed. Shouldn’t they have been home yesterday?

American society has become more inclusive. Civic organizations admit men and women, we do have women in elected office, many religious denominations ordain women into roles of liturgical leadership and women own approximately 31 percent of all privately held firms (according to National Association of Women Business Owners, 2015). But, no matter where a woman fits in any category, she is a mom or has a mom. That seems to be a special relationship. I’ve noticed, or perhaps just become aware, that when women are together in a group for whatever reason, conversation will very often include checking up on each other’s children and moms.

“How is your Mom doing?” “I saw your Mom out yesterday.” “Where are your children now?”

On Mother’s Day, I appreciate the flowers and gifts, or whatever my children and spouse have planned for the day. Actually, this year we are going to visit our granddaughter (and her parents) on Friday evening and Saturday to watch a T-ball game. Due to other family conflicts, Sunday may be spent just at home working in the yard. I’m fine with that. But, I will look forward to the “Happy Mother’s Day” called across the yard by the neighbor moms and those coming out of church or at the restaurant for brunch.

One member of our extended family has recently lost his mom. My husband’s mom died several years ago. On this Mother’s Day, we think of them and wish those family members who can’t physically spend time with their mothers a good and happy day as well.