The Great Mother’s Day Controversy

Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel as if every topic is now controversial?  I was racking my brains, trying to hit on a completely non-controversial topic to write about, and I came up with just two:  1) cute babies and 2) Mother’s Day.

Surely, honoring our mothers is a safe topic, right? We can all agree that we wouldn’t be here without our moms and that our mother’s love played an essential role in our development?

Mother's DayNo, folks. It turns out that we cannot. You know who had the biggest problem with this holiday? Anna Jarvis, the very founder of Mother’s Day. In 1908, Anna Jarvis, one of thirteen siblings, wanted to honor her own mother who had been a militant peace activist during the United States Civil War. When she lobbied for the creation of a formal Mother’s Day for all American mothers, Ms. Jarvis was literally laughed out of the room. “Next thing you know there will be Mother’s-in-Law Day,” scoffed the politicians. (And yes, for those who are curious, a date dedicated to honoring mothers-in-law was established in 1934, twenty years after Woodrow Wilson officially signed Mother’s Day into existence. MIL-Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of each October.)

Look in the Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For files, and you’ll see that Anna Jarvis herself was the first to condemn the growing commercialization of Mother’s Day, going so far as to organize boycotts and petitions to rescind the very holiday she created. One of her anti-Mother’s Day protests led to her arrest for disturbing the peace.  And once, she ordered a “Mother’s Day salad” in a restaurant, only to throw it on the floor!

Jarvis was particularly appalled by store-bought Mother’s Day cards, saying: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Jarvis also took issue with buying chocolates for mom on Mother’s Day. “You take a box to Mother,” she scoffed, “and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”

Anna Jarvis didn’t want Mother’s Day to be a “burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day”, she wanted mothers to be acknowledged in more simple, intimate and meaningful ways: handwritten notes, visits, phone calls.

I wonder what Anna would think of blog posts? Would she approve of this piece on working moms? Would she think I’d honored my incredible wife, Amy, appropriately? Would she appreciate these tributes to my mother and, yes, my mother-in-law?  How would Anna suggest I honor the phenomenal moms who work at Matchmaker Logistics, putting just as much love and care into helping clients and babysitting loads as they do into raising their own lovely children?

Mother's Day

Personally, I think that Anna had some control issues – why not let people do and give what feels best to them? After all, you never know how a gift, no matter how well-intentioned, might be received. It reminds me of an old joke:

Three sons were discussing the Mother’s Day gifts they had given their elderly mother.
The first son, William, said: “ I built a big house for our mother.”
The second son, Arnold, said: “ I bought Mom a Mercedes.”
David, the third son, said: “ You remember how our mother enjoyed reading scripture before her eyesight went? I paid the elders at the church to spend 12 years teaching a parrot how to recite The Bible. Mama just has to name the chapter and the verse, and the parrot recites it.”
On the next family Zoom call, the sons asked their mother how she was enjoying her gifts. “William,” she said, “ the house you built is huge; I spend far too much time cleaning it. And Arnold, I am too old to travel. I stay home most of the time cleaning this big house, so I rarely use the Mercedes. But, David, I have to tell you, that chicken was delicious!”

Happy Mother’s Day,