Why I Hate Mother’s Day

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I’m a mother. I have two little girls, 6 and 8 as of this writing. I love them very much and have no regrets about becoming a mother.

My own mother and I rarely see eye to eye on anything, but I know she loves me and did her best.

Neither of these are the reason I hate Mother’s Day.

I hate Mother’s Day because it’s a cruel joke. It is a holiday that purports to demonstrate the value of mothers while truly highlighting all the ways mothers are not valued at all. Don’t tell me “Happy Mother’s Day” unless you mean it every single day. Don’t pretend you value my contribution to society unless you put your time and money where your mouth is. Don’t tell me “Happy Mother’s Day” and then turn around the next day and bitch about children in public places.

Here are some things you need to know about Motherhood in the United States:

Mothers fleeing abusive situations make up the majority of homeless women and children. (Lots of statistics here too) I was almost one of them. If it were not for the support of my family I still would be.

– Mothers still bear the double burden at a much higher rate than men. Women spend more time on household tasks and with children than men do, and most perceptions of equity are objectively false even in liberal and enlightened parents who attempt to share the burden equally.

– Mothers get “Mommy Tracked” at work and all women still make less on average than men. This effect is even greater for highly skilled and educated women. Most women have some sense of feeling like they have to choose between family and work. We know that having a family will likely damage our career and and financial prospects, and we choose to do it anyway. The idea that having children will be a harsh financial burden is so endemic to our culture most people will just tell you to take responsibility for your choices as if that’s the way it should be. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Sweden has enacted a number of policies that show this attitude to be entirely false and unnecessary.

68% of Child Support cases in the United States are in arrears (as of 2003, can anyone cite more recent data?). Meanwhile, our culture harshly judges single women parenting alone by perpetuating false myths about welfare queens. You’ve all heard them, right? Those women who buy lobster with their foodstamps and keep on popping out more babies so they are eligible for more government money? Even if we assume this is true (and it’s not), where are the fathers of those children in this narrative? Where is your derision for their lack of support?

– Many single mothers literally cannot work because child care costs more than they could possibly make. Meanwhile, child care subsidies are being slashed across the country.

The United States epically fails at paid maternity leave, not to mention gender egalitarian paternity leave acknowledging fathers’ responsibilities and desires to take a larger role in family responsibilities.

– By whatever metric you choose, men’s standard of living rises after a divorce while women’s falls.

- Men bitch constantly about child support. I’m going to spare you the links to the MRA forums where they talk about all the things their exes spend child support on besides their children. I’m just going to assert that the average child support award for middle income families doesn’t cover the fucking power bill, and let you make your own decisions about that. Or you can take the word of this single father, who found out himself when he got full custody of his kids. And to make this personal, my ex-husband told our family judge that he couldn’t afford to pay the minimal state mandated amount of child support because he only makes about $100,000/year. To catch you up, I’m on disability and get about $600/month and only avoid homelessness because of the charity of my family. Oh, and he is remarried to a woman who works full time and makes about $80,000/year. (I love her. She’s a fantastic step-mom, thank god.) So not only does he make more money than most of you reading this, but he is also part of a double income family with another person who makes more than the average American family of four. Naturally, the judge laughed him out of the court room, but the very fact that he believes he got the short end of the child support stick makes me incoherent with rage. Oh, and he insists that we spilt all child related extracurricular costs 50/50 because that’s fair, despite the fact that his income alone is THIRTEEN TIMES what mine is. Go ahead. Tell me that you value my contribution as a mother to my children. Tell her. Maybe you think you believe it now, but if she gets tired of your selfish shit, you’ll be bitching about how unfair it is that you have to pay her so much child support too. I cannot believe we let men get away with this. I cannot believe that we as a society allow this to happen to so many divorced women who struggle financially.

– Let’s talk about that term: VALUE. What does it mean? I know, it’s pretentious to cite the dictionary. But here is the thing that we all know about motherhood in the United States: It is every bit as important as anything anyone does at an office, but it is unpaid labor. If we value it, we value it with lip service and other things that don’t pay bills or support a mother in her old age (because motherhood does not pay into social security, right?). I’m pretty down on that definition of value, especially in a capitalist society. Here, value means money. So you want to value me, society? Put your money where your mouth is, or stop lying. Mothers not only do full time unpaid labor, but this labor actually financially disadvantages them both in the very real present and their futures.

– Speaking of things The United States does not value, how about my children? Why are our public schools overwhelmingly underfunded? Why don’t our highly educated teachers make the same kind of salaries as similarly highly educated professionals?  (And don’t even try to convince me that the lower salaries of teachers have nothing to do with the fact that the profession is overwhelmingly female.) Why does the rate of child poverty keep rising? Why don’t we care about rehabilitation for juvenile offenders? Why are our legislators slashing child health services and recreation programs? (I’m angry and tired. You can do your own googling. It’s all true.)

– Don’t even get me started on the state of reproductive freedom and family planning in this country. No really. I can’t right now. Making this list has already made me unbelievably angry. If I start on this tangent, I won’t come back.

People hate children in public. When you criticize the behavior of children in public, you are criticizing mothers. When you restrict places you think children should be allowed, you are restricting the freedom of mothers, every one of which is well acquainted with your stink eye in public when her children aren’t being perfect angels because it’s tuesday or the tiles in this store are the wrong color blue. Mothers even do this to each other, self congratulating themselves for having neurotypical kids who are relatively well behaved in public and pitying or criticizing the mothers of children with learning disabilities or developmental disabilities. Because if their kids had those problems, of course they would know what to do. It’s so easy to pass judgement on parents, on children, so go ahead, complain about the crying baby on the airplane. BUT DON’T TELL ME HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY AND EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE YOU.

– As a bonus, we live in a society of queer erasure, that ultimately fails to honor any parenting done by those who do not subscribe to a gender binary. Where is Transfather’s day on your calendar? What about Genderqueer non-determinate gender parent day? Along with all the gender based problems listed above, I’d like to give a hearty FUCK YOU to the very idea of a gender binary in the first place.

I don’t want cards. I don’t want flowers. I don’t want text messages and cheery facebook messages. I want to live in a fair and just society that values motherhood and children with more than just lip service about the most important job in the world. I want the burden of parenting, both practical and financial, to be shared equally between all genders. I don’t want women to have to choose between being abused and having a roof over their children’s heads. I want all women, but especially mothers, to be financially equal to men.  I want to live in a society that recognizes the myth of the gender binary and has abolished every single one of our idiotic ideas about gender roles.

So unless I know you’re putting your money and time toward those goals, don’t tell me Happy Mother’s Day. Fuck you. I don’t believe you.

Want to make a start and wish me a Happy Mother’s Day?

Donate to one of these organizations:

Planned Parenthood

House of Ruth

NOW

PFLAG

The Human Rights Campaign

Alternatively, walk into a public school and give them money. Straight up cash. Give it to a teacher. I promise, she’s spent more form her pocket than you’re gong to hand her. Fund school fundraisers. Donate to school clubs. Teachers’ Unions publish ballots so you know who they think you should vote for. If you don’t have strong opinions otherwise, support these candidates. Write strongly worded letters to your representatives every single time they cut public school funding.

Stop being a dick to mothers and children in public.

Don’t let your bros bitch about their child support and get away with it.

Speaking of which, if you know a man behind on his child support, express your disappointment in him.

Remove the phrase “personal responsibility” from your vocabulary. It does not mean what you think it means.

Last but not least, DON’T TELL ME THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS. Other countries have demonstrated that these problems can be fixed, and fixed well. There is absolutely no excuse for any of this.

And that is why I hate Mother’s Day. I challenge you to make me hate it less.

 

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