Laurie Toby Edison

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Mother’s Day: Why, Who, and How

Laurie and Debbie say:

In 1870, not long after the end of the horrifyingly bloody and destructive U.S. Civil War, anti-war activist Julia Ward Howe called for an international Mother’s Day holiday. In her declaration, she said:

We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
and

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Although Howe failed to get this international day off the ground, the holiday we celebrate today can be traced to her initial efforts through the public work of Anna Jarvis and her mother (also Anna Jarvis).

Howe’s declaration is as apt today as it was 138 years ago. When a theoretically democratic country is engaged in a bloody, senseless, and extremely expensive war that more than 70% of its population opposes, Ward’s idea of “solemnly [taking] counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…” deserves attention and remembrance.

***

NBC’s America’s Favorite Mom campaign looks a great deal more like Hallmark than it does like Julia Ward Howe. But we’d be happy to just let it go if it didn’t have a category called “The Non-mom Mom.” (“Grandparent, stepmom, or mom to adopted children, each one raising and loving a child. A priceless gift for everybody.”)

Hello, these women are not non-moms … they’re mothers. Anyone who mothers a child is a mother. And any child lucky enough to have someone loving mothering them will know that they have a mom, not a “non-mom.” Get a clue, NBC!

***

Finally, Laurie will be moderating a panel at BlogHer on moms, children, and body issues, called “Mirrors: Ours, The Media’s, Our Culture’s, and Our Kids’. She wrote about her thoughts on the topic here. Mother’s Day is an excellent time to reflect on how moms (and dads and aunts and uncles and teachers and whoever) model body image for the kids in our lives.

Often we’re trying to deal with the negative stuff [our kids] bring home. “You’re ugly, you’re too fat, your eyes are wrong, your color is icky” etc. We want to help our kids to feel good about themselves.

Sometimes it’s really hard to do if we don’t feel good about our own bodies. Sometimes they’ll pick up the wrong messages from us. And it doesn’t help that we live in a world that markets the “super model” look to 9 year old girls.

Children of all races, sizes, ages, and body types deserve to feel good about themselves: how they look, and how their bodies feel.

Thanks to Carol Kennedy, mom, for the NBC link.

4 Responses to “Mother’s Day: Why, Who, and How”

  1. janet lafler Says:

    It occurred to me recently that the word “mother” makes much more sense as a verb than as a noun. That gets around all this stupid stuff about claiming the title of a mother. Why am I a mother? Easy: because I mother.

  2. janet lafler Says:

    Oh, and shouldn’t that be “Why, Who, and Howe?” :-)

  3. Penny Says:

    Argh! Seriously, they had a “non-mom” category, and the examples included adoptive moms? Why hasn’t there been a huge public outcry about that? How unbelievably offensive.

  4. squid Says:

    I will be at your panel. Your topic is critical.

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