This year, Mother’s Day is the tenth of May. It has fallen on the second Sunday of May since President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday in 1914. In the past 100 years, the day has become increasingly commercial. Weeks in advance, stores and catalogs start advertising cards and gifts and flowers. If you are fortunate enough to have a mother you love, you won’t want to miss acknowledging her on her special day.
While you are at it, ask your mom, or, better yet, your grandmother, what it was like when she was a young mother. What challenges did she have to face? How were times different? You might be surprised to learn how hard life was then, how limited some of the choices were. You might also learn how they dealt with, and overcame, adversity.
My own mother was widowed when she was only in her forties. She had four teenagers to raise and educate. She had no formal education, and limited work experience. Somehow, perhaps through sheer determination, she managed.
There are millions of similar stories out there of women whose lives were shaped by circumstances, by opportunity or lack of opportunity, and by the responsibilities they had. These women didn’t have five-year plans.They lived day-to-day with the goals of keeping their children safe and healthy, keeping them fed and a roof over their heads. Above all, they wanted their children to succeed, to get an education, and to have a more comfortable life than they had.
Sadly, this description of what mothers face hasn’t changed too much over the generations.Today, many women, and by extension their families, are barely getting by and face economic insecurity on a daily basis.
Single mothers are especially at risk. A whopping 41.5 percent live at or below the poverty line. Many work in the lowest paying retail or service jobs. They try to cobble together enough part-time work to pay for food and rent, but their part-time jobs offer no benefits.
In addition, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same position. Equal pay for equal work has been a slogan, but has never become the reality. Gender inequalities also still exist in health care, pensions, and employment opportunities. If you are a woman of color, the discrepancies are even greater.
Mother’s Day is a “feel good” day. Instead of feeling good, our country needs to “do good” for women and children. They need our concern and support 365 days each year, not just the second Sunday in May.
Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives