There was a funny meme going around social media last week that said Mother’s Day was approaching and there would be no handmade art projects coming home from school this year.
In other words, this is all on you partners and friends.
Although, my son’s grade one teacher did give it a try during an online class. She asked any mothers nearby to leave the room to get a glass of water while she quickly gave instructions on drawing flowers every day of the week. It didn’t last, but I was presented with at least one drawing of a blue bouquet that genuinely moved me.
Many mothers and mother figures have been put to the test during the pandemic. We’ve balanced being teacher, computer tech, housekeeper, chef, therapist and parent for almost two months with little notice, training or interruption.
I hope mothers everywhere are reading this column over a much deserved toast, jam and fresh-squeezed orange juice from the comfort of their beds, delivered by loving children and spouses. But I appreciate the realities and managed expectations that come when a pandemic lands on Mother’s Day.
The Groundhog Day monotony, for the masses at least, has a way of blending the days together. And the idea of more togetherness might push some of us to yearn for the opposite. It’s very difficult to achieve the status of guest in one’s own home when there’s been no opportunity for absence to make the heart grow fonder.
This is the most concentrated time I’ve spent with my littles since they were in my belly. My emotions are like a pogo stick, up and down, up and down. One minute I’m the doting mum feeling blessed for my good fortune, and the next I’m hiding in my room with a can of prosecco (one of Trader Joe’s fine offerings) while the children, covered in a rainbow of markers, turn the tub into a wave pool during bath time.
And it’s not just the little kids taxing their parents. A dear friend, self-isolating with her 20-somethings at home, wrote, “It doesn’t seem much different when they are older.” When it comes to chores like vacuuming, she said, “these kids think the fairies do it.”
I remind myself that my kids are adjusting to a drastic change in routine, socially isolated from friends and don’t have the maturity to process it all. In all honesty, I don’t know if I’m describing them or myself.
Though Mother’s Day is not a religious holiday, it is religiously celebrated worldwide. A young holiday with its roots in a peace movement, it has blossomed into a $14 billion industry. Mother’s Day is the second highest gift-giving day after Christmas. Outside of a pandemic, many restaurants and florists see their highest sales this weekend, and Hallmark says 96 percent of the nation celebrates it.
While there are traditions and customs celebrating mythological deities and goddesses going back to antiquity, the holiday, as we celebrate it today, was born during the Civil War.
Julia Ward Howe organized a day in 1870 for mothers to come together with her proclamation:
“To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.”
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May a national holiday.
While I naturally think of my own mother on this day, there are others I’ll be holding space for: a girlfriend who is finally expecting a baby after lengthy fertility treatments; a young family grieving the passing of their mother just last week; and a close family friend who lost her only child to illness.
In addition there are the many mothers in a family tree to acknowledge: siblings, mothers by marriage, aunts and grandmothers, along with the maternal figures who filled the role in childhood — and maybe still do.
It’s not uncommon for children to navigate between divorced or remarried households. No matter the parental dynamics, it is important to support the relationships children have with each relative.
I don’t expect nor require any grand gestures this Mother’s Day. We need to adapt, and mothers are used to that. The pandemic has emphasized that I have all I need, anyway.
But the roots of this holiday do speak to me. The great and general interests of peace are needed from our households to our Capitol steps to get through this unprecedented time. A few words of recognition and gratitude to the mother figures in our life will go a long way at keeping peace at home.
On a grander scale, may the resilience and collective spirit fostered by a global crisis bring us, from near and far, together. Mothers united are a powerful force and, as we all know, a mother’s work is never done.
Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Share your comments and conundrums at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-988-2070.