• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Getting Ready for a Subversive Mother's Day

It's time for a new kind of holiday card.


May 1, 2013

It is that time of year again when motherhood takes center stage in honor of Mother's Day. Of course, the holiday is celebrated often in a commercial way.  There are flowers to order, cards to mail, jewelry to select, and cakes and candy to buy, all in an effort to celebrate mom. The news media will begin their stories on celebrity moms, heroic moms, and ways to honor your own mom. I can look forward to my sleep-in day of the year, when I won't be awakened until 7:30 a.m.

Just to be clear, I have what I would describe as an egalitarian relationship, but I'm a morning person and my husband is not, so for the psychological well-being of all, I run the mornings. I will receive home-made cards from my children and, like many Americans, will head to the store to buy last-minute Mother's Day cards for my own mother and other mother figures in my life.

I've found that these card offerings fall into a few different categories. There are the sappy ones that have quotes, angels, and flowers. There are the funny ones that laud all the work mothers undertake. Then, there are the apology ones, to be given by fathers and children that poke fun at all the work and worry they supposedly have caused.

My students this year are creating a fourth category. In the course I teach titled Historical and Contemporary Representations of Motherhood, we will create what I've labeled as "Subversive Mother's Day Cards" for our families. In these cards, my students will challenge dominant ideologies of mothers. They will question such subjects as the lack of paid maternity leave in many jobs and the hidden work assumed by mothers. They will praise those who lovingly do what we might call "mother's work" but are not actually mothers. Some cards will be funny and others depressing, but none will gloss over the fact that motherhood is a complex, socially constructed experience that we should be supporting all year long, not just one silly day. But, until that day arrives, Happy Mother's Day!


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