Mother's Day: A shout-out to the unsung, underappreciated heroes in our lives


Praise be, Mother’s Day is upon us! Meaning, naturally, that it is the favourite time of year for establishments selling cakes, cards, flowers, and proton-sized heart-shaped chocolate. And of course, no Mother’s Day would be complete without the army of judgmental busybodies crawling out of the woodwork to condemn us for being sheep and to warn us all that Mother’s Day is nothing more than wanton Western commercialist debauchery. 

“I don’t need a day to show love to my mother,” says one solemn comment on a thread titled “Is Mother’s Day halal?” “Why do I need a card and flowers to celebrate Mother’s Day when I can celebrate my mother on my own every day?” 

Lip service to celebrating motherhood

This solemn daily-mother-celebrator is by no means limited to sharing their views in the online world. Their real-life counterpart infiltrates our daily lives, and will always be on hand to give lip service to the notion that mothers require treasuring on a daily basis. If you give them enough time, they will also remind you that in accordance with religion, heaven lies beneath the feet of all mothers. 

The advantage of this heavenly notion is that it allows these purported mother celebrators to sidestep the tedious task of actually celebrating earth-bound mothers, what with the mother’s promise of divine reward and all. Their theory is, if mothers are allocated all this heavenly reward anyway, there is little sense in wasting anything on them in the here and now. 

If you are a teary mother tasked with keeping alive an equally teary baby who exited your body eight weeks ago, the standard amount of sympathy you can expect to receive is the observation, “You don’t just get heaven given beneath your feet for nothing, you know! You have to earn it.” If the person dishing out the above observation is an older woman with adult children, you can also expect the helpful revelation, “We’ve all been through it. It’s not a big deal.” 

Fatherhood, on the other hand…

It will surprise no one to learn that fathers – in all cultures and all hemispheres – are viewed through a much kinder lens. And it is not men doing all the judging, by the way. Most men, in my experience, are oblivious to who is doing the childcare, as long as it doesn’t impact their lives in any way. It is women – seasoned hardcore mothers – who can always be counted upon to deliver their unsolicited judgment. 

The last wedding I attended featured a young family with a child in tow. The mother was "shamelessly neglecting" her mothering duties and flitting from friend to friend, unshackled by her child and the luggage she came with. The mother’s liberated behaviour did not go unnoticed. 

“Look at her,” commented an aunty from a table, whose eagle eye zeroed in on the young mother from across the lawn. “She’s just wandering around without a care in the world! Where’s her daughter?”

The daughter was at the opposite end of the lawn, fleeing from the clutches of her father. The father, meanwhile, was in the process of achieving a gold medal in parenting. He had a large pink baby bag slung across his shoulders. As he scooped up his toddler daughter, who was by now zipping between tables, the same aunty fondly observed, “He is such a good father.” Her equally impressed friend, sitting at her elbow, was also admiring the show, and chimed in, “He is so involved.”

Both ladies continued to regard the object of their admiration as though he were a military hero. When some moments later the young dad unlocked the next level in the parenting game by putting a morsel of roti in his daughter’s mouth, it was as if he had built a stairway to the moon. “Just look at that! He’s feeding her! And the mother, she’s nowhere the be seen!”

They were not wrong. The mother was indeed nowhere to be seen, hiding with the friends she hadn’t seen in months, seeking an hour’s reprieve from the unending demands of her toddler and the vicious judgement of her elders. At previous weddings, this particular young mother had done exactly what her other half was doing. Rather than being awarded gold medals from admiring bystanders, she was informed, “I don’t think that roti is suitable for her at that age. It’s too hard. It’ll upset her stomach.” 

The unseen grunt work of motherhood

The catch to the mother’s heavenly reward, you see, is that you had better be prepared to suck it up here on earth. It is a rough road, wherever you land on the mothering spectrum. So for all you mothers out there – new mothers, old mothers, tired mothers, single mothers – I see you. I see all the unseen work you do, and I appreciate you. 

Thank you for putting your body through that shocking, punishing, sleep-deprivation regime of the early years. Thank you for weaning your child onto proper food, even when he would rather have eaten yesterday’s toast crushed behind the sofa. Thank you for buying clothes the next size up. Thank you for always buying the correct bread. 

Thank you for booking those parent-teacher appointments. Thank you for taking the time to getting to know your child’s friends. Thank you for knowing when just a Panadol will fix things and when you need to seek proper medical attention. Thank you for learning how to vanquish lice. You are a superhero, both in this world and the next, and if celebrating you with a card and some flowers for one measly day means we are sheep, then so be it.

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