I usually dismiss Mother's Day as some twee commercial occasion invented by marketers in order to sell cards, soap, flowers and candles.

My mother typically receives a greeting card and a telephone call from me. But last week I didn't send the card as her local postal service has reduced days of delivery to the point where I can no longer figure out the appropriate day to post anything.

So this year I called her to say I'd bought her a card and it was still sitting on my kitchen shelf. It's the thought that counts!



In my own household, it was about 8pm on Saturday night when I asked my husband and our fourteen-year-old daughter what they had planned for me for Mother's Day. They stared blankly at each other. One of them said: "You're not my mother."

With a bit of encouragement, they booked an early dinner for the three of us at Masu. It was a very nice outing.

Both the maître d' and the wine waiter wished me a "Happy Mother's Day". (I noticed this year that people routinely extended Mother's Day wishes to people other than their mother. I don't know if this is weird or kind of cool.)

Anyway, at the restaurant I felt that wishing random people "Happy Mother's Day" was a potentially risky strategy.

Yes, I was there with my daughter so it was a pretty safe bet but there are many people for whom Mother's Day can be difficult, a reminder of pain, rather than an occasion to be celebrated.

Here are six reasons why Mother's Day isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be.

1. Loss

For some people, Mother's Day might be a time of sadness.

If someone has lost their mother or their child, all the cheerful gift-giving and tales of breakfasts in bed and celebratory dinners can just be sorry reminders of what was and what might have been.

2. Fertility issues

Broadcaster Amanda Gilles made an emotional mention of her fertility issues on The AM Show last week.

It touched a nerve for many women and drew attention to the fact that Mother's Day can be a difficult time for those who have struggled with fertility problems or miscarriage.

Other people's happy families perhaps just underscore personal sorrows.

3. It's reductive

Mother's Day perpetuates the myth that motherhood is the be all and end all for women.

It reduces the role of women to that of child-bearer and child-rearer.

As Lizzie Marvelly wrote: "We ... need to get rid of the idea that having children completes us. It insinuates that until we procreate we are somehow lacking, that we're empty vessels in need of filling. It reduces us from complex, nuanced beings to breeding stock to be poked and prodded into fulfilling a biological function ..."


4. The guilt

When my daughter presents me with a "BEST MUM EVER" card I feel unworthy. It makes me remember all the incidents of bad mothering.

I insisted she eat a teaspoonful of broccoli for 15 consecutive evenings until she started quite liking it. I mistook a self-portrait she was carefully working on for a drawing of an alien. I lied to her about where meat comes from. I do not allow glitter in the house.
I confiscate her technology. I tell her to harden up.

And when she has, on the odd occasion, complained about my mothering missteps I have sometimes told her to call the cops.

But it's all been accompanied by unconditional love and I'm the best mother she's ever had, so who's counting? (And, since you can now arrange to have glitter sent to your enemies, I'm thinking the glitter ban's not so bad after all. Seriously, it gets everywhere and it's impossible to remove.)


5. The artifice

In holding a national day to honour mothers we are pretending that their role is not outrageous, their job description ridiculous, the hours unreasonable.

There should be an uproar, there should be marches in the streets, to protest the fact that anyone is expected to serve as an unpaid 24-hour-7-day child-minder, cook, cleaner, driver, negotiator, teacher, bodyguard, road safety officer, first aid provider and goodness knows what else.

That sounds like slave labour to me - which is why motherhood has to be packaged as this romantic, selfless role that comes complete with its own annual "holiday".

Oh, there's a special day marking the fact I've lost my freedom and must endure years of mindless, repetitious drudgery with no early parole for good behaviour? Great. Where do I sign up?

6. The greeting cards

When I looked in the local Paper Plus for Mother's Day cards, most of them were sickly sweet or focused on women's ability to multi-task.

One said something like: "Thanks for changing my nappies, Mother. I'll be changing yours soon." Please do not choose this card. You're better than that.

While I was struggling to find a suitable Mother's Day card I thought fondly of the cards they produce for Father's Day; they're usually all about beer, golf, fishing and watching television. So mothers are portrayed as multi-taskers while fathers enjoy leisure time.

Now the greeting card industry might just be propagating gender stereotypes but I prefer to think it is implying that women are enabling men to shirk household and childcare duties.

We might need to take a good long look at ourselves.