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Mother’s Day

Like most of the “days” that have now become de rigueur for families to commemorate, “Mother’s Day” is another American gift to the world. Not surprisingly then, its commemoration was driven by commercial concerns – restaurants, florists, and sellers of chocolate. This year, in the US, spending on “Mom” is expected to reach a high after Covid – exceeding US$33.7B. But while “clothing” as a category is just behind personalized jewellery as a gift for “mother”, the figures on chocolates have not been disaggregated. In Guyana, while there have not been any surveys done, from anecdotal evidence, Mother’s Day appears to be more of a private occasion, with at most a special meal prepared for “Mom”, or adult children possibly visiting “the Old Lady”.
Mother’s Day, of course, is much more widely commemorated than Father’s Day, and maybe this tells a story that may be unconnected to the American experience, where Mother’s Day official recognition in 1914 preceded calls for Father’s Day to be recognised. It was not until 1972, after all, that US President Nixon declared the event an “official day”. In the Caribbean, with our experience of slavery being the foundational fact of our societal creation, the secondary role of fathers in the family might have something to do with this historical peripheralization.
The arrival of the indentured servants after slavery would coincide with the governmental policy to encourage stable families, to reduce expenditures on quelling disorders – even though the paucity of women precipitated the notorious wife (and mothers’) murders. The nuclear family, where “the man was the head of the house”, and “father knows best”, was now the official policy, even though structural continuities ensured in a wide swathe of African Guyanese families, where this was more an ideal than a reality. The father was oftentimes a peripatetic visiting figure, not very encouraging to acts of filial piety such as having a special day observed in his honour. Mother’s Day came easier.
But even in an era in which the “patriarchal oppressive” nature of the “traditional” nuclear family has been sharply criticised by feminists, it is generally acknowledged that single-parent families – which generally means a single mother – are not the ideal institution for raising future generations. This has remained the major function of mothers and fathers despite communal proposals from Plato in 500 BCE to Skinner in the 20th century.
Rather than throwing out the mother and father with the bathwater, the emphasis in the present has to be placed on both of them playing roles in which family responsibilities are equitably shared. Too often, the “father”, even when present in the Guyanese family, sees his role as bringing home a “pay packet” and leaving all other responsibilities on the beleaguered mother. Before commemorating Mother’s Day, we must be very clear about what a “mother” is supposed to be – apart from the very obvious biological procreative role.
She is now increasingly a “breadwinner”, even as she accepts that, in a supposedly ever-changing world, women are returning to the workplace in as great a percentage as occurred during slavery and indentureship. Many have forgotten that in those historical working relations, very little distinction was made between men and women, save in the type of tasks assigned.
The point is that if, at one stage of our history, we were able to move from equal participation of women in the workforce and then change to the latter’s sequestration in the homes (where their work was given no value), then we can reverse that process. Sufficient thought has to be given so as not to endanger the proper development of the children.
As implied earlier, if there are two “breadwinners” in the new world being created within the home, there will have to be a reassignment of roles away from what is now thought to be “women’s and men’s work”.
In the wider society, the state would have to make more accommodation for the welfare of the child during the work day – for instance, standardizing “creches” at workplaces to give relief to working mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day!

The post Mother’s Day appeared first on Guyana Times.

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