Mother’s Day: Time for Thanks

James Bemis is a columnist for the California Political Review, and has been published in many other Catholic and secular publications. This article originally appeared in The Wanderer.

Take, for instance, the expensive, trendy Manhattan private school Rodelp Sholom Day School, where — among other progeny of the rich and famous — tennis legend John McEnroe’s children attend. Last year, this tony academy banned celebrating Mother’s Day for — get this — fear of hurting the feelings of children raised by homosexual couples.

Unbelievable? Wait, that’s not all: In a warped sense of “fairness,” they banned Father’s Day too.

Mr. Chesterton, take a bow. Considered by many a reactionary alarmist in his day, he didn’t know half the insanity that would ensue. The modern world’s lunacy has far outpaced Chesterton’s most dire predictions. Why, he’d never have guessed that someday kids would be forbidden to honor their own mothers!

Fortunately, most of us are oblivious to the madness of the politically correct fanatics. This weekend all over the country, the phone lines will be buzzing, the flower shops humming, and restaurants packed to the gills. Sunday is Mother’s Day, the one day we treat our moms the way they treat us the rest of the year.

Whether it’s “mommy,” “mama,” or “mom,” are there any sweeter words in the language than those meaning “mother”? And May — the month of the Blessed Mother, flower blossoms, and springtime — seems the perfect time to celebrate everybody’s VIP: our moms.

As a father, I happily recognize that the most profound influence on my children is their mother. That’s as it should be. My job skills are transferable anywhere, but hers aren’t: to our kids she’s unique, completely irreplaceable.

There’s something so normal and wholesome about our notions of motherhood it seems crazy that anyone would change it. But that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

Beginning in the 1960’s, radical feminists launched a fierce attack on the family, condemning it as patriarchal, outmoded, and oppressive. In the feminist manifesto The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan even compared her experience as a homemaker to a “comfortable concentration camp,” incapable of providing her with fulfillment. In order to boost women’s role in the marketplace, then, traditional family life had to go.

That meant stay-at-home moms, the bulwark of the traditional family, had to go too. So, after years of assault against domesticity, our society now devalues the contributions of women who, in today’s parlance, “sacrifice their careers” for husband and children, under the spurious idea that only those activities paid for in the marketplace have value.

But taking care of husband and family is a career — and society’s most important one too. Nothing contributes more to social stability and healthy childhood development than maternal devotion. Its absence, conversely, is a recipe for cultural disaster, one whose results we don't have to look beyond today's news to see.

Maybe my mother could have been a doctor, lawyer, or engineer chief — I guess we’ll never know. What’s certain is that she’s a great mom who always put her kids first. She didn’t have to tell us what her priorities were — we knew, because she was always there, sparing us the “benefits” of day care and surrogate mothering.

She was always there when I arrived home from school, asking how my day went, checking on homework. She was always there when I was sick, there for my baseball games, there to celebrate my good days and comfort me on the bad.

You can’t help lamenting what many of today’s children are missing, with their moms far away when they come home from school. She’s not there to greet them, fix them a snack, help with schoolwork. She’s not there to hug them when their tummy hurts, to see them in school plays, to glory in their good days or cheer them up on the bad ones. To kids, “quality time” is measured by its quantity.

We’re finding out the hard way what should always have been obvious — for a child there’s no substitute for a mother’s love and attention, life’s first and most important attachment. Those warm caresses so deeply felt help develop within us our own ability to love, tethering one generation to another with gentle memories of a rocking chair, a cradle, a lullaby remembered.

No surrogate caregiver — no matter how well paid or trained – can replace a mom. On her small shoulders, civilization stands or falls. To domesticity’s detractors, Teddy Roosevelt said, “a mother is not a parasite on society, she is society. She is the one indispensable component part of society . . . I respect more the woman who does her duty than the man who does his.”

This is why those who can’t abide the idea of societal norms so fiercely attack the family’s pillars. Once the mother’s role is minimized and denigrated, the traditional family’s collapse can’t be far behind.

We can never repay our moms for their gifts of life and love. We can only let them know how much they’re appreciated while given the chance — and that’s why Mother’s Day should be even more important to us than it is to them.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage