Aunt Mattie is at the Train Station

Mothers Day reconsideredI am not one who steps away from a taboo. Actually, I often search for the taboo and let it rip. Certainly around gender, age and religion, I have no hesitation. But here is one that makes me think more than twice ~ Mother’s Day. It is holy, guarded, anointed. It has been untouchable for most, with the brave exception of Anne Lemott. She says a mouthful and survived. Maybe I will too.

Personally, my role models were spectacular. My biological mother was not any good at mothering whatsoever. I have written about that enough. But in that abyss, I turned to saints, goddesses, authors, activists. I have no shortage of astounding women to thank. I hope I am more like many of them than my bio-mom.

My gripe is that in all the hoopla about Mother’s Day, there is the equal and opposite action of diminishing the single woman, the child-free woman, the spinster. It is not only within the family. Not only is it in the maitre d’, “table for one?” Not only is it in the greeting card aisle organized by relationship.

It is in the eyes of people who assume it is a failed dream. It is in the Father of the Bride, as Spencer Tracy forgetting to pick up the “maiden” Aunt Mattie at the train station. It is in the actuarial tables. It is in the neighborhood architecture. And it is in the voice of those who have children and assume their life is infinitely more complex and time more precious.

When is the day we honor those women who knew they were not meant to have children and made sure it did not happen? When is the day to honor child-free women who are expected to have more time for the fundraiser, the phone bank, the event. As Anne Lemott* says, “But Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path.” Somehow it is implied that time is a rare commodity for mothers and is dirt cheap for non-mothers.

Already I am cringing. Already I am assuming readers’ responses. Usually such a thing emboldens me but in this one case it cautions me. Be tempered. Be careful. Be diplomatic. There is nothing so absolved from attack as motherhood. We paint it, we celebrate it, we sanctify it. Seems dangerous to examine it. Even Anne Lamott made sure to mention she is a mother, somehow it mitigated the danger.


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