What Mother’s Day Reminds Us

Happy Mother's Day

Guest blog by Occidental College student Mollie Barnes

As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s crucial to think about how we will be celebrating this year. Despite corporations’ visible support for the holiday, policy and societal expectations in the United States still reflect antiquated notions of domesticity, impacting communities of color disproportionately. 

Our film, Fair Play, highlights the fact that American mothers spend more time today on childcare and domestic work than moms in the 1960s, despite being more likely to be in the paid labor force. According to Dr. Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, “We’re socialized by gender to say ‘women are the caretakers. Women are the ones that are caring for others and community. They’re not focused on the self, but on nourishing others.’” 

Mother’s Day should not be the one day of the year that housework is distributed equally, where women are able to rest an hour or have breakfast made for them. Compared to fathers, mothers are more than twice as likely to do housework on days when they also work for pay (Center for American Progress 2018). Stay-at-home parents, who are mostly women, would earn $184,820 a year if they were compensated for the tasks they perform (Salary.com 2021). 

As Malaika Tubbs notes, “Mothers are going to be thanked for how selfless we are, how we put other people’s needs ahead of ours always, and we’re congratulated the more that we do that, which in fact is actually just dehumanizing and objectifying of women. Let’s stop thanking women for that, let’s stop thanking moms for that, let’s stop encouraging that as being the epitome of motherhood.”

Instead, “Let’s thank women for saying ‘I still am a human being, everything that I did before I became a mom I’m pushing into my motherhood, it’s how I’m being so influential and how I carry my passions with me,’” Malaika Tubbs said. “Mothers should no longer feel this ‘I’ve lost myself because everyone keeps telling me to just put everyone ahead of me.’”

America is one of the few countries that does not have any paid parental leave laws written into place. Fair Play shares that of top male business leaders in the US, 70% of them have a stay-at-home spouse. Yet, the majority of women nationwide are breadwinners for their families. 84% of Black mothers are breadwinners, 67% of Native American mothers are breadwinners, 60% of Latina mothers are breadwinners, and 44% of Asian/Pacific Islander mothers are breadwinners. Mother’s Day is a day to reflect and reconsider how we view mothers, and women on the whole. Are we recognizing their sacrifices and their legacies? 

“I see motherhood as extremely powerful, strong, this opportunity over and over again to teach liberation and transformative thinking” Malaika Tubbs said.

Lastly, Mother’s Day must honor more than biological mothers in nuclear families. All those who contribute to caretaking of children, in any form, should be celebrated. The grief of women who wanted to become mothers but couldn’t, those who have lost children, those who have lost their mothers, we must hold room for them all this Mother’s Day.

Take Action! Commit to equality at home year-round. Learn more about Fair Play HERE.