I have a friend who doesn’t celebrate holidays, for the simple reason that he sees them as commercially motivated opportunities for high-pressured sales. He makes a good point. Christmas shopping can be stressful and financially draining at the best of times. At the worst of times it can lead to scenes of mayhem with anxious parents attacking each other in overcrowded stores for the last Pokemon action figure. Valentine’s Day all but guarantees a huge boost in sales for florists, chocolatiers, and manufacturers of frilly undergarments, but can often leave a loving partner with a serious case of the “if I don’t show up with something romantic I’m a dead man” blues. Father’s Day, I’m convinced, must have been the joint creation of the necktie and cheap cologne industries. I’ll never forget the sad look on my old man’s face on that fated Father’s Day when I showed up with a bottle of Hai-Karate. He’s probably still got the bottle tucked away, unopened, behind the Ajax and Mr. Clean.
No, I can’t argue with my friend that, basically, most holidays send us scurrying out to the shops in a desperate attempt to remain in the good graces of those we are closest to. I have, however, pointed out to this wise individual that even though his politics might be in the right place (or the left place, if you will), folks like to receive a little attention on these occasions. Hey, you might not want to go to the party, but you still like to be invited.
And so Mother’s Day is upon us. Having served a long sentence working in a restaurant, I can assure you that it is the busiest day of the year, with the possible exception of New Year’s Eve. Florists can hardly keep up with the demand. Hallmark cards are flying off store shelves at an unprecedented rate and the cash registers are chiming away like Big Ben striking 12, but there is far more at stake here than retail sales figures. Holidays and rituals are there to remind us of some very important values that we may lose sight of in our day to day lives. We use these occasions as reference points on the calendar, so as not to let the days roll into weeks, months, and years without taking the time to honour the people and ideas that mean so much to us.
If you want to talk economics, let’s consider the job description of motherhood. The hours are lousy, considering a mother must be on call 24 hours a day. You have to show up for work nine months early and sacrifice your entire body for the job. The joy of birth has been described to me as a level of pain that surpasses anything Bruce Willis’ character had to go through in all three Die Hard movies put together. Then comes the constant feeding, nursing, caring, diaper changing, educating, clothing, cooking, cleaning and endless worrying, often until the child is well past the age of 40. For all this, the position of mother pays a hefty salary of zero. Did I forget to mention that you don’t get any vacation time? Indeed, motherhood must be the lowest paying and most demanding job in the world. So what do we do for our moms? We take one Sunday in May to honour them. It hardly seems fair when you consider that, for a mother, it’s Children’s Day 365 days a year.
So, if you’re like my friend and take issue with the commercialism of holidays, there are other ways to make mom feel special. Make a personalized card of your own. Write a poem, or even a short story. Clean up around the house. Make breakfast for her. What about lunch and supper? In other words, give mom a real day off, because she doesn’t get many of those. Whatever you do, don’t wait until next Mother’s Day to do something nice for the woman who brought you into this world – it should be Mother’s Day every day. And by the way, tell her you love her.