Mother’s Day and its Sucker Punches

Incessant Ads, Tone Deaf Assumptions

In the richest of ironies Anna Jarvis, the woman known as the founder of the Mother’s Day concept, spent her final years campaigning against its commercialism.

What started as a constructive effort in 1858 called Mothers Day Work Clubs to teach women proper childcare techniques and sanitation methods morphed through the years into today’s over-the-top marketing monstrosity.

Each year retailers of all kinds attempt to cash in as do low and high-brow restaurants. There’s no escaping the reach of advertising. This year’s Skittle ad reached a new nausea-inducing low. And, if BevMo really wanted to increase sales their ad team might consider a campaign to reach those who want to tune out the syrupy sops.

BevMo ad

For those coping with loss, the incessant marketing in the lead up and arrival of Mother’s Day packs a punch. In the raw days following failed IVFs I summoned super human strength to get through the cacophony of casual —and more often than not tone deaf — celebration.

In the blogosphere with others fighting through heartbreak my attempts to distract and diffuse were varied. I solicited greeting card ideas for women who don’t fit neatly into the Hallmark view. Later I asked for and received ‘non-mom’ opinions about the day: Mother’s Day from Meh to Arrrgghhh. This response was among the most measured:

“Mother’s Day reminds me of a lot of other holidays like Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, XMas, Father’s Day; many of which are more a recent invention of marketing hype than any particular cultural or historical significance. Personally, I like to focus on celebrations that revolve around an accomplishment or event, like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and things that are not so much dictated to us by society. I find personal celebrations far more memorable and meaningful.” — Jennifer J

In more recent years I’ve written essays to offer a different perspective. In 2010 The New York Times boldly chose the second weekend in May to run an essay titled Mother’s Day: A Cultural Crucible.

Other writing included ways to help soften the emotional blows — the latest of which is generating views and shares on Huffington Post.

Challenging Assumptions

Two years ago I suggested we re-frame the day entirely in a post titled: M.O.M. — From This Day Forward It Means Mentor of Many.

But, this year brings a new approach: teach-able moments. Last year on the Monday following Mother’s Day, my cheerful, kind-hearted yoga instructor greeted the gathering of assorted yogis with “hope you all had a Happy Mother’s Day!” My blissful meditation state changed to ‘monkey mind.’ Agitation set in. Thoughts and emotions leaped from neuron to neuron.

  • What about those who recently lost mothers?
  • What about those who recently miscarried?
  • What about those who lost children?
  • What about those who wanted to be mothers but are childless not by choice?
  • What about those adopted who long to know their biological mother?
  • The list goes on …

This year in a preemptive move I passed along the Huffington Post link to my instructor in a friendly email — from one yogi to another. The exchange resulted in new layers of understanding.

“So glad you shared these writings with me. I appreciate that you must have gone through so much internally in order to get to the place where you could give voice to this. Having gone through 2 miscarriages in my late 30s, like when I was 38 and 39, in addition to a relationship upset/drama that seemed to threaten my capacity to ever try to get pregnant again, or even feel like relationship was a good idea, I can really understand some of the feelings that you spoke to. May all that inner work and willingness be a support for others who are managing this same struggle.”

So to all who find this weekend one simply to endure, know that many hold you in our hearts and wish you strength as you relive loss amid casual celebration.


Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is the author of the award-winning book Silent Sorority. Her latest ebook is Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice.