I’ve been participating in the ‘No Mother’s Day’ campaign – the brainchild of Christy Turlington Burns and her organization, Every Mother Counts – and will continue to do until Mother’s Day on Sunday. But not everyone agrees with the campaign. For some, it’s the message of the campaign – that we set aside the celebration of ourselves as mothers in order to draw attention to those who die in childbirth (isn’t celebrating mothers central to valuing mothers, and shouldn’t we seize every opportunity that we can to turn our attention to the value of mothers?) For others, it’s the strategy of the campaign, which encourages silence (not everyone agrees that silence is a useful – or empowering, or effective, or meaningful – strategy. Shouldn’t we raise our voices, they ask? Shouldn’t we FIGHT silence?) It’s a controversial campaign, and one, I think, that raises great questions around how we use our platforms for social good. So I sat down with Christy to talk it through.
I think that Mother’s Day is as good a time as any to break out the heavy emotional artillery, don’t you?
I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consequences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.
I’m kind of a Mother’s Day curmudgeon. I’m one of those grumpy moms who says, when asked what I’d like for Mother’s Day, ‘a day off,’ because, seriously, isn’t spending a day not being a mom the very best way to spend the day on which motherhood is celebrated? The thing is, when I say this, I don’t really mean it. I don’t actually want a day off from being a mom. Sure, I’d love to have a day or an afternoon all to myself in which I get to lay on the sofa and eat chips and watch Buffy reruns (you are shocked, shocked to hear this, I know), but I wouldn’t really want my family to disappear for that day. I’d rather that they just, you know, mostly occupy themselves in some space adjacent to my relaxation space – go to the park, play in the yard, clean their rooms, that kind of thing – and make periodic appearances to give me hugs and tell me how awesome I am as I lay there in all of my chip-munching, Buffy-watching, slothful glory. Which, okay, is kind of like taking the day off from motherhood, but not entirely, because key to this whole scenario is that I still get to enjoy all of the awesome of being a mom (toddler kisses, general adoration) with none of the work.
Mother’s Day is this coming weekend, which means that I will, this week, be thinking of something to do for my mom, and for my sister, and for other mothers that I love, and that I’ll be telling my husband to get me flowers instead of chocolates and maybe a reservation for a nice night out somewhere, and that I’ll be clearing a space on my desk for the inevitable happy onslaught of bespoke Mother’s Day cards from my children. And it means, too – or would mean, any other year – that I’ll publish a post or two about the awesomeness of mothers in general and the awesomeness of mothers in our virtual community in particular and lo, the warm fuzzies will be brought.
I’m not going to do that last thing this year. Not because I’m any less convinced of the awesomeness of motherhood and the awesomeness of our mothering community – if anything, I’m more convinced – but because this year, I want to deploy my mother-celebrating energies in a different direction.
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go...