(c) 2012, Davd
Many of you have seen comedy of some sort—a short story, a play, a skit, a stand-up routine—whose main point is how impolite and disruptive it would be if everyone said nothing but the plain, blunt truth. The setting for such comedy could be a cop stopping a motorist, a first date, a job interview, …
… or it could be Mother’s Day, if your mother wasn’t perfect and wants to pretend she was.
Mother’s Day is less than two months away—and those of you who truly had wonderful mothers, will probably celebrate the occasion in the spirit of its origin: Well and good. Most of what follows is about truth-before-hypocrisy, and honouring good mothers is truthful.
Why the past tense? Because for most readers, “being mothered” is a thing of the past. You’re under your own supervision now; and Mother’s Day is for remembering your childhood and rendering due thanks. If you truly had a wonderful mother, much thanks be due. If not, let this be the Mother’s Day that you tell the truth and nothing but the truth. (Telling the whole truth about a childhood that lasted at least fifteen years—as is almost certainly the case if you’re grown up and your mother’s still living—might take longer than one day.)
There is no need to take cheap shots at motherhood. The “institution” has many real, serious imperfections to address in the year 2012. I’m posting this “blog” now, to give readers time to think about them, choose one or a few, and get used to the idea that Mother’s Day is not sacred. It’s big—bigger than New Year’s Eve or Father’s Day, for instance—but that does not and should not make it immune to criticism.
How big is Mother’s Day? Read the advertising that leads up to it. In most North American retail market areas, only Christmas is likely to see more holiday advertising in the newspapers and “flyers”1. When i sold fresh herbs to “the better restaurants” on mid-Vancouver Island, chefs used to buy very heavily the week before Mother’s Day. Several said it was their biggest business day of the year. Not some time in the High Tourist Season—not Christmas party time or even New Year’s Eve— Mother’s Day was the day the most people came into those restaurants and spent the most money!2 (Father’s Day in the restaurant trade, was just another Sunday before school let out, and tourists from “the States” probably contributed more to the day’s business than did local fathers.)
Not everyone who spends time and money on Mother’s Day, does so voluntarily. There is heavy social pressure to say something nice to Mother and do something nice for Mother, and against speaking ill of a Mother. Those social pressures have protected some bad mothering and some outright evil, from fair criticism. This year is better than later, to begin the fair criticism. Make sure it’s fair, and then tell the truth.
It occurs to me that in particular, mothers ought to hear some criticism for:
Rejecting a good father: Millions of mothers have done this, for selfish reasons, and it merits strong criticism: Fatherless children suffer many social losses and are much more likely to commit several kinds of crime. (See also A Voice For Men, Fact Sheet; Everyman: A Men’s Journal, September/October, 1997; and Bay Area Male Involvement Network, 1997.) There are a few men who have sired children because women used bad judgement in welcoming their sexual company, and didn’t want nor intend to father; and a very, very few men who sired children by forcible rape in the common-law sense, who are not fit to be fathers. There are millions more who are competent enough as fathers to improve their children’s lives as compared to growing up fatherless, and willing enough to do so, who have been denied that chance by selfish mothers.
In a world organized for the best nurture of children, such selfish mothers would have their custody revoked if the children are still minors; or, if they have on-balance significant value as child-rearers even when the rejection be taken into consideration, some shared custodial arrangement might result. On Mother’s Day, they might be required to attend a short-course on the ill effects of
Lying and more generally, fraudulence, whether overt lying or deception that skirts-around the outright statement of a known falsehood, merits criticism in proportion to its intentionality and potential for harm.
Violence beyond the disciplined use of minor force in response to a child’s misconduct: A woman who beats her children3 is not providing fit nurture. A woman who attacks men whether or not they retaliate, is not providing fit example.
“Sluttery” is a bad quality in anyone, but especially bad in a parent with minor children. It teaches lack of fidelity and self-discipline “by example”. It spreads STDs. It puts momentary gratification ahead of family solidarity and persistence. If your mother took part in one of those “Slut Walks”, even if she herself is not promiscuous, or if she supports the values they are promoting, you can use that as reason-enough not to fuss over her this May.
There are, by this late-winter of 2012, millions of mothers in the “First World” who should not be mothers. They may be genetically impaired, as for example being genetic carriers of Down’s syndrome, hemophilia, or genetically based mental illness. They may be physically impaired, by past drug-use, genetic or infectious illness, or psychologically impaired by some neurosis or psychosis. They may lack the capacity to support children socially and emotionally. And as the affluence of the 20th Century comes to an end, which economic news from Europe and the US indicates is happening, dependence on public charity to provide basic subsistence is no longer something that “the public purse”–your taxes–can afford on any large scale. Single motherhood is either self-supporting, or it is parasitic … and in a shaky economy, self-supporting is not necessarily a durable condition.
To embark on motherhood today, a woman should have great wealth, a tenured job with a high salary, or family support. A husband with a good and durable job is probably family support enough to take the chance, if the marriage can be assured to continue; but a larger family in support, preferably with its own farm, trade, or business, is preferable to the mid-20th Century “nuclear family.”
To those mothers who should not be, who know it and admit it, men cannot promise full relief; but we can at least give acknowledgement and neighbourly to brotherly support—for them, Mother’s Day can be an occasion to seek substitutes for the family they realize they lack. It may seem excessively altruistic, for men to help single mothers make up for the lack of a father in the house; but there are a few good reasons:
Admitting and repenting single-motherhood deserves support, and avuncular help with the children is a very good way to provide some of that support.
Children should not be punished for their mother’s, or their sire’s, misdeeds of the past;
Fatherly [father-substitute] mentoring will improve both the children’s life chances and reduce the risk that they will become burdens on society, either by crime or by incompetence.
Ultimately, parenthood is service to children and to the community. Mother’s Day was started to honour the service mothers performed, at a time when the average quality of mothering was by available indications, better than it is today. To repeat a common theme in men’s current experience: Feminism, by privileging women, has tempted them to selfish misconduct, and many have taken up the temptation. (The legend of the serpent and Eve may indicate that women are the easier sex to tempt.)
Finally, those married men with children, whose mothers weren’t very good, but whose wives are, have plenty to celebrate4. (With the restaurants so busy, i encourage men who can cook well, to prepare the Mother’s Day meal at home—and invite the children to help out. Cooking is one of the most gender-neutral skills there be—along with gardening once the heavy spading is done. And children can both enjoy and please their mothers more, if “being on Nice behaviour because we are in public” doesn’t distract.)
Honouring good mothers is telling the truth, as is criticizing those who fall significantly short of good. Let this Mother’s Day be special for the increased truthfulness of men’s doings.
References not hyperlinked:
Bay Area Male Involvement Network, 1997. Getting Men Involved: The Newsletter. Issue 1, spring 1997.
Everyman: A Men’s Journal Issue 27, September/October, 1997.
1“Back to school” is not a day, it’s a change of season and an annual furnishing not only of school supplies, but of nice and sport clothes for growing children. Most mothers should not need new clothes every spring because unlike school-children, they are already full-grown. (I realize that unlike most men, women buy many new clothes for reasons other than need.)
2The region was popular as a retirement destination, and the retired may be less likely to go to a restaurant on New Year’s Eve. Many of the Mother’s Day restaurant journeys were probably adult children from Vancouver and its suburbs, coming over on the ferry especially for Mother’s Day, and of course “taking Mother out to eat.” Most mothers, especially of retirement age, just don’t appreciate a fishing trip as much as a nice restaurant.
3“who beats her children” does not refer to a momentary loss of temper that includes a slap that is too hard followed quickly by due regret; nor to a measured and disciplined spanking For instance, when my own children were young, they did get spanked a few times. My choice was to use a “hot-wheels” track (which weighs very little) on a covered backside—it would sting but could not break the skin nor bruise.
4The worst thing that can happen to men with really good mothers and wives, is if they or one of their children have a birthday that falls on or next-to Mother’s Day. Such birthdays wind up in the shadow of the Biggest Day of the Year, and seldom get lively celebration—one of my own sons, and my friend Greg in B.C., had that bad luck. They seem to be surviving it.
, this late-winter of 2012,