Every May, American families celebrate moms and images of motherhood. Women are not only thanked for their sacrifices but expected to relinquish a life of independent personal meaning for the sake of their families.
While society has begun to see women as autonomous beings with dreams, desires and faults of their own, little has changed around the Western image of motherhood. For women who choose to have a child, it is still expected that they fully give up their lives for others without objection or regret, only being thanked on that one special day of the year.
Throughout this past year, we saw images of motherhood that amount to more than a morning’s brunch worth of thank-yous. Let’s take the time to celebrate them.
At the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in February, Beyoncé shifted rhetoric around black maternity by showcasing the grace of her own pregnancy. Exuding the spirit of Africana and Roman goddesses and Catholic religious figures, Queen Bey countered centuries of longstanding bias toward pregnant black women. She showed that black mothers can be beautiful, pure and powerful.
In March, Vicks released an advertisement highlighting glossed-over stories of transgender motherhood for its #TouchofCare campaign. The commercial tells the true story of Gauri Sawant, an Indian transgender woman, mother and activist and her relationship with her adopted daughter. The commercial ends with the daughter lamenting why her mother can’t be treated like a fully formed person by society.
Throughout last year’s presidential race, we saw a daughter support her mother in her dream to become president of the United States. Chelsea Clinton cheered on her mother throughout the race and comforted her when she eventually lost the Electoral College.
For me, the Clintons’ mother-daughter story was personal. I got to see my mom’s own feminist transformation from someone who blamed Hilary Clinton for her husband’s adultery to realizing the double standards she faced as a woman seeking the highest office in the land to becoming a full-blown Clinton supporter. When I felt despair on Nov. 8, she comforted me. When I asked her how she continues to get up every day in the face of defeat, she told me her story.
Our mothers are worth more than what they do for us. They are worth more than their packed school lunches or rides to soccer practice. They are human beings with their own ambitions, desires, stories, flaws. They are worth more than one day of Hallmark-card gratitude.
So this Mother’s Day, don’t simply say “thank you” for the sacrifices moms have made because our mothers are worth so much more than what they’ve done for others. Be grateful, then ask what you can do for her to fulfill her dreams.
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