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I Know What Moms Want

What are you getting Mom for Mother's Day?

Mother’s Day is next week, and I’m thrilled. The hockey pucks don’t live with us right now, so I’ll be getting what most moms want on Mother’s Day: peace and quiet.

I’m lucky. Many of my friends’ adult children’s apartment leases have ended, and they’ve moved back home to save a little money until they find a new place. This stinks for my friends, because when grown kids come back, they revert to teenagers.

Even the most capable adult children – those with 401Ks and car insurance – backslide. Once home, these “grown-ups” leave their half-empty cups on every flat surface, hog the laundry and television, and only drink millennial milks. Which is it now? Almond milk, oat milk, or goat milk? Soon it’ll be kangaroo milk.

Thankfully our pucks haven’t moved back in. Yet.

So, I’ll spend this Mother’s Day in my parlor, reclining on my settee, eating bonbons, and contemplating this Hallmark holiday.

Americans began observing Mother’s Day in 1908 after West Virginian Anna Jarvis originated the idea of a day to honor mothers and motherhood. Anna envisioned a thoughtful day where adult children visit their mothers, give them a white carnation, then go to church for more honoring.

She became disillusioned when Mother’s Day was exploited by Big Floral, Big Greeting Cards, and Big Candy. Florists hiked the price of carnations. As for cards and chocolates, Anna commented, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother –and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”


(Also, Anna sees me. I totally ate my mom’s chocolate.)

Anna so hated the manipulation of Mother’s Day that in 1943, she organized a petition to rescind it. Her efforts were thwarted when she was placed in a sanitarium near Philadelphia, where she died in 1948.

She never profited from Mother’s Day, and as a single woman, never amassed a fortune. The fees for the sanitarium were paid for by – wait for it – Big Floral, Big Greeting Cards, and Big Candy!      

What a Dickensian way to go.

We should be honoring mothers. But I don’t agree with the Mother’s Day Big Three or Anna as to how. Hand painted macaroni necklaces, carnations, cards, and candy are pretty sentiments, but I know what moms really want.

Moms want help. They want parental leave. They want good, affordable childcare. They want access to healthcare. And, it goes without saying, moms want clothes with bigger and better pockets.

My maternity leave for our first puck was twelve weeks with two-thirds disability pay. I won’t tell you when this puck was born because it will shatter my craftily created illusion of youthfulness, as evidenced by my use of the words “parlor”, “settee”, and “bonbon.” Just know, the puck was born during the last century.

I have a friend whose grandson was born a couple years ago. And his mother had the same maternity leave as I had for our first puck. It’s true that in this century, some moms get six months leave or more, but some moms don’t get any leave at all. Having babies has not come a long way, baby.

The U.S. is the only major developed country that doesn’t have a paid parental leave policy. Studies show there are many benefits of family leave, including decreased infant mortality rates and better maternal health. It also helps keep women in the workforce and equitably divide the labor at home.

Which do you think moms want? Macaroni bracelets or having spouses share the household duties?

Moms would also like affordable childcare and early childhood education. It gets those pesky kids out of the house, and children who have access to good early learning have better outcomes in their later education, leading to better, higher paying employment. It isn’t rocket science: Good early childhood education creates more rocket scientists.

The elephant in this column is that moms also want access to unimpeded healthcare including abortion. Because Donald Trump’s Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, one-third of the country currently lives in states with abortion bans. These bans will increase maternal mortality. They limit pregnant people’s access to emergency healthcare. And abortion bans push people further into poverty.

I wish I could make a joke here, but I can’t.

Some moms are lucky they only have to figure out the latest millennial milk to buy, but there are too many moms who have to figure out how to get enough food on the table. Being a mom can be scary.

When Mister Rogers was a boy and was scared, his wonderful mother told him to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The Democrats and the Biden-Harris administration are the helpers moms are looking for. President Joe Biden’s proposed budget creates a family leave plan, and he is committed to expanding the Child Tax Credit and access to early childhood education. Biden has also promised to codify Roe because he knows the right to choose is an issue of freedom, economics, and (small D) democracy.

Carnations, cards and candy are so last century. Perhaps this Mother’s Day you can give your mother macaroni earrings and a dress with big pockets.

Then, on Election Day, let’s all give moms what they really want.

Published in The East Hampton Press on May 2, 2024.

Graphic by Me!!


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1 Comment

Thank you for continuing to make me laugh- i did !! but also, this is an Excellent column with pertinent points on what is needed in our country around paid parental leave, affordable child care and education. why can our country not get this right? also appreciate your shout out to our right to choose as well. Go Tracy.

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