Over the past couple of years it’s been clear to me that holidays have become of monumental importance in the American culture. Christmas—December 25—is an entire season. When I was a kid, talk of Christmas began a week or two before the big day. A few years ago, stores began to trot out Christmas decorations on November 1, as soon as the Halloween pumpkins were put away. Last year, though, I noticed a number of stores selling Christmas wreaths right alongside Halloween masks. The Christmas season now begins in October.
And the ads to remind you to buy something, do something—usually something expensive—for Valentine’s Day begin right after New Year’s Day. Oh, the pressure.
And now here comes Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day, a national holiday since 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson declared it so, has recently become MOTHER’S DAY!!! It, too, is superlative; it is not to be ignored. The ads started a couple of months ago. Mother’s Day is bigger than Christmas and Valentine’s Day in some ways (Number 1 being the guilt if you don’t do something spectacular to honor it).
On this one I’m sort of on the outside looking in. I’m (by choice) not a mother, and I don’t have one (not my choice) . . . so I’m free to sort of watch from afar and ponder lightly what it all means. It seems that as the number of childfree-by-choice women grows, the importance of being a mother has taken on colossal status.
For most of civilization, a woman’s becoming a mother was a given. If her body could reproduce, she did . . . really whether she wanted to or not. Better birth control changed this somewhat. Women could choose when to be a mother, but most still rarely considered if they should.