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I’m a stay-at-home dad. People say all kinds of dumb things to stay-at-home dads. This blog began as a way for me to record these comments and criticize the people who said them. However, it's evolved, and I now use it to express other random thoughts on parenting, children, gender, and society. Thanks for checking it out.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day: The Morning After

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. People love Mother’s Day. Every restaurant in town that offers brunch was packed, every flower shop was bustling, and every social media site was clogged with sentimental photos of kids alongside their dear, beloved mothers. According to USFlag.org, you’re supposed to fly the American Flag in your front yard on Mother’s Day, putting it right up there with Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, and Easter Sunday, the celebration of the heavenly ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m telling you—people love Mother’s Day. Father’s Day, absent from the flag-flying list, has never achieved that level of reverence.

It makes sense, I suppose. We expect so much of moms that it’s only natural that we make such a big deal out of their day. When my mom was around, I certainly celebrated it without question. However, a recent comment from a friend made me realize I’ve developed a different point of view on Mother’s Day, that I’ve gained a new perspective since becoming a parent and witnessing other people my age become parents. Something about the day has become unsettling to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

I was working late Saturday night, the night before Mother’s Day, and I ran into this lady I know. I’m a comedian, so I almost always work Saturday nights, and I usually (despite my best intentions) end up staying out with friends until bar time. She’s a comedian too, and she’s a mom. When she saw me, she said, “How are you going to do it tomorrow morning?”

“Do what?” I responded.

“Don’t you have to get up tomorrow? It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t you have to make breakfast and take care of the kids?” she asked, as if I should be at home, rehearsing my omelet flipping technique in preparation for the big morning.

I explained to her that I’m up with the kids most mornings, making breakfast and getting them ready for the day, often after a late night at work. Although Sunday is usually the one day a week I get to sleep in (my wife’s day is Saturday), I wasn’t sure how we were going to handle Mother’s Day. If I had to get up, no big deal.

She seemed surprised by the idea that I make breakfast for my family. “Oh!” she exclaimed, impressed and confused at the same time.

And then it occurred to me: Mother’s Day is the only day of the year I’m expected to do anything. The other 364 days, in most people’s eyes, I’m free to sleep in without judgment. But what if my wife sleeps in on any day other than Mother’s Day? Well, that makes her selfish and lazy. She should be up and about, feeding kids, scrubbing floors, and packing lunches. If she doesn’t like it, too bad. She’ll get her annual day off the next time the second Sunday in May rolls around.
Sorry, moms, but your day is over. Back to work!

Because of that, I’m not so sure I like Mother’s Day. Please don’t take that to mean I don’t like moms. I love moms, which is why I’m not so sure I like Mother’s Day—at least not the way we celebrate it. It’s a giant reminder of how shitty we are to our moms every other day of the year. I’m not saying you, the person reading this right now, is shitty to your mom. I’m saying we, as a culture, are shitty to moms. And that’s why we feel the need to continue observing Mother’s Day. It’s a celebration of how much suffering our moms put up with, orchestrated by the people who caused the suffering in the first place.

Here’s an idea: Maybe if we didn’t demand that moms handle 90% of the parenting duties, maybe if we didn’t stick them with all the household chores, maybe if we would remove the enormous pressure to be super-human that we saddle them with, maybe if we didn't penalize them financially for pausing their careers so that they can create life, maybe if we provided adequate and universal prenatal and neonatal care—then maybe we wouldn’t need a day to praise them and all that they do. We pile all these burdens on our moms, buy them chocolates once a year, and then go back to burdening them the next day.

It’s supposed to warm my heart when I hear a mom on Mother’s Day say, “My kids made me breakfast this morning, and my husband did the laundry! I’m so #blessed!” Truth be told, that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. Look how excited you are that someone toasted a frozen waffle for you. You call yourself blessed because the people you live with cleaned their own damn clothes—in other words, they acted like considerate human beings. If your family wants to show you how much they love you, how about they make you breakfast and do the laundry next Sunday too? Or on a random Thursday in September? Or, I don’t know, how about every day? You know, like you do for them.

So there’s my problem with Mother’s Day: One day of extreme, planned appreciation is supposed to balance out all the other days we take moms for granted.

Starting today, the day after Mother’s Day, let’s treat moms better. Let’s show them we love them not one day a year, but every day of the year. Let’s do the dishes, wash the clothes, and vacuum the crumbs out of the sofa (after all, we put them there). Instead of applauding moms for doing all the things we selfishly demand that they do, let's stop demanding that they do to them.

Let's make Mother's Day a celebration of our love for mothers, not a recognition of everything we make them put up with.

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