Celebrating Motherhood – and Why we Need to do it More.

I’m writing this almost a week away from Mothering Sunday, or what many call ‘Mother’s Day’. The two events however are quite different, although in modern society they are viewed as one and the same. Mothering Sunday is a five hundred year old Christian festival where Christians returned to their ‘mother church’ to worship on the 4th Sunday of Lent, the ‘mothering’ refers therefore to their church rather than celebrating a parent. Mother’s Day as we know it originated during the second World War and was popularised (read commercialised!) in the 1950s and although it took inspiration from the Christian festival, Mother’s Day as it is now, is a secular celebration.

Call me cynical, but I’m not a great fan of Mother’s Day. I think it just highlights what is wrong with society when it comes to valuing motherhood. Why must we only celebrate mothers on one day per year buying garish over priced bouquets of flowers or boxes of chocolates emblazoned with ‘I love my mum’? What about the other 364 days per year? Why are these so thankless? I bet many mothers would willingly forego their yearly gifts in exchange for some more support, acknowledgement and thanks on a far more regular basis.


Is it any wonder that so many struggle with the transition to motherhood? With around a fifth of all new mothers developing post natal depression. Before we become mothers women find acknowledgement through their work and related achievements. At school, college and university we are rewarded for our hard work with good grades and the promise of a bright future. When we start work we benefit from yearly appraisals, bonuses, promotions and employee award schemes which help to increase our sense of worth, if we do a good job we rightly receive the appropriate acknowledgements and congratulations. We live a life that we are in control of and our efforts are acknowledged. We are seen as good citizens, the government applaud us as we are helping the economy and paying our taxes and strangers consider us worthy of conversation when asking “so what do you do?” at events.

Then we become mothers, quite possible the hardest, most important and most thankless job in the world. We are no longer in control of our lives, we often don’t even manage to brush our hair, let alone hoover the house. We get nothing done anymore. How can somebody who was so in control find it so hard to deal with a young child? Compared to boardroom speeches and dissertations it surely should be easy? How can we achieve so little in our days when we used to achieve so much? There are no appraisals for motherhood, no certificates of merit, no promotions. Just ruthless, exhausting, brain numbing, emotion wrenching days that roll into one another. What do we have to measure our worth as a mother? Who tells us that’s we’re doing a great job? In reality, hardly anybody. Is it any wonder that so many feel like they lose a piece of themselves when they have a child? Is it any wonder postnatal depression is so rife? Add to this the government sees no value in mothers, the only thing they are interested in is getting them back to work as soon as possible to bolster the economy. How many mothers have you met when asked “so what do you do?” reply with “oh, I’m just a mother”? I’ve met far too many.  How many mothers have you met when asked “what did you do today?” reply with “oh, nothing, I just didn’t get anything done”, when in fact they have been busy for twelve hours straight raising their child.


I’m not saying there aren’t fun parts to motherhood, because we all know how it changes your world, and you, for the better too. How all of a sudden the things that used to matter to you don’t anymore, how much more selfless you become, what real love is and  how unbelievable it is that you would literally die for somebody you didn’t even know a few months ago.  Motherhood is amazing, but society doesn’t view it that way and it certainly doesn’t view mothers as amazing. Mothers are the thread that holds the tapestry of life together. We owe everything to them, so why do we only tell them on one day per year? Are they not worth telling every day?

When I started running postnatal classes for new mothers and their babies one thing I really wanted to do was to boost the morale of the mothers attending my classes and help them to realise what a fantastic job they were doing. I experimented with different ways of doing this and came up with a simple idea that really seemed to work. In the last but one week I used to ask the mothers on my courses to do some homework. This homework was to go home and ask their partner,friend, sister, mother (anybody who knew them well as a mother) to write a list of ’10 Reasons You are a Good Mother’. they were then to bring this list with them to the last course session where I would ask them to read them out to the rest of the group. If somebody returned without their list, or with an incomplete one, the rest of the mothers on the course would complete it for them. This never failed to result in tears all round. So many mothers commented “I didn’t know that anybody had noticed”, “Maybe I am a good mum?”, “this is the first time anybody has ever said anything nice about my mothering” or “this makes all of the sleepless nights and tiring days worth it”. So many would thank me, which always felt so wrong, since they were the ones that needed to be thanked – yet nobody had done so. So my suggestion for Mother’s Day this year would be to forget the trinkets, chocolates and flowers and concentrate on telling your mother, your new mum friends and even yourself why motherhood matters and what a great job they are doing, not just for one day, but for as many as possible.


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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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