On 9 May, the entire world celebrated their mothers. Some people chose to post pictures with their mothers on Instagram (even if their mothers weren’t on the platform), while others shared private celebrations like cooking lunch for the day so that their moms get a day off or filled their rooms with balloons or cut a cake with them.
Regardless of how it was celebrated, my Instagram feed was full of ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ posts in bold caps letters.
However, what this one-day celebration of motherhood ignores is the unacknowledged and unpaid labour of love that is expected of every mother on a daily basis. The majority of stay-at-home moms have internalised this patriarchal concept of performing labour out of love and out of the duty towards their husbands, children, and homes.
As elaborated in the groundbreaking feminist work, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden, a mother’s happiness is expected to come from her household work, her husband, and most importantly, from taking care of her children. This unrealistic expectation makes mothers believe that it is their duty to make selfless sacrifices for their loved ones, and these same sacrifices are glorified by their children through ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ Instagram posts.
Motherhood is a thankless job
A stay-at-home mom, more commonly known as a ‘housewife’ in an Indian household, works 24×7 for 365 days, and yet, her labour remains unpaid and is not even considered labour in the first place.
She gets no national holidays, Sundays, sick days or a New Year’s vacation. Even when she is sick, she works under the justification of ‘If I don’t do it, will this house run itself?’ The ignorance of the labour that stay-at-home mothers perform is suddenly highlighted when their labour of love is celebrated on one day — Mother’s Day.
I have seen so many people (primarily sons) not even getting up to keep their plate back in the kitchen, who suddenly decide to cook for their mothers on Mother’s Day as a gift — what they choose to do once a year, their mothers do every day without taking any credit for it or posting a picture of it on Instagram.
With time, many mothers in India are increasingly choosing to work outside the home. But, this mother is also not free from the hoax of Mother’s Day. Instead, her ability to contribute to her job, household work, and her husband, children and other family members is further glorified.
She is called a strong and fierce mother who is able to do it all. She shoulders the entire burden of job, housework and family responsibilities every single day, but instead of highlighting the patriarchal structure that put her in that position, her struggles and sacrifices are glorified under the hashtag #supermom.
With the pandemic, this burden increased even more for mothers. While many families shared the workload during these times, it came about with a lot of self-pride. Those who never did household chores before were forced into doing it, which made them feel good about themselves.
A lot of people used it as an excuse to not being able to fully contribute to their full-time jobs. Many companies and institutions also decided to decrease workload or extend deadlines because suddenly everyone had ‘other responsibilities’ to tend to too.
And yet, if a working woman had asked for this leeway in a pre-pandemic world due to her ‘household responsibilities’, she would have been deemed unable to fully contribute to her job.
A capitalist agenda
But Mother’s Day continues to exist just like Father’s Day, Women’s Day, Daughter’s Day, and several other ‘days’ because the presence of these ‘days’ directly aids the capitalist market.
The creation of a special occasion facilitates the market for gifts and provides for an advertising opportunity.
How will Aashirvaad Svasti Ghee ‘celebrate all moms who go that extra mile to make us feel special always’ if it was not for Mother’s Day? Why would TrueCaller ask us to #BlockTimeForMom if Mother’s Day didn’t exist? How would Philips Avent tell us about the #HappilyMessy experience of mothers who forget about all their problems when their child holds their finger if it was not for the existence of Mother’s Day?
Not only do brands and businesses use Mother’s Day to run their advertising campaigns, but they also promote the same patriarchal expectations of mothers deriving their ‘true happiness’ from their children, family and home.
As a daughter myself, I urge all children, of all ages, to stop glorifying the sacrifices and struggles of our mothers and stop invisibilising her labour in the name of love. Instead of cooking lunch for her once every year, do the dishes while she’s out at her job every day or busy working hard from home. And while you’re at it, try not to do it for Instagram.
Devi Dang is a student of FLAME University, Pune