Hands off Mother’s Day!

This year it looks as if we are moving beyond shooing moms out onto the street at the crack of dawn on Mother's Day to raise funds to fight cancer. This year we are going after their brunch and posy money as well.

A new organization called the Mother's Day Movement pronounces itself "shocked to learn that $14 billion was spent in the US in 2010 on Mother’s Day celebrations including flowers, cards and meals."

Nora's roses

Roses from my daughter Nora

The group's website says that, "given the number of women and children suffering globally, and here at home, it is time for everyone to rethink this holiday and donate a portion of Mother’s Day spending to those less fortunate."

Actually, last year was a low point for mom on her "special day," probably due to the weak economy. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend upwards of $16 billion on mom, even though the NRF opines in its press release that "mom doesn’t expect much for Mother’s Day."

And why is that, do you think? Perhaps because while more three-quarters of all mothers are in the work force, including more than 60 percent of those with very young children,  women still make only 83 percent of their male counterparts' wages?

I am all for supporting needy women and children, for working to bring down maternal mortality and for curing cancer.

But boy, do I hate it when proponents of these projects tie them to Mother's Day.

That nice Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who writes so compellingly about victimized women around the world, has suggested "we move the apostrophe so as to celebrate not so much Mother’s Day — honoring a single mother — but Mothers’ Day, to help save mothers’ lives around the world as well."

To which I say, talk to me about these issues on Monday.

Sunday represents one of two days all year — the other is my birthday — when I guiltlessly look my dear family members in the eye and say, "I don't know what's for lunch. I don't want to go to the park. I don't intend to get out of bed until the sun goes down."

Perhaps you think I am being humorous, but I'm not. Why do you think women around the world are in such wretched shape? It's because their needs come in dead last, behind the livestock in some places, and nobody thinks a thing of it.

No one should consider pilfering the small comforts society extends to mothers on this day.

Sure, affluent women will score even more great stuff on Mother's Day than they usually get. (People celebrating the holiday will spend an average of $140.73, the NRF reports.) But plenty of moms whose grown children call them a handful of times a year* might actually get flowers or a gift on Sunday or even — woo-hoo! — a meal they don't have to cook themselves.

On Mother's Day, every individual should look at the woman who gave him life, or think about her, and if she is a kind and decent woman, thank her for all that she was willing and able to do — and by the way, do something to bring her a little pleasure.

Because if we can't even do that, then heaven have mercy on the women of the world.

(*I am lucky enough to have a far more attentive grown daughter.)

The things they carry

The latest figures on global maternal mortality, which I've written about in the last two posts here on Birth Story, are encouraging. But are they correct?

The new figures, in a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are much more positive than the ones the World Health Organization came up with in 2006. Advocate groups fear that the brighter statistics will slow down progress on making birth safe for women in developing countries.

The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has made a specialty of chronicling the dire state of women in the world's least prosperous areas, wrote in his blog "On the Ground" on April 16 that "when women die in childbirth in poor countries, nobody keeps track, and so all these figures are very rough estimates."

Imagine that. A mother dies, and nobody even writes it down.

I am a regular reader of Kristof's column, as he consistently mines the rich vein of human interest stories about indigent women.

Kristof has done some great video work on "On the Ground."  Video gives a face -- and a voice -- to the actual women who are living the difficult lives he writes about.

I would recommend taking a look at Kristof's videos from eastern Congo, although some of them are terribly upsetting, as many of these women have been brutalized in the political unrest there.

Here is one video that is simply illuminating, "What Are You Carrying?"