Is Mother’s Day an outmoded concept?

by | May 11, 2013

Mixed messages about Mother's Day

Mixed messages about Mother's Day

I've always felt ambivalent about Mother's Day thinking that rather than have a Hallmark moment once a year with my two not so little darlings, it would be better if kids treated their Mums well all year round.

The celebration of things maternal is actually a relatively modern concept originating in the United States in 1908. As  the custom spread internationally  ([Tweet "what's not to like about chocs and flowers? "] it became adopted across the world with celebration now taking place on a baffling array of days globally.

Sometimes it is synonymous with older or religious activities such as Mothering Sunday in the U.K. held in Lent.

But in these changing times with so many mixed messages and challenges for women about their role as mothers, it's hard to establish just how appreciated we really are. So although our mothering role is celebrated once a year,  for the rest of the time I believe it is viewed rather ambiguously.

Beyond Hallmark

According to the Economist (December 31, 1999) the oral contraceptive is  ” the greatest science and technology advance in the twentieth century. So we are seeing a decline in population in advanced economies as men and women choose to take control of their fertility, with the accompanying significant impact on our economic futures as we experience an increase in aging populations as people live longer.

Despite there being such a strong economic imperative to encourage couples to reproduce,  in terms of corporate culture  children are perceived as something of an inconvenience.   Although women are educated to higher levels than ever before, the result is  that couples with families tend to split their roles between revenue generating and domestic responsibilities.  This very often leads to families based on one career/one job models as they juggle a delicate balancing act to cope with professional (male) and domestic roles (female).


So although we claim to value motherhood and need women to become and be mothers,  it is actually not that obvious

These challenges are frequently cited by women as reasons for not having children at all, having them later or leaving the workplace either totally or partially.  Whether women have children is one of the most frequently mentioned criteria in the interview process and is at the root of both active discrimination and/or subconscious gender bias. 

[Tweet "Men with families are considered to be more reliable. Women are not. "]

In 1977 only 50% of married men were part of dual-career households, which has increased today to 75%.   For most this is now an economic necessity not a luxury. In recent research in the 27 EU countries almost 50% of women who participated cited the provision of childcare as the "most effective measure for getting or keeping a job" as they struggle to deal with raising a family and meeting their professional obligations. 

 Today, despite making up 50% of the workforce,  women also undertake as much as 80% of household chores. The solution would seem to be to re-negotiate our roles within our own relationships. In many cases this could be true,  but sadly we are also seeing fathers being discouraged from taking parenting leave. 

So if we really value motherhood and the contribution we make,  rather than celebrating just one day a year on Mother's Day with the obligatory box of chocs,  wouldn't it be better to take an all year round view that allows both men and women to be valued parents as well as fulfilled professionals?

What do you think?

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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