Do We Celebrate Mother’s Day Like It Was Meant to Be?

On May 7, 2017, USA Today featured an article entitled Mother’s Day: The Best Gifts for the Mom Who Loves Technology.

Technology for Mother’s Day?

While there are a variety of techno-magic gifts technologically-minded mothers (and fathers) might appreciate, the article and its underlying theme made me feel sad about the messages children might receive about giving their mothers a technology-savvy gift for Mother’s Day.

Let’s start with a little background about Mother’s Day, according to Wikipedia.

“The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.

Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers, because she believed that they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. 

Wikipedia goes on to state, “Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday should be on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards.

Good intentions gone awry?

It appears the original intent of Anna Jarvis was to establish a holiday in which mothers were honored by receiving personalized verbal and/or written tributes. She intended for children to find creative ways to celebrate and thank their mothers rather than create an over-advertised, high-powered holiday. She did not want expensive, elaborate gifts to become the expectation of appreciation, with companies like Hallmark making a fortune selling cards with pre-written messages.

I remember fondly when in elementary school each year we would have projects for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We handcrafted small gifts and wrote personal messages of appreciation on construction paper cards. The joy of the whole process…of taking time to find meaningful words and to do the best possible artistic drawings remains with me even today.

Using personal creativity to express our love and appreciation also meant the gift of time focusing on that appreciation. Then there were the glorious moments of receiving the ohs and ahs from our mother or father! It brought deep joy because of all the love that had been poured into those gifts and cards. For us children, it was a long process, not a few moments in front of a screen, clicking on something from Amazon or a flower store somewhere in cyberspace.

Children can still get the message of honoring mom when they purchase something online, from the mall or hand a gift to their mother that someone else bought for them.  Also, children can still personalize a store-bought card with their own message of appreciation and love. But I think the message behind the whole industry of promoting Mother’s Day for profit is not the one we want to promote for our children.

Gifts from the heart

Their handwritten cards and handmade gifts, or the effort they put into serving breakfast in bed or cooking dinner for mom warms a mother’s heart more profoundly than a store-bought card or gift.

Moreover, it gives children the opportunity to give a little piece of themselves to their mother. They can show how deeply they appreciate her with something created from their own hands and minds that are one-of-a-kind, sweet and deeply meaningful treasures that money can’t buy.

You might look at places like Pinterest or Michaels or AC Moore for craft ideas for Mother’s Day gifts.

Invitation to Reflect

  1. Do review remember making something homemade for your mom (or the primary parental figure in your life) as your Mother’s Day gift? How did it make you feel to make it? To give it to her?
  2. What are some ways you can encourage your children to create a special Mother’s Day gift or engage in an activity that is not about spending a lot of money on something elaborate but much less personal?
  3. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to guide your children toward the creation of a personal Mother’s Day gift versus the faster and easier road of buying a gift or card for them to give? How do you think that might benefit your children?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network



Image Source: