Reflecting on the Meaning of Mother's Day
By Sarah Gail Adams
"One silver lining at this time may be the rare opportunity for so many children to enjoy their parents, their homes, and the great outdoors with less confinement and scheduling... people are now seeing clearly the importance of self reliance, informed choice, supporting small businesses with local supply chains, having access to organic small farms, the intentionality of our every choice....and then, ultimately, teaching these concepts and skills to our children ourselves."
Anna Jarvis was an inexhaustible 19th century activist whose mission focused on health education, urban sanitation, and forming clubs for mothers to have a place to get together in her home state of West Virginia. She instigated Mother's Work Days and Mother's Work Day Clubs, groupings of women who did service for their cities and among other things treated wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Anna then created Mother's Friendship Days so that grieving mothers from both sides of the war could have a platform to come together and begin to form bonds once more. Upon her death, a national Mother's Day then became the vision and mission of her daughter, also Anna. President Woodrow Wilson indeed made it a national holiday in 1914, however the younger Anna Jarvis spent the last three decades of her life attempting to undo the national holiday she had successfully helped establish after witnessing the derailment and shallow commercialization of what originally was an homage to her mother's work.
She once said “any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card" among many other spicy quotes. She made her disdain for the candy and greeting card industries clearly known. Anna Jarvis the younger sounds exactly like my kind of woman and the elder Anna Jarvis's reasons for building community really remind me of my own cause for the community I promote and love so much on Instagram. Mothers helping mothers with all the things we do in life.
As a Montessorian long before I became a mother, I desired an intentional environment for my own children where I could encourage free thinking, exploration and independence from the beginning. In motherhood I chose homeschool over the public and private school classrooms I had known in my ten years of teaching because I could not imagine my not soaking up every moment of my own children's childhoods. I wanted to watch them discover, learn, and create. I wanted to introduce my favorite authors to them. I wanted to witness their time spent with musical instruments. I wanted to plant a garden with them and watch them excitedly watch it all grow. I yearned to give them a slow, intentional childhood and nothing remotely close to what mine had been. I fought hard for this over many years and, together, my husband and I eventually made it happen.
We moved out of the urban environment we had always known and intentionally slowed down our lives. Today our daily life changes little as the rest of the world accelerates crazily and right now I could not be more grateful for our decision making or more honest about it, especially as a great many more people are asking questions. We venture outside every day no matter the weather to connect with nature and soak up some sun. I live for days of long hikes or reading books on the wooden bridge over our creek. My boys have the opportunity to sit and read for hours, whip up baked items at their whim (usually), go fishing down the road, or go help neighbors harvest veggies in their beautiful, terraced garden in the valley of our mountain. They love to ride bikes on the mountain trails and play board games like Risk that last from sunrise until the light has gone.
Waxing optimistic, one silver lining at this time may be the rare opportunity for so many children to enjoy their parents, their homes, and the great outdoors with less confinement and scheduling. I say the same for those children's parents. Perhaps most significantly, more people are now seeing clearly the importance of self reliance, informed choice, supporting small businesses with local supply chains, having access to organic small farms, the intentionality of our every choice....and then, ultimately, teaching these concepts and skills to our children ourselves.
As a mama who rarely celebrates our society's Hallmark holidays anymore, I am thankful to the Jarvis women for this one and for their commitment to women and family. I would love to see us get back to the roots of this holiday. We could choose instead to practice the very same principles that first gave rise to the idea of Mother's Day. Would it be so bad to cut out all the industry-created hype and excess? Could we all take a hand in helping our cities and neighbors more? Shall we reflect on the need for real community that is truthful, open and honest? Both Annas believed so.
Amidst the chaos and the fear and the pain at the present time, may mothers remain calm and strong, may we find renewed purpose, may we remain flexible enough to readily incorporate new information that seemingly arrives more rapidly than ever before, and may we use this time to both reflect and commune. It is and always has been mothers who hold the future in our nurturing hands. May we find it in us to realign our purpose and intent for the sake of our children and grandchildren and to all those who come after.