The baby and kid market, worth billions, treats parents as their own personal ATMs, putting pressure on new parents to buy items they don’t need and pushing toys and apparel to young children so they ask for things they don’t need but covet. Companies like Target and Babys R Us spend millions of dollars profiling their customers to send them the best coupons, anticipating which item they would like to buy in the future to lure them into the stores. One can’t help but wonder why there is such a big push to procreate when employers don’t offer paid maternity and paternity leave or incentives. Our country, by federal law, has nothing to offer parents except a 12 week unpaid leave that protects their job but nothing else. The way we force parents to put their paycheck and careers first at the cost of their child is appalling. I don’t know why we play into their game without demanding more for ourselves. Seems sad and contradictory to me.
If you manage to navigate this portion of your life successfully, you are told to expect remuneration from your children in the form of a present every year! As if one day of forced consumerism would truly honor your efforts. Pfft. Check out the Mother’s and Father’s Day adds and you’ll discover that the buy your mom jewelry or buy your dad electronics rhetoric is still alive and well. People got so peeved at this because the thought is so outdated to the point I have seen social media campaigns sprout all over the internet to get retailers to expand the offerings and sales. What if mom wants a big screen TV and dad wants a vacuum? The roles and responsibilities of modern parenthood have changed the way we traditionally saw these archetypes but the times haven’t caught up with this reality. Dad can bake cookies and stay at home too!
I wish that the group of people who proposed these holidays had instead presented a proclamation to have a Family Day or Week. After all that is what we are trying to commemorate. With mothers and fathers doing double duty in certain circles, we shouldn’t be celebrating parenthood in terms of gender. Nurturing and child rearing are not tasks unique to the females of our species. Males can do this too! This is why the concept of family has extended beyond the traditional nuclear definition to reiterate that it has many shapes and sizes: It can include pets, friends, relatives and partners. It is not an exclusive club like the marketing and social campaigns make them to be. You don’t have to run your kids ragged with thousands of extracurricular activities and demands. You don’t need to spend a dime. As long as you can love a child and guide them through their journey of earnest self discovery, you are managing well. In the end that is all that matters, that you made sure the children in your life were well taken care of and felt empowered to follow their dreams with realistic expectations and that you taught them how to be self sufficient and independent, to become the best people they could be.
Being a mother or a father is a choice, one that is not left up to chance or genetics alone. Many of my best familiars are not bound to me by blood; they are people that went above and beyond the call of duty to help me find my way and to succeed. They were surrogate mothers, fathers, and siblings for a child that found herself blazing through life with an insatiable curiosity. Some of these people couldn’t have children of their own, and adoption wasn’t part of their plan or affordable. I had many Alfreds, Buckeys and Wonder Womans in my life, and they all taught me how to be a better me. They never asked for gifts or recognition for the hard work they undertook when helping to raise me and a gift on a particular Sunday would never be enough to show my gratitude, even if I did it for as long as they lived.
I have to assume that the intention of Mother and Father’s Day was to give us pause and force us to consider what makes our parents special and unique; how grateful we should feel about having been entrusted into their care. Sadly, not all parents are worth celebrating and the fact that they gave you life and put up with you for X number of years isn’t enough to warrant tribute. We need to stop making people think that they deserve recognition for a role they volunteered to do, especially if they didn’t take the time to do it correctly. I see so many parents neglect their kids to later demand a present and praise because they put it the minimum that was required at great personal cost. The weird thing is the cost they paid was the happiness and emotional safety of their child. No one should be forced to take care of a parent that did nothing to deserve it. Be grateful if you have parents that did their job well, and make sure you are not judging their efforts incorrectly to avoid having to take care of them. There are more good ones that bad ones out there.
No marketing campaign could ever sell me the perfect thank you to my parents. From what they tell me, the joy of raising a happy child is a rewards on its own. My parents highly treasure the memories of the smiles and laughter of their children, the memories of seeing us discover things for the first time. These are very hard items to buy off the shelf, and I can’t thank them enough for loving me with their open hearts and minds, for not putting barriers in my development and inspiring me to reach new heights for women everywhere. I did my best to honor them by being a dutiful daughter, an excellent student, and a wonderful sister which to them was worth more than any small trinket of appreciation attached to a card that I could give them.
I sincerely wish all the children of the world had mother and father figures like the ones I had, people who understood that I owed them nothing because they did what they did for my benefit alone. They didn’t coddle or overprotect me so I could learn the lessons life wanted to convey with the freedom to explore all the endeavors my heart and inquisitive mind proposed. That on itself is priceless and almost impossible to repay. The fact that they don’t want me to is even more valuable to me.
If you don’t treat every day like Mother’s and Father’s day you are doing it wrong. Parenting is a selfless act of bravery, a commitment to guide and mentor another soul until the day they die. It is a bond unlike any other, one that can give you superpowers and infinite intuition. You become strong for them, hard as nails tough, optimistic and endearing to a fault while keeping it real. Their blood, sweat and tears proof that they would stop at nothing to see you enjoy the privilege of having your own family someday, so that you can understand first hand the value of their sacrifices and efforts. This is why I think we do each other a disservice when we expect everyone to take only two days out of the year to call it even. We should give people more time off to enjoy with their families, instead of just two Sundays; better maternity and paternity leaves, and better work-life balance schedules. That’s my beef with these two made up holidays. They seem very hypocritical to me.
This Mother’s and Father’s Day, take the time to honor all the people in your life that contributed in your upbringing and development. Comfort those who have lost loved ones. To them, a day to celebrate may also be a day of mourning and great sadness. Also, take the time to include those that due to infertility or sheer bad luck haven’t been blessed with children. We all have the potential to become parents to the kids of the future; we should all rise to the responsibility accordingly.