Do we really need an excuse to treat our mothers right?state library of south Australia

My mother has always instilled in me her belief that Mother’s Day is a redundant concept in a society where women are no longer confined to the domestic sphere. She has similarly expounded that it perpetuates the idea of traditionally female household tasks. Her belief that it only serves purpose in a family where the mother alone is responsible for domestic chores, and thus deserves a day of rest that no one else in the family is entitled to, may seem to many to be ignoring the fact that Mother’s Day is simply a day to be nice to your mum, to thank her and buy her presents.

However, Mother’s Day as we know it, rather than the Christian ‘Mothering Sunday’, was conceptualized in 1908, with Father’s Day born only two years later. Its birth at a time when, realistically, this may have been the only day in the year when women were released from the responsibility of household tasks, confirms the suggestion that it is, ironically, a day that somehow celebrates, and perhaps even perpetuates, ‘traditional’ female roles. In contrast, Father’s Day arose at a time that would have meant celebrating a father’s success in providing for the family, in going out to work every day rather than taking care of the household. That is not to say that a father’s role was not as equally and unfairly dictated for him, but it is clear which parent was more restricted and confined.

In an egalitarian household, where responsibility for mundane activities such as washing, ironing, tidying, cleaning and cooking are shared between mother, father and children equally, the idea of a single day reserved for the respite of the mother appears somewhat ridiculous. To me, there is even the implication that Mother’s Day allows the rest of the family to cop out, to console themselves that buying flowers, chocolates, cards and providing a singular day of rest sanctions leaving the burden of domestic responsibility on the shoulders of the mother for the other 364 days of the year.

Something as mainstream and commonly-used as the App store continues to define mothers solely by their running of the household and care for the children

This Mother’s Day my brother, my mum and I went to the Natural History Museum, and, after five minutes, noticed the armies of fathers herding their children towards the dinosaurs and dodos, swamped with bags and scooters. The kind act of one parent allowing the other a ‘day off’ from the children should not, I believe, be something done under some sense of obligation. In the same way that Valentine’s Day fosters the belief that one must show more affection than they would usually, and that New Year’s Eve necessitates an attempt to have the best night of your year, Mother’s Day creates an expectation on the husband or children to do things for the mother that, quite frankly, they should be doing anyway.

These sorts of celebrations in many ways consent to a lack of effort for the rest of the year, paradoxically fulfilling a role that encourages the opposite values to those they purport to illustrate. Valentine’s Day should not be the only day a relationship is made to feel special, New Year’s Eve will probably not be the best night of your year (from personal experience it is more likely to end with you being stuck at a random tube station unable to get home because TFL lied about 24 hour service, but that’s another story…), and Mother’s Day should be just one among many, many days where you tell your mum not to worry because today’s mundane chores are on you.

In case you couldn’t tell then, I’ve always thought Mother’s Day was redundant, that is in any family that distributes responsibility equally. However, something I saw two days before to Mother’s Day this year has somewhat changed my mind: I still hold that once a mother and a wife’s traditional roles in the household are seen equally as those of the man, the day holds no value, but I no longer believe that we are close enough to this apparently mystical goal to dispense with the day altogether.

On the Apple store there was a section of recommended ‘Apps for Mums’, designed to make the lives of mums, which, in the world of Apple, appear to contain nothing more than childcare and chores, easier. There was Mush – the mum app for meeting mums and to “make being a mum more fun”; there’s even a ‘Mush Matcher’ so you can find mums just like you! There is Mumsnet Baby Bundle and RoosterMoney for managing your children’s pocket money. Peanut helps find “like-minded mamas near you, and makes it easy to meet”. Lifecake, for keeping your baby photos together, was even awarded the ‘Mums Love’ award by Babyworld. God knows why a father would want to take photos of his children.

Clearly then, Mother’s Day is not redundant. If something as mainstream and commonly-used as the App store continues to define mothers solely by their running of the household and care for the children, then perhaps a day of rest is indeed necessary. That is not to say that running a household is easy, or not of the highest importance, or trivial, it’s just that it’s not something that should be associated anymore with a mother than with a father, or, dare I say it, with the children.

For several days, during which I pitched this article, these apps were recommended for mums. However, when I came back to do some more research on the apps, the category had been changed to ‘What every parent needs’. Perhaps someone beat me to it and called Apple out on this blatant sexism. If so, good on them. I can only say I wish I’d done it first. Or perhaps, these parenting apps were targeted especially at mums because of the proximity to Mother’s Day. Oh the irony