“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” — Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom
Mother’s Day, a loving homage, a happy celebration. It wouldn’t be complete without special greeting cards, bouquets of mother’s favorite flowers, and a family dinner at a fine restaurant. We may think of Mother’s Day as a ‘modern’ holiday, but truth is, honoring the ‘mother’ is as ancient as motherhood itself, dating back to pagan times and the springtime celebration of fertility. The Egyptians feted Isis, the Greeks honored the great mother, Rhea. Ancient Romans worshipped Cybele. Early Christians celebrated a Mother’s Day of sorts during the season of Lent, which honored the Virgin Mary. In England, over time, this tradition grew to include all mothers.
When the first English settlers came to America, they abandoned the tradition of Mother’s Day. It wasn’t until centuries later that the tradition was established in America. Julia Ward Howe, American poet, pacifist and political activist, was the first to suggest an official Mother’s Day holiday in 1872. Ward Howe saw the holiday as one that promoted peace and pacifism, honoring mothers who rose up against war, rather than individual mothers. It wasn’t until 1908 that Anna Jarvis, known today as “The Mother of Mother’s Day,” lobbied for an official declaration of Mother’s Day. She wanted to honor her own mother, and was sure there were others who felt the same. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution designating the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day.
Today more than ever, mothers live complex, and at times overwhelming lives. Used to multi-tasking, we are the ones who bring forth life, and then must face a continuous juggling act, raising offspring while often working full-time, running a household, being a help-mate, or doing it all on our own. The world of mothering is so fraught with stretching towards perfection and shrinking from comparisons. We seldom give ourselves credit for all we do, but on this day, we are honored.
Just one day a year to be pampered and applauded? What about the rest of the year? Shouldn’t we embrace a little selfishness, make it a virtue and take a moment for ourselves now and then? Let’s not forget what the flight attendant cautions when you fly the friendly skies. “Always put on your own oxygen mask before helping others!” Great advice.
Mother or not, I’ve always believed in the necessity of self-care. I have memories of my mother in her satisfying, Epsom salts bath, complete with essential oils, calming herself after a long day, a routine I, and my daughter, continue. I’d watch my mother carefully remove her eye makeup with a cotton ball dipped in the French makeup remover she could not live without. But my mother also taught me that self-care extends beyond what lives in the makeup bag. Try putting on classical music, lighting a scented candle, taking the time to mindfully apply moisturizer all over your skin. Take a contemplative walk. Splurge and get a massage.
Embracing a self-care beauty regime may seem indulgent. But these small things add up, and done regularly they can be both restorative and inspirational, providing a sense of calm and wellbeing. Self-care can become the oxygen mask that allows us to be all things to those we love.
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