With the passing of another Mother’s Day last Sunday, it is timely to reflect on the origin of this annual celebration and consider its significance in the context of our present cultural environment.
In this cynical age, we tend to think of Mother’s Day as a crass commercial plot by corporations hungry for more profits. While it might now be exploited for profit, in the same way that Christmas is, Mother’s Day was not the invention of a marketing genius at all. In fact, the first Mother’s Day observance was a special church service for mothers, held in Philadelphia, in the United States, in 1907. The observance soon spread and, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation ordering that the United States flag be flown on all public buildings on that day. In the next year, the first official celebration of Mother’s Day began and has continued ever since.
Mother’s Day, then, is the outworking of values widely held and deeply felt in all civilised societies. In Western society, these values find their expression in all cultures and across all generations. Consider the following quotations.
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”, wrote W.R. Wallace in 1865; or the Spanish Proverb, “An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest”; or the Yiddish Proverb, “God could not be everywhere, so He made mothers” – theologically unsound, perhaps, but expressing the same sentiment. And, finally, to the Bible’s Book of Proverbs, where it says of the good woman, “her children shall rise up and call her blessed”. (Prov.31:28).
This perception of motherhood, has been one of the underpinnings of our culture and, for that reason no doubt, motherhood, and the family model it reflects, has been under strong attack during the cultural wars of the last quarter century. Feminist cultural warriors, such as Germaine Greer for example, portrayed marriage and motherhood as institutions of slavery and oppression and advocated the elevation of self-indulgence as the primary goal of life.
The outcome of this obsession with self has been the fashionable denigration of marriage, the introduction of abortion on demand, the advent of no-fault divorce, and the elimination of moral constraints on the behaviour of individuals. They have all played their part in bringing about a revolution in concepts of motherhood and the family.
In response to this new class nonsense, Governments have progressively dismantled the careful provisions of the fiscal system, built up by a wiser generation of politicians, which recognised that the proper raising of children required the care and attendance of one parent, generally the mother, and was a large call on the available income of the second parent, generally the father.
The withdrawal of support from the family has resulted in the economic conscription of married women into the workforce, obliging them to hand their children over to someone else to look after, so that they can bring home another pay packet. Now, government support instead is directed to those seeking abortions, towards providing childcare for working mothers and towards pension support of sole parents, which now outstrips all other government pensions.
Moreover, the moral rejection of the family as an institution worthy of support has led a generation of our most “educated” young women to eschew the bearing of children altogether and to choose, instead, the “fulfillment” of careers in business and government.
And yet, Mother’s Day persists. Out of the false visions and deceitful doctrines of the self-anointed prophets of the “new age”, there is a truth shining through. Deep down, motherhood is still something we value.
The pioneers knew what we have forgotten; “populate or perish” was their theme. They knew that we could not expect to hold on to a country of this size, “against the envy of less happy lands”, unless we produced the people to inhabit it.
Yet our present population is not replacing itself and, on this Mother’s Day, it is timely to reflect on the folly that has made our future so uncertain. It cannot be very many years before Australians will be a minority in the land their fathers, and mothers, worked so hard and selflessly to build.