Break out the white wine and Dansko clogs — it’s Mother’s Day 2017.
Today, we honor the women who gave us life (and mom jeans), not only our own mothers, but all mothers, regardless of pre-existing conditions.
The holiday traces its roots to 1908, when Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia as part of a growing national movement. After several years of Congressional pushback — see? Lawmakers enjoy a rich history of inexplicable opposition, even to apolitical initiatives like recognizing American moms — President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the holiday in 1914.
Interestingly enough, commercialization soon grew so rampant, by 1923 the same Anna Jarvis started campaigning to rescind Mother’s Day, or at least stop its exploitation by big business. We all know how that went.
Of course, there’s more to Mother’s Day than re-gifted perfume and last-minute gas station flowers.
Believe me, I’m a stay-at-home dad. Few people appreciate the demands of being a mom like a stay-at-home-dad.
You see, nine years ago, my wife and I faced that all-important question: who would go back to work at the end of family leave? She was a lawyer; I was unemployed. The decision made itself —and we both got to keep our jobs.
I’ve since spent nearly a decade embedded with an army of moms. And I’ll tell you, they’re some bad mama jamas.
Motherhood is an incredible undertaking — just laundry, alone. And the rewards? Well, the rewards usually entail more laundry. So much laundry.
Raising children is a full-time gig, only with bosses who sometimes wet the bed… and it’s your bed. For most moms, that’s in addition to a “regular” full-time job … and possibly another part-time job after that. Not to mention a side gig hawking essential oils.
True, today’s dads tend to be more involved than in generations past. Or at least they make up for it by giving their kids a global real-estate empire or an office in the West Wing or something.
But inequality persists. For instance, group emails are flying fast and furious lately about summer camp plans. I’m the only person on these distribution lists who uses beard oil (at least that I know of), just like how emails from my son’s old playgroup were addressed “Hey, Ladies (and Geoff).” And have you been to a kid’s birthday party, lately? It’s like a yoga pants convention. Sponsored by La Croix.
I’ve noticed similar mom-dominance, or “mominance,” at doctor’s appointments; swimming practice; figure skating lessons; Girl Scouts meetings (actually, even I usually bail on those) —basically, anything involving kids, but not beer.
Point is, even in 2017 society still expects mothers to shoulder an unequal share of parental responsibilities, on top of their already disproportionate physical burden. A mother carries a child inside her body for nine months; dad’s contribution is finished in what, like four minutes?
All this bears recognizing, especially today, Mother’s Day. In fact, is that the best we can do? One measly day? I say we make it a whole week … or at the very least a Mother’s Thursday-through-Sunday. Four-day weekend!
Of course, Alaska moms are in a league of their own (and I don’t mean a recreational hockey league, although that’s true, too).
First of all, the weather adds degrees of difficulty to every pursuit — perhaps none more than parenting, as anyone who’s ever tried keeping mittens on a toddler can attest.
And then there’s the mess. Alaska is messy. Kids are messy. Together, they’re my mom’s worst nightmare. Seriously, the woman brings her own rubber gloves every time she comes up here.
In Alaska, the prospect of bear mauling always remains a possibility — I used to walk my infant daughter blasting Slayer on the trail — and an eagle might snatch your baby right out of the Bjorn. Also, if there’s any water, at least one if not all of your kids will wind up in that water, especially if you didn’t bring a change of clothes and are still several miles from anywhere resembling warm and dry.
Plus, Alaska moms know stuff — like home remedies involving olive oil and creative uses for old yogurt containers, but also how to jump-start a car and operate an excavator.
Alaska moms are fishing boat captains, wilderness guides, carpenters, mountaineers, ski racers, welders, doulas, miners, ultra-runners, truck drivers, moose hunters and senior U.S. Senators. And then there’s the most famous Alaska mom of all — the mother of all mothers, so to speak—mama grizz, herself, or, as I like to call her, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Actually, that’s a bit harsh, likening Sarah Palin to Voldemort — on Mother’s Day, no less. Although, even the Ministry of Magic can’t deny: she’s back.
Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.
Being married with children, there are two mothers in my life, now. Let me tell you, my wife just loves it when I call her “mommy.” Especially in bed.
Still, she deserves a special shout out. I may be our kids’ primary caregiver, but I’ll never be their mother. Which is why I buy them so much ice cream. And never make them bathe.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday.