Mother's Day

Thought for the day--

" Dr. Laura's" new book In Praise of Mothers has been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks--the title, that is. No, I'm not going to read her ravings about how everyone ought to be a stay-at-home mother. The title gets me thinking about how tricky it is to praise a person who does X without implictly insulting a person who doesn't do X.

With all the paeans to mothers we'll be hearing this weekend, I imagine there have to be some non-mothers who think "what about me?" There's that cliche that says being a mother is the hardest job in the world. There must be a few non-mothers out there--brain surgeons, district attorneys, members of the armed forces--who are thinking mothers are getting more than their fair share of the credit. I mean really: the hardest job in the world?

Saying that mothers do the hardest job in the world is not the way to go, if you want to praise mothers without insulting anyone. It's overtly comparative--and so not good. First rule of non-invidious praising: make no comparisons. Note that mothers work hard, not that they work harder than anyone else.

Once you've mastered the art of praising mothers, then you can get into truly delicate territory: praising stay-at-home mothers without insulting working mothers, and vice versa. That really is tricky. Somehow you have to get yourself to recognize opposing virtues. It really is a virtue to stay dedicated to a career and maintain "work-family balance," as the expression goes. It's an opposite and incompatible virtue--but still a virtue--to give 100% to children, especially when they're young and can benefit from that much attention.

Praising mothers is a delicate business. Today I'm frankly not looking for any praise (um, the laundry is in pretty bad shape). I'll settle for blind adoration...cards from both kids and my daughter's carrot cake. And now I must go call my mother.


rtk said...

How about Praise People Day. We can pretend they are all wonderful, even that the job of being a person is infinitely admirable. Hallmark could get even richer on that one. How about mothers who copped out of getting into the world of work with sometimes pathetic renumeration. Is that praiseworthy, too? Even Flag Day seems more significant to me than this one. But, yes, I could go for the carrot cake.

Jean Kazez said...

Based on the NYT book review today, it seems we must not praise just good mothers, but bad mothers too. Yes, let's praise everyone. The job of being a person certainly is difficult, but somebody's got to do it.

Tom said...

Whether being a mother is "the hardest job" or not, we can still recognize that the mother-child relationship is pretty damned special. And maybe even unique; I'm not sure that the mother-child relationship reduces to a more generic parent-child relationship (but, as a good fence-sitter, I'll say maybe). A mother has a very special relationship with her child; and when the mother is seriously invested in that relationship she'll sacrifice her interests for her child's. And that is praiseworthy. So, Jean --and all you other committed moms out there--accept the appreciation of those of us who had such mothers and who appreciate the self-sacrifice it takes to be one.

I hope your day was a good one.

Jean Kazez said...

Thanks Tom. Parental love (maybe especially mother love, not sure) is an amazing thing. It's good to have a day for mothers... though everybody should have their day.

The carrot cake was great!