Over the past couple of years it's been clear to me that holidays have become of monumental importance in the American culture. Christmas-December 25-is an entire season. When I was a kid, talk of Christmas began a week or two before the big day. A few years ago, stores began to trot out Christmas decorations on November 1, as soon as the Halloween pumpkins were put away. Last year, though, I noticed a number of stores selling Christmas wreaths right alongside Halloween masks. The Christmas season now begins in October.
And the ads to remind you to buy something, do something-usually something expensive-for Valentine's Day begin right after New Year's Day. Oh, the pressure.
And now here comes Mother's Day. Mother's Day, a national holiday since 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson declared it so, has recently become MOTHER'S DAY!!! It, too, is superlative; it is not to be ignored. The ads started a couple of months ago. Mother's Day is bigger than Christmas and Valentine's Day in some ways (Number 1 being the guilt if you don't do something spectacular to honor it).
On this one I'm sort of on the outside looking in. I'm (by choice) not a mother, and I don't have one (not my choice) . . . so I'm free to sort of watch from afar and ponder lightly what it all means. It seems that as the number of childfree-by-choice women grows, the importance of being a mother has taken on colossal status.
For most of civilization, a woman's becoming a mother was a given. If her body could reproduce, she did . . . really whether she wanted to or not. Better birth control changed this somewhat. Women could choose when to be a mother, but most still rarely considered if they should.