What Mother’s Day?

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Thank you1So we had Mother’s Day on Sun 12 May. I was supposed to have written a political blog by that same evening. Here it is two days later. This very blog in its not so fashionable lateness is an ironic testament to how disorganised I am as both a mother and a political blogger.

On any given day my political achievements could amount to finding the energy and the means just to feed my little buggers. So I take my hat off to any mother of dependent children who can find the physical, intellectual and spiritual space to engage in politics beyond feeding kids and keeping them clean. I also acknowledge the many wonderful male figures that are warriors for their children and are proactively supporting mothers to be the best they can be. It is in all our interests that men negotiate their own strong identities. Considering the macho crap men have to swim through, how any land safely on the enlightened side is beyond me sometimes.

Women and mothers have always been leaders of societal change at so many other levels and that must continue. This blog will instead focus on where women stand in the local and central government arena. I also wonder how many social movements have had to erupt merely to oppose the shoddy decisions that have been by a few Neanderthals in the first place.

For the past few general elections the representation of women in our parliament has hung around 32-34%. Representation of women at local government falls at an even lower 28%. It would be interesting to scan how many of those female local and central government members are juggling dependent children with their political roles. I also pay homage to our grandmothers holding space in that field and at the same time I wonder about women caring for our elderly dependents. Our matriarchal roles in communities come with a distinct set of essential commitments that do not easily fling us into the cut-throat world of politics. This is how our patriarchal world maintains the muscle flex that we have become used to.

This disproportionate representation is also why the onus has fallen largely on women, with some good male allies here and there, to bat back policy decisions that pretty much spit on women and children. I must mention here that women are just as capable of upholding patriarchy and this is where I yell ‘Paula Bennett’. Even worse than a woman upholding patriarchy is a mother trampling on other mothers. But I think I already used up my ‘Paula Bennett’ name drop quota.

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Finally I arrive at the kaupapa of my blog. Some people need their right to celebrate Mother’s Day revoked. The thought that some of our power holders might have delighted in heralding the mother figures in their lives on Sunday is a vomit inducing one for me.

We have politicians and policy makers currently on unfettered battle plans to cause more and more harm to whānau. These legislations go through because the people they impact on most negatively are fricken busy surviving! I am an educated, sufficiently resourced, confident, stroppy, much loved and supported woman.

Most days, I will be buggered if I can even think beyond hauling my fighting kids off each other while I burn their dinner. And apparently I have to give them dinner every single forsaken night. What is that about?

So I dig deep to have a political voice of any sort as do many other women and mothers who are far more classy at it than I am. But this is not a competition of who is struggling the most and shouting the loudest – this is about all of us being in this mess together. Clawing our way out needs to begin with an understanding that war has been raging against women and children for a long time and is getting worse. For men, for women, for families and for communities – this must change.

I came up with some visions for where we need to get to. These ideas are merely personal ruminations which speak to where we are going wrong today. This list is not exhaustive but is the sort of reflection that drives me as a mother to play my part in the mother of all fights – to bring a time where we can truly celebrate Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day: When no one – ever – is raped. When women and children dealing with domestic violence feel protected by our justice and welfare systems instead of further abused. When older women are acknowledged for their contributions in paid employment rather than being written off groups when it comes to job hunting.

When the pay gap between genders is a dusty old memory like the fossils who put that power imbalance into place.

When all mothers are supported towards inter-dependence without once having had to run out of the Work and Income Offices crying.

When we extend Paid Parental Leave and take the veto off Sue Maroney’s Bill.

When women focussed organisations like Women’s Refuge no longer have to fight for every dollar they get and against every law that slams their faces (violent pun intended).

When corporate interests have to fight for every dollar they get and plead for every law that protects them.

When Māori women wearing moko are accepted in all areas of society and are no longer discriminated against.

When all decisions are vetted against their impact on women and families, and we stop making shoddy deals like the Casino one that ignores problem gambling.

When all decisions are assessed against their impact on our Big Mama – and our government grows an environmental spine to save itself.

When retailers are falling over themselves in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods to open ethical businesses in communities, instead of selling dangerous legal high drugs to our kids.

When government grows a regulation spine that understands how things like loan sharks, pokie machines, drug shops and alcohol distribution prey on poorer communities. When all our children have enough food to eat, warm houses to sleep in and loving families to care for them.

When all mothers are truly valued as integral and essential parts of our economy, our politics, our workforce, our families and our society. …….until then the people pushing the mother damning agendas that we see today should all step down from any delight they take on Mother’s Day. Have you no shame?!

And until then the rest of us need to keep digging deep, through whatever fighting children and burnt dinners we are blessed with. If at the end of any day I can muster enough energy to understand where the crap happens and what is needed to change it, I will do my best to speak about it. A mothers voice is needed more than ever today – I hope we all find ours.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Marama, that left me in tears. Tears that you spoke, seemingly, for me. Tears for the fighting child andburnt food I really am blessed to have. And tears for the fighting you, I and others have to do just to say enough, enough, stop bullying our weakest and instead protect and help them. Thank you. Kia kaha.

    • Kia ora Dianne – I feel you. It’s time to stop the bullying and yep, we are all fighting and have to keep it up. Much love and hugs to you. 🙂

  2. I look forward to a day when organisations like women’s refuge no longer need to exist at all, let alone struggle for funding…

    As a father who is primary carer (my partner is on a better pay rate than me so it made sense for her to be the lead breadwinner) I’m regularly annoyed by society assuming that only mothers do childcare. I guess it gives me a taste of what its like to be part of a minority… In the case of this blog I found it easy to relate to just by declaring myself an honorary mother for five minutes.

    I had more to say but my two year old is using his juice to make patterns on the carpet. One of them looks like a whale.

    • I agree Sam which was my mention of warrior fathers. There is a growing group of single fathers and primary carer fathers who always need to be acknowledged alongside all mothers. 🙂

  3. Exactly so, Marama. Mother’s Day gets dangerously sentimentalised, and somehow, we think we’ve done enough if one day a year, we honour our mothers.

    Another thing – when Māori women and ways of Māori mothering and parenting are no longer regarded as a special case that needs to be explained (c/f white ways of parenting which are just accepted as the universal thing that everyone knows about).

  4. Kia ora Marama, great post and you are so right. Whatever battles we fight, we end up having to do it after we’ve been to work, looked after the kids, checked on elderly neighbours and parents. Those people in positions of power who are changing laws to spy on us, tie us up for 35 years to a casino and selling the rights to pollute our oceans and atmosphere with fossil fuels, they get paid to do that in their day job! Kia kaha to everyone out there who is fighting back, every little thing you do is worth it. Sent by a mum waiting in the car to pick up daughters after netball practice, who hopes to find the time later to write to MPs about offshore oil drilling and 400ppm CO2.

  5. Marama,

    I loved loved loved your post! Thanks especially for mentioning the macho crap that men have to deal with and the warriors that do just that. I think they need more not less acknowledgement.

    Single and childless and still rarked-up about these issues 🙂

    • We have so many amazing men doing an amazing job to change patriarchy in this world. I am surrounded by them and it would be remiss of me to forget them. Thanks Jo. 🙂

  6. great post marama. on a day when i’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by things, it’s just what i needed to remind me to dig deep and keep fighting. it’s one of the ways those powerful elites wear down our resistance: by giving us so many battles to fight, as well as the feeling that there is nothing we can do to change things, in the hope that we give up the fight. here’s to never giving up!

    • You’re amazing Stargazer – yeah it’s how hegemony works I guess. All we can do is keep supporting each other, and keep going. I’m optimistic though and think it’s our time.

  7. Kia ora Marama – great post! Feminism is good for everyone- addressing as it does the structural injustices of patriarchy which impact so heavily on men, women and children. I would love to see a movement here of women (ok, and men) supporting sole parents, a group who for too long have born the brunt of angst from successive governments- we should be outraged!

    • We should be absolutely outraged at how sole parents are treated Juliz I agree. The structural injustices are beyond ridiculous. We have to keep challenging them together. Putting our hands up so others who are struggling can see we are fighting is a good start.

  8. There’s a post on Hoyden about Town about how the apostrophe in Mothers’ Day got shifted, reflecting a move from a public gathering of mothers, to a private, within family Mother’s Day.

    Who moved that apostrophe?”

    How did a day that grew from West Virginian Mothers’ Work Days from 1858 onwards (where mothers worked together to improve their community), and Mothers’ Friendship Days from 1865 (to promote harmony between former opponents in the Civil War), become what we celebrate now as Mother’s Day?

    See the difference that apostrophe position makes? Mother’s Day is a day where you do stuff for your mum: sentimental, sweet and ultimately trivial. An inward-focussed family centred event.

    Mothers’ Days were a gathering of mothers, time spent together for mutual reflection, when mothers en masse might mobilise politically, which when it occurs is rarely trivial at all. An outward-looking society-focussed event.

    • That’s an awesome article and reminder and very much fits around what I was trying to write about thank you Deborah!

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