I thought I had a really good Mother’s Day post all worked out until I started writing this.  I struggled with a couple of topics.  Write about my relationship with my mother?  It’s complicated.  Sometimes very complicated, but we love each other.  Write about the history of Mother’s Day?  Maybe, but I don’t know that I can make a whole post out of it.  Write about Mother’s Day celebrations around the world?  I’m pretty sure every travel or photography blogger will end up doing that.   So, I ended up with something that has pieces of all of the above, but is completely different.  Mostly, this is a post to thank my mom for all she has done for me and honor the sacrifices I know she has made for me.

But first – because I love history and I’m the queen of miscellany – here’s how it all began.

Mother’s Day Origins

My mother will be surprised to know that some form of Mother’s Day has been observed in various ways throughout the world for thousands of years. In Africa (yes, it all started in Africa!), ancient Egyptians held an annual festival to honor Isis, one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt who represented the ideal mother and wife.  As ancient Greeks and Romans intermingled with the Egyptians, they also began holding festivals in honor of mother goddesses.  In ancient Greece, it was a celebration in the spring in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. In ancient Rome, it was the Festival of Hilaria in honor of Magna Mater (“Great Mother”).

Transitioning to a Christian Identity

After the fall of Rome, pagan goddess celebrations of motherhood were out.  The church was in.  Mother’s Day became known as “Mothering Sunday.”  Families, most of whom were poor, would send their children off to cities where work could be found.  Long before there were child labor laws and established work weeks, children would be granted A DAY to return home so they could visit their families.  The faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.  Children would also pick flowers and give their mothers special cakes called Mothering Cakes.  I imagine that in these middle ages, families in Europe would return to a church similar to this one.  Beautiful stone on the outside.  Chanting monks on the inside.

Medieval church and monastery

Mother’s Day in the US

Here in the US, Mother’s Day became popular the 1850s when women in West Virginia organized into Mother’s Day work clubs that worked to reduce infant mortality and improve sanitary conditions for mothers and families. During the Civil War, these groups also cared for wounded soldiers from both sides.  After the war ended in 1865, women planned Mother’s Friendship Day picnics in an effort to bring Union and Confederate loyalists together, urging them to promote peace.

We can thank Hallmark for releasing the first Mother’s Day cards in the 1920s.  From that point forward, Mother’s Day has become the secular holiday my mom knows and loves today.  And my mom particularly appreciates Hallmark cards with fancy gold embossed script, flowers and glitter.  Thankfully, this trait has not been passed on to me.  Although both my mom and I love and appreciate flowers.  The flower below is for her.

A flower for Mother’s Day

What All Mothers Want

Funny that I am writing about what mothers want when I am not a mother.  But as I was writing this, I started to think about my mom and what she wanted in her life.  With all the reverence we have bestowed upon mothers and the important role they hold in all our lives, I wonder why we (me included) don’t hold ourselves accountable for actions beyond the obligatory Hallmark card, flowers or a meal.  I think, if we were to ask, what do mothers (here in the US and around the world) really want for themselves and their children:

Opportunity.  My mom had to put all her opportunity eggs in my basket and the baskets of my brothers.  As a black woman raising children in the early 1960s, she did not have opportunities for herself.  The best she could do was ensure she and my father raised my brothers and I right.  She and my father worked morning and night in order to own a home in suburban New Jersey.   Despite working the night before, mom ensured we did not leave for school without breakfast.  She generally could not help us with school, but she made us go to school.  I don’t know what my mom would have wanted to do for herself if she had an opportunity.  I don’t think she ever allowed herself to dream.

Working Mothers

Outside the US, many women around the world are treated as 2nd and 3rd class citizens.  They struggle to feed their children.  Their “job” is to simply ensure they and their children can survive.  Jobs as we define them here in the US are not available to them.  Oftentimes, they live in areas of conflict and violence.  They are subject to rape and human trafficking.  I can imagine that women facing these challenges cannot think about opportunity for themselves.  They are just trying to ensure their family survives the next day.  How can we help those mothers dream?  To give the best to their children?  To raise their children in safe environments?  I don’t have the answers here, but I think opportunity is one thing that mothers want most for themselves and their children, no matter where they are from.

If you are reading this, you are in a privileged position.  You (and I) are users of the internet and have the ability to influence both local and global decisions, if we so choose. As such, and in honor of Mother’s Day and my mom, let’s reach out to mothers not as fortunate as we are and help:

  • Kiva is an international nonprofit with a mission to expand access to help underserved communities thrive.  They do this by crowdfunding loans and unlocking capital for the underserved.  Through Kiva’s work, women can start businesses and afford needed emergency care.
  • Oxfam is a global organization that helps improve the world through poverty-reduction efforts. It focuses on the conditions that cause poverty and works to fix the effects of such difficulties. Its efforts include disaster response, programs to help people afflicted by poverty and education improvement.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) is an organization that works directly with governments and various partners to ensure a healthier future for people all around the world. It fights infectious diseases and works directly with mothers and children to improve and maintain their health.

Through Kiva, I have chosen to help 2 moms.  The first mother is from Ghana and runs her own business selling pastries in addition to producing beaded necklaces and slippers.  She plans to use the profit she earns to pay school fees for her children.  The second mother is trying to expand her business here in the US to give her children a better future.

Springtime Azaleas

Finally, Thank You, Mom

I thank my mom – who, despite all of our differences – still manages to love and support me. She drives me crazy with wanting to monitor my every movement when I am out of the country and she totally doesn’t understand my desire to travel.  But she always anxiously awaits my return home from a trip to view my photos.

I am also thankful to my mom for my love of reading and writing.  The best memory I have as a child is nightly storybook time.  Every night my mother never failed to sit on our bed and read to my brother and I before we went to sleep.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  1 chapter a night.  I don’t know if she realizes it, but she is the one who opened up the whole world to me through books.

Finally, I will always be appreciative to my mom for passing along all of her phobias.  Things that crawl, outdoor camping and the dark.  And dirt.  I hate sitting on dirt and getting my hands dirty.  Kind of ironic for someone who loves landscape photography.


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