Welcome to a special “Mother’s Day” edition of the “Mother Matters” blog. Mother’s Day has a rich and long history. The Ancient Greeks practiced some form of the holiday, reserving a festival in the Spring to pay homage to Rhea, the mother of all Greek gods. Medieval England reserved the 4th Sunday of Lent for “Mothering Sunday,” a time for servants of the Court to return home to be with their mamas. The Mother’s Day with which we are most familiar was created by grateful daughter Anna Marie Jarvis, whose mother attended to Civil War soldiers and worked in community activism. Jarvis’ vision for the holiday included a Sunday morning church service followed by handwritten love letters to a mother from her child(ren.) After a dedicated campaign to make it a federal holiday, Jarvis saw her dream realized when then President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill in 1914, declaring the second Sunday in May, “Mother’s Day.” It wasn’t long before Mother’s Day became a money-maker for greeting card companies, florists and the like. So disturbed was she by the commercialization of the day, Jarvis dedicated the rest of her life, unsuccessfully, toward the work of its abolishment. Jarvis died in 1948, never having had children.[i]
Do you feel your work as a mother is recognized, not only on the designated Sunday, but on most days? Or some days? Or any day? If the answer is “no,” then let this year’s Mother’s Day serve as a catalyst for change; an opportunity to begin to more fully appreciate your mother-self, and other mothers in your life. Wondering how to make it happen in a real, research-based, way? Read on!
Tribute to Your (Mother)-Self: The inherent flaw in Mother’s Day is that it comes only once a year. One day in 365 is not a sufficient amount of time to appreciate the work you do. You should be saluted on a regular basis. This is not self-indulgence. This is self-care.
Here are three free ways to bring Mother’s Day into your every day:
· Spend five minutes in silence. This may seem a tall task if you’re home with an infant or toddler, but most mamas can find five minutes. And it’s more than worth it. Silence really is golden when it comes to your mind. Reserving some quiet time can result in a brain cell boost! A study published in Brain, Structure and Function[ii] [iii] revealed an increase in the production of new cells in the hippocampus’ of mice—the part of the brain responsible for tasks such as learning and memory. Have a seat, close your eyes, and enjoy the silence.
· Stop and smell the roses—literally. Walk past a florist or garden and take several deep breaths. Appreciation makes a significant, positive impact in life satisfaction, according to a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.[iv]
· Take a self-loving-selfie. You have your phone at your fingertips anyway, right? Turn the camera on you and snap a shot. Look at the picture and write down three things you like about what you see, or think about when you look at yourself. They can be related to your appearance, i.e. “I love that shade of lipstick on my lips,” or in reference to something you see “under the skin,” such as “I like the tone of voice I used with my son just before I took this, gentle but firm.” If you notice negative thoughts coming in, simply be aware of them and let them float away—they have no place on that piece of paper.
Tribute to Another Mother: If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll be familiar with the idea of honoring not only yourself as a mother, but honoring other mothers as well. Acknowledging another mother for her work not only serves to feed her soul, but feeds your own. A well-established, robust body of research underscores the health benefits, physical and psychological, of offering support to others—social, financial or otherwise.[v] Offer a small gesture of appreciation to another mother; buy her a cup of coffee, offer an hour of baby-sitting time, or send a text just to let her know you’re thinking of her. A little goes a long way. Do be sure though not to get carried away in do-gooding! Over extending yourself can have negative repercussions for your own health. If you are feeling depleted, or if giving feels burdensome, hold off. You need to tend to yourself before you can tend to another.
Tribute to Mother Earth: There is something about communing with Mother Earth, the greatest mama of them all, that can be very therapeutic. In fact, horticultural therapy has been demonstrated to have positive health outcomes on a wide variety of populations, according to studies published by the American Horticultural Therapy Association.[vi] The combination of not only being in a natural environment, but also of engaging in a structured, purposeful and fruitful activities can provide a sense of accomplishment. One can literally see (or eat) the fruit of her labor. If you are lucky enough to have the space, consider planning out a small area of your yard to build a garden. This will afford opportunities to engage with your child(ren), partner or yourself. If not, ask about planting a tree at a local park (call your department of parks and recreation—often there are special days reserved for this purpose), or buy seeds to cultivate a small herb garden at home.
[ii] Kirste, Imke, Nicola, Zeina, Kronenberg, Golo, Walker, Tara L, Liu, Robert C., and Kempermann, Gerd. “Is Silence Golden? Effects of Auditory Stimuli and Their Absence on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis.” Springer Berlin Heidelberg, October 30, 2013.
[iv] Fagley, N.S., (2012), Appreciation uniquely predicts life satisfaction above demographics, the Big 5 personality factors, and gratitude. Personality and Individual Differences 53(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.02.019
[v] Konrath, S., and Brown, S. (2012), The Effects of Giving on Givers in Handbook of Health and Social Relationships, Nicole Roberts & Matt Newman (Eds.) APA Books. Accessed 5/7/17