Your Mother and Mine
You might be surprised to learn that Mother's Day was originally intended as a sort of Holy Day, or that its founder in the United States took great pains to inhibit the commercialization that we perpetuate every May. The truth is, Mother's Day as we know it has quite a history, and carries different meanings in different parts of the world. In 1912, the American Anna Jarvis, inspired by her own mother, trademarked the phrases "Second Sunday in May" and "Mother's Day", and founded the Mother's Day International Association. In the years leading up to this she spearheaded a campaign for the cause of mother recognition by handing out carnations to church goers, hoping to promote the sacredness and purity of motherhood. The name of the holiday itself was intentionally spelled in the singular plural form, and so implied that the day was for each mother, not simply mothers in general. During the decades following the establishment of Mother's Day in the U.S., Jarvis witnessed the increasing commercialization of the holiday. She readily spoke against what she saw as an abuse of the celebration, and was eventually arrested for "disturbing the peace" with her protest.
Despite Jarvis' efforts, Mother's Day in the U.S. now marks a time of massive profit for the flower and greeting card industries. Other countries have their own versions of mother-honoring holidays:
Nepal There is a time in April called "Mata Tirtha Aunshi" which may stem from a legend about the Hindu god Krishna and his mother Devaki. The legend tells of Krishna seeking for his mother, and finally finding her at Mata Tirtha near Kathmandu. Devaki then suggested that the location of their meeting should forever be a place for children to reunite with their deceased mothers. The spot is recognized as a place of pilgrimage and motherly love to this day.
U.K. and Ireland The fourth Sunday of Lent is known as Mothering Sunday. It is thought that the tradition began in the 16th century, when it was customary to visit one's mother's church a few weeks before Easter. Although the holiday has been secularized to resemble the American version of Mother's Day, there is still a sense of the connection between motherhood, church, and the concept of the "Mother Church".
China While remaining an unofficial holiday, the Chinese Mother's Day is similar to the U.S. holiday. In 1997, it became a time of helping the poor mothers of the country, and observing the Chinese tradition of elder respect. Instead of carnations, they often give the gift of lilies, which are said to be the flowers mothers planted when their children left home in ancient times.
Since we are here to promote good health and health awareness, we'll address a few health concerns directly related to motherhood. If you've been a mom for a while, your own health might often come second to that of your children. Even though this might almost be easier, it is important to lead by example, and let your children see that you do things to keep yourself healthy. This means consistent, good nutrition, regular exercise, a positive attitude, and a solid relationship with your health care provider. If you're a new or soon-to-be mother, you probably have more questions than answers. Here are a few health tips for these early stages of motherhood from the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition:
- Try to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking, as well as other strong chemicals. Discontinue birth control, if you use it.
- Maintain your normal, healthy weight. If you are underweight or overweight, speak with your health care professional about achieving the right weight for you.
- Eat properly and take your vitamins, especially folic acid, which helps to prevent birth defects.
- Schedule a visit to your doctor to discuss your individual habits, and what steps you should take next.
- Take prenatal vitamins, and eat enough for the both of you (serving amounts according to the March of Dimes):
- 6 to 11 servings of whole grains
- 3 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 2 to 4 servings of fruit
- 4 to 6 servings of milk and dairy
- 3 to 4 servings of meat and other proteins
- 6 to 8 glasses of water
- See your doctor as soon as you think you are pregnant, and make sure to address any questions or concerns. Continue to visit regularly throughout your pregnancy. Ensure that other care givers, such as dentists, know that you are pregnant.
- Avoid drugs, alcohol, smoking, chemicals, kitty litter, caffeine, undercooked meat, and X-rays.
- Try to keep your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure at normal, healthy levels.
- Allow natural weight gain, but continue moderate exercise and regular movement to stay in shape.
- Maintain a low-stress lifestyle.
- Observe excellent oral hygiene. Gum disease can be harmful to unborn babies.
- Consider breastfeeding. It is suggested that this will help the mother lose weight faster, defend against breast and ovarian cancer, and return her uterus to its normal size. It's also a time to rest and bond with your baby, which are important for the support of your mental and emotional health.
- Get your rest! Take advantage of the baby's naps and get a little sleep, or ask your partner to take over for a while.
- Build up to a gentle exercise routine to lose the weight and boost your energy.
Wherever in the world you are, and at whatever stage of motherhood, know that you are appreciated and irreplaceable. Mothering can be one of the most important things you ever do, and deserves the respect of everyone who's ever had a mom.