Mama's Day Our Way: Building our own narrative

Monday, May 13, 2013

By Nina Jacinto

"No matter how hard we fight, when we are denied fair and just opportunities to care for our families and ourselves we can’t thrive. Erosive policies don’t just punish rather than protect—they break us." – Shanelle Matthews 

Who is a mother? What does it mean to mother? In my own family, these answers are clear. A mother is a woman who fiercely loves her children. She’s a woman who holds historical baggage – the baggage of colonization, the baggage of separation, the baggage of patriarchy – and does everything she can not to pass it on to her daughters. She’s a woman who scolds, and cries, and shouts, and hugs, and lectures with volume and compassion. She draws out that particular kind of vulnerability in her daughters, that they have locked away from everyone else, because it is too hard to face and filled with shame. She draws it out and says, “It’s ok. You are ok.” And she revives them with her love and her forgiveness and her food.

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Over the last 11 days, we have read stories that explore what it means to be a mother, guardian or caregiver. These stories urge its readers to reconsider how our mainstream society, and our government, and our institutions, choose which mothers to celebrate with cards and commercials and diamonds and flowers, and which mothers to shame and cast aside. Collectively, our series is a way to tell Hallmark and lawmakers that we will push back against the stigma of young moms; that we will fight to bring our families together; that we will do what it takes to make sure all mamas have what they need to raise their children; that we will shout love from the deepest part of ourselves so that our mamas know that they have made us who we are.

So many of our amazing bloggers have written letters to their mothers and caretakers, thanking them, recognizing them for their strength and their struggle. Remembering them. And we have heard back from some mothers – telling their children what they should learn, and what it was like to raise them.

We have also been reminded of the mothers who were abusive and destructive –The moms that turn “Mother’s Day” into a trigger for many.

When we bring our stories together, we can begin to tear apart the narrative that values some mothers over others. This narrative is dangerous well beyond the greeting card aisle – it shapes our policies and our access to resources. It affects how we raise our children, and it limits the choices we get to make about our health and our safety and our education and our home. This narrative puts blame and shame on our families, and risks making us feel small, perhaps meaningless. But we are not going to let that narrative take over our hearts and our families. We will continue to tell our revolutionary stories until our families are recognized, until one day that Sunday in May will feel like a day for everybody.

We hope you will join us for our first ever Papa's Day campaign in June, where we will continue exploring the narrative of family and sharing our stories.

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Nina Jacinto is the Development Manager at Forward Together. 

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