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Mother’s Day: Is it past its prime?

| May 7, 2020 1:00 AM

Before you toss tomatoes at the headline, please bear with me. I ask this with a mother’s love.

It’s been wonderful over the years to be showered with appreciation for putting the kids first. For all the hours at lacrosse practice and dance class, for diaper and vomit duty, and especially for the macaroni necklaces and handmade gifts.

These are lovely, and I’m not advocating an end to them.

But I have a problem with “Mother’s” Day. Or for that matter, “Father’s.” I’ll wager that younger moms and dads — not to mention grandparents on parental duty in lieu of retirement — probably know where I’m going with this.

Once upon a time, “mother” meant something gender- and generation-specific. It was safe to assume mom was the one who bore the kids, stayed home, dedicated her adult life to them, even beyond majority. Just to start all over with grandkids and Sunday dinners.

Today, that story is changing fast.

Today, dads are doing all that too. Grandparents more often assume or share this role — or aunts, cousins or sometimes the neighbor down the street (true story). In some cases, it’s a combination of these. While it’s always been true in rare cases, today the mom role is no longer gender-, generation-, or even relation-specific.

Why that’s happened started with moms gaining career ground, reducing bias in the workplace and in some cases, becoming the bigger breadwinner. Beyond single-parent necessities, if mom’s the lawyer and dad’s the talented artist, it makes financial sense to count on mom to pay the bills.

But in credit to younger generations of adults, they are redefining family roles for reasons other than money. They’re balancing life’s complexities by sharing childrearing with two, three, or four family members (with “family” broadly defined). And they’re switching it up; in some cases trading off to accommodate careers or just to share the joys of spending time with children.

It’s human to want to use your brain in more ways than one, and human to have passions beyond home and family. Or not to have them. It’s “manly” to love raising children and maintain a happy home, and it’s “womanly” to love fast cars and be an engineer.

It’s taken mankind a long time to recognize that these normalcies do not, contrary to prior assumptions, have hardline gender associations, time limits, or a single defining image. Isn’t that what freedom is: The ability to choose what works for you and yours, without adhering to someone else’s idea of what your life should look like?

Or your family, as long as love drives it?

Perhaps it’s time to dump “womanly” and “manly” from rigid vocabularies.

Back to those special Sundays in May and June, do we stop honoring mom and dad with a day off? Of course not. Maybe we could consolidate and expand. Call it Parent’s Day and focus on whoever fulfills that particular role, that particular year.

But keep the macaroni necklaces.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network with a stash of homemade gifts and memories to beat anything money could buy. Sholeh@cdapress.com