By Rhea Mathur
Americans spend an average of $163 on Mother’s Day. Whether it is flowers, jewellery or cards, there is an endless list of items that children buy for their mothers. Now you can also get suggestions on what to buy over the internet. Most of these helpful “suggestions”, which more often than not are advertisements, are displayed to us a few weeks in advance.
Companies all over the world have taken the opportunity to turn Mother’s Day, which is ideally supposed to be a day dedicated to cherish an important individual, into a day to promote excess consumerism. From Mother’s Day schemes, to elaborate discounts, companies work in advance to prepare new ways to sell their products, labelling them as the “best for mothers”, all in efforts to increase their sales.
A lot of the brands also help children plan elaborate ways to surprise their mothers at the very last moment, just in case the date and its significance slipped their minds. From a $9 tea bag holder to a $200 card case—there are a plethora of option for what children and young adults can buy for their mothers. The true meaning of the day, however, seems to be lost under the packaging and glitter.
Ironically, the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, who came up with the idea of the national holiday in the US to provide recognition and honour all overworked and under-appreciated mothers, was actually against these modern-day celebrations. Jarvis later worked hard to fight how commercialised the holiday became.
The history of Mother’s Day
During the American Civil War, Mother’s Day camps were organised by Jarvis and several other female activists. At these camps, the women worked to together to prevent milk contamination, improve sanitation, and help wounded soldiers from both sides. After the war, Jarvis encouraged peace between mothers on both sides. She initiated the idea of Mother’s Friendship Day, where mothers from nearby communities met at churches, sang prayers, and listened to sermons together.
After Jarvis passed away, this initiative was taken forward by her daughter, Jarvis, who wanted to promote a day to salute mothers. She named it “Mother’s Day” in order to motivate children to acknowledge the unconditional love and support they receive from their own mothers, and take a moment to thank them. In 1914, Jarvis’s efforts were finally rewarded when the second Sunday of May was pronounced as Mother’s Day in the US.
However, before the world could understand true meaning of the day, it was hijacked by corporate promoters, facilitating their own growth. The day was quickly transformed into a grand promotional affair that pushed, rather guilted, consumers into purchasing unnecessary gifts and fancy products. This was as far from Jarvis’s true intentions as possible. Jarvis reportedly regretted ever coming up with the idea for the national holiday, and spent the rest of her life fighting this trend until she passed away in 1948.
Indian companies join the bandwagon
Although the dark history of Mother’s Day, and the cause behind its initiation, separates it from the rest of the commercial celebrations, corporations still promote it heavily intensely, almost pushing into the same category as traditional festival celebrations.
Over the past few years, even Indian companies have started promoting the commercialisation of this day. A shopkeeper in Delhi, who once saved me from the ‘Valentine’s Day’ tax on flowers, admitted to following the same procedure on Mother’s Day. Asian international tech giants like Samsung, also promoted their new refrigerator line in a heartfelt advertisement for Mother’s Day this year.
The commercial aimed at comparing the new refrigerator to a mother’s love, stating that both will run non-stop. While their campaign itself may be designed to tug at the heartstrings, the underlying promotional aspect is hard to ignore, turning the advertisement into yet another clever marketing scheme. Apart from Samsung, other brands such as KOSH and ITC Sunfeast, resorted to offering discounted brunches and more.
Yet, although these brands undoubtably use this day to their own advantage, they also highlight the importance of a mother’s role in a child’s life, and the ever-lasting, unconditional love we receive from them.
A montage for mothers
Further highlighting this ever-lasting love was Humans of Bombay, however, with no underlying promotional scheme. The popular photographer’s social media post in March 2017, talks about a BMC sweeper, who had lost her husband at the age of twenty-five. With two young children to support, she took up two jobs, in order to make sure her daughters were able to get a proper education. Putting her own needs and desires on the back-burner, she worked towards building a life for her children. Her story is similar to that of scores of mothers, who dedicate their life to raise their children, and provide them with opportunities.
Not only do some mothers in India step up to the task of being entirely financially responsibly for their families, they also work tirelessly to make their way up the corporate ladder to attain insurmountable success.
Despite the fact that many women are still questioned over their so-called choices between their work and children, most of them are able to more than manage both family and profession, and prove their potential to the world.
Women like Indra Nooyi, the chairman and chief operating officer at PepsiCo, publicly acknowledged the difficulties working women face when balancing personal and work life. Despite the obstacles Nooyi faced, she claimed that she never it affect either her personal or work life. Nooyi is considered to be responsible for doubling PepsiCo’s revenues, while she raised two daughters, one of whom has an MBA degree from the Yale School of Management.
Over the years, women have proven that with the right level of dedication and commitment, it is possible to achieve anything they believe in. My own mother, Vaishali Mathur, is an excellent example—she is the executive editor and head of language publishing and rights at the Penguin Random House India. She has also raised me and my sister, helping us achieve our own dreams.
Therefore, it is important to understand the essence of Mother’s Day, and not to get lost in the commercialisation of the celebration. The idea is express your love for your mother—whether you do it with an expensive gift, a dozen roses or a simple hug is completely inconsequential to a bond that will remain strong for the rest of your life.
Rhea Mathur is a writing analyst at Qrius.
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