Cards, television commercials, and print ads all trumpet a value system in which mothers look and act in narrowly defined ways, a saccharine world where a hardworking mama’s only wants and needs are a bit of recognition and perhaps a spot of chocolate once a year.
Shen is hopeful that the cards will be downloaded 15,000 times this year; a worthy target for a message in need of wider audiences.
But the reality bears little resemblance to the myth. According to the 2010 census, only 20 percent of households in this country reflect the traditional nuclear family norm, with two heterosexual parents and two children who are their biological offspring.
There are some folks out there who think there’s more to motherhood, and they’re issuing their own set of mother’s day e-cards to get their message out there.
Forward Together, an organization based in Oakland, Calif., recently launched their third annual Mama’s Day Our Way campaign to change the narrative around motherhood and families. Mama’s Day Our Way features an e-card series and outreach campaign designed to shine a spotlight on mamas often left out of mainstream Mother’s Day celebrations, including low-income moms, young moms, immigrant moms, single moms, incarcerated moms, queer moms, and moms struggling with substance abuse issues.
“I am the daughter of Chinese immigrants, raising my own daughters along with my partner and our dog Pumpkin” says Eveline Shen, Executive Director of Forward Together. “I know that if my kids ventured into the aisles at the neighborhood drugstore, they would not find images that reflect our multiracial, two-mom family.”
Radically readjusting perceptions isn’t without its share of hurdles. A May 2 article about the campaign in the New York Daily News generated a slew of negative comments that ranged from bafflement to outright anger.
“The message we want to send is that mamas need more than flowers or a box of chocolates once a year.”
Regardless of what Daily News commenters might say, the popular conception of motherhood no longer matches what’s out there. More than 80 percent of the 12.2 million single-parent families in the United States are headed by a mother. Mothers make up almost two-thirds of all women in prison. Nearly half of all lesbian women under the age of 50 are raising a child. And 1.7 million grandmothers are the primary caretaker for their grandchildren. Yet the dad-at-work mom at home with two kids is still the outdated notion held as standard.
And for all moms, regardless of where they come from, the challenges to raising a healthy family are legion. That’s why the work of Forward Together also seeks to address the structural problems facing moms throughout the country. One component of the campaign, for instance, involves putting pressure on members of the Senate to alter the comprehensive immigration reform package to protect the integrity of family units.
“The message we want to send is that mamas need more than flowers or a box of chocolates once a year,” Shen said. “They need access to health care, a living wage, safety in their homes and on the streets, and self determination over their bodies.”
The e-cards appear to have struck a chord. With greater media attention than in years past, Shen is hopeful that the cards will be downloaded 15,000 times this year; a worthy target for a message in need of wider audiences.
For more information on this campaign and complete listing of all e-cards, visit mamasday.org.