Last weekend, my Facebook feed depicted a synchronized outpouring of appreciation for mothers on Mother’s Day.
These stood out though:
This is worth inspecting, and not just because it speaks to the increasing use of mobile devices to post to Facebook. The exaggerations in these cartoons parallel how parents praise their children. “You’re *such* a big boy. You can use the potty all by yourself!” The kid might feel good, but everyone knows this is condescension.
But we become blind to the condescension when it reads to “You’re *such* a good mother. You must have superpowers!”
The cartoon drawers and sharers are not trying to condescend any more than the parents of the kid using the potty correctly are. They represent authentic feeling.
It’s just that the feelings are authentically condescending.
Why aren’t moms in arms over this treatment? There are a few reasons.
1. Mom doesn’t get paid.
Both of these cartoons seek to put the reader in awe of what mothers do. This superficially makes sense since caring for kids is supposed to be difficult.
It is not, however, the only difficult thing. You know who else works hard on difficult things? Investment bankers. And lawyers.
Find me the cartoon featuring investment bankers and a cape (that isn’t a villain’s). You can’t.
Why can’t you? Well, investment bankers don’t do work that really matters to all of us in society and blah… No, that’s not it. Aid relief workers do stuff that matters, and many probably work very hard, but there are no cartoons about caped UNICEF workers.
What’s different about moms is that they don’t get paid.
Cartoons like these and Mothers Day in general is a way for the System to get moms to work for free. That’s why we can’t help but overcompensate in non financial means. The lawyer is happy when his boss grunts “good work on the Stevenson account”. That’s because the lawyer gets a paycheck to buoy his self-esteem.
Mom doesn’t get paid. She can’t go on strike, so if a day’s worth of condescending Facebook posts is what she’s offered, that’s what she’ll take.
2. Mom is insecure.
It’s “mother’s” day, not “the-top-10%-of-mothers day” or even “the-top-99%-of-mothers day”. You qualify by being a mom and breathing.
And any attempts at making being a mom seem intrinsically difficult runs into the problem of the fact that most parents keep most of their kids alive, which makes them by default pretty good. That includes the low-IQ ones who vote for the wrong party. Maybe part of the appeal of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was the promise that one could be distinguished as a tiger mother in a society where all mothers are definitionally assumed to be great. (That explains why it wasn’t titled “Raising Tiger Cubs”.)
The irony of all this is that however genuine the appreciation of mothers is, the cartoonists above are helping to perpetuate a system that leaves Moms with nothing to feel good about the work they do. Moms are paid in participation trophies, and there is no way to win real fulfillment for doing the job well because participation trophies are the only kind being handed out.