I am not a mother. I am not, however, inexperienced in celebrating the second Sunday of May because I am a daughter. And the second Sunday of May is significant because, like over 90 other countries in the world, it's the date we celebrate Mother's Day in Finland.
Leading up to today, I’ve spoken with a number of mums about what they thought about Mother’s Day. A few things popped up, some I expected – especially feelings of appreciation and love – and some I did not. Mums spoke about stress, about having to organise the day themselves. How being allowed to sleep in would have been more appreciated than being woken up early with breakfast and gifts and feeling guilty about that. How the day was just one day among others, despite the great big fuss leading up to it. And it got me thinking.
At Lola&Lykke, it’s mums we care about. Mums like many of us, mums like you. Our mission is to get you through pregnancy and postpartum as safely and enjoyably as possible. One could almost say that for us, every day is Mother’s Day. And that’s how it should be, we think. And that’s why we have a few gifts for you at the end of this article. In line with that, I want to remind you that whatever your Mother’s Day looks like, it’s okay. If you feel anxious, guilty, happy, loved, or any other way, that’s fine. Even if you don’t celebrate it.
And to drive the point in, let me take you on a ride throughout my own past, and how we celebrated – and didn’t celebrate – Mother’s Day at the Lindqvist household. What’s more, I want to know how you celebrate Mother’s Day. Does it look similar or different to ours? What are some of your family’s traditions?
We learn young how the day goes
I don’t know how my Mums first Mother’s Day went. And almost 30 years later, she’s forgotten it too! Surprising that is not. So let’s fast-forward to me being in nursery. I don’t have clear memories of this, again, not surprising. But Mum saved cards I’d made for her at my nursery group. I learnt how the day was celebrated in my family, but from early on the day started to be emphasised institutionally too.
So we’d have that card. At the time I would have been too young to make breakfast by myself and there was nobody else to do it either. Except for my Mum herself. Fast-forward again a few years, and we get to my school years. I remember being six years old and getting the breakfast together for the first time – only, Mum had actually prepared that herself the evening before. A sandwich in the fridge, coffee machine ready; I just needed to push the button and wait patiently. That was also the first year I woke up with the sun and nipped outside to gather my small bouquet of anemones. We were lucky since the backyard of our building bordered a little forest patch with a floor as white as snow in Spring – full of anemones. I’d gather my bounty and head out to wake her up. Looking back now I can’t imagine she appreciated the early morning wake-up call all that much, but she loved me and appreciated the effort and gesture.
Part of our Mother’s Day morning ritual was a song. I’d wake her up with singing an old song I learnt from my grandmother. A poet I’m not but I translated it for you and the lyrics go something like this:
“My small pansy, with your dark eyes and darling heart; Gently watching when our paths cross.
I cared for my own flower beds, weeding them; Carrying water in the evening by the beach road.
Now I pick a pansy or two for my mother; I give my beautiful flowers for my mother’s joy.”
Instead of being grumpy about the early morning, she happily drank her coffee (which was probably too sweet and overly milky) and grabbed me for a morning cuddle. Sometimes we even fell asleep again.
As years passed, I remember at school we started preparing quite early on for Mother’s Day. Crafting handmade cards and other gifts, we were often asked how we celebrated the second Sunday of May at our respective houses. I’ve totally forgotten the responses of my classmates, but I can’t help but think that they probably looked quite similar, at least during the mornings. It’s that template we have. I didn’t stop to consider if everyone even celebrated it, nor that it could be anything but a happy day.
As the hours changed, Mother’s Day always started to look more and more like any other day. During my childhood, lunch and dinner were chores. We didn’t go out to eat so cooking it was. Once I was old enough to cook and bake, it made me so happy to bake a cake or make dinner in addition to the breakfast. And Mum appreciated that as she doesn’t much enjoy cooking. Usually my foods even tasted good. And that’s how it was, unsurprising, according to that template we have – the How to Celebrate Mother’s Day- handbook. It was familiar and repeated until I finished high school.
Then I moved out. And I didn’t just move out, but I moved abroad.
And then I forgot
Moving to Scotland, to university, was a time for firsts as that period often is. One of those firsts was not being there for Mother’s Day. During that first year, I remembered. I called in the morning, woke mum up by singing that familiar song. We’d speak for a bit and then hang up. I can’t help but think that was rough for her. We’d had these traditions up until that point, and then everything changed. Such is life, but change can be hard.
It’s the next year I regret. I forgot. There weren’t flowers, no breakfast in bed. No horrible croaking morning voice singing. No phone call. We spoke later on. She cried. I felt still feel so guilty about that. Even though I like to think that I showed my Mum just how much I appreciated her during the times we were together, I still failed in something our society considers an important thing – why would we otherwise make all those cards and gifts in school?
Next year I was away again, but this time I was prepared. I had ordered a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to her, and they were beautiful. Sunflowers, colourful gerberas, it really was the epitome of Spring and sunshine. Mum loved it. They weren’t her favourite flowers, but they were bright and vibrant and full of sunshine. They were my gift for the year, and an apology for the one past.
That bouquet was the start of the new normal. I’d send Mum a flower delivery for Mother’s Day, still waking her up with a phone call. We got used to that.
Pandemic changed everything – or so I thought
This week has been one of those weeks that you sometimes get: so many things seem to go wrong, no matter what you do it feels like there’s no progress, and my near-ancient car has developed a noise, a rumble really. It’s also the week leading up to Mother’s Day. To top it all off, I’m managing everything from not my childhood bedroom, but from under my Mum’s roof again.
2020. It was supposed to be like before, we had a rhythm, we knew how it went. And yet, none of that happened. You know all about the pandemic – you’ve lived through it, so let’s skip that. But during all the fear, uncertainty, and even panic, I somehow ended up in the house my grandparents used to live in, now home to my Mum and step-dad.
It’s unbelievable how quickly I fell back into the old familiar routine for Mother’s Day in 2020. It was very much like hanging onto something familiar among all the uncertainty and abnormal. The flowers, the gift (a 5-year diary), the breakfast (this time set on the dining table)… With a coffee mug in one hand and the bouquet of anemones in the other, I headed to wake up Mum. And it was like no time had passed. Croaky singing and all. And Mum loved it.
One year on, I’m still here. And today will probably go largely according to that template. Or actually a little differently. We’ve done all the hurrying and grocery shopping and tying up loose ends yesterday. Today we are going to spend the day outside, doing things together like my Mum requested. My gifts to her were always small things, ones aimed to make her smile, not necessarily something she needed. Money was always tight when I was growing up. This time, she wanted no gifts but to spend time together. And at 27 years of age, I’m finally old enough to understand that really that’s the best gift.
And, despite that template, situations change. Maybe this is the first year you are approaching Mother’s Day without your mum. Maybe you lost a baby that was most wanted and wished for, and you’re still waiting for your chance to be a mother. For some of us Mother’s Day is a reminder of loss. I know I feel that way about Valentine’s Day. Life doesn’t really see the days we celebrate on our calendar as any different. You have to cook, clean, and care for family. Care for yourself. No matter how you feel, your emotions are valid. You may think they are silly, and maybe so, but you’re still feeling them. That’s okay! And eventually you’ll forget, like my mum did. And that’s fine too.
Mother’s Day in Finland
Let’s go back in time, all the way to 1907, to the birth of the Kotikasvatusyhdistys (now the National Parents Union). Kotikasvatusyhdistys highlighted the importance of mums in the family unit, and championed their place in meetings, talks, and even in printed paper. It was the secretary of this Union who is hailed as the father of Mother’s Day in Finland (a bit ironic isn’t it?). Having come across it in 1910 during his extensive travels among the Finnish immigrants in the USA, Reima’s idea was shot down repeatedly until 1918.
The Finnish Civil War had ended in May, and the country was left raw and divided. There was no will to engage with a new idea amidst all the tragedy Finnish people tried to recover from. A small town of Alavieska was the only one to take Reima’s idea in 1918 and run with it: the first Mother’s Day celebration took place on June 7, 1918, at 6pm. Children were asked to be left at home. Mothers of the fallen from both sides of the Civil War were invited by letter; the thought was that even the enemy’s mum had a mum’s heart.
According to my research, Salvation Army started also campaigning for Mother’s Day and hundreds of celebrations took place in the fall of 1919. With the now familiar Springtime celebration, the Kotikasvatusyhdistys wanted to encourage children to take responsibility for the day in celebration of mothers who do everything for their family – often without thanks.
The day became a national celebration following a motion from the Finnish Family Federation, and it has been a national flag day since 1947. It’s a familiar day to us, almost like Christmas or Midsummer. As I dug deeper, I discovered that our celebratory Mother’s Day looks actually quite different to how it came to be.
The Surprising (and Forgotten) Radical Origins of Mother’s Day
“In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” – Julia Howe, 1870
Mother’s Day hails from the 1870s America, when Julia Howe worked to establish the Mother’s Peace Day and wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War she called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She encouraged women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, and to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons:
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience,” Howe wrote. “We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
In a word, Howe would have appreciated that first Mother’s Day celebration held in Alavieska, on the other side of the world, some 40 years later.
In 1907, Anna Jarvis of Philadelhia, began to campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognised. After the death of her mother Ann Jarvis in 1905, Anna started to think that mothers were widely disregarded despite their role in the success oof industrialisation and child rearing. The world’s first Mother’s Day celebration took place on May 10, 1908, and six years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday and a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”
Today, the celebration of sweets, flowers, gifts, and lavish restaurant meals looks very different to what Anna Jarvis intended – indeed, she strongly opposed all commercialisation of the day and was even arrested for protesting the sale of flowers and creation of a postage stamp. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take Mum out for a nice supper, but I wonder if maybe we have collectively forgotten the power mums truly hold in society.
Our Gift to You
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To us, every day is a Mother’s Day. We do our best to help and educate women to make their journey into motherhood look and feel better, kinder. Despite this template existing that I’ve referred to many times, your Mother’s Day is unique to you. Many of us have similar memories, many of us do similar things, but in the end it’s your experience. And like all experiences, sometimes it raises positive emotions and sometimes negative.
If you are anxious about today for any reason, please know you are not alone. It can feel suffocating and lonely and horrid, but those emotions don’t take away your worth as a mum or as a human being. If you are alone and baby is crying, thoughts of Mother’s Days to come don’t offer much warmth. Eventually my mum forgot those thoughts. According to her, they’ll always be there on some level, but it gets better. You have made it this far, you are strong.
How ever you wake up feeling today, it’s still the second Sunday of May. And with that, I wish you a warm, sunny Mother’s Day.