Arts & Culture Life

The unstoppable commercialism of Mother’s Day

Is it a day to show love for your mom or to fall into the trap of overspending?

The woman who invented Mother’s Day regretted it. Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, went to jail for protesting its commercialism.

The meaning of Mother’s Day was very personal for Jarvis. Her own mother had passed away from heart problems. It was important to her that the day honor mothers, motherhood and the influence of mothers in society. However, from the very beginning, the day was exploited by businesses for their own ends. Jarvis herself was apologetic for inventing Mother’s Day:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” This was one of Anna’s most famous quotes.

She believed that Mother’s Day should not be “a source of commercial profit.”  Her intention was to make it a “Holy Day” not a “holiday”. She wanted to observe the true sentimental meaning of Mother’s Day where a child could write how they felt about their mom in a note rather than a card that was not genuine. She fought against many retailers including florists and greeting card companies for making profit out of this day. In 1923, she went as far as crashing a confectioner’s convention in Philadelphia. Anna was also involved in over 33 lawsuits because of her constant protesting and promotional campaigns against the commercialism in the country and the world.

One way that commercialism has played a role in Mother’s Day over the years is when businesses use various marketing techniques to motivate spending for Mother’s Day. Recently, 24-hour online shopping and social media have also had an impact on Mother’s Day by making it easier for the consumer to shop without having to drive to the mall or store. This can be done within minutes and saves time. This promotes efficient sales for the business and a quick Mother’s Day gift purchase for the buyer.

Another technique is when Mother’s Day ads appear close to the holiday which catch the attention of the buyers and entices them. These Mother’s Day gifts might not necessarily have meaning from the heart but simply benefit businesses to make more profit.

Here is an interesting source that actually indicates how much people tend to spend on Mother’s Day. It states that in 2018, Mother’s Day sales were forecasted to total nearly $23.1 billion according to a survey. The average spend per person was approximately $180 and the participation rate was 86 percent of Americans.

Besides just wishing your mom a Happy Mother’s Day, many people spoil their moms on this day: they buy them gifts such as cards, flowers, and occasionally treat them out to a nice meal. The downside to this falls onto the consumers. They can overspend just for this one day which comes once a year to show their love for their moms. If they don’t buy their mothers gifts or do something for them it can lead to them feeling guilty about it as if they do not love or care about them. It makes them feel forced to do something extravagant for their mothers on this one day.

Even mothers themselves can feel neglected if they do not receive gifts on Mother’s Day.  My mother admitted that when doesn’t receive a gift or taken out to dinner, she notices it. “Although I am appreciated by you everyday, this day prompts me to expect more unfortunately,” she said. The commercialized aspect has made it feel as if it is a tradition to purchase gifts for your mother, rather than the heartfelt way of showing true appreciation daily.

All year, moms work hard for their families and jobs. Anna Jarvis objected the commercialism of Mother’s Day so that moms could be appreciated genuinely. The key to avoid this commercialism would be to spend time rather than money, showing how much you cherish and appreciate them. What some moms secretly want are simple things such as time alone, time with their kids or even a handwritten note. Without buying them gifts, you can turn their day around and create delight and appreciation with a non-monetary gift which speaks a lot more than anything money could ever buy.


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Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon


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