Mother’s day in India is often celebrated a few times — some latch onto the US date, while others hear about the UK date. As is the case with so many Hallmark holidays today, the festival becomes an excuse for retailers and merchants to market products and services for the occasion so that everyone feels obligated to acknowledge a holiday that may be brand new to them. We also have the lovely pressure of Valentine’s Day being rebranded to “Parent’s Worship Day”, an attempt by Hindu right-wing nationalists to “save the younger generation from corrupt Western morals about love”. Regardless of religion, Hallmark holidays of Mothers Day or Father’s Day embrace everyone under the religion of consumerism, commercialism and now of-course social media PDA.
I don’t remember how I celebrated Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as a kid. There must have been some arts and craft card-making in school, probably involving glitter and paints. When I was in school in India, we celebrated so many festivals, often opening up the card-making Pandora box at least once a week. Whether it was Diwali or Holi or Christmas or Eid or Pongal or Baisakhi, the festivals seemed never ending. But as children, we didn’t mind that and the blank slates that were our minds, were more than happy to embrace any and all card-making reasons.
But this year, at 26, I’ve been thinking about Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in a different way. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been away from home for too many years. Or how every store I walk into tries to sell me a product or reserve a brunch with my parents who are far away, just making me angry. Either way, this ritualized show of affection is hard to digest. There’s also the sudden comparison that social media has created between relationships. While PDA between couples is commonly compared with hashtags like #blessed or #couplegoals, used to depict what a perfect relationship “supposedly” looks like, there is also family affection and appreciation that pops up on these Hallmark days. How can a relationship between a parent and their child be compared to anyone else’s relationship? It’s a recipe for disaster and discomfort. How can you say my relationship with my father or mother isn’t filled with parental affection, love and care just because there is no social media PDA? It’s a strange consequence of social media but we find ourselves desiring a relationship that is embodied by #momgoals or #mydadisbetterthanyours. Isn’t the whole point of parenthood (through my unexperienced lens) that it is imperfect, unique, very messy and complicated, and generally incomparable?
There is a sting, like lemon juice on a wound. Seeing friends and family shower their parents with love on one specific day every year. It can be painful since you know that is only a part of their relationship and its also only a glimpse at the perfect moments, but it looks so perfect so we automatically think its the norm. More so, it can be painful because you feel your most intimate relationship is being judged by society and as it goes with social media, we find it hard to stop feeding that devil and define our affection by likes and comments. To that same wound, sometimes, there is salt added if the reality of the relationship is very different from the loving depiction on social media. What if the relationship is distraught, perhaps with elements of narcissism or disappointment or inadequacy? That would never be portrayed because that would warrant more questions than a person wants to answer. So the narrative is twisted and something that may be damaging is depicted in a positive light. I think it’s a difficult day for more people than those who admit it.
Maybe I come across as a pessimist. Or someone who overthinks everything (as I do). The sentiments behind the day are pure and precious and any day to celebrate love is a day worth having. Its also important because being openly affectionate isn’t something all cultures teach us from a young age and it is something that helps with self-esteem, so the Mother’s Days and Father’s Days are much-needed. I do love seeing cutesy throwback pictures of my friends and family as babies with their parents and I really enjoy showering my loved ones with affection in whatever way I can, even from afar. I just wish Hallmark and the likes of other businesses hadn’t taken advantage of this parental relationship and ritualized this affection into something so consumer driven. Judging and then validating a relationship as complicated as that of a mother and daughter or father and son (or even between siblings) isn’t something technology and commerce should participate in, in my opinion. I do agree, to each their own, and I can’t dictate what other’s do, but I wish I didn’t feel like most sacred relationship is judged by the cheesy words I choose to or not to publicize on a social media platform.
I guess I should tell you that this Mother’s Day was a tale of mishaps for me. The flower company in India decided to send my mother flowers saying “To me, from me” and texted her updates all weekend, ruining the surprise. She laughed it off. The essence of my cheesy note on the bouquet got lost in that clutter. In Turkey, my mother-in-law’s bouquet was missing the cheesy note so she didn’t even know who it was from and my diligent English-to-Turkish translation efforts were discarded. She also laughed it off. But once again, I felt like my good intentions had all gone to waste.
Alas, that is the real imperfect world of family relationships and nothing Hallmark or social media sells me can encapsulate it. Ever.
Originally published at medium.com