May 072010

Every year I write a post for Mother’s Day–it usually ends up being about children as much as about mothers, but I guess given the propensity of so many mothers, including myself to focus on their kids first and themselves second, that is not surprising.

This year however, I am suffering from major writer’s block due in no small part to being both a daughter and a mother.  My mother is recovering from a bout of assorted  ailments and has been at the front of my thoughts a lot lately. In the midst of this, not just one but both of my children are graduating in the next month–my eldest from college the day before Mother’s Day (who knew 22 years could go by so quickly) and then in a few weeks my youngest from high school after which he will be getting ready to leave for college and my nest will empty, a phase I feel ready for, but as the time is fast approaching, much to my chagrin I find my tear ducts somewhat unpredictable.  And so I am focusing on all of these life cycle events that happen to mothers and daughters and am thus a bit negligent with my writing time, all of which is to say my blogging will be a tad sporadic and unpredictable for the next few weeks.

Today, via Riane Eisler, I came upon a Time article  that talks about whether the GDP is an appropriate measure of economic progress.  As the article points out, the GDP does not measure a good many important things–something worth pondering as the DOW, at least until the last few days as I write this, has ‘recovered’ while so many people are still out of work and losing their homes and unable to get health care.

Since last summer the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has gone up — indeed, it grew at a surprising 5.7% rate in the 4th quarter — seeming to confirm what we’ve been hearing: the recession is officially over. But wait — foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, and food banks are seeing record demand. Could it be that the GDP, that gold standard of economic data, might not be the best way to gauge a nation’s relative prosperity?

Since it became the prime economic indicator during the Second World War (to monitor war production) many have criticized policy-makers’ reliance on the GDP — and proposed substitute measures. For example, there is the Human Development Index (HDI), used by the UN’s Development Programme, which considers life expectancy and literacy as well as standard of living as determined by GDP. And the Genuine Progress Indicator, which incorporates aspects of social welfare such as income equity, pollution, and access to health care.

And as Eisler has pointed out many times, and why I am bringing it up now, the GDP does not measure caring work–the taking care of parents and children that so often mostly is the unpaid work of women.  And if we do not value that work, then we do not have an honest picture of our economic health and that is a detriment to all of us because there is real economic value to caring work and a real economic cost to that work not being attended to.  As we struggle to deal with current economic realities and find a path forward, we must revision our measurements of value to reflect what is truly important and the work that everyone does, not just how much was ‘produced’.

There is much more to be said on the subject of being a mother, a topic I’ve tackled elsewhere numerous times, but I will leave that to other writers this year.

And with that, whether you celebrate Mother’s Day as a child or as a mother, or both, there  are no more inspiring words on the subject of Mother’s Day than Julia Ward Howe’s immortal proclamation:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,

Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace,

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,

But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask

That a general congress of women without limit of nationality

May be appointed and held at someplace 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.

 May 7, 2010  Posted by on May 7, 2010

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