Saturday, May 5, 2012

Giving twice on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is upon us next Sunday in Australia. I'm always a little ambivalent about Mother's Day. On one hand, the idea of a day to celebrate mothering and mothers seems like a lovely one. Maternity is an odd duck in modern Western societies; both ignored and reified, privileged and profoundly disadvantaging, worshipped and sneered at. A day for mother-figures to be recognised in whatever way resonates for them by the people to whom they give their maternal attention seems kind of nice, in the abstract. (As does the heart-melting sweetness of child-made cards and gifts, and child-prepared Breakfast! In! Bed!, which never grows old for me).

On the other hand, the pretty crass commercialism of it, the blaring marketing of MORE and NEWER and MORE EXPENSIVE thingies and whatnots to buy for the maternal figure in your life, bugs me and always has. Even more than Easter, birthdays and Christmas, Mother's and Father's Days are the domain of aggressive campaigns to promote spending for no real reason. The fact that they use the sucker punch of "showing mum that you love her" adds another cheery layer of guilt to the whole business. Ah, capitalism. You're a sneaky beast.

Years ago, we decided to not give gifts to our mothers on Mother's Day, but rather take them both out to a nice restaurant for a fancy lunch. Now that we have young children, we've substituted that with a fancy lunch prepared at our house, for a guest list including (but not always limited to) my parents, G's Mum and sister, and my brother. My girls paint a card each for me and for their two grandmothers, and I give the older two $10 apiece to spend at the school Mother's Day stall to get little things they can enjoy giving to their Nanna and Nanny. Mother's Day isn't necessarily a cheap affair - when I say "fancy meal", I mean fancy meal, which includes foodstuffs of looxury - but it doesn't involve a lot of superfluous loot for anyone.

This year, though, I'm tweaking tradition slightly, because I have asked for a Mother's Day gift, and will be giving one each to my mum and MIL. None of us need any more objects in our lives (well, and this will always and ever be my caveat - except books) and we are all committed to doing what we can to help people who haven't been dealt the royal flush that we're playing in the great poker game of life. We're all white, financially stable, able-bodied, mostly healthy, property-owning, Australians - women, yes, but privileged on many more axes than we are disadvantaged.

So this Mother's Day, I'm giving my mother a gift certificate to Good Return, and my MIL is getting a gift card from Act for Peace. I've asked my husband to buy me a Giving Bowl from Foundation 18's etsy shop, so that I can put my loose change to good use.

If you are looking for ideas for Mother's Day, perhaps one of these might appeal to you too. The three I've listed below aren't an exhaustive sample of Mother's Day focused giving at all, but they are all ones that looked good to me (and are all organisations I trust due to previous associations and research).

1. Good Return
I have posted about Good Return before, and supported their International Women's Day campaign with a loan to Kalpana Poudel, a Nepalese vegetable seller. Good Return is an Australian not-for-profit that takes an empowerment approach to helping people, facilitating micro-loans that finance business and sustainable development projects that allow people to build towards their own futures. When you give money to Good Return, you're actually loaning it, and at the end of the loan period, you can have your money back, reinvest it in another loan, or donate it to the direct charity work of the organisation.

I am in love with this model, and I know my Mum will be too. I know she'll spend time carefully choosing where her loan should be placed, and that she'll reinvest it again and again, helping more women reach their goals, fill their childrens' bellies, and escape deep-seated poverty that seems so insurmountable sometimes.

You can follow Good Return on Twitter (@GoodReturnOrg), on Facebook (, and on Pinterest (

2. Act for Peace
Act for Peace is the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Probably their best-known single activity is the annual Christmas Bowl appeal, but their work is much broader than that, with a strong focus on assisting refugees around the world in a variety of ways. For Mother's Day, Act for Peace is offering a Maternal Care pack, which provides maternity care to women in Pakistan and Palestine (Gaza), for $15. These are women who have not had access to maternity care, and for whom childbirth-related injuries and deaths are terrifyingly high. Supporting clinics that help address this, and give women a chance to survive and thrive in birthing, for just $15 has got to be a bargain however you cut it.

You can follow Act for Peace on Twitter (@actforpeace).

3. Giving bowls - Foundation 18
Many Australians are already aware of the work of Cate Bolt and Foundation 18. Cate's own story is an amazing one, and a real, living model of putting your money (and time, and energies, and heart) where your mouth is. The work that Foundation 18 and its youth arm, The You Crew, is doing is important and potentially transformatory, and the mountains that Cate and her family have moved to make it happen are vast.

Cate makes a variety of truly lovely ethical products, the sale of which supports the running of the Foundation's group home for girls in Ringdikit, Bali. Her Giving Bowls are beautiful objects in their own right (particularly the felted ones ... I am so enamoured of them) but the concept behind them, of a simple, everyday way to collect the loose change for a worthwhile purpose, is even better. It's this kind of practical approach to charity that helps the most, I sometimes think. Not in grand gestures and impassioned flourishes, but in quiet daily kindness and mindfulness, is the world transformed.

You can follow Cate and Foundation 18 on Twitter (@catebolt and @Foundation18).

So what are you doing for Mother's Day? Will it include breakfast in bed?

1 comment:

  1. Seriously wonderful post for so many reasons. Thanks for mentioning The Giving Bowl & F18!