Unpopular opinion: a Mother’s Day feast is overrated

08/05/2022

Look, I can explain.

Yes, it’s the first real feasting in two years (damn you, Covid), but why are we celebrating the woman of our lives with just a nice meal annually?

Well, to put it crudely, even the most heavenly food gets digested into you know what. And then, all’s forgotten (other than the toilet bowl).

First, you must understand that it’s same same but different this year.

You see, there’s an additional social aspect to this year’s Mother’s Day.

The motion on the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development was passed unanimously by all MPs present in Parliament just a month ago, on Apr 5.

You read that right: unanimously. It’s heartening to know that our Parliamentary colleagues in the Workers’ Party also chose to improve equality and opportunities for women in Singapore, endorsing our Party’s 25-point action plans.

Indeed, as we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we can take heart in this major milestone we achieved for women in Singapore.

This represents the PAP government’s commitment to bring about a more equitable society for the future generation.

However, like what Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam pointed out in his speech on the motion on Singapore Women’s Development: “We haven’t arrived but we know the road to travel, and the final destination.”

The different roles mothers play

Other than bringing forth life, mothers play a multitude of different roles in their lifetime: caregiver, teacher, lighthouse, pillar.

As Communications and Information Minister Josephine put it during her speech at the PAP Women’s Wing Mother’s Day celebration on May 7, 2022: “Our mothers love and protect us, always looking out for our interests. Our mothers teach us good values and help us to develop our character. Our mothers hold our families together, and in doing so keep our society strong.”

But yet for the longest time, society’s view of genders is often one-dimensional – a man should be the sole breadwinner of the house while the woman cooks and take cares of the kids.

This despite the PAP Government’s first order of business of passing the Woman’s Charter in 1961, which paved the way for greater protection from dangers like family violence and sexual offences and gave women more autonomy in the roles they took up, fundamentally altering the social compact of its day.

It was a good start but it hardly moved the needle. Why? Because the Party understands that change can only come when it involves a whole-of-society effort, which frankly takes monumental effort and crucially, time.

You see, over time, we’ve seen much progress for women in Singapore: Back in the 60s, only one in three women were literate. Today, one in two graduates is a woman and female literacy rate is over 96 per cent.

But the PAP Government is also aware of the differences between the two sexes and the beautiful effects of these differences.

A woman’s maternal instinct can never be substituted, her capacity to put her loved ones (not just kids but also parents) before herself is unique and must be preserved.

And that is why there are 25 action plans in the White Paper, catering for woman who are not only mums but also caregivers, working professionals, and even mums-to-be.

In what is probably the most norm-shaping action plan, Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in schools will address equity of familial roles. This inculcates the right values to the next generation of Singaporeans.

And hopefully, over time, gender equality becomes one of the fundamental values of our society, so much so that it’s imprinted in our minds.

Pay tribute to your mum

So this Mother’s Day, to quell your anger about my headline, don’t just buy her dinner.

Instead, understand the battles she face constantly, be her ally, support her in your own way.

Make sure that she’s not alone in all her battles. Be right there with her when she suffers from caregiver fatigue; or when she experiences workplace discrimination; or when just being comfortable in her own skin is difficult.

Be there. That’s all you need to do.

By doing so, society will be better off.

And like what Minister Josephine Te’o said in her speech during the debate: “If half of humanity does not progress, how can the rest of humanity?”

Cover photo credit: Cera on Unsplash