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What I have learned from “Sejarah Perempuan Indonesia: Gerakan & Pencapaian”

Sejarah Perempuan Indonesia: Gerakan & PencapaianSejarah Perempuan Indonesia: Gerakan & Pencapaian by Cora Vreede-de Stuers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reinventing Motherhood on Mother’s Day

Mama thank you for who I am
Thank you for everything I’m not
Forgive me for the words unsaid
And for the times I’ve forgot

Taken from a song by pop/opera quartet Il Divo, the above words are quoted by many of my friends when sending greetings to their mothers today. For one day, mothers become the center of attention.

They receive flowers, greeting cards, and other gifts from their sons and daughters, grateful for what their mother’s have done for them.

This despite the fact that Anna Jarvis, the person who actually fought to commemorate Mother’s Day, tried to prevent the day being dominated by gift giving, as she feared that the day would become too commercialized. Inspired by her own mother – also named Anna Jarvis – who 150 years ago organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, young Anna Jarvis’ hard work in lobbying the United States’ government finally paid off when Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914.

Since that year, the second Sunday of May has become the most popular day of the year to dine out, and telephone lines record their highest traffic, as sons and daughters everywhere take advantage of this day to honor and to express appreciation of their mothers.

In Indonesia, there are two days to honor women. Hari Kartini (April 21) which is known as Women’s Emancipation Day, and today, Dec. 22 as Mother’s Day. I cannot see any difference between the two days as the reason behind their creation is the same: Raden Ajeng Kartini and Dewi Sartika, (and I cannot ignore Cut Nyak Dien) as women and mothers, cared about community development, with an emphasis on women.

During their era, women found it difficult to develop themselves. A woman was usually destined to marry and stay at home, bearing and raising children. It wasn’t deemed necessary to be able to read, write, or get a formal education. Kartini and Sartika struggled for those rights.

Focusing on what the elder Anna Jarvis did 150 years ago, I can conclude here that the responsibility of a mother is not merely within her family but should be broadened to the community. Jarvis, is a worthy role model because she proved by her action that a mother can have a positive impact on a community.

The ideas of Jarvis (and Kartini and Sartika) were correct. Just look at the role of mothers today. Not only do they raise their children, but many forge themselves careers as well. Teachers, politicians, police officers, indeed, a whole range of professions economic reasons and good education encourage them to do that. But I don’t think they (working mothers) forget their main “profession”, a mother. And many of them confess that.

“Good children will lead to good communities,” a friend said. That statement made me wonder, why are there still some women choosing to put their career before motherhood. Are they afraid, for example, that breast-feeding will result in them becoming less attractive by causing their breasts to drop? It sounds ridiculous to me. It’s the best way to keep slim, isn’t it?

History has noted that our domestic system – raising a family, building a home (not a house), and cuisine – was created and cultivated by women, or in this context, by mothers. While men were out hunting for food, women had the task of preparing food and looking after their children.

History has also noted that, unlike men, women tend to become famous because of what they do for their community. Just look at examples like Mother Teresa, R.A. Kartini, Dewi Sartika, or even Anna Jarvis herself. They became heroines because of what they did for their community. They fought for health, education, wealth, and security for humankind; a deed that is the basis of motherhood, caring for others.

So history shows us that mothers have an important role as their motherhood can affect the community and even the nation. I’m not a mother yet. But on this Mother’s day, I suggest that we start to think beyond just sending cards and flowers to show how much we love our mother; think instead of how to develop the ideals of motherhood in ourselves.

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