Time to stop celebrating mothers' sacrifice

Updated: 2010-05-13 07:53

By Li Xing (China Daily)

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Mother's Day has come and gone, and with it the usual hymns of praise to these otherwise unsung heroes of our society.

On this one day, our appreciation seems to know no bounds. In a taxi on Sunday, I listened to one local radio channel narrate tales of how Beijingers celebrated Mother's Day.

One told of a young mother's surprise when she got on a bus that day. The conductor handed her one-year-old son a purple carnation and told him to give it to his mother. The young mother acknowledged that her boy was probably too young to understand what was going on, but he was obviously happy when he saw smiles on his mother and on everyone else on the bus.

People found many different ways to express their love and gratitude. My sister and brother-in-law sent bouquets of flowers to their mothers via the Internet.

I ordered a Bailey's Love Triangle cake online and had it sent to my mother's home at noon on Sunday. The deliveryman told my father he'd visited six homes already that morning.

On the same day, I received an email from a schoolmate in the US, enclosing an article he had written in memory of his mother. It was the story of a young Chinese diplomat who braved gunfire in the Korean War and who often stayed up till the wee hours to make sure her work was done.

It was an emotional tale of an eldest daughter who was always the last to eat during times of economic difficulty. It was also a teenager's memory of his mother - she died when he was only 17 - who taught him to be independent and tolerant of others.

Over the Internet, I read stories of Chinese mothers who toil hard and sacrifice everything for the well being of their families. One mother spent more than 50 years feeding and clothing her two mentally challenging sons; another mother in her 60s took her son's place on a road crew when he was unable to work; still another walked for nearly two weeks in order to save travel expenses.

My colleagues have also told me about their mothers or mothers-in-law, always praising their frugality and diligence. One mother-in-law continues to wash clothes by hand, saying that a washing machine would use a lot more water, electricity, and detergent.

There's another side to all this, of course. What about the other three hundred and sixty-four days? And why are mothers so long-suffering in the first place?

According to a recent report by Save the Children, the welfare of Chinese mothers ranked 18th among the less developed countries, trailing Cuba, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Cyprus, Mongolia, Brazil, and South Africa, among others.

Although Chinese mothers enjoy relatively good medical care, still one in 1,300 new mothers is at risk of death during childbirth. On average, Chinese mothers receive only 11 years of education. Norway ranks first on the whole list; the average woman there enjoys 18 years of education, and only one mother in 7,700 is at risk during childbirth.

I'm a mother myself and enjoy all the attention on Mother's Day as much as anyone. But it is high time we stopped celebrating mothers' sacrifices and did more to improve their lives instead.

E-mail: lixing@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 05/13/2010 page8)