Anybody wanting proof that the face of motherhood is rapidly changing need only tap into U.S. Census figures. Or you could do something way more fun:
Shop the greeting card aisles.
Want to guess which route this mom took? That’s a trick question. I actually did both.
And it’s true. As we celebrate mothers on May 14, let’s also celebrate the expanding definition, statistically and artistically, of what “motherhood” looks like in the 21st century.
Thank you, traditional moms, who bandaged our knees and kissed bruised egos, and thank you, girlfriends and “PANKs” (Professional Aunt No Kids) who are “like a mother” to our kids.
Thanks to stepmoms and grandmothers raising grandkids. To single moms and two-mom families and, yes, even to single dads, who have Mother’s Day cards created just for them.
To mothers from their four-legged children. To Mi Madre.
Sarah Sweet, co-owner and card buyer for I Like You, with locations in St. Paul and northeast Minneapolis, enjoys the variety of Mother’s Day cards today. She guesses that “a good 75 percent” of her cards fall into the “nontraditional” category.
Sweet doesn’t go by statistics to select the cards she sells, though. “I go by what I see around me,” she said. “Families today come in all shapes and sizes. Hopefully, we’re all loving each other.”
Among her cards: “Happy Mother’s Day, Dad,” and “Thanks for Being My Honorary Mom. I Love You!” both by Macalester College grad Emily McDowell. She also carries Muddy Mouth cards by Angie Kallas, a Minnesotan whose mantra is “gleeful profanity.”
Susan Zdon, owner of Corazon in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood and St. Paul, said Mother’s Day is huge in her stores. “You would not believe what we sell. It’s second only to Christmas.”
Like Sweet, she seeks out unique cards from smaller stationery companies, “who have their finger on the pulse more. Larger companies tend to be more traditional.”
Included in her selection is, “Two moms are better than one, but one card is good enough, right?” by Near Modern Disaster, and “To a super mom flying solo,” by Papersource. Zdon’s favorite also comes from Papersource:
“Thank you, Mom, for not selling me to the gypsies.”
Zdon amusedly recalls the early days of online cards, when well-intentioned friends envisioned the death of her business.
“Everyone said, ‘No one is going to buy another traditional card.’ That has just not been the case. It’s great to get an e-mail, but it’s not at all the same as getting a card, where someone took the time to pick it out for you and write a message.”
That message is not always rosy. Fortunately there’s a card for that.
Greeting Card Universe, for example, is one of many companies offering cards for “estranged” mothers.
“Even though we haven’t/seen each other in a while/I still think of you often./There is always hope/our relationship can change.”
Notable, too, are cards for family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends for whom Mother’s Day is an excruciating reminder of the worst loss possible. Simplicity is best here.
“Mother’s Day can’t be easy for you. Just want you to know I’m keeping you close in thought.”
While sentimentality still reigns, modern moms, who tend to be tethered to their millennials emotionally, technologically and financially, can expect playful ribbing as they open envelopes on their special day.
Consider these three options from the SomeeCard line:
“Mom … let’s strike a deal. You pay for nursing school and I’ll pay for your nursing home.”
“I’d have made you breakfast in bed if you’d taught me how to cook.”
“Mom, it’s so great how much closer we’ve gotten since you started texting instead of calling.”
While cards for “different sorts of families” sell well, a few do not. Cards for “adoptive moms,” for example, don’t fly off the shelves, Zdon said. Adoptive moms are moms. “They really don’t think of themselves as any different,” she said.
Another slow mover is the card for mothers-in-law. Apparently, there’s a lot of bad blood in that relationship, which surprises Zdon, who was blessed with a mother-in-law she adored.
“I miss her and I wish I had done more for her as far as addressing the fact that she treated me like a daughter.” If you feel the same way, there’s a card for you:
“Best Mother-in-Law Ever.” That one comes from 9th Letter Press.
And stepmoms? Well, don’t expect much. Only about 20 percent of adults feel close to their stepmoms, according to researcher E. Mavis Hetherington, author of “For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered.” Much of that animosity, she writes, is due to “remarkably enduring” competition between noncustodial mothers and stepmothers.
So, fellow stepmoms, here’s a card I’ve written for us:
“Bonus Moms are where’s it at/ Bag the card, Prosecco, stat!”
Cheryl Gaines, Hallmark’s editorial director for Mother’s Day, said her team updates its card messages annually, relying heavily on social media, such as Pinterest and blogs, as well as magazines “and changes in our own families,” to keep their lines current.
While Hallmark does have cards specifically directed at traditional moms, two-mom households or moms of “four-legged kids,” they’ve backed off a bit from being too literal.
“[The word] Mom used to be on every card,” Gaines said. “Now we let people add the back story. Maybe it’s stepmom, or Grandma who raised me, or an aunt who is like a mom.”
That’s led to messages such as these:
“You make the world better.”
“You deserve a day that’s just beautiful.”
“Hope you know how loved you are.”
“We read them with different hats on,” Gaines said. Could a single mom receive this? Could the older mom of an adoptive child receive this?”
Yet, the basic message endures, she said, just as our love for this special parent does.
“Mom is appreciated. She works hard. You honor her.”
firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-7350 • Twitter: @grosenblum