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Very Post-Mothers Day

Already back in the groove - the same old imbalance in who's attending to domestic chores and who's not?

Fiona D'Souza from Sydney School of Arts & Humanities' Saturday writing group has some thoughts on the perennial issue of how to honour women every day of the week. Answer: if you're male, do much much more around the house:

I call it ‘The Great Hallmark Heist’. The commodification of feelings of affection, guilt, love, ambivalence towards a parent. It began in the United States in the early 20th century when a woman named Anne Jarvis held a small service in memory of her mother. The idea caught on and within five years nearly all states in the US were celebrating the day. By 1914 the US President made Mother’s Day a national holiday.

The sentiment behind Anne Jarvis’ action was an honourable one. We give little recognition or honour to those unsung heroes in our society who work tirelessly to raise children, run families and, more recently, work outside the home, in order to prop up the household income. Mothering is a heroic task. Second Wave Feminism has made great strides in the Western world in launching women into professional work. But it has barely caused a blip in the domestic sphere.

Today, women in Australia do about 70% of domestic work. That is certainly an improvement on the 1950s when women spent about fifty-seven hours a week doing household chores. But one has also to consider that during the 1950s very few women had employment outside the home.

I thank Second Wave Feminism for liberating women from domesticity so we could gain independence through paid employment. But this liberation came at a cost. It has resulted in double the workload for most partnered working women. For single parent households the burden is even greater.

We have to ask: Have things changed all that dramatically since the 1950s? One has only to read ‘The Wife Drought’ by Annabel Crabb to recognise the scale of the emotional and operational load still being carried by women in a modern heterosexual family. For separated or divorced women this load is much greater.

I struggle with Mother’s Day on a number of fronts. I recognise it as a ‘capitalist plot’ intended to wring money from our wallets for Hallmark cards, flowers, and chocolates, predicated on a mixture of the feelings outlined above. But I also recognise it as an overtly sentimental salve aimed at placating women on one day of the year, when they are supposedly honoured by society. That is, women who still carry the overwhelming burden of responsibility for domestic life.

In the long run, Mother’s Day does little to correct the imbalance between the sexes on the other 364 days of the year.  

Fiona D'Souza 

Copyright: text - Fiona D'Souza; photos - cv williams.


Posts on this Sydney School of Arts & Humanities blog ( are published to showcase the work of emerging writers who meet weekly to workshop their short stories, memoir or novels.


These posts comprise some of the responses written in just 10 minutes as a warm up to our writing workshops.

If you'd like to join any of our groups, contact us at


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