help a mother out

Lydia, with her son. We met last year, when I went to Kenya with ONE.

Lydia, with her son. We met last year, when I went to Kenya with ONE.

This Sunday is Mother's Day on this side of the pond, the day of fragrant bouquets, breakfasts-in-bed and sweet handmade gifts from our kids.  It's a lovely day to remember our moms, and to honour our partners for the job they do in parenting our little ones.  Mother's Day is awesome, no doubt.

And yet, I always feel just a tiny bit strange accepting gifts on Mother's Day (although don't get me wrong, I do accept them -- my new bike that I got from Marcus and Alex a couple of weeks ago to celebrate this Mother's Day is one of my favourite possessions ever in the history of ever).  It's just that (and I suspect most moms would agree with me) I don't "mother" so that I can get gifts once a year for my efforts.  I mother for a lot of selfish reasons:  because I wanted to be a mom. Because I get a hell of a lot out of my relationship with my kid.  Because that's what I'm wired to do.  Besides, we're pretty good about spreading the love in my family throughout the rest of the year, so to be honest, while the gifts are lovely, I don't need them.

But you know what would be nice?

It would be nice if we moms could use Mother's Day as a day of focus to help support each other.  It seems to me so strange that an experience that is so universal -- raising a child -- can also at times feel so solitary.  And, frankly, so guilt-ridden:  we get messages daily, from the media, from corporate culture, from our communities and even from other mothers saying you're doing it wrong.  Judgments on issues like how you should become a parent -- "natural" or C-section or adoption or surrogacy.  Whether you should work outside of your home.  Or not.  Or breastfeed. Or Not. Or how long you should breastfeed. Or what to feed you kid. Or how to dress your kid. Or what organizations you should get your kid involved in. Or when you should send your kid to school. Or where. Or homeschool.  Or ... or ... or ....

AAAAUUUUGGH.

So this year, here's an idea:  in addition to the moms in our families, let's take a moment out of our day to send a message to peers -- moms who are neither our mothers nor our partners -- and just say, "good job."  Send an email to someone (even someone you only know online) just to say, "You have great kids," or "you're an inspiring parent," or "your children are lucky to have you."  An unexpected note of encouragement letting a mother know to keep on keeping on.

In fact, I'll even make it easy for you.  See the bouquet below?

Simply click on the image above, and then click "ecard" under the photo to send a free e-card with this image to whomever you'd like.   Tell them how awesome you think they are.  Trust me, your unexpected note will totally make that person's day.

* * * * * * * *

Once you've done that, if you're moved to help other moms around the world, here are a few additional ideas:

1.  Sign up to join ONE.  Those of you who have been following along with Chookooloonks for the last year or so know that I am a huge fan of the organization ONE, the advocacy group founded  by Bono of U2.  In their words, ONE is a "nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa."  What this means is that ONE is all about working to convince governments (primarily the U.S. government, but also others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way.  Furthermore, it doesn't raise money or grants:  ONE is almost completely funded by its board members and by foundations (like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example) -- and therefore, it never, ever asks for money from the general public. 

Ever.

What they do ask for, however, is your voice.  The way ONE does this is by using its budget to amplify the stories of the organizations that are doing all the heavy lifting on the ground on the continent, making sure that governments see all the good change that is happening in Africa in the fight against extreme poverty and diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, so that they are encouraged to continue to help.  In addition, ONE works to make sure the general public (both in the US and internationally) also hears these stories, so they are moved to become members of ONE.  The more members ONE has, the louder ONE's voice is, and the more governments sit up and pay attention.  And in turn, hopefully, the more good happens on the ground.

Here's where you come in:  by simply signing up to become a member, you help amplify ONE's voice, helping mothers in Africa get better health care for their families and kids. That's it.  There's no cost to you, and signing up takes less than 15 seconds.  Cool, right?

So here's a handy little widget for you to sign up, below.  See?  You don't even to go anywhere else.  And I know ONE would be ever so grateful.

(You can also follow ONEMoms on Facebook and the ONE campaign on Twitter, to find out more.)

2.  Check out Every Mother CountsThis organization, founded by the supermodel Christy Turlington (you gotta love all these philanthropic celebrities, amiright?) is focused on eliminating the shocking statistic that every 90 seconds, a woman dies during childbirth; moreover, 90% of these deaths are preventable.  Christy was so moved by this fact that she made and directed the documentary "No Woman, No Cry," sharing the stories of at-risk pregnant women in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States.  It's a great film and a great organization, and if you're so moved, I'm sure they can use your help.

3.  Go shopping.  If you really do want to give a tangible gift to a mom you love (yours or otherwise), there are some awesome items out there, and their purchase actually helps moms around the world.  Like this scarf, for example, designed especially for Mother's Day by an organization that helps create economic opportunities for moms in Ethiopia.  Or, heck, any of the joinRED items, where 50% of the profits from the sale of these items goes to The Global Fund, which uses the money to finance HIV health and community programs in Africa, with a focus on women and children.  (A side note:  I actually bought the red Chuck Taylors for Marcus for Christmas.  Because, come on, awesome.)

There.

On that note, friends, happy, happy Mother's Day.  May we all -- mom or not -- feel supported this day, and every day.