Mothers’ Day: The importance of support systems for new mothers

Dear reader: you may have noticed the placement of the apostrophe in the title of this blog post makes “Mothers” a plural possessive. Anna Jarvis, who in 1905 started the campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers, insisted on keeping “Mother’s” a singular possessive. While she supported celebrating motherhood in general, she wanted to emphasize that each family should celebrate their own mother.[1] The reason for my change is not to diminish celebrations for our own mothers, but to focus on the importance of support systems for new mothers. 

A support system can include the family, friends, and health care providers who can offer emotional support, guidance, and advice. Physical help, helping with household chores, or caring for the baby gives the exhausted mother time to rest and recover. People around the new mother who offer encouragement, praise, and support to enhance maternal self-esteem and confidence, and foster bonding between parent and child. Practical assistance in daily tasks provides physical help to the new mom. This may include help with bathing, changing, or feeding the baby. The doctors and related health care professionals involved in postpartum care can provide guidance in case of concerns or complications. A good support system also includes resources and services such as parenting classes, lactation consultants, or mental health resources.

As it happens, I am close to 95 years of age, living alone. My lovely daughter and son are in their 70s and live far away. I have been greatly honored and charmed to tears by becoming the honorary great-grandfather to two little ones belonging to a set of my friends. One is a bit over 2 years old, the other only about 5 weeks old. In my role as an honorary relative, I have wonderful opportunities to be close to the family and I see the infants often. On one hand, I am amazed and deeply impressed by the enormous amount of work done by the parents and the related organizational activities, sleepless nights, driving, carting the infants around, and just following daily routines. On the other hand, I also witness the enormous value of the available support systems, which now primarily include the loving grandmothers and grandfathers, and occasionally health care services. In a very minor way, I see myself as part of that support system—not only in my admiration of the parents, but also of the grandparents, in their various substantial supports. And I also love my role as the very senior member of the party, occasionally walking precious steps while the honorary great-grandchild holds my hand. 

On Sunday, 12 May 2024, Mother’s Day, I will think with great love of my own mother, who died over 30 years ago. I will then celebrate all mothers on their day and hope they have adequate support systems to fulfill their exciting and often overwhelming roles. 
—George Szasz, CM, MD 

1. Wikipedia. Mother’s Day. Accessed 9 May 2024.

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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