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The second Sunday of May, Mother’s Day, gives families a chance to thank, honour and celebrate the people who are closest to us and who teach us how to love: our mothers. Indeed, mothers make families possible. As such, motherhood is necessary and essential for society itself. This fact, of course, is rarely acknowledged and motherhood is not highly esteemed in our society. Mother’s Day, then, is not only a day of joy to honour our mothers, but gives us an opportunity to ask what motherhood means to our culture. Of course, the need to ask the question is part of the answer. A society so confused that it does not implicitly understand the crucial role played by the women who make families is one that cannot honour or respect them.

The loss of a sense of motherhood is a cultural problem, affecting everyone. And, because it affects everyone, it seems to come from everywhere. Citizens, for example, are given an endless number of signals telling them that the commitments made by mothers are neither heroic nor special. The government, by redefining marriage to include same-sex unions, indicates that marriage is not unique to men and women. If unions that can produce children are no different from those that cannot, motherhood cannot be that special. A similar prejudice is seen in the Canadian tax code, which makes it harder for married men and women to raise children – the current tax laws favour childless cohabitation, rather than fruitful marriage.

Our cultural elites repeat this same message. Affluent, oligarchic feminists, who never defend or promote motherhood, pay lip service to the belief that women should be free to do whatever they decide. Yet, in effect, they preach that the only valid choice is the one they themselves have made. While cultural and political elites insist on equality, their real message is that they are indifferent to the supreme challenges (and privileges) unique to motherhood. And so, fewer and fewer women choose to accept the demanding, but rewarding, vocation of being full-time mothers.

Our elites pretend not to understand that this is their message and feign incredulity as they watch Canadian fertility rates plunge to reach the levels of famine-stricken countries. They surmise that women themselves have suddenly and spontaneously decided that motherhood is not worth the trouble. This creates a dangerous situation, in which the elites are receiving the signals they themselves have sent. And, as they push motherhood to the margins of society, they propose solutions that make the problem even worse.

The plan for universal daycare is a perfect example of this. If it is impossible for a mother to be with her child during the day, the solution they offer is to hire someone else to do her work. It is a solution that compounds the problem, because it further reduces the role of the mother in a family to a job, a mere labour without love. Motherhood thus becomes a commodity, a service – an educator or a babysitter, even the very best, can never have the concern for a child that a mother does. Even though these employees may be well intentioned, the system ensures that they will never be better than adequate. Children in a universal daycare system are not being civilized and raised in a loving family, but merely socialized, and brought into a world where they can manage with the least trouble. There is neither the incentive nor the ability for someone to do the job of a mother, because only mothers love without incentive, without cause and without limit.

While universal daycare may claim to help families, not all proposed programs have the same good intentions. Some people in power even begin to see motherhood itself as the problem. They reason that if programs like universal daycare do not work, it is because they do not go far enough. Natural mothers, then, become obstacles to the ambitions of radical social engineers. At the United Nations, for example, “motherhood” is thought to be a prejudicial term. This thinking leads to more extreme solutions, which compound problems still further in a vicious cycle. It never occurs to them that there is an indispensable role that only mothers can play. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical:

“The state, which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person – every person – needs; namely, loving personal concern.”   The state cannot give what is most needed and what moms provide most abundantly: love itself.

Love, after all, creates families in the first place. The family is the school of love and it is taught only as it is given. The cultural problems arising from the lack of mothers (and their terrible solutions) are solved by the family itself. Families must be examples of love, beacons of light to those around them. Children, likewise, as living symbols of love, fidelity and sacrifice, should be welcomed and celebrated by society, not menaced, even before birth, with the threat of death by abortion. And parents, especially mothers, should be examples of love to others, their children first of all.

This month, let us celebrate the unique and crucial role of motherhood. A mother’s work is love, and only she can do it. No one else should try to replace her. Motherhood remains an exciting and daunting adventure and we will all benefit from those who have accepted this calling.

Indeed, we already have.