Growing up, my five paternal grandmothers (RIP) to us stories of how they had a collective responsibility for raising all their children. For example, if one of them for some reason was not able at a particular time to breast feed their own biological child, another who was able to would naturally become the wet nurse and feed the child that needed feeding.
My grandmothers also told us stories of how they used to practice what Le-Tava Mabilijengo, in her book “Black Woman’s Agenda” – the “inner peace and the power of black love, and revolutionary-minded black women”, refers to as tribal economics. Tribal economics involves sharing food resources so that everyone can eat; exchanging childcare hours etc.
How so far away we have moved towards the convenience of individualism and have abandoned our collective responsibility. Gone are the days when social mothers – women who have not biologically borne children but are mothers of many, were celebrated. This can clearly be deduced from how we celebrate Mother’s Day by allowing for it to be vulgarised into a commercialised day.
To the extent, according to Wikipedia, the founder of the US-derived modern day version of mother’s day, Anna Jarvis, regretted the commercialisation of the day and she expressed that it was never her intention that it be misinterpreted and exploited for commercial gain. The emphasis for the day, that Jarvis intended, was on sentiment and not profit – the sentiment was simply honouring “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” and according to Jarvis, that person was a mother.
Within the context of Africa, and the adage: “It takes a village to raise a child”, it makes sense that mother’s day should be celebrated within the wisdom of tribal economics – share the honouring among all the mothers – biological and social – that one had and who surely greatly contributed to raising one.