The History and Economics of Mother’s Day

By Lauren Wanko

New mom Jen Schober just welcomed her son Michael into the world five weeks ago. Her priorities shifted the moment he was born.

“He comes first, that’s really the basis of it. You have to put all your needs second after him,” she said.

“I think a relationship between a mom and a child, even my own mom, there’s no relationship like it,” said Kim Cole.

Kim’s mom to 2-year-old Olivia and 6-year-old Rosie. They’ve been creating flowers and cards in school in honor of Mother’s Day.

When asked how much she loves her Mommy, Rosie said, “A lot!”

We’ve been officially celebrating mothers for more than 100 years. It started in the early 20th century with Anna Jarvis who wanted to honor her mother. She started a campaign to make it a holiday.

“At that time, women were agitating for the right to vote and I believe President Wilson thought it would be easier to honor mothers and give them platitudes than to give them actual political power,” said Monmouth University Associate Professor of History Katherine Parkin.

Wilson declared Mother’s Day a holiday in 1914. Parkin says Jarvis wanted moms to be honored with simple hand-written letters and a single flower. But it quickly went beyond just one flower.

“She’s unhappy that first the floral retailers and then card-makers like Hallmark enter the scene and try to profit from the holiday,” Parkin said.

The candy-makers jump on board too.

“She’s eventually arrested for protesting a candy sellers convention and she really becomes quite unhappy and tries to get the holiday rescinded,” Parkin said.

Businesses owners like Comfort Zone’s Steve Mandeville are thrilled that didn’t happen.

“It’s not like money is no object this year,” he said.

The National Retail Federation‘s 2015 Mother’s Day Spending Survey indicates families are spending more then ever before on their moms — about $173 this year. That’s up nearly $10 from last year — the highest amount in survey history.

“I’m seeing people come out in droves, not quite frantically yet. That will probably happen today and tomorrow,” Mandeville said.

Professor Parkin says while flowers and other gifts are sweet, Mother’s Day is a time to shed light on the cost of raising children and the number of moms living in poverty.

“Surveys suggest the value of a mother’s work is about $65,000 this year — that really reflects the work they’re doing in raising children, doing the work in home and when they’re living trying to raise their children they’re doing so in incredible financial circumstances,” Parkin said.

“I definitely have a new respect for all moms,” Jen said.

“There’s no better feeling than having children, and being a mom and honoring my own mom,” said Kim.

To all of New Jersey’s moms, Happy Mother’s Day.