Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Best Ever Mother's Day Gift

I suck at buying gifts.  I’ll sit there wringing my hands for weeks before any gift-giving holiday or birthday, fretting about what the hell I’m going to get for someone. 

This becomes particularly acute on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Since they’re both gift-giving holidays, I know that I want to get my parents something – but what to get is always an epic challenge.  I don’t want to get something as meaningful as what I’d get them for Christmas or their birthdays, since I like to reserve the big gifts for special occasions, but I don’t want them to go giftless either.

Thus the quandary: how to say “thank you for being an awesome parent” without getting something generic and lame?  In the same way that I hate – hate! – the idea that every woman wants and loves candy, stuffed teddy bears, and red roses on Valentine’s Day, I can barely stomach the idea of buying perfume for Mother’s Day or neckties for Father’s Day.

My Mom has plenty of perfume, and my Dad needs another tie like politician needs a scandal.

So, imagine my relief when last year around Mother’s Day I read this column by Nick Kristof.  Kristof is one of my favorite New York Times op-ed columnists, and and he along with his wife wrote the book Half the Sky -- which is one of the most astounding, educating, and infuriating books I’ve ever read.

In his column last year, Kristof wrote about a program called the Mothers' Day Movement.  The Mothers' Day Movement collects and matches donations in honor of Mother's Day, then gives the proceeds to a grassroots organization benefiting women and children.  The movement is designed to breathe life into Kristof’s call to action from last year’s column:

“It’s time to move the apostrophe so that it becomes not just Mother’s Day, honoring a single mother, but Mothers’ Day, an occasion to try and help mothers around the globe as well.”

As soon as I read about the Mothers' Day Movement, I knew: this is the right thing.  This is something my Mom will appreciate more than perfume.  This is something she’d be thrilled to be part of.

So, Hubs and I decided to make donations in honor of both our amazing moms – and they couldn’t have been happier about it.

We've made donations in their honor again this year.  I’m particularly excited about this year’s selected charity, Saving Mothers, because it directly addresses one of the issues I feel so deeply passionate about: reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in developing countries.

When I was studying in Israel, one of the most eye-opening courses I took was a class on the political economy of the Middle East.  It sounds heinously, painfully, “stab out your own eyes with your pen” boring, but it turned out to be amazing.  I learned an incredible amount about the importance of women’s roles in economic development – and, by extension, the many issues surrounding inadequate family planning and maternal care services.

The fact is, more than half a million women die each year in childbirth.  That’s about one every 90 seconds.  Think about that: in the time it took me to write and edit this post, 15 women died while either trying to give birth or while in recovery after delivering their baby.   

What's worse is that almost all of those deaths would have been entirely preventable with access to proper obstetric and post-natal care. (A series of Washington Post articles from 2008 does a fantastic – and heart-wrenching – job of illustrating just how perilous pregnancy and childbirth are for many women in the developing world.)

Given this year’s charity of choice for the Mothers' Day Movement, I’m extra excited to make my donation.  Unlike flowers (which will probably set off my mom’s allergies) or chocolate (which will definitely set off her allergies), I know she’ll be thrilled with this gift.

All moms deserve a shot at the safe delivery of a healthy baby – and there’s no doubt that both my mom and my mother-in-law will be honored to help make that happen.

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