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MAY 2005

The Glory of Mother’s Day
By Matilda Raffa Cuomo

It was springtime in ancient Greece when the “Mother of the Gods,” Rhea, was first celebrated. In the 17th century “Mothering Sunday” was started in England on the 4th Sunday of Lent (before Easter). Servants were given the day off to return home and enjoy a “Mothering Cake” which they prepared for the celebration of their mothers. In England, the holiday later changed to “Mother Church” Day, honoring the church as spiritual mother, as well as their own mothers.

In 1872, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” organized “Mother’s Day” meetings in the United States for the first time in Boston. In 1907, in Philadelphia, Ann Jarvis stated a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a national holiday. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in our country. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday to be celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May. We should be grateful to all the visionary people who gave us the opportunity to remember and respect motherhood, one of society’s most vital and endearing institutions.

I can still remember the joy I experienced when one of the my five children—my daughter Maria—was born on Mother’s Day, and I was presented with a pink carnation in the hospital. A family support system enables a new mother to transition easily into a new lifestyle. All mothers recall the deprivation of sleep with a newborn baby. From the beginning, parenting is a selfless giving for the child’s well being. In many cases, out of necessity, many mothers must balance their home life with working outside the home. At best, this is not easy and both parents have to compromise and plan a strategy for the sake of the children.

As every mother knows, parenting can also be an arduous experience as well as a rewarding one. That’s especially true for young women who become mothers at a time when they have neither the material advantages nor mature judgment or experience to deal with the multiple needs of infants and young children. In addition, too many women are confronted with terrible situations and relationships beyond their control.

Unfortunately, too many mothers do not receive a Hallmark card and flowers on Mother’s Day. HELP U.S.A. has instituted fifteen transitional and prominent housing facilities for the homeless in NY State including “HELP Haven” and “HELP Harbor” that offer all sorts of support services and protections for struggling mothers who are victims of domestic violence; an ugly and frighteningly common syndrome that threatens both mothers and their children. Statistics tell us that, annually, 65 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Many of these victims are educated, professional women from all walks of life—no longer the stereotype of only lower class women being afflicted.

Necola Eason, the “HELP Harbor” Site Director of Client Services, informed me that at present there are 100 women and 181 children at “HELP Haven” and “HELP Harbor,” combined. The crisis center “HELP Haven,” a Tier I facility, deals with emergency situations and stability whereas “HELP Harbor,” a Tier II transitional facility, deals with mental health, family dynamics—a longer relationship for struggling mothers to get housing and develop a work ethic for themselves to support their children.

What is the meaning of Mother’s Day for these survivors of domestic violence? Necola Eason interviews two survivor mothers, the following are their responses.

Ms. Cooper, living at HELP Haven, is a 35-year-old woman and has a four-year-old child. Unlike last year, which was sad and scary, this Mother’s Day will be special because she and her son are safe and she will “count her blessings.” As a mother and survivor she has changed her attitude and developed a closer relationship with her son. Her advice on Mother’s Day is, “Focus on your child and yourself and everything else is secondary.”

This year Ms. Rose, from HELP Harbor, a 43-year-old single mother with a fifteen-year-old daughter will be spending Mother’s Day together as they always do. This year she demonstrated patience and perseverance to meet the educational and health needs of her daughter. Both she and her daughter have asthma and diabetes. According to Ms. Rose, being a survivor of domestic violence has made her stronger and she tells her daughter, “Don’t settle for less, because you are worth it.” Ms. Rose describes Mother’s Day as “truly a blessing.”

We remember all our mothers on Mother’s Day — we love them and thank them for their unconditional love for us — we respect and appreciate their wisdom even more as we grow older and we miss them. #

Former NYS First Lady Matilda Cuomo is Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA.



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