Flowers for Mom, a Tie for Dad: How Gender is Created on Mother’s and Father’s Day

Abstract

Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations were investigated to understand how gender is created on these two occasions. Fifty-three heterosexual couples were interviewed about family holidays. Mother’s Day was given more attention than Father’s Day. Families spent more time celebrating; they were more likely to eat out, and were more likely to celebrate with others. Mothers were also more likely to receive gifts than fathers. The gendering of the holidays was reflected in the more stereotypical gifts received on Mother’s and Father’s Day than on birthdays, and in that mothers were more likely to report relief from chores on Mother’s Day than fathers were on Father’s Day (< .01). Families in which women worked full-time and whose husbands contributed substantially to domestic labor were as likely to celebrate in gendered ways as traditional families were. These holidays reflect and promote hegemonic notions of the gendered nature of motherhood and fatherhood.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Although one might think that the parents of boys pursuing baseball might have more traditional gender ideas than average, and that parents of girls pursuing softball might have less traditional ideas, in fact there was no difference between the gender ideology of either of these groups and the parents who were recruited from schools.

  2. 2.

    Repeated measures analysis of variance was used to address that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as the respective birthdays, were celebrated within the same families.

  3. 3.

    Notably, the distribution of scores on the egalitarianism measure was highly skewed, such that most of the women in this sample agreed with egalitarian principles.

  4. 4.

    The word “traditional” here is just used to distinguish them from the “modern” families. Most of the women in these families work for pay. They are probably closer to what Arlie Hochschild [17] would call “transitional” families.

  5. 5.

    The lack of power makes it impossible to verify this point statistically.

  6. 6.

    Our sample is overwhelmingly white so we don’t presume to say anything about how Mother’s Day is celebrated or how motherhood is represented in communities of color.

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Acknowledgments

This research and the preparation of this article were partially supported by a grant from the Harap Fund. The authors wish to thank Joseph Cohen and Elizabeth Aries for their contributions to an earlier draft and to George Cobb for statistical assistance. The authors also wish to thank Dorothy Walline for her contributions as a research assistant.

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Correspondence to Nicole Gilbert Cote.

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Cote, N.G., Deutsch, F.M. Flowers for Mom, a Tie for Dad: How Gender is Created on Mother’s and Father’s Day. Gend. Issues 25, 215–228 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-008-9066-4

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Keywords

  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Motherhood
  • Fatherhood
  • Gender
  • Gender construction