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In Praise of Multitasking Mothers

Updated: May 10, 2021

Mother's Day is a celebration of our mothers, motherhood, and the maternal bonds that form us from conception really. We have Anna Maria Jarvis to thank for this particular occasion. Jarvis founded the day in remembrance of her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis. The senior Jarvis had been an activist of sorts who organized Mothers' Day work clubs to improve sanitation and fight against high infant mortality.

Black and white image of Anna Jarvis, founder of Mothers' Day
Anna Maria Jarvis (Image Wikipedia/Olairian)

Later on in her life, Anna Jarvis came to regret the commercialization of Mothers' Day. Indeed, in pre-Covid times at least, Mothers' Day is the busiest time for restaurants, not to mention flowers, cards, and chocolates, of which Jarvis took a very dim view.

Myself, when my late mother was alive, I tried to come up with a Mother's Day gift that was different from the customary fare. Since Mom had a green thumb (she could make a pebble sprout leaves), I sometimes got her an interesting plant like a rare cactus, or a unique Bonsai Tree. Another idea was to come up with a gadget she did not have, which was tough, because she was a master of gadgets. She didn't just find them in the craziest of stores or catalogs, she made some of them herself.

As detailed in a previous blog, while my three brothers and I spent our summer vacations in the US, we grew up in Ghana on the University of Ghana (UG) campus, where my mother and father were lecturers in Sociology/Social Work and African Studies/Journalism respectively. My father was ultra busy juggling multiple work-related projects, while my mother balanced work and home life much more effectively. I'm sure that's often the case in many households. As kids, we took Mom's efficiency for granted. As adults, we look back in admiration at her deft time management. My mother brought up four boys while working full time as a lecturer, and did it all with grace and equanimity. I could be misremembering slightly, but somehow she always showed up on time to pick us up from school or sports (Dad was a different matter altogether.)

Mom was an amateur Thespian and a superb cook and baker--anything from okro (okra) stew to chicken paprika to the only carrot cake I ever eat. She held large dinner parties and somehow made it look all so easy. The art of entertaining is to appear unflustered while chaos reigns in the kitchen.

The collapse of political and economic systems in Ghana as well as my father's death from pancreatic cancer are the major factors that brought my mother back to the US along with her four boys at different points. As I was getting admitted to Howard University College of Medicine, my mother was making her own transition to working as a social worker with the City of New York. Always adaptable and very smart.

Mom had a great and full life, which came to a peaceful end on June 15, 2020. Covid-19 never got to her, by the way. Her female immune system probably indignantly kicked out the virus, who, I can assure you, is male.

Kwei Quartey and his mother at a park
Mom & Me, June 2019, Maryland

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