The Paris Review

Nietzsche Wishes You an Ambivalent Mother’s Day

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy Baby, 1910.

The cultural institution of Mother’s Day began with a single massive flower delivery. In 1908, Anna Jarvis, widely regarded as the founder of the holiday, delivered five hundred white carnations to Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where her mother had taught Sunday school for decades.

It was the start of a century-long Mother’s Day tradition: give solid-white carnations in honor of the memory of the deceased; give solid-red and solid-pink ones to the moms who still live among us. For a single day, the life of a mother is supposed to be easy. She can take a break and bask in the admiration of her absolute purity, unmitigated faithfulness, unbridled charity, and total love. But perhaps this form of celebration is too easy; perhaps it masks the true difficulties and precariousness of a woman bearing and raising children. In

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