A Worm Bin? For Me? You Shouldn't Have!

Mother's Day is now enjoying its annual splash of media attention - attention that is surely coveted by creators of lesser-known holidays in May, such as International Tuba Day (May 1), International Migratory Bird Day (the second Saturday in May), and No Dirty Dishes Day (May 18), a commemoration, that could pose a formidable threat to future observances of Mother's Day.  

As a mother of four, I freely admit the implied extortion of Mother's Day, but I'm happy to cash in anyway. This is because I gave birth to my kids in the late 1980s, when my friends and I were suckers for that barbaric scam known as natural childbirth. Earth-mother types convinced women in labor to be "in the moment" with our pain, a concept that I've yet to hear applied to root canal or hip replacement surgery. Based on my experiences, being "in the moment" with labor and childbirth pain makes waterboarding seem like a frolic through the sprinklers. (Where was Amnesty International when I needed them?) A Mother's Day gift is a small payback for all that needless affliction, and that's before even amortizing the value of two decades of carpooling, cooking, karate practice, and other caretaking. 

But in this season of eco-obsession, I face long odds on scoring any gift that will excite the gift-receptor gland. Frankly, I am aghast at what retailers are hawking this year. Today, if it's not sustainable, recycled, fair-trade, organic, or pulled from a compost pile, your family may not be able to find it. Mother's Day classics have gotten green makeovers: plush bathrobes are now organic hoodies from Patagonia; chocolates must have a fair-trade label, flowers must come from a local, organic garden, and diamonds -- assuming you can still afford them -- must be "conflict-free." (Note to family: I've never been conflicted about receiving diamonds and I'm not about to start now.) 

This year, the eco-conscious shopper must balance love for Mom against the paranoia about saving Mother Earth. I suspect that on May 10 a lot of moms will be surprised when they open their recycled gift boxes and discover "sustainable" jewelry made from other people's cast-off glass, bracelets made from recycled magazines; lead-free, cruelty-free lipsticks; post-consumer, tree-free paper journals made from banana byproducts; canvas totes with solar panels, designed for the mom who needs to charge her electronic gizmos on the go, and for the very forward-thinking gift-giver, a worm bin to encourage Mom's compost pile in the yard to keep on 'truckin. Let's just say that I would not want to be on the receiving end of a dinner made by a woman who was gifted with a worm bin on Mother's Day.

And because Mom probably has too much stuff anyway, I've seen suggestions to make a contribution in her name to the local diaper drive or "volunteering her" for a few hours of work at the local Code Pink headquarters. In comparison, I'll consider myself lucky if my family buys me a carbon offset or renewable energy credit.

I really like Mother Earth, and I am trying to be a good steward of it during my visit here. But I bet that even tree-hugging moms would prefer a Crayola portrait to a kitchen composter. Fine jewelry will sustain most women for years to come, and seems a fair trade for all the years they've devoted to motherhood.  In lean times, I can be happy with a heartfelt card, which I promise never to recycle. However, in case my family is reading this and plans to spring for a material gift anyway, remember: I already have a Dustbuster.     

Judy Gruen's latest book is The Women's Daily Irony Supplement.
Mother's Day is now enjoying its annual splash of media attention - attention that is surely coveted by creators of lesser-known holidays in May, such as International Tuba Day (May 1), International Migratory Bird Day (the second Saturday in May), and No Dirty Dishes Day (May 18), a commemoration, that could pose a formidable threat to future observances of Mother's Day.  

As a mother of four, I freely admit the implied extortion of Mother's Day, but I'm happy to cash in anyway. This is because I gave birth to my kids in the late 1980s, when my friends and I were suckers for that barbaric scam known as natural childbirth. Earth-mother types convinced women in labor to be "in the moment" with our pain, a concept that I've yet to hear applied to root canal or hip replacement surgery. Based on my experiences, being "in the moment" with labor and childbirth pain makes waterboarding seem like a frolic through the sprinklers. (Where was Amnesty International when I needed them?) A Mother's Day gift is a small payback for all that needless affliction, and that's before even amortizing the value of two decades of carpooling, cooking, karate practice, and other caretaking. 

But in this season of eco-obsession, I face long odds on scoring any gift that will excite the gift-receptor gland. Frankly, I am aghast at what retailers are hawking this year. Today, if it's not sustainable, recycled, fair-trade, organic, or pulled from a compost pile, your family may not be able to find it. Mother's Day classics have gotten green makeovers: plush bathrobes are now organic hoodies from Patagonia; chocolates must have a fair-trade label, flowers must come from a local, organic garden, and diamonds -- assuming you can still afford them -- must be "conflict-free." (Note to family: I've never been conflicted about receiving diamonds and I'm not about to start now.) 

This year, the eco-conscious shopper must balance love for Mom against the paranoia about saving Mother Earth. I suspect that on May 10 a lot of moms will be surprised when they open their recycled gift boxes and discover "sustainable" jewelry made from other people's cast-off glass, bracelets made from recycled magazines; lead-free, cruelty-free lipsticks; post-consumer, tree-free paper journals made from banana byproducts; canvas totes with solar panels, designed for the mom who needs to charge her electronic gizmos on the go, and for the very forward-thinking gift-giver, a worm bin to encourage Mom's compost pile in the yard to keep on 'truckin. Let's just say that I would not want to be on the receiving end of a dinner made by a woman who was gifted with a worm bin on Mother's Day.

And because Mom probably has too much stuff anyway, I've seen suggestions to make a contribution in her name to the local diaper drive or "volunteering her" for a few hours of work at the local Code Pink headquarters. In comparison, I'll consider myself lucky if my family buys me a carbon offset or renewable energy credit.

I really like Mother Earth, and I am trying to be a good steward of it during my visit here. But I bet that even tree-hugging moms would prefer a Crayola portrait to a kitchen composter. Fine jewelry will sustain most women for years to come, and seems a fair trade for all the years they've devoted to motherhood.  In lean times, I can be happy with a heartfelt card, which I promise never to recycle. However, in case my family is reading this and plans to spring for a material gift anyway, remember: I already have a Dustbuster.     

Judy Gruen's latest book is The Women's Daily Irony Supplement.