Celebrating the mothers among us


Let’s consider — on this Mother’s Day — the numbers of our mothers.

There are, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, 85.4 million mothers in the United States, which represents 54 percent of women ages 15 to 44.

Of those, an estimated 37.8 million mothers have children younger than 18 years old living with them. According to the latest figures from Living Arrangements of Children, 94 percent of these moms live with their biological children; another 3 percent live with stepchildren; 2 percent live with adopted children; and, 1 percent live with foster children.

The women of Utah have more babies than anywhere else in the country, on average two births per mother. Women in Vermont have the fewest, with an average of 1.7 births per mom.

In 2009, 4.13 million children were born in this country, with the average age of their mothers at 25.1 years. Of the babies born that year, 409,840 were born to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, and 7,934 were born to mothers between 45 and 54 years old.

In 1976, 90 percent of women between 40 and 44 years old had given birth but, by 2008, the number dropped to 82 percent in that age group having given birth.

In 1970, 3.4 million children under 18 were living with single moms; in 2010, that number had risen to 9.9 million children. Among single moms, an estimated 5.7 million women were due child support in 2008.

There were 32.6 twins per 1,000 births in 2008, the highest rate on record. That year, there were 6,268 triplet and higher number multiple births, which was the lowest number in the past decade.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the most common month to give birth in 2008 was July; the most common day was a Tuesday. Of the children born that year, 40 percent were mom’s first baby; 18,986 babies born that year were mom’s eighth child.

Last year, 5 million moms were stay-at-home moms, a drop from previous years. Of those staying home, moms tended to be younger than 35 years old and raising preschool-age children.

An estimated 61 percent of new mothers in the current work force keep the nation’s 777,817 child care centers and their 1.6 million workers busy. And, in the days leading up to this Mother’s Day, 18,509 flower shops and their 89,741 employees were cranking out and delivering floral arrangements.

Anna Jarvis is credited with pushing Congress to declare the second Sunday each May as Mother’s Day, but mothers and mothering celebrations have been around as long as there have been mothers. There are motherhood celebrations across the world 11 months of every year, from Norway’s nod to moms in February to the December observance in Indonesia, with 24 other celebrations in between.

In 1870, dismayed by the mayhem of the Civil War and then the Franco-Prussian War that resulted in the deaths of too many husbands and sons, American activist and poet Julia Ward Howe wrote her “Mother’s Day Proclamation.”

It wasn’t an ode to mothers, but a desperate call to them to invest their energy in teaching charity, mercy and patience to their sons, so these boys-turned-men would not raise arms against sons in other countries, sparing mothers the torment of losing a child.

In her proclamation, Howe called for a world congress of women to meet, “in the name of womanhood and humanity,” to discuss an amicable solution “whereby the great human family can live in peace.”

That congress never met, but Howe continued her work to promote the women’s movement, including founding the Association of American Women, and leading a number of women’s groups and suffrage associations throughout New England.

Her message of the power, importance and responsibility of mothers resonates today.

Our mothers — the good, the great, the absent, the indifferent and those who are just plain bad — shape us.

We need them. And, today, we celebrate them.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.