This is a slightly updated version of an earlier post on Mother’s Day – back when I thought it should be spelt ‘Mothers’ Day’. I’ve changed my mind, so here’s the new version, complete with a swan pic
Mother’s Day: a day for great ambivalence.
I’m not from a big Mother’s-Day-celebrating family, and neither is my husband, so I don’t have strong feelings about it personally.
It’s a lovely idea, to celebrate mothers. Bearing and raising children is hard flippin’ work and despite all our hard work on politeness training, thank yous are not always showered over mamas (not as often as bodily secretions of one sort or another).
I am all for celebrating and thanking – though I hope we don’t need a national consumer frenzy to prompt it – so bring on the flowers and chocolates and breakfasts in bed. But perhaps all of those things need to be done at home. Particularly the last one.
When you bring Mother’s Day into the public square, I suspect you add very little to the feelings of happy mothers and you risk heaping pain on the many people who feel left out, belittled, unappreciated or worse. Women who want children but don’t have them. Anyone who has lost a mother or was not mothered well. Men. I won’t carry on listing the different situations people who find Mother’s Day difficult are in, but trust me, there are lots of variations. The common theme is a dread of going to church on Mother’s Day.
This is worst in the States, I gather, where Mother’s Day is apparently the Sunday with the third biggest church turnout! In New Zealand it’s not such a public occasion for the general population, but it certainly is in many churches.
One wise woman has written this thoughtful reflection, particularly for use in churches, on ‘The Wide Spectrum of Mothering.’ Thanks to Stephanie for pointing it out.
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.
Amy, who wrote that, also has a 10 tips for pastors resource that’s worth a look, coming from an American perspective.
For many New Zealand churches, including the one I used to pastor, Mother’s Day is a golden opportunity to make deeper connections with families in the community, and a great chance to offer some celebration to mums who wouldn’t get much otherwise. Before I started there, West began holding an annual community brunch instead of a normal church service, held in the school hall across the road, with lots of school families attending. Many of them are one-parent households, and one year I had the honour of seeing a single mum get her first ever Mother’s Day gift as her daughters came back from the craft activity church folks had run for the kids.
So here I am offering lots of questions and no answers. My inclination is to keep Mother’s Day – if you want to celebrate it at all – in the home and the family unit, and not make a big deal of it in public. Churches will all have different congregations and different approaches, but a community-facing celebration seems better to me than an in-house one. The pain of those who suffer on Mother’s Day may be less if it’s in aid of making our local communities more like heaven for everyone in them.
I’m keen to hear your (very sensitively expressed) thoughts on all of this.
After all that seriousness, it’s time for my favourite Mother’s Day YouTube clip, thanks, I think, to Jenny, for first posting it a couple of years ago on Facebook. Thank you, Adam Cole, you kind and clever son, you.
Update: The founder of Mother’s Day in the United States was adamant that it should be a private celebration – and that the apostrophe should therefore be for a singular! See all the deets here: Mother’s Day Dilemma Solved by Grammar!
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