I still find it hard to believe that I’m not a mother. As I move deeper into my forties I am forced more often to face the biological realities but for the most part I’ve just lived with an expectation that (husband &) children would be part of my world.
And then comes Mother’s Day.
In many ways it’s a day that represents the hopes and dreams that are deep in my heart and the grief that those are unrealised. There’s a wistfulness; a longing that is undeniably present. Envy and jealousy rear their heads. I wish for the hand drawn cards, the dodgy school stall gifts, the crumbs in the bed from a delivered breakfast. And even more than that, just the day to pause and whisper in my heart “I am a mother” and celebrate all that it would mean for me to be that.
The reality of Mother’s Day is that it’s a hard day for many. Those grieving the loss of their own mothers – to death or broken relationship, struggling with infertility, facing difficult family dynamics, processing illness (etc) often approach Mother’s Day with fear, anxiety or an overwhelming desire to hide away and avoid.
But here’s the decision I’ve made and make again this weekend. I WILL celebrate Mother’s Day.
Of course, I will celebrate my Mother (who I am abundantly grateful for) but I will also celebrate my friends who are mothers. Because I love them and I love that they have produced mini-thems and I want to champion them in this infinitely important role. I will help lead our church in honouring our mums and encourage them with the full resource of the church to keep Mum-ing well. This Sunday, we will cheer for all the women in our church who “mother” us – with their love and care, their modelling of Christian womanhood, their role in the lives of women and girls (& guys alike) needing the investment and wisdom they offer.
I know some will disagree with me but I don’t think we ought to care for our non-mothers or those grieving in our midst by not celebrating those who are mothers. I believe the idea that we might not acknowledge mothers in deference to those who are wounded and hurting isn’t what family (in its broadest sense) is meant to look like.
Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. Rom 12:15
Do we not celebrate someone who graduated from university because not everyone has? Do we not high five someone who ran a marathon because not everyone has? Do we not congratulate someone on their 90th birthday because not everyone lives to celebrate theirs? No. That would be crazy. Families are full of people with a diverse range of experiences – both positive and negative – and one of the things that makes us family is our ability to journey the breadth of those experiences with one another. Where we carry one another in our grief and difficulty and we multiply joy by celebrating one another’s successes and wins.
Our tendency toward comparison and the associated emotional processing means that a day like Mother’s Day can make us feel more of the grief and heart-sickness of longing and loss – but our reality is actually unchanged from this Sunday to the next. In reality I am just as likely to feel the pang of jealousy watching a mum with her child at a cafe this afternoon as I am to feel it while the mothers stand to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day at church.
I don’t mean to diminish the significance of the day – I just dearly hope to bring some perspective that might free us to more genuinely celebrate others as we ought.
So, let’s celebrate our mums this weekend because they are worth celebrating. Let’s be sensitive to those who will struggle with this day (hot tip – don’t assume anything – ask lots of questions to help you best connect with someone for whom Mother’s Day may – or may not – be difficult. Let them direct you.) Let’s see this day as one of many in the life and journey of our family – where everyone gets a turn to be celebrated and those who need the extra love and support find that amongst us too.