Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mothers' Day Celebrations

I was taken by surprise on Sunday when all the mothers were invited to go to the front of church, with a special time of singing and prayer. My husband was overseas, we've recently adopted our fifth child, and I was just feeling quite weary. This was the first time I'd taken four children to church by myself, and to be honest, I thought about staying home. I felt quite emotional as our role was acknowledged and valued, and as people gave thanks for the input their own mothers had into their lives. Motherhood is not something which is often highly valued in today's society. Whilst I appreciate the value of the role, and in some respects (many respects when I stop to reflect) I find it immensely rewarding, there are days when it feels utterly exhausting, unseen, unvalued, painful (physically and emotionally), and thankless. I had felt a little that way on Sunday morning.

Most cultures have some kind of Mothers' Day celebration. (This Sunday was the American one, also celebrated in other countries including here). But in all my years as a mother, this was the first time the mothers in whatever church I have been a part of have been acknowledged. Every other year, the message has been a lot more apologetic, reminding us that this can be a very painful day for the childless, for the single and for the bereaved. Every other year, it has been emphasised that there are many women who take on a maternal role within society and within the church, even if they have not been able to do so biologically. Whilst these things are true, today I feel like being controversial and stating that I think Mothers' Day (in whatever country) is not necessarily the time for these messages, for the following reasons:

1) The role of motherhood is different. There is a lot of unseen exhaustion, at times frustration and at times pain and disappointment. Many of us have resolved never to moan about the blessings we have been given, but that does not mean that the temptation towards discouragement is not there. It is good to recognise this role.

2) All Christians will know seasons of discouragement, pain, bereavement and loss. It may not be our children, or it may. But like it says in Ecclesiastes, 'there is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice'. A mothers' day celebration, to my mind, is a time to rejoice!

3) Expanding on the point above, perhaps more personally, there was a time when I was in a church where there was a young woman who took many years to conceive. We all had to be so careful with any kind of celebration to do with children, and even being as sensitive as we could, we would often spend long periods in the ladies' room consoling her. Now that might be the right and kind thing to do at times. But to me, I almost felt guilty for having a child, and unable to publicly rejoice as I might have wished. And then when my first child died, I felt that his was something else that had been taken away. As a bereaved mother, I appreciated all the more the need to celebrate new life and to support and encourage those who are mothers.

4) How far does one take being politically correct and 'sensitive'? Can one never celebrate a marriage for fear of upsetting single people, or bringing pain to the widowed? Can one never celebrate new birth, without fear of excluding the childless? Can one never celebrate an achievement, for fear of marginalising those who feel they would never achieve such a thing? I think we must take care here.

For me, exhausted and a little discouraged, to be affirmed and encouraged in what I find the toughest role in my life, was a blessing!


  1. I appreciate what you said. I'd love to have a separate Sunday where, if a congregation wished, they could "mourn" with those who are mourning the losses of those who have suffered miscarriage and stillbirth and the deaths of their children. That is "mourning with those who mourn"... but it seems that we often lose the ability to "rejoice with those who rejoice" because our western society is one that has to validate every hurt, every pain, every wound, and that often takes the front and center role at mother's day.

    I, too, appreciate a simple celebration of what is celebrate-able. We all have mothers. We can all say "thank you for giving me life" no matter what sort of mother they were. Some of us can say a more specific thank you than that. Some of us miss our deceased mothers but can still be grateful for their influence. Regardless, it seems, we can all be thankful and learn to rejoice in moments like that rather than making sorrow and grief the focus on a day of celebration and honor.

    1. Thanks Jess - that is an interesting idea, having a separate Sunday to reflect on loss. I know that there are some special services arranged at times, and judging from my Facebook feed, there are certain days set aside to remember babies who have died. I think it is indeed a symptom of society that everybody feels they need to be validated all the time, and as a result nobody can ever really celebrate - without ever wanting to be insensitive, it would be marvellous if we could reclaim some of that and really be able to rejoice with one another.