If you haven’t been paying attention to your calendar, reminder emails, or non-stop television advertisements, let me be the first to tell you that Mother’s Day is on Sunday. This is also, as it happens, the worst holiday of the year. Why?
1) It Can Be Super Cruel
Mother’s Day was never a big deal in our house growing up. We usually just celebrated it by thanking mom for giving birth to us and raising us. But some time ago a friend of mine told me that at her church, a family had bought flowers to give to mothers as they walked out of services. This is a lovely idea to honor the wonderful work that mothers do. But it can be incredibly difficult for women, like my friend, who have just miscarried a child and are distraught about it. Given how commonplace infertility is, and how uncomfortably painful it is to endure, it’s almost a guarantee that some rah-rah-motherhood fest will hurt women we love.
Churches seem to be the primary location for this well-intentioned humiliation. Pastor Michael Schuermann says that “attending church on this particular Sunday is often an exercise in frustration, woe, even great shame brought on by the absence of longed-for children.” He has some advice for pastors:
Remember that a part of your flock have received from the Lord the blessed vocation of motherhood, whether their children are biological or adopted. In the prayers of the church rejoice with them, give thanks to God for them, and ask God to help them raise up these gifts from Him faithfully.
But remember too that many in your flock – whom you may or may not be aware of – have not received the gift of children from God. And they may be longing for that gift. Please be sensitive to them.
2) And Not Just For The Infertile
I absolutely love being a mother and am blessed to have the world’s best mom. But I also have friends who were abandoned by their mothers at a young age. Or who, due to struggles with drugs or alcohol, lost custody of their children. Or maybe they feel tremendous guilt over the abortion they had. I have friends with adult children from whom they’re estranged and friends whose adult children have died. And I have friends who don’t even know if they’re fertile or not because they’ve never found a suitable partner for childbearing. For them, this can be a 24-hour reminder of perceived or real failure.
3) It’s Mostly Celebrated By Ungrateful Amateurs
In the same way that only the most poorly trained people are out boozing it up on New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, much of Mother’s Day is about the people who know the least about the holiday’s meaning being its most exuberant practitioners. By this I mean that it’s mostly celebrated by people who do a bad job of showing appreciation to their mums the previous 364 days out of the year.
I tell my kids this sappy thing that I actually mean: Every day is Mother’s Day for me. I thank God daily that I have been blessed with wonderful children. And they show me love and appreciation every day (No, they’re not teenagers yet. Why do you ask?). And my own mother knows that I love her more than anything because I call her all the time and keep her involved in my life. And I tell her regularly.
But we all know folks who are frenzied the week before Mother’s Day, worried about disappointing their mother if they don’t get a huge bouquet or perfect gift. I used to think it was kind of weird that the mothers put that much pressure on their kids. Then I realized that this whole dynamic was frequently because the mothers genuinely felt under-appreciated and their children knew they’d kind of been ungrateful.
Frankly, I think it’s something of a cop out to give your long-suffering mother a flower arrangement as if that makes up for not calling her throughout the year. And yes, of course I’d probably be wanting these things if I felt my husband and children weren’t genuinely appreciative of what I do.
I know, I know, I’m over-thinking this holiday. And you’re going to go take your mother to brunch and your children are going to make you an awesome breakfast in bed. And that’s cool. Mothers can always use more appreciation. Let’s just remember to appreciate our mothers the rest of the year, too, and to encourage our children to love and respect their parents come January. But also, let’s keep in mind that for many women, this is not a day of celebration. Or, at the very least, it’s a day tinged with some sadness, too.