Recently I shared this post on FB with the suggestion that every pastor who planned to give a Mother’s Day message this coming Sunday (5/12) resist the temptation and read this letter instead. I hated going to church on Mother’s Day. My reasons might have been valid: I didn’t think I could sit through another sermon about the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31) or resist being angry when the token woman for the year (usually the pastor’s wife) was invited to give the message. But, my reasons were not nearly as noble as those expressed in the link.
For 25 years I have had the pleasure of being called a mom. It’s a title I wouldn’t change for anything. I’ve been exceedingly lucky to mother five of the most incredible people in the world. They have entertained me, exasperated me, made me proud, and given me gray hairs. From their first kicks and somersaults right up to this day, they have shared their lives with me. And, I hope they keep sharing who they are and what they’re doing and where their latest amazing, crazy, adventures are taking them for as long as I have breath. THEY are not the reason I don’t like Mother’s Day. Like the post I linked explains many, many women have not experienced my good fortune.
In part I struggle with Mother’s Day because of some of their experiences. For example, I know a woman who had seven miscarriages before her first son was born. I know another woman who never conceived and whose husband reluctantly allowed her to adopt but took little interest himself in parenting. I know other women who have lost children to heartbreaking accidents or suicide and still others whose children have become lost in a drug culture determined to destroy them. I also know children (some of them adults now) whose mothers abandoned, neglected, or abused them. For these people Mother’s Day is not without its twinges of pain, regret, guilt, anger, and frustration. It’s a holiday they “get through”.
I suppose most every holiday is a time to “get through” for someone. Our failure as a culture to sincerely embrace family contributes to the anxiety with which many face those holidays that expect us to gather as families. I’ve spend more than a few tension filled Thanksgiving dinners or Easter mornings. Still, for me Mother’s Day is different. It invites self evaluation and critical reflection. After all, don’t we need to understand why we honor those we honor? When I look at my own mothering I see a lot of holes and often wonder how I got so lucky. From the outside looking in life can look pretty different but the truth is none of us is perfect and while we might know exactly the right method for child A, child B comes along and we get to start all over again.
I have bittersweet memories of my own mother and the bitter becomes magnified during the holidays. Because extra people in her home and special events increased her anxiety this already emotionally closed woman was even less approachable (for me) during the holidays. As much as I didn’t want to be like her in that, my anxiety increases with extra people and special events as well. So, Mother’s Day, with the added factor of the spot light being on me, is my least favorite holiday. I’d like to pretend it’s only for the noble reason of having compassion for others but in truth it’s quite selfish.
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Of course, if my own children (at least the ones who aren’t working before I need to sleep since I am working that night) don’t come over for brunch and to play games my nose will be completely out of joint (smile, wink, guilt).