Reconsidering Mother’s Day

I’ve had a conflicted relationship with Mother’s Day since 1989. Before then, it was the day I made my mom a card and bought her some plants for the garden. It was a good day. Church, lunch, time with family.

My family adopted me as an infant, and I grew up thankful for my family, thankful for parents who wanted to give me a home, thankful for a woman I had never met who chose to give me life. And so I thought about my birth mother on Mother’s Day too, wishing I could thank her for the gift of my life.

But back to Mother’s Day 1989.

At that point I was 8 and a half months pregnant with my first child, finishing final exams for my sophomore year of college, and preparing to place my son for adoption.

I’m the pregnant one in the middle.

Needless to say, it was a tough day.

I was about to give birth, but not become a mother.

I was not going to be raising my son, so as far as everyone in the world was concerned, I wasn’t really a mother. He was going to have another mother, another family. I was going to go through life without him by my side. I wasn’t going to have his car seat in my car. I wasn’t going to make him a birthday cake and throw him a party. People were going to meet me and not be able to tell by looking at me that I had given birth to a son.

Luckily I went to a caring church. They had mothers stand up to be recognized on that day. And they told me to stand up too.

So that day, even before I gave birth, became a conflicted day for me.

My son was born six weeks later.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

June 1989

We went through with the adoption. It was beautiful. It was painful. It felt right. I met his parents and knew, knew without a doubt, we were doing the right thing. When I met them for the first time, I felt I had known them forever. As hard as it was to give him away, I had no hesitation. They were his parents.

I am, perhaps, the most blessed birth mother in the entire world. I’ve had a relationship with Eric his entire life. His parents have generously welcomed both Baby Daddy and me into his life. I haven’t seen him as often as I would have liked because we have never lived in the same state, but every time I have seen him has been blessing beyond blessing. This year I went to his wedding and welcomed his wonderful bride, Ashley, into our large, lovely, complicated family.

FullSizeRender 24

Baby Daddy and I with the bride and groom

And as the years have gone by, I have gotten married, I’ve given birth to two more wonderful sons who also get to know Eric. Being their mother is a gift and a joy. It has been my joy to go to soccer games, to proofread their first drafts of papers, to make a late night run to the store for printer cartridges so homework can be printed, to sit down at dinner with them, to watch Peaky Blinders with them, and on and on. Because I get so few normal, routine, every-day-kind-of-days with Eric, I do my best to appreciate those days with my other sons.

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November 2015

Each year Mother’s Day has continued to be a day of contradictions.

Almost 3 years ago, I received my original birth certificate and have tracked down my birth mother. She initially chose not to meet me, but we exchanged some correspondence, and I am very grateful for everything I know now that I did not know growing up. A few years ago, for the first time in 47 years, I was able to send her a Mother’s Day card. I didn’t know what it meant to her, but I knew what it meant to me.

And then, this year, my birth mother agreed to meet me, and while I don’t know what will happen down the road, I know I can send her a Mother’s Day card this year and it will be received with a smile.

Because of my experiences, I’ve become more sensitive to other women for whom Mother’s Day is painful.

For women who would give anything to overcome their battles with infertility so they can become mothers.

For women who would be mothers if they had partners with whom to raise them.

For women whose children have died.

For women who have never become mothers in the first place, by choice. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, we live in a world where women are rewarded and validated for being mothers. People assume that non mothers just haven’t become mothers yet.

I have become more sensitive to women with difficult relationships with their own mothers or with their children.

For women whose mothers have died.

And so, in any church where I am leading worship, I do what I can to make sure that Mother’s Day is a safe space for women like me. Worship should not be a place where people feel excluded, feel less than, or feel unsafe.

If you are a pastor, I ask you to consider NOT celebrating Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day, for that matter) in worship. Have a reception in the fellowship hall. Lift up the complicated lives of women in the pastoral prayer. Remember Mother’s Day is not a liturgical holiday.

(If you are looking for a good prayer to use in worship that encompasses the joy and pain of this day, I’d recommend my friend Ashley-Anne Masters prayer.)

As Mother’s Day is rolling around, remember the women like the younger me, the ones who want to hide under a rock so they can avoid the well meaning people who only see celebration on a day of contradictions.

I am thankful for so much in my life, and on Mother’s Day, I will be grateful for the three boys who made me a mother, for my birth mother who gave me life, for my mom who has stood by me throughout life, for the woman who is Eric’s mom, and for all of the women who have accompanied me along the way.

These words from Rainier Maria Rilke sum up how I’m feeling about Mother’s Day as I approach it this year.

“She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
Of her life, and weaves them gratefully
Into a single cloth –
It’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
And clears it for a different celebration. ”

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15 thoughts on “Reconsidering Mother’s Day

  1. What a powerful statement. Even though I am a male, I have always been uncomfortable during the worship service on Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) for the reasons you have so beautifully explained in your article. You have put into words what I am certain so many people, male and female, have felt on this Hallmark Holiday. Thanks so much for sharing your perceptions and truth.

  2. Thank you for your words. As a childless woman who is also an adult orphan I am always aware of the folks who are not “the norm” on these days because I recognize the awkwardness and pain of these Hallmark holidays for many people. We do honor all women on Mother’s Day (and all men on Father’s Day) because every adult in the congregation has the opportunity to be a parental figure to our children and youth. I have NEVER preached a “Mother’s/Father’s Day” sermon and don’t expect to ever do so. I do lift up in prayer women and men who are parents, have to be both mother and father, have lost children to stillbirth or death, are unable to be the parents they might wish to be, or are separated from their children by circumstances they cannot always control. It;s not a perfect solution, but I like to at least think that it offers some understanding of the conflicted feelings these holidays breed.

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  4. So very true. I grew up in a church where Mothers Day was a high holy day. The annual “mother/daughter banquet” was the most exclusive event all year. Any woman could come because we were all “daughters”, but it was clear that unless you were a mother you were sub standard. They even sang hymns about mothers! It was awful. I have worked in other churches that were just as bad, and have seen many women terribly hurt by church celebrations of this “holiday”. I loved my mother, and many other women, and it is certainly ok to honor them, but just giving birth to a child does not make one a saint, or a role model or a woman above all others. Thanks for your thoughts on this issue!

  5. Thank you as a future pastor, as a woman who has miscarried, and as a woman who hopes to eventually adopt. I tend to remember it is a day that can be rough, but have noticed I only think about it being rough for people like myself. Thank you for the reminder there are even more ways out there. This entry brought me tears of all kinds.

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  8. I understand the sentiment and encourage the same in our church. However, what about recognizing the work and effort it takes to be a mother (or father, for that matter)? I want to be inclusive, but this purposefully leaves out the women who are proud to be mothers- stay-at-home, single, working, etc. There has to be a way to recognize the dedication and hard work of these moms without excluding others. Even if you were to celebrate “family day” rather than Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day, you run into the same issues. I struggle with this every year because I feel that someone is always marginalized no matter how it’s addressed. I’d love any suggestions! 🙂

    • Great questions. Why do you feel the church needs to recognize the dedication of parents in worship? How do you see that as a part of worship?

      I’m not suggesting we don’t celebrate any thing because someone might be hurting. We still celebrate baptisms of infants even though some people can’t be parents. But lifting up a secular holiday in the service of worship is not proclaiming the gospel.
      Have a reception in the fellowship hall. Or invite mothers to a different event.

      • Good suggestions, Marci. How about encouraging/reminnding families the week prior to MD to honor, acnowledge and appreciate the women/mothers in their lives themselves? Doesn’t Proverbs 31 say that “her children and husband bless her?” It doesn’t mention the corporate church doing it. I want mothers validated and honored for their selfless sacrifices, just think it should originate in the home as Proverbs mentions.

  9. This will be the first Mother’s Day in 69 years that I will be able to say that I know what my birth mother looks like. Thanks to my daughter Beth, I was able to make contact with some biological relatives. Though my birth mother died this past December, I was sent a few photos of her and some medical information that has proven to be helpful. So now I have the wonderful feeling of being blessed by two mothers, one vi birth and the other via adoption.

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