I wrote a blog last year about how painful Mother’s Day is for those who are not moms. (You can find it here.) I’m talking about women who never found Mr. Right, who may be single again, or who have struggled with infertility, miscarriage and loss. For these women, Mother’s Day is the equivalent of picking at an old wound–one that may be mostly healed, but gets reopened on this day.
There will be some women who won’t go to church Sunday, who will stay at home, away from the people who either won’t know what to say or who say the wrong thing. (“It will happen to you someday!” Please don’t say this to anyone who is single or childless even when you have the best of intentions.)
Mothers should be celebrated by their families. Women sacrifice sleep, personal goals, health, free time and their sanity when they become mothers. As a result, they are sleep deprived, with flabby tummies, overscheduled lives and the occasionally need to lock themselves in the bathroom to get “alone time.”
MOMS DESERVE A DAY. Actually they deserve a week, but let’s face it, could society function for a week with all the moms gone? I don’t think so.
So we get one day. I’m hoping your day includes a fantastic meal you don’t have to cook (or clean up, for that matter) and then strict instructions to take a nap or watching something fluffy and mindless.
Moms at least deserve this.
But when it comes to Mother’s Day and the church, I’m not a fan. I’m referring to mothers being publicly recognized or given “special gifts” in the church service (if we can call a wilted pink carnation “special.”)
First, Mother’s Day is not a religious holiday. It is a secular holiday. It doesn’t recognize God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. It’s a day to celebrate humans. I’m not sure how the church got this confused. My guess is that because of all the visitors at church on Mother’s Day, someone thought the church should recognize the reason behind the attendance surge. They were right: Mother’s Day is the 3rd highest attended church service of the year behind Easter and Christmas. But that doesn’t mean it should be a church holiday. It never was–only tradition has made it so.
Second, by recognizing mothers, we create fresh hurt for those who are not moms. If there ever should be a place where people feel safe and loved, it should be the church. If there ever should be a place that doesn’t create more hurt, it should be the church, even if the church hasn’t always been very good at this.
I waited for eight years before I became a mom. Eight LONG years. I’ve been a mom for nine. Even though I’ve been a mom longer than I haven’t been one, I remember how brutal Mother’s Day was before our daughter was born. I could not wait to sprint out of the worship service and get to my car. Worst of all, I had no one, other than my husband, to share my hurt. (Sam is possibly the most patient and understanding man regarding this issue. He deserves a 1970’s-style gigantic trophy.) Even worse, I can’t remember a single person ever acknowledging this pain, so I suffered in silence. Since then, I’ve learned there are countless women who struggle on Mother’s Day. Afraid to voice their pain, they avoid church and their community of support. The church simply isn’t a safe place for them on a day that aggravates old wounds.
You’d think that after going through infertility and child loss, I would be an advocate for recognizing moms in church, but I’ve realized something important about Mother’s Day:
I don’t need recognition from the church for being a mom. That kind of recognition doesn’t really make me a better mother, nor does it validate my job as mom.
The kind of support I need from the church comes from groups that actually help mothers–small groups, Bible studies, and programs like MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), as well as mentoring and marriage programs that support couples (the foundational relationship for helping women in their role as mother). Plus an occasional Parents Night Out does wonders for couples who don’t have grandparents around to babysit. When we can give mothers the tools and support they need, then we uphold mothers in powerful ways, much better than giving them a pink carnation or having them stand for applause one day a year.
Rather than recognizing moms on Mother’s Day, let us find ways to help all women, not just moms. Let’s support those who are struggling through infertility, singleness, and grief. Let’s connect women in mentoring relationships that help women find a support system for their pain. Let’s look for ways we can help those women who are single again, moms who parent alone, and families who are in crisis.
Let’s circle around other women and find ways to be a sisterhood that supports, rather than hurts, each other.
Mothers should be celebrated, but I think we get it wrong when we do it within the church. Instead, let’s celebrate mothers within the context in which they work and thrive to make life better: within their families.