Thank your mother.

It’s nearing the second Sunday in May, also known as Mother’s Day.  And here is yet another reflection on a blog telling you yet another person’s take on this unfortunately controversial day that is a source of pain for many.

Celebrating Mother’s Day may be easy and fun for you. Great! You are fortunate.  This post is probably not for you, but you might learn something from it.

Celebrating Mother’s Day may be difficult and painful for you. To say it is a hard day may be an understatement. You may not want to do it at all because it brings up all the struggles in your life, but I hope you do it anyway.  Not in a “Hallmark, spend lots of money and get balloons” type of way, but in a “observe, reflect, and simply thank your mom” type of way.

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I have felt very sad and yes, even jealous readings reflections about how a particular blogger (although there are many!) was “so proud” to be standing at church and recognized on her first mother’s day.  I remember desperately wanting to have God fulfill this desire for motherhood that I was struggling with being unfulfilled.  I was desperate for the day when I could stand, not to be “in the club” or get attention, but because that would mean I had a child that I was mothering!  And that would mean God had permitted my motherhood.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so pitied and marginalized as a sub-fertile as when I read reflections about how we should just get rid of Mother’s Day as a whole.  Of course the writers mean well, but it really feels like the ultimate pity party, like “If I can’t have fun, then no one should be able to!”

Its not a perfect analogy, but to me this is akin to the idea that we should just stop admiring doctors because not everyone can go to medical school and get the degree to properly diagnose or treat people.  Or stop honoring firefighters because not everyone can maintain the appropriate physical requirements necessary to do the job.  Or stop having weddings because some people can’t find a partner or others are called to the priesthood.  Or stop with the birthdays because some all people pass away.

We should just not have any celebrations if not every person can be a part of all of them.

As a society we hold up positions that we honor.  For the most part, Western society still recognizes that every person born has a mother and a father who in some way, shape, or form sacrificed greatly when we were all little and helpless, so we should take the time to honor them and thank them if we don’t do so on a regular basis.  I think we make mothers stand at church not to isolate those who aren’t standing, but to let their children see that “Hey, this person who you really, really detest sometimes because they are always telling you what to do and ruining your fun is actually a person that we ALL honor, so you should to.”  Before a child is old enough to “celebrate” in any real way, usually the father does something nice to acknowledge the mom and vice versa on Father’s day (But not always! This is unfortunate).  This should also be the case for those who have lost children, whether through miscarriage, still birth or death.  I think I’m quoting an insightful blogger here when I say that if we didn’t have such a day as Mother’s or Father’s Day, then we should have definitely invented it by now.

I’ve heard of a few women this week who are in the midst of infertility who go so far as to host a Mother’s Day brunch at their house.  This is the stuff martyrs and saints are made of.  I could never go that far when I was hurting.  One year we said goodbye to my grandma as she passed on Mother’s Day.  That made it very easy to focus on thanking and appreciating my own mom, as she was so clearly hurting.  The next year I took the day very literally, I called my mom, said “Happy Mother’s Day” and thanked her*.  I avoided everyone else.

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*The great part about moms is usually they understand when you don’t even do this. When you can’t do this.  I just want to be clear that I understand on a very deep level the inability to be able to partake in Mother’s Day in a specific moment, just like I understand the inability to partake in baby showers at a specific instance.  And I think we could all use a little more compassion towards people hurting.  But this doesn’t mean to misplace compassion and throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak (which is a horrible analogy, by the way, because really, we would never be so silly as to do that. We’d all grab the baby and run the opposite direction).  Misplaced compassion would be to say that we as a society should just not have baby showers.  We have them to celebrate the new life and provide communal support to someone who is about to have a major life transition.

Take the good, leave the bad, and understand when people need time to grieve. 

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The ironic part in my own story is that on my first mother’s day, I barely even knew it was mother’s day because I was so consumed with my baby.  And my church didn’t do the whole “stand up and get blessed” thing.  And it didn’t even matter at all.

An obvious part that is missing from current Mother’s Day celebrations (for the most part), especially in Church, is praying for those who are grieving on Mother’s Day.  Whether those who are trying to be mothers, those mothers who have lost children, and those who have lost mothers.  I can’t for the life of me understand why it wouldn’t be a given to include during the prayers said at mass or any church service, but I understand the oversight, will give the priest the benefit of the doubt, and I have emailed them to remind them that maybe it would be a good idea to include that petition.

If we honor the vocation of motherhood, we should obviously also pray for those trying to fulfill it.  Everyday, and including Mother’s Day. That’s just a no-brainer.  I encourage you to share that prayer intention with your pastor as well, its not too late!

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9 thoughts on “Thank your mother.

  1. I think it was about three years ago that my husband and I skipped town (and our mothers) to celebrate a childless weekend of fine food, whiskey bars, and still Mass where they handed out a flower to every woman but still had the mothers stand up. I’m glad we did it and it was our right to as every year before that and since we spent that Sunday with our mothers.

    Everyone needs a break once and while and the childless need more than everyone else. I disagree with your admonition that you encourage women like me to celebrate Mother’s Day. Decent people honor their mothers every day and I don’t need this particular day to do it effectively. And besides, just getting pregnant and giving birth doesn’t automatically make you worthy of respect and honor. My mother is taking more hurtful actions against me every day. Frankly, we’re going out to brunch with her out of obligation, not sincere desire.

    Mother’s Day is like most holidays in that it was invented in modern times and pushed mercilessly by flower shops, card peddlers, etc. And the day is culture specific. Russians celebrate a Woman’s Day (embracing all femininity.)

    You may have missed it but a couple years ago (maybe it was last) a few bloggers worked on a letter to our pastors asking them not reflect on childlessness and have compassion for the infertile by not asking just women who parent a child in their home to stand up for a special blessing. It’s offensive. Why? Because my sincere desire and work to become a mother should count. Just because we can’t get pregnant it shouldn’t be a humiliating experience in church to leave couples like us out of the crowd.

    I understand your heart is in the right place. I appreciate you still reflecting on infertility even now that you’re a mother. However, we are all different and I hope everyone sub/infertile spend Mother’s Day in whatever way she believes is good. We are all smart, faithful, thoughtful women in the infertile blogosphere. I trust us to make good decisions.

    • I apologize that this post read like an admonishment. I was really trying to avoid that, but rather just speak to the importance of obligation and as a society to appreciate motherhood, even if in particular instances you don’t “feel” it, which you seem to indicate you understood from your plan to take your mom out. Either way, I’m not entirely sure you read my entire post as I agree with you on almost all of your points. I do hope your Mother’s Day was tolerable and if nothing else, a distant memory, until next year of course.

  2. I like this reflection. I think it articulates many important thoughts on this day. I think your analogy on weddings and being single works – at least for me. I still went to weddings as a single woman. It might have been killing me inside, and I might have had to take a break, and I might have occasionally RSVPed “no” to a particular wedding or bridal shower, but I would never, on principle, ask that a celebration of marriage be toned down for my sake. Yes, how pitied I would feel then! I also appreciated Rebecca’s reflection that Mother’s Day was not invented by Hallmark. It was invented by a real woman wanting to honor her real mother. Motherhood is a vocation worth honoring. I also love the idea of including prayers for those grieving or struggling on Mother’s Day (as well as much reflection on Mary as we can… because we all have a perfect mother in her). Thanks for putting your thoughts out there!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly about honoring those women who are grieving. Absolutely!
    Beautiful post!

    • Thanks! And the good news is although I didn’t get a email response, those prayers were included in our prayers of the faithful on Mother’s Day.

  4. Agreed. As a woman whose mother has been dead for 20 years, who has experienced miscarriage, sub-fertility, and now has babies here to hold, this day is so….awkward. It’s bittersweet, to say the least. I have to put on a happy face and celebrate with my daughter who is not old enough to understand any of this yet. But I always take some time to grieve the baby we lost and my mother.

    I was so proud that my priest made a comment to the effect of blessing “all of us” on Mother’s Day: those who are joyfully celebrating with their babies, those who desperately wish for motherhood, those who greive for mothers or lost babies, and those who are mourning the loss of a relationship with their mothers. It was beautiful and spot on.

    • I imagine the more categories you fit into, the more confusing the holiday is. My husband could tell something was off with me on Mother’s Day and we had a good long talk about how while I appreciate the special gestures he made, it is likely that Mother’s Day will always be a little weird for me, with a little more than ‘normal’ baggage. But I’ve never been one to say “hey look at me! celebrate me!” (which is why the title of this is, thank your mother!) so birthdays are pretty much just as awkward. At least we were able to spend time with my mother in law on that Sunday.

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