Good, Bad, and Ugly Mother’s Day

By May 10, 2013My Thoughts

I’ve seen a lot of posts going around on social media about Mother’s Day and why it is either a painful or wonderful day for many people. As a pastor, I cringe every year as Mother’s Day comes around. Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be very tricky days, very emotionally charged days, and days that make people feel sad, lonely, or rehash painful memories. At the same time, wonderful memories can be made on these days, joyful experiences can be had, and heart wounds healed. Celebrating parenthood is a mixed bag that brings mixed reactions out of people, so I wanted to share with you what I see as the good, the bad, and the ugly of Mother’s Day. If nothing else, maybe these thoughts will cause you to pause and consider how you celebrate, if you celebrate, and how those celebrations might be seen by others.

Like those “I’ve got good news and bad news” jokes, I prefer to start with the bad.

The Bad

1. Not everyone has good memories of their moms. Seeing others post photos of mom and kids together with big smiles on their faces, or hearing reminiscences of happy times with mom can make them feel angry, bitter, and sad that they do not have the same happy memories. Some do not have these memories because of a painful relationship with their mother. Others do not have these happy memories because mom was not involved in their lives. Positive experiences of motherhood should be celebrated, but not everyone has those positive memories.

2. Not everyone who wants to have children has an easy time becoming a parent. Some people who want to get married and have children are single, even though they want a relationship. Infertility affects a staggering number of people, and it can make a person feel empty, broken, and lifeless. Celebrating motherhood may be one more reminder for these people of a void they feel in their own lives. We have to be careful that our celebration does not come at the expense of others who desperately want to become parents, but have not been able to for whatever reason.

3. Many people have lost their moms, and Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of that every year. When I was a kid, I remember hearing my dad talk about how much Mother’s Day made him miss his mom every year. I will never forget that, and it is always on my mind when I think about celebrating Mother’s Day.

The Good

1. As a mother, I find that Mother’s Day gives me the opportunity to see in a tangible way how I am raising my kids. Sometimes kids will say or do something for their moms on Mother’s Day that is like holding up a mirror and showing mom what the child sees in mom’s heart and life. As an example, I got a  little book my son made in kindergarten that is called “All About Mom.” He wrote about what I look like, what I can do, what I enjoy. It gave me the opportunity to think about  the lessons I’m teaching him, and the memories he will be left with when I am gone.

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Mom can go to the store. Mom can go to the post office. Mom can go to the restaurant. Mom can think hard, really, really hard.

Evidently, his kindergarten view is that a mom can go places, and moms can think really hard about things. I’m OK with that perception!

2. We should celebrate people who do important things in our lives. We should do so all the time, and we shouldn’t need a special day to remind us to show love and gratitude to those who invest in us. But, when a special day rolls around, sometimes it reminds us to be more intentional about saying “Thank you” and “I love you” to the people we care about. Even though we shouldn’t need a reminder, sometimes we do. Mother’s Day gives us a reminder to say thanks to the women who have invested in our lives – even those who are not our biological mothers, but have stood in the gap as important women who have nurtured us into the people we are today.

3. It is wonderful to be appreciated. Being a mom can be an exhausting and thankless job. Sometimes that means making a meal for your child even when you are so sick or tired you can hardly stand on your own two feet. It might mean being awake all night as your child is sick and needs someone to comfort him or her. It means going without a haircut so your child can get one when finances are tight. Being a mom might mean eating dinner once it is cold because your nursing child was hungry. Sometimes it can feel like everyone takes from you and never gives back. Hearing “Thank you” and “I love you” can be very encouraging and life-giving for a hard-working mom to hear.

The Ugly

1. I saw a display of candy bars at the grocery store today (pictured above). The wrappers were colorful with intricate designs. The words “Love you Mom,”  written in a scripty font, jumped out at me. The ugly side of days like Mother’s Day is that it can become tempting for us to turn gratitude and love for important people in our lives into thoughtless impulse shopping. My first thought when I saw that display of candy was, “Because nothing says ‘I love you’ like letting the wrapper say it for me.” What’s important isn’t that you bought something for Mother’s Day, it is that you let the special person in your life know you care. When we allow the commercialization of the day to win out, it’s like we think we can put a price tag on showing love to others.

2. Mother’s Day can bring out our “keep up with the Joneses” competitive streak. It can turn into a competition of whose kid got the most expensive gift, or whose spouse went to the most elaborate lengths to celebrate the day. It can become an originality war where we try to come up with the most creative, most cutesy, most interesting ways to celebrate the day that all of our friends are left thinking, “Wow, I wish I was as creative/thoughtful/loved as that person!” The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” can be so true. Rather than comparing what we get to what others receive, we have to work hard to treasure what we’ve got.

I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty for celebrating. Celebration and gratitude are wonderful things, and moms need to hear they are appreciated from time to time. We just need to make sure that as we celebrate, we keep in mind that many people do not. Our celebrations need to expand beyond our traditional views of motherhood as we celebrate all women who have poured into the lives of children, whether their own children or other people’s kids. For children of single fathers, Mother’s Day may even be a day to celebrate all that Dad has done as he works tirelessly to provide for his kids and to give his kids as much love and care as he can.

No matter what Mother’s Day means to you, I hope you will find some time to show your gratitude to someone who helped you become the person you are today – not just on Mother’s Day, but often.

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Melissa

    Can I add one more reason Mother’s Day can be hard for people, especially for women? Miscarriage. Stillbirth. Abortion. I’ve been pregnant eight times, only got to keep two babies to mother. The rest I miss all the time. I have friends whose only pregnancies ended in miscarriage. Who are they on Mother’s Day? Their arms are empty. Other people don’t recognize them as mothers, and perhaps they don’t know how to think of themselves, either.

    But all that said…Mother’s Day is important. It’s not all that it should be, and no one day can ever be enough. But being a mom, having a mom…those are special things. Worth celebrating. Even if we never do it perfectly.

    • Melissa, thank you so much for adding that. I have heard many people talk about the pain of losing a child when Mother’s Day rolls around, and I didn’t mean to omit that from my post. I am very sorry for your losses 🙁 I also agree with you that celebration is important.

      I remember when I was 7 days overdue with our first child, someone said to my husband, “Don’t worry, you’ll be a father eventually. Next Father’s Day you can celebrate.” What is that?! Someone said something similar to me that Mother’s Day, like somehow my pregnancy didn’t count. Very painful 🙁 We celebrate the best we can, but sometimes we need to be reminded if we’re hurting people in the process.

  • Carol Bogerd

    HI April. Well written and thoughtful article. I admit Mothers Day is somewhat painful for me; how far away all my family is and the guilt of enjoying my mother – inlaw’s company more then my own mother as well as all the energy attempt I’ve made to have a better relationship with my own mother. Plus, of course the inability I have with not being able to have a child of my own; and the guilt I’ve laid on myself because of Eric and our family’s desire to have kids/grandkids.
    Thank you April for your words.

    • Thank you for reading, Carol! Big hugs to you this Mother’s Day. You take care of many people in your life, and I celebrate the way you show love to others!

  • Ali

    Another thing…not sure if it’s bad or ugly…is how churches tend to make the entire service about being a mom. I think it’s great to celebrate and recognize moms. But when the entire service centers around moms, and the sermon is about being a mom, it is irrelevant to at least 50% of the people there. As a non-mother, Mother’s Day isn’t painful to me, but I do avoid church because I’ve sat through too many non-applicable sermons about being a mother or supporting my family.

    And to me, this points to a larger issue that sweeps across many churches: to be a woman is to be a mom. Often, to be a woman is to be a stay-at-home mom, based on the time women’s ministry events usually take place. While men’s ministry focuses on being a man, with some elements of fatherhood mixed in, women’s ministry seems to imply that being a woman is defined by being a mother. And THAT can be painful, not because I wish I were a mother (I don’t), but because I feel like there’s no place for me. And like the older i get, the less of a place there is for me. (Perhaps until I get to the age where most of my peers’ kids have moved out.)

    • I totally agree with that. I remember attending a church service on Mother’s Day before I was a mom. The entire service was about moms. My husband had lost his mom that past year, and I was not a mom. It was so exclusive that over half of the people were being excluded. In my church, we only “do” Mother’s Day by including a thanksgiving for mothers as part of our congregational prayer. It is too painful or exclusive to do it at any other time. Being a woman is so much more than being a mom. For me, I feel like my life has been enhanced by having children, but certainly someone without children (whether by choice or due to infertility) is not any less of a woman or any less of a Christian. In fact, Scripture occasionally even blesses childless women, which was unheard of in the time period! We’re all different with different life paths. We can celebrate one without demeaning others. Thanks for commenting!

      **Editing to add: sometimes I think the problem is that churches forget that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are NOT religious holidays. They are societal holidays, and they do not deserve the same treatment during worship as Christmas and Easter. 🙂