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.
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.
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.
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.
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.