One of my favorite mother’s day stories is found in the children’s book Blue Hill Meadows by Cynthia Rylant. In this story, a little boy agonizes about finding the perfect mother’s day present for his mom. I love this story because I think Rylant captures the feelings of love and longing we can experience at the same time. It’s the best story in the whole book.
Many women approach mother’s day with some uneasiness, too. Along with all the pictures of mothers on social media, stories of mothers that make us smile, and expressions of thankfulness, there are posts of sadness, warnings about insensitivity, and expressions of cynicism.
Why uneasy? There are actually a bunch of reasons that can be true.
- Mother’s day is mixed with sadness when one’s mother has passed away. A day to honor mothers reminds us of our loss.
- Some women are uneasy because thoughts of their own mothers bring pain. It’s hard to honor a mother who was cruel, absent, or indifferent to her children.
- Unmarried women or women struggling with infertility may be uneasy because their hearts’ desire is for children.
- Sometimes women who have children are uneasy because they are not confident in their own motherhood. Perhaps a woman has children who are not kind or caring, or who want little to do with their mother, no matter how much she desires a close relationship.
- Even women who have loving mothers, and have their own children can look on mother’s day with discomfort. Not all children are even aware of the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Some sacrifices go completely unnoticed for years.
- Women can have expectations that go unmet: It’s mother’s day, and nobody is even willing to make me a cup of coffee? Or It’s mother’s day, people. Forget the cards. Maybe for one day you all can pick up after yourselves? [I can assure my readers that I have only heard of such attitudes, of course. Ehem.]
- Women with young children can have expectations of their husbands to wrangle the children together long enough to help them honor their mother. If the husband is unaware or busy, he might face a very grouchy wife who wants a little more than a couple cards picked at random from the corner drug store.
- Finally, some women are kind and empathetic, and feel uneasy because they love their friends who are struggling with brokenness, singleness or infertility.
Should we stop celebrating, at least publicly? Should we stop acknowledging mothers in our church services? I think not. The desire to honor one’s mother is a good one, and I’m happy for an opportunity for people to do so. Yes, we should honor our mothers through the whole year, but a day set aside to say thank you is also good. We can and should be both kind and also public in our praise of mothers. Motherhood can be challenging, and in the days when we need the most encouragement, we instead find the greatest criticism. We desire recognition for our hard work, even as we wonder whether we are doing enough or have made the right choices.
But we can still feel grouchy, even while we enjoy the celebration. What then? Perhaps our grouchiness is a mixture of grief and selfishness, of longing for the day when everything broken is made perfect. How do you get rid of the selfishness, and how does God soothe the grief? How do we sift mother’s day for the good and redemptive parts?
- First, expressing thanks is always appropriate. If not your mother, then thank someone who loves sacrificially. In everything give thanks. Thank the Lord for your children, even if they are not yet aware of your sacrifices on their behalf. Thank the Lord for the faithful mothers around you. If you are not a mother, consider the people God has placed in your life to serve and care for. This is one way that God makes every barren woman fruitful.
- Second, distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. I love the story of Moses, who felt so inadequate to accomplish the job God gave him. God kept reminding him that he made Moses, and all Moses needed to do was obey. Even the outcome was in God’s hands. These principles bring tremendous comfort to me. I often feel inadequate as a mother, just like Moses felt inadequate; yet God has called me to be my children’s mother, and no other. I don’t have to perform; I must simply follow God. I will always fall short as a mother, and that’s not necessarily sin. On the other hand, if there are areas that I’ve been neglecting as a mother, then I should repent and do otherwise!
- Third, if you are introspective, remind yourself that many people aren’t conflicted about mother’s day. Be kind to everyone, and be merciful to people whose grouchiness might hide hurt and grief. At the same time, don’t squash the sparkly optimists around you with cynicism.
- Fourth, and finally, whenever life is unsatisfying, we must turn to reality, to the God who satisfies every longing.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me. Isaiah 49:14-16
What are your thoughts on mother’s day? Have you any ideas to balance sensitivity and celebration?