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When Mother’s Day Hurts

This Sunday it is Mother’s Day in North America. How wonderful to have a day in which to intentionally honor our mothers. It is a time to thank them for their hard work, dedication, sacrifice and all round amazingness. We want to tell them what a difference they have made in our lives and let them know how thankful we are for their love. This is right and good.

Many churches and Sunday Schools recognize Mother’s Day and there are so some beautiful ways to honor the mothers in our congregations.

But

Today I want to talk about the women in your congregation, for whom mother’s day can be really painful? Women who are

  • coping with the heartbreak of infertility
  • grieving a miscarriage
  • estranged from their children
  • struggling with shame because they couldn’t care for their children and had to give them up
  • caring for a terminally ill child
  • grieving the loss of a mother

I must admit I hadn’t really thought about this, until I read a post on the blog Messy Middle 

It is an open letter to pastors in which a “non-mom” speaks about Mother’s Day. It is a powerful post that really caused me to stop and think. Here is an excerpt

“A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful.  I’m not a mother, but I had never seen the day as hurtful. She had been married, had numerous miscarriages, divorced and was beyond child-bearing years. It was like salt in mostly healed wounds to go to church on that day. This made me sad, but I understood.

Fast-forward several years to Mother’s Day.  A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.

Last year a friend from the States happened to visit on Mother’s Day and again the pastor (a different one) asked all mothers to stand. As a mother, she stood and I whispered to her, “I can’t take it, I’m standing.” She knows I’m not a mother yet she understood my standing / lie.”

You can read the full post here

The blogger who writes Messy Middle feels that we can honor all women on Mothers Day and she has some really good ideas for doing that. I would strongly recommend that you read her post. My purpose today is to raise the issue and start a conversation. As congregations I think we need to ask two important questions

How can we honour mothers without alienating those who struggle?

How can we help all women feel welcome, appreciated, seen, and needed?

I also want to remind you that there are children in your congregation who might find Mother’s Day very difficult. Children who are

  • grieving the loss of a mother
  • in foster care
  • separated from their mothers as a result of divorce
  • do not have a close or loving relationship with their mother
  • abused or neglected by their mother

If you have planned to make Mother’s Day cards or gifts with the children this Sunday I would encourage you to be sensitive to those children who are struggling with this special day. I would suggest that you offer two activities, one for children who wish to make a card or gift for their mother and another for those who don’t. Be careful how you present the two options. Perhaps it would be better to present the second option as an activity for those who have already marked Mother’s Day and don’t need to make a gift at this time.

How does your congregation help all women feel welcome, appreciated, seen, and needed on Mother’s Day? Do you have anything special planned this Sunday? How do you look after the children that might find Mother’s Day difficult? Please join the conversation.

Sharon Harding

About Sharon Harding

I was born in England and immigrated to Canada almost 30 years ago. A graduate of Gloucestershire University (B.Ed.), I have been involved in children’s ministry since I was 16. Over the past 12 years I have written for a variety of Christian Education curriculum resources. I also write a blog at rediscoveredfamilies.com encouraging parents to build strong connections with their children. When I am not working I enjoy painting, reading, and pottering around the Internet.
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4 Responses to When Mother’s Day Hurts

  1. Dawn Leger

    A few years ago I was part of a church where a woman personally bought flowers for all the women in the church for Mothers’ Day. She gave me her flower and I continued into the church. Another woman came up to me and said, “What are you doing with one of those? You didn’t carry 40 lb. for 9 months and not sleep for two years.”

    Perhaps one reason Mothers’ Day is so painful is we never really talk about moms until Mothers’ Day, and then it’s flowers and joys of motherhood. What if we spoke more about the concerns and experiences that are in this blog post? Infertility and miscarriage is a taboo topic in our world, not to mention adults who feel called to live without children. I remember a Sunday when single people were prayed for in the prayers of the people, and the prayer wasn’t that we would get married, either. I was so moved and grateful.

    I think many churches have done a better thing by calling this Sunday Christian Family Sunday and using as an opportunity to shine light on the many faces of family. Personally, I like to stick to the readings of the day, perhaps with a special intention for mothers during the prayers of the people. Then leave people, in their homes, to honour their own mothers, or not.

  2. Sharon Harding

    Thanks for sharing Dawn. I agree that we need to be talking about all the experiences that women go through. Perhaps it would be helpful if those coming to terms with infertility and miscarriages were able to share from their experiences, although I imagine that would be very hard and sometimes the church is not a safe place. A young friend of mine is infertile and she recently wrote and produced a play exploring the issue of infertility. I was not able to see the performance, but read the script. It was a powerful piece and really helped me to understand better what she has gone through. She said that insensitive comments have followed her around most of her life.

     

  3. Relevant Magazine has another helpful post on the topic.

  4. Definitely agree with your post. The day should be enjoyed by both those with or without mothers, and those with or without children. My wife and mother to our daughter passed away last year, so this day is a weird one for me. I believe it’s a day (like father’s day and any day for that matter) to recognize and remember those we love and to cherish that… we shouldn’t single out one group over another. Here’s how amazing my wife was: http://www.vincentfung.ca/blog/archives/5277

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