According to Wikipedia the origins of the day are said to be a way to “promote peace by means of honoring mothers who had lost or were at risk of losing their sons to war.” Women are the peacemakers and who better to promote peace than a grieving mother who has buried her soldier son. It’s easy to see how a fierce passion for peace could rapidly become sentimentalized into all of our warm fuzzy notions of motherhood. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” (Isaiah 49:15a)
What image should I choose for my Mother’s Day post? Should it be a picture of a serene new mother with an infant at her breast? Or a young mother watching her small children play on a playground? Or perhaps a middle-aged woman caring for her aging mother?
Hallmark would have me believe that Mother’s Day is all pink and hearts and flowers and it seems that everyone I encounter wishes me a happy Mother’s Day. But why? My wife is a mother but her children were grown before we met. I have no children of my own (although I do have a maternal streak). So it seems I’m wished a happy Mother’s Day for no other reason than that I’m a middle-aged woman. It has nothing to do with being a mother or even having a mother.
Those of us who are not mothers still celebrate the day in honor of our mothers but nevertheless it isn’t always a day of joy. A dear friend is currently grieving the recent loss of her mother while mine has been gone for over 30 years. Her childhood was a good one and her relationship with her mother was close. Not so for me. My relationship with my mother was tumultuous to say the least, most would use the word abusive. It was also very limited – she left when I was nine, we reconnected when I was 21 and she died when I was 24. My paternal grandmother raised us in between but she, too, died over 30 years ago (they died only weeks apart). Mother’s Day is not always a day of happiness and joy. It’s not always a day to celebrate the maternal bond.
It can be a difficult day for many. A day of sadness and sorrow. It can be painful for those who are grieving the loss of the most special person in their lives as well as for those who grieve the loss of something that never was. Let us remember today those who have lost their mothers, and the mothers who have lost their children. Let us remember the old woman who by choice or circumstance never bore or raised a child, and the unwed pregnant teenage girl whose life will never be the same. Let us not forget the children who have yearned during every waking minute for the Hallmark mother, the June Cleaver, the Clair Huxtable, or better yet, simply the mom who will love them, care for them and support them no matter what.
And for those who feel themselves most blessed today, whether because you have your mothers with you, because you have your children with you, because you have the most joyous memories of times with your mother, I encourage you not to take today for granted. Cherish this day because you cherish your mother, cherish your children, cherish those who have been mothers to you and those to whom you have been a mother. And I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Days.