Learning to Be Okay With (and Maybe Love) Mother’s Day
“I hate Mother’s Day.”
I did not say this, but I have heard it uttered (both online and in person) frequently throughout the years. And the list of LDS members who utter it is very, very long:
- Married women who suffer from infertility
- Single women
- Single mothers
- Women who birthed babies who were then adopted by others
- Women whose mothers have died
- Women whose mothers were abusive
- Mothers who never feel they will ever add up to what has been dubbed as the perfect mother in many a Sacrament Meeting talk
- Fathers who suffer from infertility and hate to see their wives feel pain
- Single fathers
- Men whose mothers have died
- Men whose mothers were abusive
- Fathers who see their wives suffering when they feel they will never add up to what has been dubbed as the perfect mother in many a Sacrament Meeting talk.
Their reasons for disliking (or hating) the holiday of Mother’s Day can be justified. Just as a person who has lost love does not look forward to Valentine’s Day, it is logical that those finding themselves in what they would describe as a motherless situation would not look forward to a holiday that honors mothers.
I had a miscarriage right before Mother’s Day, once. I’ve heard the sermons preached about mothers who always got things right and felt my soul squirm because I had yelled at all the kids out the door that very morning. I have heard about the pain my friend experienced when (after 10 years of infertility and many miscarriages) her married/mothered friend was offended that my friend wasn’t happy about receiving the obligatory plant after Sacrament Meeting. I know how much my dear friend misses her mother who was taken early from all of them due to cancer. I’ve spoken with a friend who has felt the immense pain of realizing she will probably never be a mother (perhaps never married, either) in this life. The pain is not pretend. It is real. And palpable.
The innate desire to be mothers runs deep in our religion. In fact, if we were to take a long look at our theology, we would realize that motherhood and fatherhood are the highest goals we desire: eternal marriage, eternal families, eternal increase. The goal: to be Gods and Goddesses, Mothers/Fathers, Wives/Husbands for eternity. We are taught in the Proclamation, the scriptures, general Conference, and even in the temple that this is our goal. Is it any wonder, then, that when people do not reach that ideal (the goal) that they will feel pain?
So, what is our obligation when Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) approaches and people feel pain (that turns to bitterness that turns to hatred…)?
The answer is to love them, but not to change what we’ve been taught in order to justify their pain.
Middle-aged Mormon man wrote a great post about this very subject recently. In his essay (which was written in response to those people who specifically hate Mother’s Day), he said:
How does this apply to Mother’s Day?
a) It is an opportunity to teach truth to the congregation. Full blast, unmodulated. Preach the profound glory that is Motherhood – even though not everyone wants to hear it.
b) It is also an opportunity to minister to the individual. If you are assigned to visit teach a sister who had been struggling for years to bear children, and has been unable … (p)erhaps this would be a good week to visit her and tell her “I know this is a hard time for you, but I want you to know that I love you, and God loves you. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.”
When it comes to preaching to a congregation, it is simply impossible to anticipate every single offense or prick of conscience. The duty of leaders in the Church are to teach the ideal. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin stated:
“…(W)e cannot apologize for the truth. We cannot deny doctrine given to us by the Lord Himself. On this principle we cannot compromise.” (General Conference, April 2008)
But he also said:
“I know that each of you bears a concern for a loved one. Give encouragement, service, and support to them. Love them. Be kind to them.”
So, what does this mean for those who hate Mother’s Day? I have only one simple suggestion: Honor and celebrate the good of motherhood, whatever that may mean for you. If you do not have children, please honor your own mother. If she has passed on, honor her memory. If she was a horrible person, you can at least be grateful she gave you life. If you are a mother, don’t assume you have to be a perfect mother (Who is?!) Be grateful your body gave you children. If you adopted, honor the mother who birthed your children, and realize what a blessing you are as a mother. And, if, in the worst case scenario, you hated your mother, you hate your children, or you hate everything about motherhood, at least try to honor your Heavenly Mother who gave your spirit life. Honor Eve, our first mother, who chose mortality. Honor Mary, the mother of our Savior, who personified sacrifice.
And then remember that Jesus Christ will make all things right again. Remember that His Atonement covers everything, including the special, private, excruciating pain all mothers and those-who-desire-to-mother endure.
Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be filled with bitterness and hatred. It really can be a day of honoring the holy calling of motherhood, even amidst our own personal pain.