In Search of a Better Mother’s Day


11 May 2013 by thaliakr

This is a slightly updated version of an earlier post on Mother’s Day – back when I thought it should be spelt ‘Mothers’ Day’. I’ve changed my mind, so here’s the new version, complete with a swan pic :)


Mother’s Day: a day for great ambivalence.

I’m not from a big Mother’s-Day-celebrating family, and neither is my husband, so I don’t have strong feelings about it personally.

It’s a lovely idea, to celebrate mothers. Bearing and raising children is hard flippin’ work and despite all our hard work on politeness training, thank yous are not always showered over mamas (not as often as bodily secretions of one sort or another).

I am all for celebrating and thanking – though I hope we don’t need a national consumer frenzy to prompt it – so bring on the flowers and chocolates and breakfasts in bed. But perhaps all of those things need to be done at home. Particularly the last one.

In search of a better mother's day - ideas for celebrating without hurting |

When you bring Mother’s Day into the public square, I suspect you add very little to the feelings of happy mothers and you risk heaping pain on the many people who feel left out, belittled, unappreciated or worse. Women who want children but don’t have them. Anyone who has lost a mother or was not mothered well. Men. I won’t carry on listing the different situations people who find Mother’s Day difficult are in, but trust me, there are lots of variations. The common theme is a dread of going to church on Mother’s Day.

This is worst in the States, I gather, where Mother’s Day is apparently the Sunday with the third biggest church turnout! In New Zealand it’s not such a public occasion for the general population, but it certainly is in many churches.

One wise woman has written this thoughtful reflection, particularly for use in churches, on ‘The Wide Spectrum of Mothering.’ Thanks to Stephanie for pointing it out.

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Amy, who wrote that, also has a 10 tips for pastors resource that’s worth a look, coming from an American perspective.

For many New Zealand churches, including the one I used to pastor, Mother’s Day is a golden opportunity to make deeper connections with families in the community, and a great chance to offer some celebration to mums who wouldn’t get much otherwise. Before I started there, West began holding an annual community brunch instead of a normal church service, held in the school hall across the road, with lots of school families attending. Many of them are one-parent households, and one year I had the honour of seeing a single mum get her first ever Mother’s Day gift as her daughters came back from the craft activity church folks had run for the kids.

So here I am offering lots of questions and no answers. My inclination is to keep Mother’s Day – if you want to celebrate it at all – in the home and the family unit, and not make a big deal of it in public. Churches will all have different congregations and different approaches, but a community-facing celebration seems better to me than an in-house one. The pain of those who suffer on Mother’s Day may be less if it’s in aid of making our local communities more like heaven for everyone in them.

I’m keen to hear your (very sensitively expressed) thoughts on all of this.

After all that seriousness, it’s time for my favourite Mother’s Day YouTube clip, thanks, I think, to Jenny, for first posting it a couple of years ago on Facebook. Thank you, Adam Cole, you kind and clever son, you.

Update: The founder of Mother’s Day in the United States was adamant that it should be a private celebration – and that the apostrophe should therefore be for a singular! See all the deets here: Mother’s Day Dilemma Solved by Grammar!

And for more thoughtful links and resources, do feel free to link up with us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

I also have a Pinterest Board called A Better Mother’s Day


25 thoughts on “In Search of a Better Mother’s Day

  1. Irene Elisabeth Hitchcock says:

    The list in the white box has to be the kindest and most comprehensive appreciation of what it means: ‘Mother’. I thank you!

  2. sunnyjmin says:

    I’m so glad to see people acknowledging those who lost their moms. Thanks for adding to the voices who remind me I’m not alone.


  3. Miriam J. says:

    That is an outstanding song!

  4. Andrew says:

    it’s a minefield of a time. i’d tend to agree that it is a holiday best celebrated strongly by those (at home) who want to, and avoid the eggshells of how / if to mark it in church.

    i heard an interesting piece on the issues etc podcast (american lutheran guys) this week that paralleled a lot in the list by amy.
    the words of counsel by the pastor who spoke:
    “my encouragement would be, if at all possible, to limit your Mother’s Day references in the service to the prayers. Keep your whole flock focused on Jesus and His forgiveness present there for them today. But in the prayers do indeed pray, praise, and give thanks for the mothers, mothers-to-be, and all those who desire motherhood but have not or will not receive that gift from God.”

  5. Irene Elisabeth Hitchcock says:

    Not one for abandon Mothers’ Day – abandon the pressure from those overbearing, overpowering greedy retail leeches. I do this with all holidays: re-invent:
    1) What does this holiday stand for?
    2) What does this holiday mean to our family?
    3) How do we want to make it ours and celebrate it as individuals and a family? Do we want it at all?
    4) Ditch the retailers all the time! Life is a lot more relaxing and happy, if you actually think about how to celebrate = What is fun doing together? Not how much.. How big a present…
    5) I leave the presents for Birthdays.

  6. Jody Kilpatrick says:

    Speaking as a pastor and a mother and someone who doesn’t just live with my immediate family: nightmare. I would like to be thanked and appreciated by those I mother but the social cost of mothers day, and the exclusion and pain, is just not worth it.

    • Brenda says:

      Interesting. Speaking as a pastor and a mother (but not the third!) I agree, difficult indeed, but I see it as a challenge to figure out how to move through it well. We had a disaster yesterday (someone else taking the service I hasten to add!) and I can see the pain of it all. But as I see it, the cultural phenomenon is dishing that pain already, so I see church as a space to possibly offer a little healing and kindness, and a breadth of reflection on the whole question of ‘mothering.’ I see church as a space to share our stories of vulnerability and loss as well as joys and thanksgiving…the whole catastrophe of life. So I stay with it and try to build good ritual around it. Here’s a nice link I just saw today… Although, at the moment, part of the challenge is how to not make mothers feel guilty for being appreciated, and how to honour them, when they are aware of the pain their very existence causes in others…

      • Jody says:

        Good point Brenda, as always. You’re right that if there’s one place that should be able to hold the joy and pain of it in one space, it’s a gathering of God’s people… It’s hard when the thing some people are devastated about is the thing others are ecstatic about. Like praying for fine weather for holiday makers in front of farmers…?!

        • Brenda says:

          Ha, yes. Maybe what we should really be looking to abandon is intercessory prayer. Only half joking. xx

        • Angela says:

          In response to Jody’s concerns – may I suggest that this is happening in church every week in every service, in perhaps a slightly less direct way. The woman who longs to be a Mother lives with that devastation every week, and every time we celebrate the blessings of God in the lives of others she feels it again. My church has a real culture of celebration – a good thing no doubt – and it is one of the things that keeps me away. When good things happen to us it is God blessing us because He loves us. This is nice until the good things don’t happen and then it leads to some pretty problematic conclusions.

          • Jody says:

            Yeah Angela that is so true. Various places perhaps work more or less at acknowledging the full spectrum of experiences each week and letting things just be what they are (rather than ascribing blessing, etc)… but I definitely see the truth of this.

  7. […] may recall I wasn’t sure where the apostrophe should really go. Is it a day to celebrate one mother or […]

  8. I never, never tire of that song (and yet, sadly, I seem to forget about it every Mother’s Day)!! Thanks for reminding me again TKR!

  9. Daina says:

    Ha ha that video clip is gold!

  10. Angela says:

    Having pondered fairly briefly I think I agree that is better done as a private and personal day, rather than in a public setting. I’ve never really enjoyed church services based around M and F Day – partly because it always seems to be such a stretch to do something relevant and different! But certainly we need to consider the pain this celebrating brings to others, and I think even an acknowledgement of it within a service doesn’t reduce the pain. Regarding my own loss, I don’t want others to not celebrate because of me, but I am likely to stay away on the days when they are celebrating, and that doesn’t seem right when it comes to church.

  11. Steph says:

    Good post Thalia. I don’t have time to comment in depth tonight except to say that song is awesome!

  12. I have always liked the idea of “mothering sunday” to celebrate all the ways all sorts of people use the skills and care that are usually associated with mothers. Also a nice opportunity to focus on the way God mothers us. I think we have to deal with the hard stuff in church and learn how to celebrate and mourn together. Mothers Day is a day where I have mourning to do and a day where I am reminded that I chose this and I think it is a sacred activity, but there is a lot of struggle. I am definitely not keen on the commercilisation of the day but instead space to be with all the various facets of mothering and see that God is in all of it too.

  13. bexpowell says:

    My mum had a few issues, that she did her best to overcome, but ultimately meant ‘mothering’ took a step back for a few years. She’s better now, and she will always be mum – but “Mother(‘)s(‘) day” always gives me cause to think about, and be grateful for, the other women in my life who stepped up for me then, and others who play a surrogate role for me now. My grandmother was, and is, hugely important, but so are the mothers of my friends who made me dinner as they did their own, the mothers that dropped me home after youth group on Wednesday nights, my supervisor at woolworths that made my dress for the sixth form ball, the mums that paid for me to go to the ballet with her own kids, the colleague I call when I don’t know to get a stain out of the carpet and the neighbour that let her house and life be my bolt hole. So many mothers I’m lucky to have had!

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