May 10, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day and the Church

This is an excerpt from a post I wrote a couple years ago, but never posted:


Did you know that Mother's Day is called Mother's Day and not Mothers' Day?
(note the placement of the apostrophe in Mother's).

That was done on purpose when Mother's Day was invented, because it was meant for each of us to celebrate our mothers individually within our own families, not meant to be a corporate celebration of all mothers worldwide.  I'm serious....look it up.  

Did you hear that, oh ye churches of the world?  So, maybe you should stop making it a corporate celebration wherein all mothers stand and receive honor and glory and praise and applause and flowers, whilst us infertiles have to stay seated, trying to keep ourselves from becoming bawling buffoons just because we don't have working uteruses. (what is the plural of uterus?  uteri?)  But really, what do I know?  I skip church on Mother's Day. 

I do have a lot of serious thoughts about Mother's Day, and I am working through them all right now, trying to write up something coherent about it.  One thing that struck me this year was thinking about all the women from the Old Testament who would have also been left sitting in church on Mother's Day for most of their lives, had it existed at the time.  The Bible makes it very clear that God did not forget maybe the churches shouldn't forget them/us either.  And, I suppose they are not a bad camp of women to be among.


It's been two years since I wrote that post.  And I guess now I have finally worked through my thoughts enough to write about them.  I'm sure that my feelings about Mother's Day will continue to evolve and that the future will bring continued healing. But, I'll never forget how hard Mother's Day was for me, and, for the sake of other people, I don't want to forget.

I think the church needs to rethink how we do Mother's Day.  Not all churches, but the church as a whole.  When you have a select group of people who feel that they need to avoid church on a certain day, and when church is the last place they want to be, I think that signals a problem. Our home church has come a long way on the topic and chooses to celebrate all women on this day, rather than just mothers.  I think with any celebration, we have to think about what we are saying and how it will effect an entire congregation.  And, while many will feel momentarily celebrated on Mother's Day, there are others who will just feel further isolation that will last far beyond that day. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think we should be celebrating Mother's Day in the church. (Who decided it needed to fall on a Sunday every year anyways?).  What other secular holiday, other than Father's Day, (which usually isn't made into as big of a deal) do we celebrate in the church?

I get that we want to honor the role of mothers in a world that sometimes devalues this calling.  But, I also believe that we need to speak truthfully about what it means to be a woman.  Motherhood is not our highest calling.  Following Jesus is.  And that calling is going to play out differently in each woman's life. Not every woman is called to be a mother, and not every woman is called to be a wife.  So, when we have a day in church where we honor mothers, and we do not have a day where we honor other women doing other work, we are elevating motherhood above anything else a woman might do. And this is especially painful for women who would love to be wives and mothers, but aren't for reasons beyond their control.

This is damaging.  I can say without hesitation that church was by far the most difficult place for me when we were walking through infertility and waiting to become parents, and not just on Mother's Day.  It is where I felt the least valued and the most insecure. I have talked to many people who have said the same thing, including single people. We've created a church culture that puts mothers and the nuclear family on display, and in a place where everyone is supposed to be included, many are excluded. 

So, as Mother's Day approaches, I am feeling a mixture of emotions. This day represented so much pain for me for so long, that I'm not walking into my first Mother's Day feeling light hearted and excited. I am thankful to be on this side, and I do want to celebrate this day with my family (and just my family). I am deeply, deeply grateful to be a mother now. But, I also want to remember those who are hurting, and I do not want or need to be publicly celebrated at their expense.


  1. I felt the pain of infertility, too, when mothers were called to stand in church on Mother's Day - the inadequacy, the emptiness, the longing, the feeling of an unfair or unloving God. Then, when I married a man with four young children and became a full-time mother, I stood proudly every year when mothers were asked to stand. Each year, our church gave a plant to the mother who had the most kids with her in church that day. Four or five years after we married, I won the prize. As I was walking through the narthex after the service, I overheard two women (friends, I thought) commenting about what right did I have to win the prize when I wasn't even my kids' "real" mother. It wasn't the first time I had heard the "real" mother or "real" kids comment, even from my own family, but this really stung. It never occurred to me that celebrating Mother's Day in church was not meant for me. I may not have provided the eggs, but I couldn't love my kids more if I had. In subsequent years, I stood when mothers were asked to stand in church on Mother's Day, but I always sat down when they started the special recognition time - not because I was ashamed or felt less than because I wasn't a "real" mother in someone else's eyes, but because I knew that I was, and I didn't need anyone else to validate that for me. My kids, now parents themselves, mean the world to me, and they are the best thing I have done with my life. On Mother's Day, I thank God for entrusting those children to me to raise and for filling my life with joy in a way I could never have imagined without them. I didn't conceive or carry them, but they were born in my heart. Mindy, you will hear comments that you are not Silas' "real" mom, and they will hurt you. Just remember, nearly anyone can make a baby, but not everyone can be a mother. We are mothers, you and I, in every sense of the word.

  2. Amen. Almost every word you have posted, I have said to PASTORS...ON Mother's Day...sometimes in tears. Most didn't get it and that is sad. But our current church gets it and they also honor ALL women. By the way, the pic right above my post is my all time favorite! So precious, Mindy. And I am with you...I don't ever want to forget the pain or to be celebrated at others' expense. I love you.

    1. Good for you for speaking up, even if people don't have ears (or a heart) to hear it. I guess it helps when your husband's the pastor :)

  3. Hi Mindy. I recently found a link to your adoption profile book and have gradually worked my way up to your current posts, then began reading the posts before your profile book. I have shared you blog with my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law, and my best friends and have told them all that I feel like I could have written so many posts on your blog. I finally had to comment because this Mother's Day post was the best part of my day yesterday. This is the first year that I decided not to go to church and I felt very selfish for that decision. Like I was devaluing all the mothers in my if the celebration didn't involve me, then I didn't want to be a part of it. When I explained the decision to not attend to my family, it felt very pity party-ish and that wasn't it at all. I love the mothers in my life. I know raising children is hard work and they deserve to be celebrated. Attending church is just too painful, though. I'm always aware that I am not a mother but something about Mother's Day at starts at the entrance and continues at every checkpoint towards the sanctuary and carries throughout the sermon. I can't get away from the emptiness. Staying at home yesterday didn't really help. I still cried, I just didn't have to worry about what my makeup looked like. I was still overly sensitive, but I didn't have to sit quietly and nicely in a sanctuary, so I fought with my husband over every word he said. Anyway, I said all that to say that I felt very, very alone yesterday and your post made me feel less alone. It was so comforting to know that there was another person who felt the way I feel. Not that I want other people to be miserable, I just had no idea that there were other people in the world skipped church on Mother's Day. I felt guilt for skipping church on top of the guilt I felt for feeling like I was being selfish. I know others in my church who long to have children, but the 3rd to last paragraph you wrote really opened my eyes to the hurt of people even beyond the women I was thinking of yesterday. Our greatest purpose is following Jesus and that looks different for all women. This is a ridiculously long comment, but I wanted you to know how thankful I am for your blog and the comfort it has provided since I found it.

    1. Wow! I wish I knew who you were! You should email me. Please don't ever feel guilty for skipping church, especially on Mother's Day. I still take regular breaks from church because it can be really overwhelming to be dealing with infertility amidst extremely fertile people. You are not being selfish at all. You have to protect your heart if you are going to be able to be in community with other people, and sometimes that means you have to avoid situations that will hurt you. Please don't feel alone. So many people feel the same way you do, and I don't know anyone dealing with infertility who DOESN'T skip church on Mother's Day. You should definitely email me....I'd love to connect.