How do you honor a mother?
Can you avoid the madness?
Getting it right on mother’s day can be a challenge for ordinary folks and religious leaders.
Several countries set aside a day to honor mothers. That can be a good thing. Anna Jarvis, the advocate of the U.S. mother’s day, realized problems in her own day. (See Nicole Russell’s essay in the Atlantic.) Could it get much worse? That depends on your mother’s perspective.
I was raised in a Christian home. Mother’s Day was a big deal to my mother. Of course in that era Christian mother’s always dressed up for church. She enjoyed cards, flowers, and meals out. As she aged, she enjoyed being recognized as the oldest mother at church—pretty much every year since she lived 93 years. But times have changed.
Somewhere along the line even conservative churches realized mother’s day can be troublesome.
- Some women who wanted to be a mother but were not mothers were reminded about their second class status every year.
- Some single women were reminded they ought to marry and have kids if they are going to be honored at church. Single women were often reminded they have two strikes against them.
- Are you a mother if you were pregnant but your child was not born?
- People who recently lost their mothers feel bad too. All of a sudden, you don’t make calls or send cards any more. I remember that feeling.
You see cards and notes about “Best Mom,” I imagine they don’t think how they’re mass produced. There must be millions of best moms. But some mothers pose a challenge to honor—unless you have learned to be forgiving and generous—a healthy thing to do.
Some churches spent a long time asking lots of questions so various mothers could get special recognition. The creativity of the pastoral staff was on display:
- Who is the newest mother?
- Who has the most children?
- Stand up if you are a spiritual mother.
- Who has the most grandchildren?
- Who has the most great-grandchildren?
At one time there were mother-of-the-year awards—do churches still do that? What are the contest rules?
Churches can’t win. If they play down Mother’s Day they’ll be in trouble. If every woman gets a flower or a trinket—they haven’t really honored mothers have they?
Before and after church Christians have other challenges. You may have more than one mother to honor. How do you handle that? Imagine you want to be fair—you come up with a plan—but who decides if it’s fair? Can you imagine a mother feeling hurt, rejected, cheated, or made to feel inferior to another mother in the extended family?
Non-Christians or Christians who do not participate in church have challenges too. You may be forced to go to a church to avoid the guilt of making mom feel bad if she’s a churchgoer. If you celebrate mother’s day in another faith tradition, you can share your story below. I don’t have the experience to write about what happens to people in other faiths. But I am interested.
I can write about secular culture. I am fortunate to have a frugal wife—she’s a wonderful mother and grandmother. She deserves to be honored. But she does not demand extravagant brunches, flower bunches, and other ways advertisers have found to extract guilt-money from average folks. And I don’t demand that either—on father’s day.
Can you avoid the madness of Mother’s Day? That depends on your subculture. I have suggested a few challenges to think about. But it takes more than one person to change even the subculture of one extended family.
I hope all goes well this weekend!