Ironically, this piece begins with this brief reflection from 2017:
Mother’s Day is not the easiest day for me. My mother died young, just as I was learning to appreciate her and not rebel against her. I don’t know what it is to be an adult with a mother. The marvelous woman who married my father many years later has certainly brought abundant new joys into his life, and mine, and those of my brother and my kids.
There are other losses, too, that grow sharp for me on this day, so I wish you joy with you mothers as long as you have them – and healing for the hearts broken by cluelessness, carelessness, callousness, and cruelty in that relationship we call “motherhood.” Make it a blessed, if not a happy, Mother’s Day.
Motherhood is… complicated.
It gets thrust on people unexpectedly, sometimes through a biological birth, and sometimes not. The most dearly desired children in the world surprise their parents – their mothers – with urgent, expected-yet-unanticipated demands. Post-natal depression strips many new mothers of their strength. Simply feeding a newborn is shockingly difficult.
Since ages and ages past, human beings have equated a woman’s worth with her ability to bear children. The Bible’s first book is a litany of discounted womanhood. Sarai/Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel – all three find their fertility only in the miraculous intervention of God. Despite the fact that all three are dearly loved by their husbands and family, all three live in despair until their labor of prayer becomes the labor of delivery.
Poor Rachel. She loses her life to bearing her husband’s twelfth son (her second child), and even her dying wish to name the boy is ignored as Jacob/Israel named Benjamin himself.
Motherhood is… not easy.
It startles me, therefore, how many women, how many people, step forward to do it. They take on the biological demands, and then they take on the relational demands. Even more, with no genetic kinship at all, offer the nurturing, supportive relationship of mothering to the children of others. They may be hanai mothers, or foster mothers, or adoptive mothers, or no-formal-relationship-but-you-know-who-cares-for-you mothers, or simply somebody who, in the moment, gave you the comfort your mother was not there to give.
There’s no gender requirement for that.
Let’s face it, there are also the disappointments for children of… complicated mothers. Illness, addiction, violence, trauma, separation, death, and more can and do separate mothers from those they wish to love. Other mothers, for these reasons and more, simply never love well. To be in the mother’s place is not the same as adopting the mother’s role. To adopt the mother’s role is not the same as living it well.
When violence, trauma, separation, or death come, it leaves a wound in the child, the other parent, the rest of the family, the gathered community. We remember those wounds each day, and each Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is… complicated.
So I’ll renew my prayer from another year: May Mother’s Day come to you with blessing. May Mother’s Day bring some healing from the losses and the sorrows. May Mother’s Day bring you some more strength for the labor of mothering. May Mother’s Day bring you more appreciation of your parents’ struggles, and better equip you to support them. May Mother’s Day remind you that we have a fully dependable Mother in God, who gathers us beneath Her wings.
May Mother’s Day come with blessing. Amen.
The image is an 11th century fresco in the Alaverdi Cathedral in Georgia.