I recently read a couple of articles on this subject that inspired me to tell my own story. You can read them here: http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/05/10/an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day/
There were years when the approach of Mother’s Day gave me heart palpitations. It was a day of extreme awkwardness and tears. Some years I avoided being around people and skipped church. I couldn’t handle the looks of sympathy, the well-meaning “You have a mother’s heart” comments or the oblivious “When are you going to start a family? Your biological clock is ticking!” comments, but the most painful part of Mother’s Day was when the mothers at church were asked to stand. I know it’s a well intentioned gesture, meant to highlight and celebrate moms, but it felt as though the spotlight was on the few of us women who remained seated.
As much as I wanted to be a mother, it’s not medically possible. Sitting in that chair while most of the other women were applauded, left me feeling gutted. Empty. Unimportant.
And I know I’m not the only one.
What about the woman who’s single, but wants to be married and have a family?
What about the woman who suffered a miscarriage?
What about the woman who lost a child?
What about the childless divorcee?
What about the woman who suffered loss through a failed adoption?
This gesture only pours salt in a very real, raw wound for these women and exposes their loss and grief.
I felt acutely excluded even though I taught pre-school and spent every day with children. Even though I loved and cared for my nieces and nephews. Even though I loved and held the babies in the nursery at church. I wasn’t a mom. Not really.
Except to the little boy at pre-school who whispered in my ear that he loved me like a mommy because his was in heaven.
Except to the infant girl in Uganda, I was one of a handful of mothers who bathed her, fed her, changed her diapers, soothed her, gave her medicine, rejoiced when she smiled and loved her till she died of AIDS.
Mother’s Day and the celebrating of all mothers enforces the idea that mothers are superior to all other women. This is simply not true. The fact that a woman gives birth does not make her a model citizen.
I’ve a few friends who’ve chosen not to become mothers, either because they feel they would make poor mothers or simply a lifestyle choice. These women are amazing women who are doing the most beautiful things with their lives. Being a mom is not the only way a woman can have value.
Having said all that, I do respect mothers. Now that I’m a mom of two daughters (permanent foster daughters) I believe being a mom is an incredibly hard job that deserves celebrating. BUT, can we find a way to celebrate that doesn’t exclude and expose women who, for whatever reason, are not technically mothers?
Perhaps we should acknowledge all women who invest in our children and/or are in many ways making our world a more beautiful place. Isn’t that the true heart of a mother?