By Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
On May 14, we will celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States, a day to honor and recognize all the mothers in our lives. But for some of us, motherhood and Mother’s Day are complicated! And messy!
I agree with author Anne Lamott who says Mother’s Day “feels incomplete and imprecise.” The day seems to forget those who are mourning miscarriages, infertility, or death. It loses sight of birth mothers who place a child for adoption and foster parents who open their hearts and homes to other people’s children. It fails to adequately honor those who are caring for a child with mental or physical illness. And it does nothing for those who are caring for a parent. It misses grandparents and stepparents and aunts and uncles and dads and cousins and friends and teachers who do so many mom duties – if mom duties can even be defined. It forgets those who never knew their moms, those who have been abandoned or abused by their moms, and those who have moms (or children) who are incarcerated.
Mother’s Day feels awkward for many of us.
A few months back, a good friend called me in tears. Her stepson didn’t want her to attend a parent event at his school. He wanted his mom there, not his stepmom.
I shared with her my stepparenting experiences, recalling moments when I cleaned up, picked up, supported, calmed, cheered, cringed, and cried for my husband’s daughters. Yet, I have never been invited to be at their schools’ parent-teacher conferences or acknowledged in any sort of parenting role with them. That is because my husband’s two daughters have a mom. And it isn’t me, even though I sometimes do mom-like things for them.
The stepparenting experience, as awkward as it is, has taught me a lot about humility. I try to do the right things and be of service when I can even if my efforts may be rejected. I reminded my friend to do the same.
If this Mother’s Day feels incomplete and imprecise for you, you’re not alone. It’s a wonky kind of day.
I encourage you to spend some time praying with Eve or Mary or Mother Earth, if that sort of prayer speaks to you. I invite you to join me in letting go of the expectations and envy of flowers, chocolates, and overpriced brunch at overcrowded restaurants. Instead, embrace the support of women throughout the ages who have mothered us into being in all the complexity and messiness of life.
P.S. If you would like to recognize or remember a mothering influence in your life, consider making a donation to the Theresian Foundation with a “Celebrate Life” gift. Click here to donate. We will send the person of your choice a card acknowledging the gift.