Yesterday was Mother's Day. You couldn't be on social media over the weekend and not know that. Mother's Day is about honoring and celebrating the women in our lives who raised, nurtured and guided us along during our life journeys. And for most, it is about honoring the person who was their MOTHER - the one who either gave birth to them or was their primary maternal caregiver.
Being the compassionate, caring, people-focused, 'want to make others feel good' person that I am, I tend to perceive Mother's Day in a much broader sense, recognizing both the wonderful celebrations that occur each year on this holiday AND supporting those for whom this holiday is difficult for a variety of reasons.
MY MOM is an incredibly caring, extremely thoughtful person who does for others non-stop each and every day of the year, while usually putting herself and her needs and desires last. During her career, she was a nurse in the Labor and Delivery department of the local hospital. It's in her blood and being to help and care for others. She's a natural at it.
On the flip side, it's also important for us to take time to remember and support those who struggle around this holiday, whether due to recent life events or those who find this holiday difficult every year.
Those who didn't know their mothers, lost their mothers early in life or possibly long to know a birth mother whom they've never met (all of whom experience a sense of grief and loss).
Those who grew up in an abusive or chaotic household who are still dealing with the aftermath of that trauma to this day (some describe the difficulty of finding a Mother's Day greeting card that speaks to their true and often complex relationship with their mothers, even now in adulthood).
Those who've experienced one or more miscarriages or a stillbirth (who are mothers too but understandably feel sad or even forgotten about on this day).
Those who want children in their lives so very much but cannot have them and are unable to adopt either.
Those who are doing their very best to parent a sick child who has cancer or another serious illness or disease (motherhood looks very different in their daily lives than it might to mothers who are busily rushing their kids to and from school, sports, etc.).
Those who have lost their mothers, especially those celebrating their first Mother's Day without their mom this year (as I write this, one very special friend of mine comes to mind).
For those who don't know me personally, I fall into the category often referred to as "childfree by choice." While I love that it calls out the choice part because it was a choice that my husband and I made together, childfree makes it seem like I'm a selfish person who didn't want to take on the difficult work of raising kids. We made this decision for a number of personal reasons that I won't get into; however, I do want to share some of my unique experiences with this holiday over the years for two reasons:
To share perspective with others on how those who are viewed as "non-mothers" feel.
To let others who've chosen a similar path know that they are not alone out there - I see and hear you (and I wish in my earlier years that I had found something I could have read that made me realize I wasn't alone either).
It is not my intention to take away from this special holiday by any means. However, for me, aside from the positives of celebrating the wonderful mothers and women who've touched and influenced my life, over the years, this holiday has often made me feel excluded and not enough. Society to this day sends us clear messaging that girls are expected to grow up, get married and raise a family. As soon as you get married, you're frequently asked "when are you having kids?" and once you have one, "when are you having your next baby?" Though it's often seen as a selfish decision to NOT have children, it's ends up being much more LONELY path to take than a selfish one. And from a societal perspective, it has always seemed like a greater judgment against the women who chose to not have kids than on their spouses (males) who were part of the decision-making process too.
Now I ask you to think about some of those people I noted above who are struggling with this holiday and to consider how they feel when everyone is exchanging cards, flowers and gifts today in their presence, but they're not part of that (either as a mother themselves or don't have a mother to celebrate in the same way with). I'm not saying we can't or shouldn't do those things; I'm simply saying we need greater awareness of others around us on this day who perhaps might need some added love, support, understanding and compassion.
For years, I personally dreaded going to church on Mother's Day Sunday. Though I realize the service was often about celebrating our mothers (which is great), it made me feel ashamed for not being a mother. Until one year. I will NEVER forget that church service and sermon. It started with recognizing mothers and I thought "oh here we go again, same as every year" and I began to feel like shrinking down in my seat. Then the pastor said "let's have the mothers stand up...all of you who are grandmothers...what about the aunts who love and care for children...the teachers out there who guide children every day...for pet moms...and those of you who've had an impact on others in a motherly, caring way, even without the title of mother."
For the first time ever on that Mother's Day years ago, I felt like a valuable person/adult female in this world, even though I had taken a different path in my life and did not have kids of my own. I felt recognized and appreciated for the "motherly" care, love and guidance that I share and openly give to others. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY. And I will forever be thankful to that pastor for sharing such an open-minded, inclusive perspective on the many ways special women influence and shape our lives and our world!
I appreciate and respect this holiday for what it is - a celebration of those (past and present) who support(ed), guide(d) and love(d) us along our journeys, whether they were our true birth mothers or not. There are many nurturing souls out there who care for others in a very motherly way, with or without the title of "mother." There are women who have touched our lives for whom we will forever be grateful. I encourage you to stop and think about who has had this influence on your life (mother or not) and reach out to her/them to say THANK YOU.
(Photo of my mom and I when I was 2 or 3 years old)