When Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in 1908 after her death, I don’t think she realised that a hundred years plus from that first memorial, her idea of honouring her mother’s memory would turn into something so widely commercialised. Anna, in her later years, seeing mother’s day so commercialised would try to get it removed from the calendar as it had lost the meaning for which she had created it and to be honest, I think she may agree with what I am about to write. I think I can say that I understand where Anna was coming from when she thought mothers should be honoured – I believe motherhood, in whatever form it comes in, is a labour of love with little to no rewards most times. A day set aside to honour a motherly figure in ones life is certainly not a bad idea and getting the opportunity to let someone important in your life know how much they mean to you is very important. I can also appreciate Anna’s idea of holding a memorial for her mother because I lost my mother at a young age and sometimes remembering her and all the wonderful qualities she embodied makes me feel warm and fuzzy albeit sad as I miss her dearly.
It is Mother’s day in the UK today and I have always viewed mothers day as a day for mothers to be appreciated and waited on for once as traditionally mothers do most of the waiting on. I had been influenced by the many TV adverts/commercials that portray the same narrative – especially bringing mothers breakfast in bed. It is nice to see these images and and as a friend of mine said, “it’s nice to receive something”. However, like Anna, I am becoming a bit concerned about the commercial aspect of mother’s day and also how in certain social circles, it almost seem as if this day should be celebrated collectively with no regard for those that do not necessarily want to take part. While we celebrate mothers, it is also a time to reflect for others like myself who do not have mothers or children. For some women, this can be a very difficult time as they may have a desire to have children but are facing fertility issues as well as those who have lost children and are dealing with the loss. There is one social setting in particular, in my opinion, where this celebration is thrust on every woman to partake in and that is the church.
Being from a religious background, I have spent enough time in church and been part of many a mothers day celebrations and even helped to organise the celebrations. Over the years, I have watched many forms of activities take place in church mostly with the wife of the pastor being the centre of these celebrations. In some churches I have been to, gifts are given to every woman in attendance and if you are not yet a mother you are wished a happy mother’s day in advance for when you finally have children. You may even have a person or two who will say to you that they hope in the following year, you would have a baby so you can truly partake in the celebrations. I know they mean well, but for certain people, being childless is not something they chose or for those with difficult relationships with their mothers, I am certain this is not something they would like to hear.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)
One of my favourite verses in the bible is found in the book of James chapter 1 verse 27 – ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world’; I have always wondered why as christians we have this wonderful example to follow and on a day where we can share love with these vulnerable group of people, we choose to reward ourselves in the four walls of our places of worship. While researching this topic, I spoke to several people to have different views of this issue and it seemed there were many who felt uncomfortable with these celebrations and some even felt it had no place in the church. The church has always been patriarchal and some believe this is the day women are in the spotlight – but I also asked the question that if that was the case, then why don’t we celebrate international women’s day instead? I used to be part of a church where the service on mother’s day carried on as usual but the only difference was that a gift would be given to the oldest and the newest mothers in the service – I thought this was a nice touch as this was short and sweet and we did not use the whole service to rub mother’s day in the faces of those who did not want to partake in it.
Last year, I asked if every woman must carry and bear children to qualify as a mother – and from the responses I got, the answer was a resounding NO! I personally know many women who are going through fertility issues in their lives and for the church to gloss over their difficulties and subject them to celebrating mothers day is insensitive. I think when it comes to the Christian church, there is not much empathy shown when it comes to infertility – for some reason, no one wants to talk about it and even when it is spoken of, it always ends in someone assuring the person going through infertility issues that there will be a miracle and they will have children soon. But this is not always the case! For a time when we can look at the verse in the book of James and encourage adoption and fostering, the church chooses to ignore these issues and celebrate a day that can be difficult for so many. So for some, on this day, they simply choose to not go to church because they don’t want to be at the receiving end of other people’s pity or become the praying topic for the day. Then there are those who have chosen to not become parents – they are entitled to their choices and therefore must not be subjected to celebrate if they do not want to. There are also those who have had toxic mothers and are still healing from the trauma of their difficult childhood – how do these people celebrate a day dedicated to someone that caused them hurt?
While I was researching the subject, my friend James made a statement that he thinks happens in most African churches, most pastors wife use the day to be adored by the congregation. I did chuckle at how he put it, however, he was a bit right in his observation and it did make me think. In every social setting, it is the people that make it successful or not and therefore, I think it is time we don’t simply celebrate things blindly at the expense of others but rather look to do things for the common benefit of the group. For my sister, she always saves whatever her children made for her on mother’s day – she told me today that celebrating with her children in the privacy of their home was enough for her. For some, they would like to celebrate in a group and that is fine so long as everyone is onboard and allowed to not take part if they did not want to. I have had people ask me when I had expressed how I felt about these celebrations in church if I did not have any motherly figure in my life I wanted to celebrate; my answer had always been no, I don’t have anyone to celebrate but rather memories to observe. Some even go on to ask if I was not a motherly figure to my nephew and niece – I have and will always answer that being an aunt is one of the most important roles in my life and I would rather celebrate Auntie’s Day with them.
I read about a woman who for the weeks leading up to mother’s day didn’t watch much TV, closed her social media accounts and stopped going to church until the whole celebration was over – you see, she had still birthed her son not too long before. To avoid the constant reminder of her not being a mother due to her loss, she decided to take a step back until the whole thing blew over – and if you would rather avoid this, then please do so for your mental well being. Then there was my friend who had suffered multiple miscarriages in the last year and a very close friend who had tried multiple fertility treatments that had all failed – they always came home from these celebrations in tears. I don’t have the answers on what should be done – but in my experience, the church is seriously out of touch when it comes to fertility issues and I think it is time it started seeing that there are people who will never be mothers and perhaps an outreach to those without would bring more healing than some meaningless activity. To all the mothers out there, a happy mother’s day to you – and I hope your family spoil you for all your efforts. Thank you so much for always getting in touch and letting me know your experiences, I would still love to hear from you. Lets effect change by sharing our experiences.