An Ode to Mother’s Day – and to keeping it in its place

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An Ode to Mother’s Day – and to keeping it in its place

 

M is for Mother and Mama and Mom

A human who, flawed, lives her life with aplomb.

She wipes runny noses and counters and tears.

The germs that she’s spreading are one of her fears.

 

 And so is perfection, that miserable noun.

 Despite her best efforts she feels like a clown.

 Her kids grow from toddlers who give her big hugs

 To teens who communicate only in shrugs.

 

 She also fears Sundays of pride and of pedestal

 When birth-giving women sound truly celestial.

 She fears she can’t live up to glory and hype.

 We all are so different. We’re not just one type!

 

 She may be a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse

 Whose churchified friends say she’s making things worse.

 She may be a stay-at-home drowning in play-dough

 Whose friends recollect that she used to quote Plato.

 

 If only, if only we left it at home,

 And let gratitude like the buffalo roam,

 And praise her and thank her and feed her in bed

 And twine lovely laurels to rest on her head

 

 Or whatever else floats the boat of each mama.

 But not in the chapel with usurping drama.

 Sunday’s for Jesus, for God, for the Way!

 Give honor and flowers at home Mother’s Day!

 

 

About Linda

(Prose Board) splits her time between the mountains of Utah and the prairies of Illinois, generally confounding the postal service. She compiles inspiring collections of LDS women talking about topics dear to (or prickly in) LDS women's hearts (visiting teaching, Relief Society, motherhood, etc.) through Cedar Fort Publishing. Her forthcoming book "Candy Canes & Christmastime: Enhancing the Holidays in the Real World" is available for pre-order on Amazon! She also writes for children ("Come with Me on Halloween"), illustrates, writes poetry, plays with fabric and can be bribed with dark chocolate.

35 thoughts on “An Ode to Mother’s Day – and to keeping it in its place

  1. Perfectly, poetically put. Church on Mother’s Day is very uncomfortable for just about everyone.

  2. Instead if being spiritually fed, as a mother I feel emotionally beat up. The pain of those who are not mothers by giving physical birth hurts my heart as well. Why do we need a public display? I detest being recognized because someone mandated it. Something meaningful for Sacrament mtg on that day since the practice will never be abandoned is always reading sister Julie Beck’s talk “A Mother Heart” and encompass all “mothers” with Heavenly Father’s expanded vision of that term and let us go home early. But please – put the old, painful traditions to rest.
    The poem is almost perfection – it needed a stanza for those who haven’t born children but are “mothers” in so many of the best ways.

  3. And let’s not speak of tithing because there are people who don’t pay it.

    And let’s not speak of temples because there are people who are not endowed.

    And let’s not speak of honesty because there are people who lie.

    Don’t you think Christ himself would want to honor mothers and women on Mother’s Day? I am happy to not share your perspective.

  4. Agreed!

    I didn’t attend church on Mother’s Day last year, though it was the first one in which I would have attended with a child (my almost one-year-old at the time), because it happened to be the day after my mother’s funeral. There are so many reasons why Mother’s Day at church may be sensitive or painful. Let’s keep sacrament meeting about worshiping our God.

  5. Regarding Tiffany’s list, those are all things a person can choose to do; not every woman can choose to give birth physically. And the ones who are able to give birth physically are the ones who are singled out that day – to me that’s the difference. But only my opinion.

  6. Amen to Tiffany. Everywhere we have lived, ALL women are honored on Mothers Day – and every day, come to think of it. I have no complaints about one meeting devoted to motherhood and/or womanhood, despite years of self-doubt and struggles to live up to some unattainable idea of the perfect mother. True, I have sat through uncomfortable meetings when it is not done well, but for the most part, I believe NOT drawing attention to womanhood (not just motherhood) would feel worse than my moments of discomfort. Those moments, as they should, usually turn into increased determination and commitment, not into self-pity.

  7. It has been my experience that Mother’s Day at church is what I make it. I have every reason to dislike this day but I absolutely love it. It helps me to remember that I choose to be offended and I can choose not to be. After many years of longing for marriage and then many years of longing for motherhood I have been blessed with both. I have given up many dreams in that journey. I could wallow in my hurt but that has never ever, ever,ever done me one ounce of good. So, instead, I have taken this special day to remember and to recognize the divinity within myself and within my fellow sisters. It is our role as daughters of God to be mothers (even if it doesn’t happen in this life)and to be nurturers. I spend this day with love in my heart. Love for my own mother and grandmothers. Love for the birthmom whose heart aches on this day but she has made me a mom. Love for my very good friends who are old now and never had children but they have mothered their students, their nieces and nephews, and their friends children. I try to have love for women in every circumstance that I can imagine. I do think we need to talk about it at church. Maybe we should just rename the day to divine daughters of God day.

  8. Every other Sunday of the year I am at peace with my infertility, but there is something about that candy bar given out at the end of Sacrament Meeting for all the mothers and those with “mothering hearts” that hollows me out. I have always felt like a fraud accepting it and usually spend the next week in a funk (despite the fact that I find the strength to somehow scarf down the candy bar). I know we will never be able to accommodate everyone and their feelings on the subject, so for the last three years I have chosen to remove myself from the discussion. I am sure there are some who will judge me, but I have learned that if I don’t go to church that day I feel better about myself and my life’s situation and there is more harmony in my home. My husband mentioned this to our Stake President and his response was that he felt it was perfectly acceptable. I know my answer isn’t for everyone, but it’s what works for me.

  9. I’m with Becky, Andi, and Tiffany on this one. Don’t you think it would be weird to never talk about the Priesthood at church because not all men are ordained (or ordained to the offices that their peers hold)? Motherhood is the counterpart of that and partner to that(whether we like that or not). I do understand the kinds of deep, dark feelings people have on Mother’s Day, but I also get frustrated with women forgetting that

  10. I’m with Becky, Andi, and Tiffany on this one. Don’t you think it would be weird to never talk about the Priesthood at church because not all men are ordained (or ordained to the offices that their peers hold)? Motherhood is the counterpart of that and partner to that(whether we like that or not). I truly don’t think that most of us understand the true standing and importance and power and meaning of motherhood, if so there wouldn’t even be these discussions just because some of us don’t have children yet or because they’ve come to us because of adoption. I DO understand the kinds of deep, dark feelings people have on Mother’s Day, but I also get frustrated with women forgetting that ALL of their motherhood dreams WILL come true. “Yes. In the NEXT life! I am being cheated now!” I know and promise that what God has in store for us will make all of us happier than we can possibly imagine and that we will all be supremely and indescribably pleased with how everything is all sorted out. And that all of the sadness, bitterness, fear, and worry regarding thses issues that was part of our mortal journey will instantly be wiped away, and we will be embarrassed at how little faith we had in this life concerning God’s ability to make it all right and all good. And that we don’t have the ability in this life to have any comprehension of how good and right everything will be. This not only goes for our desires to be mothers, but with sorting out stepfamilies, stillbirths and miscarriages, singlehood, and all of those other situations that bring us deep sorrow and worry here in this earthly existence.
    Happy Mother’s Day to all you females out there!

    And IF your ward is one that tends towards talks that invoke guilt because you’re not the SuperMom that someone’s bragging about, then my sympathies to you. Our talks tend to be about the eternal, divine nature of Motherhood, of imperfect but faithful moms, about a God who is most definitely on the side of moms and families.

    Don’t forget that all of those ‘roses that bloom beneath our feet when there’s love at home’ have lots of thorns that hurt to walk on and that that syrupy, ridiculous song is written entirely about those rare moments when all things come together and the whole world seems to be rainbows and unicorns, not about the other 99.5% of life that is poop and quarreling and laundry and dinner planning.

    Also, I get a kick out of the “Love is Spoken Here” lyrics. “I see my mother kneeling, with the family each day. I hear the words she whispers, as she bows her head to pray.” So… the words she whispers *as she’s getting ready to pray*…I’m guessing they’re something along the lines of “Just for once can’t Liam and Sophie keep their hands to themselves and hold still?! And getting Aaron here to family prayer — is it really worth the fighting?! Why, oh why, can’t we do this prayer thing like the pictures of the families in the Ensign?!!!”

    Have faith and hope, women! You are enough. You. Are. Enough.

  11. As uncomfortable as it is to sit through all the talks on Mother’s Day, I can handle that. It’s the being made to stand up to be “honored” that makes me want to go bury my head in a hole and last year I left before the end of the meeting to avoid it. I wish that I could look forward to attending church with my kids on a day that should be happy for me. Why can’t we just have church like normal? I know they are meant well, but let the traditions go and I think natural ways to honor the women would find their way in. There might be a light happy feeling and well-wishes, maybe a Happy Mother’s Day from the pulpit during announcements… that would suffice. Not the heavy, on-edge, patronizing air that currently prevails.

  12. Becky, Andi, Tiffany and Strollerblader, let me assure you as a single woman with no children and passed the age, I absolutely believe that I am second class in the eyes of God because I am not a mother. And no, I am not sure it will ever happen, even in the next life. That’s why I haven’t been to church on mother’s day in years. That’ the level of “discomfort” we are talking about.

  13. In the many many years I did not have any children, being asked to stand up in church for a flower at the end was so-freaking-weird and uncomfortable. Now that I do have a young daughter, I adored the sticky paper flower she gave me at the end of preschool yesterday . . . and still absolutely do not want one from the bishopric. I am not their mother.

  14. Ah, sisters! I love you each and all! I love the varied viewpoints. I love the shared stories. I love that we can voice frustrations and glories! “We all are so different! We’re not just one type!” Who knew when the first couplet rolled off my fingers that such a vigorous conversation would ensue?
    Here’s Corinthians 16:14 –
    “Let all your things be done with love.”
    XOXO – your poetess pal, Linda

  15. Love this poem, Linda! We are an international church, a church of Christ, and don’t need to focus on this US government holiday. It’s a nice day, a fun day, but just as we don’t celebrate Hallowe’en or Valentine’s Day (which actually DO have their root in religion), let’s keep this secular holiday out of church, and focus on what we should–the Savior.

  16. Although Mother’s Day as it is celebrated in the US is a somewhat recent invention, many countries throughout the world celebrate mothers and have for centuries for various reasons (like Mothering Sunday) in Great Britain. Many of these traditions have religious origins. I know that Church members in other countries do celebrate variations of Mother’s Day at the appropriate times for their countries. I don’t think it is inappropriate to honor mothers at church–after all, we do believe that families are central to the plan of salvation. I do think that there are cultural traditions that are harmful and should be done away with–as several people have pointed out, it is painful to have women stand up and be recognized for something that some women haven’t achieved through no fault of their own. I don’t think motherhood should be ‘honored’ or that women who actually have borne children should be singled out. At the same time, I hate the rhetoric that ‘all women are mothers’–that has never sat well with me. So, I’m not really sure how or what the best way to discuss mothers (or fathers or families) at Church is, but I don’t think the best response is to just not talk about them at all.

  17. Love this! Leave motherhood at home!! I think this is such a worldly holiday- celebrating the physical act of childbirth– just smacks me of a woman being valued for her body, with a nod to service to children.

    Unlike many LDS women, I also am not sure I believe that eternal parenthood will happen, or that it must, in terms of motherhood and fatherhood. I do not find priesthood and motherhood at all equal. Not in the least.

    My last few wards (not in the US) seem to recognise the politics invovled with the gift of the bishopric to women. In my current ward, the Young Women step in and give gifts to the Relief Society women and then the primary children sing in RS to the women. I am not comfortable with that– it just seems like dumping all the auxillaries under the umbrella of motherhood and leaving the PH very, very separate.

    Since young adulthood, I have refused the “gift” thrusted at me on Mother’s Day (but for one mother’s day when the Elder’s Quorum president gave me all of the leftover flowers in a boquet he specially wrapped for me and asked me on a date- *because* I had refused the earlier flower). Now I take a gift and ask for another to give to my adoptive daughters to play with.Not sure what I’ll do when they get older.

  18. my complicated feelings regarding mother’s (and father’s) day stem more from my own upbringing and my own parents. i have a very hard time sitting there listening to all of these seemingly perfect families and parents being lauded/bragged about. it often made me wonder if everyone was lying – because it didn’t seem possible to me for families like that to exist.

    in college i was asked to speak on father’s day and really struggled – i ended up focusing on examples or righteous father’s in the scriptures – and incorporated much of christ and the atonement. i feel like regardless of the topic on sunday, sacrament meeting should include mention of christ’s atonement. it is by virtue of our cultural tradition that people think a talk on a sunday such as this requires them to tell stories of a perfect mother or spouse.

    as i got older and was not married and then when i was and was dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss mother’s day was difficult in entirely different ways. i know people find ways to deal with that – either not attending that sunday or skipping sacrament. i believe whatever is best for you at the time is good. we need to protect ourselves.

    i’ve always felt super awkward when they have all women 18 and older stand – it just kind of creeps me out! i agree with jessie above – i have struggled with and not embraced the idea that “we are all mothers.” being kind and caring as a friend, aunt or teacher is very different than being a mother. you do not carry the same responsibilities nor do you share in the same blessings.

  19. Love this! My brother is speaking for Mother’s Day and is so worried because we are not just one type–how does one reach out to the single, the childless, those with strained or absent relationships with their mothers or children, and those who appear to have the ideal but still struggle?

    Thank you for this humorous look, my friend.

  20. One of the hardest mother’s days I ever had was knowing my body had rejected yet another pregnancy. I had a dead baby in my body and I was waiting “for nature to take it’s course.” Needless to say I forced a smile for 3 hours while I was breaking inside. I did it for my children.

    While I was in Relief Society, the Young Women and Young Men took over Primary for the last hour and the Priesthood came in and served us a delightful dessert. At that moment, I got it. The men wanted to honor us by serving us. The pain I was feeling subsided a bit and since then mother’s day has been easier to handle. I had another mother’s day a few years later with similar circumstances but this time I stayed home because my health wouldn’t allow it. My visiting teacher, who knew what I was going through, brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It meant so much to me.

    I used to feel the way the author feels through this poem however, I have made peace with mother’s day. I think about my mom and all the other wonderful mothers in my life.

  21. I get the hurt behind Mother’s Day, I really do. But it seems so crazy to me to hear people want to abolish the day entirely. Be sensitive? Of course! But in all reality, there are LOTS of things taught in church that can be hurtful to others in certain circumstances. I’m pretty sure any single parent could agree the primary focus of the nuclear family at church can strike a nerve. A lesson about the blessings of the priesthood can affect someone whose husband, for whatever reason, doesn’t hold the priesthood. Teaching about the holiness of marriage is difficult for the divorced. A talk about chasity and virtue can upset the young woman who may have made some bad choices. But that doesn’t mean we abolish those teachings and not speak of them. It may mean we change directions, we try to be more sensitive to situations and cultural mishaps. But in the end, no one can offend you without you allowing them too. And for hecks sake….I’m pretty sure most mothers already feel pretty unappreciated. Give them one day out of the year to honor them.

  22. I’ve just always wondered why the bishopric doesn’t just announce that there is a table in the foyer with flowers/plants/candy/whatever (actually, a variety would be quite nice!) and that each woman should feel free to grab something. I always felt awkward standing to receive a gift before I had children, but at the same time felt awkward not standing. I also wonder why the standing is necessary. Do the YW not know what a woman looks like unless she is standing and thus setting herself apart from the men?

  23. Loved this poem. I don’t hate Mother’s Day at all, but I agree it’s best celebrated privately.

  24. I agree that sacrament meeting should not be hijacked by mother’s day. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the mother’s day gift from the bishopric. This year, our ward isn’t doing a gift from the bishopric. They aren’t focusing the talks on mothers. The primary children will still sing a mothers day song. I think that’s a good balance.

  25. I think that the Mothers’ Day sacrament meeting has to be judged, like any gift or offering, by the intentions behind it. No one’s trying to hurt anybody’s feelings or make anybody feel inadequate, in fact, they’re probably worried sick about making people feel that way. They (the bishopric, the speakers, etc.) are trying, in their imperfect, human way, to say thank you.

    I’m a mother with five little children, and I hate standing up to get that flower or chocolate as much as anybody, but I feel about it almost the same way that I do when my children bring me a mangled art project that they made “for you, Momma!” Do I care what the gift looks like, what sharp edges or blotched colors its human creator wasn’t able to fix, or wasn’t able to understand wouldn’t please me? Of course not. I’m touched and grateful for the expression of love.

    And I’ve discovered that if I point out the imperfections, even in a spirit of trying to help them improve, they crumple a little inside. They stop giving, or creating, quite as freely.

    Please, let other people, as badly as they may do it, love you.

  26. I too have made my peace with Mother’s Day. I used to feel terrible guilt because of my failings. But now–eh. I remember last year thinking about the fact that I had yelled at my ten year old just before church. Then shrugging and realizing, “He was being DARN annoying and I did a GREAT job not killing him! Kudos to me!” So that’s how I look at Mother’s Day now–I acknowledge my failings but try and see past them to my strengths. And I think about my imperfect mother who sacrificed so much for me. It is also a good day to practice my receiving skills–to let those around me who love me express that love as I receive it graciously. I have come to realize that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved and appreciated.

  27. “Keep it in its place?” Is motherhood really so offensive that it can only be celebrated in secret at home? Is it so shameful to be a mother, we (or anyone) can’t be recognized for it? I’m fully aware of the pain Mother’s Day can cause because I have suffered with infertility for years. But I also realize that it’s not all about ME. Yes, church should focus on the Savior, but Christlike attributes are also attributes of mothers–putting others before themselves. And the noble and divine calling should be celebrated, not shamefully hidden. Feelings of guilt are too common on this day, but none of us are perfect and we know that. Mother’s Day is a day that should be celebrated for our own mothers or the “mother figures” in our lives who have influenced us. And for those who are mothers, be grateful not guilty! As women we need to show the world how to appreciate and recognize the goodness of women, especially mothers that are too often belittled. What example does that set for our daughters (and our sons) when we say the only place we can recognize mothers is privately at home? If we expect others to respect us we should not oppress each other or the sacred calling of motherhood. Feminists should not seek to keep mothers (or any women) “in their place” at home.

  28. Like Robin Marie, I have very mixed feelings about Mother’s Day because of a poor relationship with my own mother. I am pretty concerned about it this year because as a fairly new family in this ward, our family has been asked to give the talks in Sacrament Meeting. I am taking the bull by the horns and addressing the fact that Mother’s Day is NOT a happy day for some of us – and that probably won’t go over well. I’m talking about adoptive moms (legally and informally) and how important they are and have been as examples in my life, because my own family upbringing was not a healthy or happy one. I may upset some people….but I know – I have been inspired – that there is someone in that congregation who needs to hear that they are not the only one who doesn’t feel “the love” on Mother’s Day.

    I don’t agree with the poem in it’s entirety – but I do like it!

  29. I don’t have a happy relationship with my Mom so am always braced for talks laced with sickly, sugary adoration. It’s hard to listen to and feel something in common with those that spout on about their perfect mothers.
    Instead I think of Heavenly Mother and try to discover more about her nature through the goodness of other women.

  30. My ward has the best Mother’s Day tradition. They cancel all pre-church meetings AND have the menfolk cover for the sisters third hour, so all the women in the ward can gather for a social/devotional hour. With brunch. :-) It’s a pretty bonding experience. Sometimes the talks can get awkward, but in general, it’s become more a celebration of womanhood.

  31. Well, our ward didn’t exactly get it right today–one schmaltzy talk on traditional mothers and one talk on how we all need to be better parents. No inclusion whatsoever of women who mother in non-traditional ways. I spent a good chunk of the meeting out in the hall with two misbehaving children. What I got out of it all is that this is just another day. Before I was a mother, when I was going through years of infertility and childlessness, Mother’s Day was a big deal. Now it’s almost something comical, because it’s almost a guarantee that something will go wrong. I still worry about the women in my ward who struggle on this day. I still have strong opinions on how the day should be handled by ward leaders–I definitely think we should be fed meat, as in scriptural, doctrinal talks and not sappy poems and stories. But I also just wonder why we make such a big deal out of it, because really, it’s just another day. I don’t think we should do away with Mother’s Day at church. I do think there are women whose families will not do anything for them, and they deserve recognition at church. I do think any Mother’s Day celebrations should include all women. As an infertile woman, I actually found great comfort in the idea of motherhood as something divine that all women possess. I know some feel this to be patronizing, as merely a way to make childless women feel better. But I feel it as deep and true doctrine, and it is such doctrine that got me through my darkest hours.

  32. I don’t know- our Bishop in our last ward felt this way- that the husbands and children should be the ones to celebrated mother’s day and that the ward shouldn’t go to any special trouble. I wrote him an email arguing against his idea and mentioning my dear friend and visiting teaching companion, a pregnant mother of two young kids with a colossal jerk for a husband. It’s hard to believe, but there was no chance he was going to so much as smile at her on mother’s day, much less thank her or make her feel special. How many women like that are there? Or women who’s kids are grown and husbands are dead, or who are divorced, who wouldn’t get any special treatment on mother’s day if it weren’t for the special talks and chocolate at church. I think we need to get over ourselves, and graciously accept the gifts of those around us who are trying to thank us and make us feel special. Smile and take the freaking chocolate, for goodness sakes!

  33. personally, I would love a sacrament meeting with the theme of the nurturing role of women but do not understand why a day having nothing whatsoever to do with Christ or the gospel has been adopted for a yearly traditional gift giving during sacrament meeting.

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