Perhaps it’s because I recently did a series of guest posts summarising the ideas from my book about God as mother (I also did podcast versions of the summaries) or perhaps there really have been more voices raised this year putting the case against having a “mothers’ day”. Either way, the mothers’ day scrooges make at least two very powerful cases. Both are emotionally charged, so I have waited till a couple of days after to write this post.
Let me first summarise how I hear the cases against (I do not want to be thought to be picking an order, so I’ll start with the first that crossed my eyes and ears this year):
Many women either do not have children, or have lost children. For them “mothers’ day” is an annual reminder of their pain, rubbing salt into their wounds. This is a real and powerful argument, which (of course) applies almost equally to fathers’ day.1 The argument is a crushing indictment of the rush to profit from this day at the expense of these sisters. It is also a sharp and accurate critique of the way “mothers’ day” is treated in many (until recently most) churches – at the least, we should not celebrate and pray for mothers without recognising and praying for the pain of many non-mothers.
Many people have/had bad mothers. Somehow because our societal expectations of mothers are higher (men are expected to neglect their children “because of their jobs” and we turn a less than sharp eye to the way some men father children and then relinquish their responsibilities to love and care for their offspring,2 the experience of a bad mother hurts at least as deeply and is perhaps more often hidden than that of a bad father. Mothers’ day is for them also a painful reminder.
And yet, precisely because parenting arouses such deep hurt or sense of blessing, it is important. Children need good loving adult care. In a society which has turned its back resolutely, if with blind stupidity, to the “it takes a village to raise a child” approach3 mothers and fathers (and the grandmothers and grandfathers who often share or assume the role in a broken world)4 whether biological or adoptive, or even honorary need celebrating and supporting.
Perhaps, instead of mothers’ day and fathers’ day we could have a few childrens’ days each year, when everyone celebrates those who care(d) for them as children, and also those who are currently caring for children. A day when instead of being exclusive we include. When parents gift childless people with the pleasure of a picnic and a play in the park with the children (or whatever) and children enjoy the gift of time (and perhaps, to keep the supermarket owners from starvation, chocolate or toys) from honorary aunties and uncles, and we all celebrate the wonder and joy of childhood. We could also spend some of the money that is currently lavished on cards and presents to support the organisations that provide this care for children who are less parentally gifted.
- I would not have written “almost” because, for childless men with strong parental feelings, the “almost” seems an insult to their pain, yet I recognise that such strong parental feelings are, sadly, less common in men than women in our society. [↩]
- Again, I know this IS a generalisation, there are also men denied the chance to fully fulfill their role because of the way our courts privilege the mother’s “claim”. [↩]
- The proverb is African, but the practice was once simply human. [↩]
- It is striking how many grandparents we know who are primary or very significant caregivers for small children. [↩]