Do You Avoid Church on Mother’s Day?

Dawn Davenport

40

Mother's Day, Infertility and Church

Is it possible to honor mothers on Mother’s Day at church with hurting those without kids?

I know so many childless women who avoid church on Mother’s Day. For them, this day feel like Flaunt Your Fertility Day: a day where yet again they are left on the outside looking in (or more likely left seating while others stand) because they don’t have children or have lost their children.

I feel for clergy on Mother’s Day, really I do. In many ways they are in a darned if you do/darned if you don’t situation. If they specifically honor the mothers in the audience, they leave out so many:  those who are infertile or divorced or single without kids; those who’ve suffered miscarriages, lost a child through death, had a child run away, or who are estranged from their children. Whew, that’s a lot of folks.

If they don’t honor the mothers they miss an opportunity to praise and support those who do so much for the physical, emotional, and spiritual development of the next generation.

I believe it is possible to both honor mothers and limit the collateral damage to the childless bystanders. Consider giving your pastor or minister this letter, perhaps with some brownies and a smile.

A Letter for Pastors and Clergy for Mother’s Day Celebrations

Dear Reverend/Brother/Pastor/Sister/Father/Rabbi So and So:

Hi. I know you’ve probably feel like you’re in a no-win situation on Mothers Day. I’m not trying to add to your burden, but as someone who suffers silently at church every Mother’s Day and sometime leaves crying, I thought I’d share some ideas.

First, ditch the “all mothers please stand” part of the service. PLEASE.

  • It makes those who remain sitting feel less than whole – as if they are not a fully a woman.
  • Deciding whether to stand is amazingly complicated for some. Are you a mother is you’ve had a miscarriage? Does it matter at what gestational age? What about if your only child died at birth 10 years ago? What about if you placed your child for adoption? Are you a mom if you lost a child you thought you were going to adopt? Does it matter if this child lived with you before the adoption failed? What if you’re raising someone else’s child and are a mom in every sense but the name?

And for the record, giving a rose to all the mothers is perhaps slightly better, but no less awkward and not necessary. The truth is that we can honor mothers without publicly drawing lines between the haves and the have-nots.

I realize that only telling you what not to do is not all that helpful, so I thought I’d share with you a beautiful prayer written by a woman named Amy Young, that recognizes the full and complex spectrum of motherhood.

To those who gave birth this year to their first child – we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away – we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren – yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Thanks for considering my thoughts. I’m really not trying to rain on the Mother’s Day parade, but thought we might try a more humane way of honoring the mothers in our lives.

God Bless you and all that you do.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thoughts?

P.S. If you like the prayer, I strongly suggest you noodle around on her site, The Messy Middle.

 

Image credit: smithco

07/05/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 40 Comments



40 Responses to Do You Avoid Church on Mother’s Day?

  1. anon says:

    I’m not religious. I avoid church every Sunday 🙂 Kidding aside, I can see how it would be really painful to be not included by your community on a holiday for a milestone/identity you so want to celebrate.

  2. foster adopt mama says:

    I had an awkward time today at church. I was with my mom and my youngest (oldest was with dad at softball). Anyway, the priest asked moms to stand and had the congregation clap. I stood but my 2 yo jumped on my mom so she had a hard time standing! All I could think about was how awful it might feel for people who were yearning to be a mom…or lost a child…yet to not stand would be weird too. A bittersweet holiday for sure.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I haven’t been to church on Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) for years. Even at 20 weeks pregnant with our first (after 2 losses), I still couldn’t bring myself to go today.

  4. M.B. says:

    I agree with you Megan

  5. Meghan says:

    My husband is the pastor of my church, and I do avoid going on Mother’s Day. Thankfully we have a Saturday night service I go to with the excuse of prepping for the festivities of the next day. On a normal day, I have a hard time fielding the “when are you having a baby?” questions. On Mother’s Day, it’s unbearable. After 4.5 years of marriage and 3 years of actively trying, we are finally starting to share our issues with people when it comes up, but I just can’t deal with it on Mother’s Day. At my church, and I believe most Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod churches, the focus is on God. Even on Mother’s Day, church is about worshipping the Lord and not about drawing attention to a non-religious holiday. They do, however, include a prayer asking God to bless all mothers and women who are barren or have lost children.

  6. M.B. says:

    I remember the first time I tried to go I cried through the whole service . Even thinking about it makes my eyes fill with tears . There are so many that have never had a child or have outlived their child . I will be thinking of all of you this Sunday .

  7. Katherine says:

    Myrtle, good for you for speaking up, even if you didn’t get the most understanding response.

  8. Karen says:

    I generally avoid church except for Easter with my mother in law.

  9. Joanna says:

    Thanks Dawn Davenport. I didn’t stand. I was trying pretty hard not to cry, so I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. What’s funny is on my first mother’s day (5 months home with my then 18 month old) I was in Mass just waiting to be asked to stand. I think in my head I’d pictured something out of The Lion King… with me proudly holding her above my head for the world to see LOL. In reality, she was screaming, so I had to take her out and i wasn’t even there for the blessing 🙂 true motherhood of you ask me!

  10. Greg says:

    cb,

    I don’t think I’ve ever mocked your lifestyle. But your life and my life and other childless lives and experiences are all very different. Someone whose childless life was not pleasant does not dismiss your positive experience and vice versa. It’s similar to an adoptee whose positive experience isn’t dismissed by an adoptee who had a poor experience. Each person’s experience is their own.

    What you are saying about your fears about what your child and what you would be like as a mother based upon your upbringing make sense. I know a lot of people’s backgrounds have made them question whether they would be good parents even though they are great people.

  11. cb says:

    Btw I want to just point out that my original post is about how I think clergy should handle Mothers Day, not how individuals should handle it. In fact, I am hardly surprised that church is so triggering to those with IF if the emphasis is on honouring mothers in the congregation rather than the congregration honouring their mothers (which is what I think of Mothers Day being about).

  12. Joanna, how hard that must have been. And when asked to stand, if you’ve had a miscarriage, do you stand? or not?

  13. Kelly and Myrtle, I am so sorry you were given “the speech” even though I suspect it was meant well. It still had to sting big time!

  14. What hard, Marcie and others, is that for many of us, church is a place we want to go when we’re hurting, so it’s doubly hard when church is that place causing the hurt.

  15. Rosie says:

    Dawn — The mother’s day three ring circus is part of why we switched parishes. I figured if a parish with a pastor whose sister was the adoptive mom of four hadn’t figured it out yet, they never would. 😛

  16. Rosie, I’ve noticed that my church is not going overboard either. I’ll know more after this Sunday.

  17. Rachel, now that is one enlightened church!

  18. Aléna, what a kind gesture from your mother!

  19. Rachel says:

    The first year I was a mom, the Sunday before Mother’s Day we had Adoption Triad Sunday. It was really cool!

  20. Rosie says:

    Our church doesn’t do much re mother’s day, and for that I’m thankful! I used to contemplate stepping out for the blessing, at our old parish. I never had the nerve though.

  21. Marcie says:

    I emotionally and spiritually can not do mother’s day at church. Mother’s day at all is hard enough. I have cried too many tears in those walls, so I now avoid the times I know will be hard. It is sometimes a lack of people not knowing or not stopping to think it through. But sometimes, even if they know and even if they think about it, they will still hurt those like us. ~ Love and prayers to all of you this week!

  22. cb says:

    Btw, although I’ve been mocked for being ChildFree on here, the following excerpt from the prayer probably describes my situation the most:

    “To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be”

    Although I do confess that I’ve long made peace with the situation. I’ll say also that because I wasn’t a well behaved child (though I was a well behaved teen), I did always worry that perhaps there might have been something in my unknown background that made me such an awful child and worried that I’d end up with a child like me. Meeting my bfamily has helped put me at ease re that situation and made me realise there might have been other factors that my own child might not have faced. However, that comes all too late.

  23. cb says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to church, let alone on Mother’s Day, but from what little I remember, I think every woman got handed a flower (probably a chrysanthemum) on the way out. I also seem to remember that any sermons were directed towards all members of the congregation about remembering and honouring our mothers, rather than honouring the actual mothers in the congregation themselves.

    When looking up Wikipedia about how Mother’s Day is celebrated aroud the world, I found the Australian story to be rather touching as it was originally about remembering the forgotten mums:

    ***********************
    In Australia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
    The tradition of giving gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day in Australia was started by Mrs Janet Heyden,[36] a resident of Leichhardt, Sydney, in 1924. She began the tradition during a visit to a patient at the Newington State Home for Women, where she met many lonely and forgotten mothers. To cheer them up, she rounded up support from local school children and businesses to donate and bring gifts to the women. Every year thereafter, Mrs Heyden raised increasing support for the project from local businesses and even the local Mayor. The day has since become commercialised. Traditionally, the chrysanthemum is given to mothers for Mother’s Day as the flower is naturally in season during May (autumn in Australia) and ends in “mum”, a common affectionate shortening of “mother” in Australia.[citation needed] Men will often wear a chrysanthemum in their lapels in honor of mothers
    *****************

    As for the poem, does every birthmother want to be “commended for their selflessness”? A lot of them may be older women who might not have felt they had much of a choice but to be “selfless”.

    Again, though, I always think of Mother’s Day about honouring our mums/mothers rather than being honoured ourselves. I will give my mum a call on Mother Day (I’m a long way a way) and will also think of my long dead bmother as well, because she made a difficult choice that wouldn’t have been easy for any woman to make.

  24. That’s a great letter to send to your pastor/reverend/rabbi, etc. I’d be interested in hearing some stories from women who have actually sent that letter and the responses they received.

  25. Myrtle says:

    I teach Sunday school & was a girls brigade leader for 13 years & helped with bible clubs & everything else child orientated but it was very hard at times too. We had no support from my inlaws either so it was difficult in all directions

  26. Kelley says:

    Myrtle, I’ve gotten the same speech. The “you weren’t blessed with kids, but look at what you have, be thankful, and dedicate yourself in service to those who have kids as your ministry for God”. The “you’re still needed” speech, I guess, and I know they mean well, but that stings. I used to teach Sunday School & VBS, but now that’s too painful… And, there’s no help for me at my church… No infertility or adoption ministries… Not much if you don’t have/come from a traditional family structure.

  27. Myrtle says:

    I cried through christenings & Christmas services too before we adopted our son and had our daughter, church is a very difficult place for childless couples to be. We now have a female minister & I have to say she is much more understanding of the issue.

  28. Kelley says:

    On Mother’s Day & other occasions, I avoid church. My church is very family centric. I’m not lying when I say that every homily… every single one while I was keeping track for awhile… is on children and family life as a metaphor for the love of God. There’s only so much of that that I can take before I just have to excuse myself for awhile… Keeps the bitterness at bay for a bit.

  29. Laura says:

    I’m sorry that happened to you Myrtle.

  30. Myrtle says:

    I always avoided church on mothers day, much too difficult, on the one year I did go I wrote a letter to the minister explaining that it was a difficult day for our members who suffered from infertility & miscarriages & I sat through the service as he preached on how those not blessed with children should dedicate more time to working with children in church & other organisations, I left church hurt & annoyed! Now I hate mothers day as my mum is no longer with us

  31. Joanna says:

    Our church used to ask that all mothers, grandmothers, etc stand up for a round of applause and a special blessing. That was really hard after only having lost a baby a couple of month before. I emailed our church the next year and explained that it can be very hard for people who are wanting to be parents/married and people who have lost parents. Last year they included that in the prayers of the faithful and did not ask for the women to stand. I think sometimes people just don’t realize.

  32. Laura says:

    I know that feeling Kay. After 16 years of infertility, I was finally able to conceive via DE IVF. My husband and I now have twin girls. I know that feeling of exclusion, even though no one means it. I know that they mean only good…but when you are suffering, it feels like another stab right in the gut. Praying for you. I thought it was impossible for me to become a mother. I was wrong. Blessings, hugs and love to you. You are a loved woman and I pray you receive the desire of your heart.

  33. Laura says:

    I know that feeling Kay. After 16 years of infertility, I was finally able to conceive via DE IVF. My husband and I now have twin girls. I know that feeling of exclusion, even though no one means it. I know that they mean only good…but when you are suffering, it feels like another stab right in the gut. Praying for you. I thought it was impossible for me to become a mother. I was wrong. Blessings, hugs and love to you. You are a loved woman and I pray you receive the desire of your heart.

  34. Aléna says:

    My mom (who I don’t always get along with much) ordered me a wrist corsage as a surprise since we were getting ready to start fostering and had been trying to adopt for a while, that was awesome! Got a lot of dumb questions about it though -_-

  35. Kay says:

    I cried last year at church

  36. Laura says:

    Before I was a mother, it was pretty hard. I go to a small church and they give gifts to all the moms.

  37. Kay says:

    this is a good post

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