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.



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


Image credit: smithco