I’ve been conflicted about Mother’s Day this year. I have several people I love who have a very hard time, for various reasons, about this day. I don’t. I love Mother’s Day. One of the best days of my life was when I became a mom on December 28, 1995.
But it’s difficult to celebrate that, and join in the Hallmark masses in whatever way works for our time, geographic distance, and willingness to participate financially (not much) in the face of the pain and resentment of my dear ones, and many many others, who do not have fond memories or gratitude for their mothers, whose mothers are no longer with us, or whose children, for whatever reason, do not acknowledge them.
Today my faith community is celebrating. But we aren’t passing out flowers to all the mothers. We are holding a ritual to acknowledge and honor the compassion in all of us:
“We all show care and compassion to the people in our lives. It takes an enormous strength to care for others. Seldom do we stop and acknowledge how we aid one another. Through a hand washing ritual, we will pause and honor how each of our hands reaches out in love to others.”
And it struck me, again, how “mothering” is a verb. It’s not about being a female that has raised a child. It’s about honoring the compassion and love we give to each other, or that we need. Every human being needs it and with luck, there is someone to give it to everyone who needs it.
Mothering involves nurturing.
It involves providing healthy structure, wisdom, goofy silliness, care, time, trust.
I mothered my mother as she passed away.
I mothered my daughter all her life.
I mothered my friend when she ended her marriage and crumbled in heartbreak.
I mothered my husband when he was ill and injured and feeling crappy.
I mothered myself when I needed to be an advocate for my own self-care.
I mothered my community when I helped the community raise money for more services to victims of crime and trauma.
I mothered my fellow congregants when I helped schedule meals and rides to those in need.
And none of those things are exclusive to being a mother. The only requirement is being a human, and having compassion and love and service to share.
I was mothered by my mom’s friends and our faith community when she was sick and losing her fight with cancer.
I was mothered by my husband when I felt broken and grief stricken.
I was mothered by my daughter when she cleaned the house when I was exhausted and too busy to do it.
I was mothered by my minister when I needed to unload a lot of stress and feeling pulled in many directions.
I was mothered by friends who stepped up to help create the best wedding I could ever ask for.
Celebrating Mother’s Day is often resentfully looked at as our being hijacked by consumerism and standards we fail to meet. It is triggering, and frustrating, and way way too pink and flowery for how some of us feel on this day. Empathy is needed. It’s these situations where the rest of us can step in with compassion and caring and just be there to understand that sometimes what is required is to burn all the decorations hanging from the ceiling at Target and hide all the statuses lauding one’s wonderful mothers. Yeah, I get it. Let’s do that. Let’s talk about all the things we would do (but not actually do them, because, jail time) and and I’ll hold you while you rage and cry if you need that. Because you know what? Honoring our authentic feelings is the work of mothering too.
Mothering is a verb. “Happy Mother’s Day” could be celebrating yourself for all you give and are. It could be celebrating anyone who has mothered you. It could be celebrating that one person, or several, who have pulled you through the rough times.
And it means doing the work of reaching out in compassion to others. Forget Hallmark if you want to. This is our being-ness we’re talking about. You can do this day in whatever way feels good to you.