Can I begin with a confession? I’ve never really ‘got’ Mothering Sunday (or Father’s Day for that matter). Don’t get me wrong, I love my mum and I am really proud of the great job my wife is doing in mothering our children, but I’ve never really understood how what we do on Mother’s Day celebrates that?
Let me say right from that start that I think the church is getting better at understanding that Mother’s Day is a painful day for women who long for children. And we know that it’s hard for a child or adult of any age whose mother has died. We also recognise that there will always be people present whose mothers are not exactly easy-to-honour. But what about the rest?
The problem with how the church celebrates Mother’s Day is that it is all too generic: we seem to have become focused on the institution of motherhood itself rather than on those who actually do the hard work of mothering. Maybe it’s my fault, after all I am the one who buys the flowers; who picks the hymns and preaches the sermons – but, then it can’t be as this is not just a Stokenchurch problem.
The heart of the problem lies in the cultural patterns that we see in the world around us that makes Mother’s Day a celebration of the ideal mum – that entirely non-existent perfect mum who always smiles; always has time for the little things; always makes every appointment; always cook perfect meals and always bakes cakes on Sundays!
This is the ‘perfect mum’ that we honour in society and in church. We give flowers; we say prayers; we sometimes even invite children to declare with absolute sincerity how wonderful their mums are; and then we take them out for lunch “so that mum doesn’t have to cook”. Is it just me that wonders if this isn’t actually dishonouring to real mums?
If we really want to honour mums on Mother’s Day, then we need to start by getting real. Let’s reject the tyranny of the ‘perfect mum’ and encourage mums to be individuals. Let’s help them to shed their facades, to step out of cultural assumptions and to live and take on duties and demands in accordance with who God made them to be.
How do we do this? Well let’s start by remembering that honouring mums needs to happen on more than just one Sunday a year. We need to encourage mums to share their stories about being ordinary mums – which is in itself incredible enough – and to give true recognition to those who are living out a calling that looks very different from the stereotypes that we see in our society.
Real motherhood is messy, but that makes it all the more worth celebrating. So this Mother’s Day, as we sing the traditional hymns; give out flowers; and treat those who are mothers to us, let’s also remember that each mum is unique. Each mum walks her own road: with her own purpose and mission, and the best thing a church can do is walk along that road with her, encouraging her at every step.