May 9, 2011: Mother’s Day

Posted on : May 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Still Speaking

I don’t really know what to make of this peculiar tradition we call Mother’s Day. Honestly, it feels a bit forced to (on) me. Do we really need to specially design a day to remind (or is it force) our kids to appreciate us? I always thought it was a gimmick a card company thought up. But it turns out it all started with a woman, Anna Jarvis, who intensely missed her mom who died.

“One of the early calls to celebrate a Mother’s Day in the United States was the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” by Julia Ward Howe. Written in 1870, it was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War. The Proclamation was tied to Howe’s feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level. In the years after the Mother’s Day Proclamation, Ann Jarvis founded five Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary and health conditions. In 1907, two years after Ann Jarvis’ death, her daughter Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother and began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the US. Although she was successful in 1914, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s.”*

My family knows they should not make much of it – no special breakfast or gifts. Yet, I loved it when my son came into my bedroom this morning with a huge grin on his face, a handmade card, and a big hug.

I still don’t know what to make of this day we call “Mother’s day” so I decided to share two reflections I read this week which sort of speaks to the contradiction this day represents to me.

The first is by a UCC pastor (the “Still Speaking Daily Devotion” – and the other a weekly blog (“A Musing Amma” – ) written by a favorite professor of mine:

Reflection by Christina Villa:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

This is a Mother’s Day message for all mothers who just want to lie down. Mothers who don’t have nannies, babysitters, housekeepers, or cleaning ladies.  This is for all the mothers who don’t have help.

This is for the mothers driving used cars or wrangling strollers onto the bus.  Mothers whose sick days are used up by sick kids home from school.  This is for mothers whose employers ask them, “Can’t you get a neighbor to watch him?”  For mothers who get asked “Is there a father in the home?” at parent-teacher conferences. This is for single mothers.

This is in recognition of all the meals cooked, lunches packed, and groceries put away.  The diapers changed, band-aids applied, hair combed, and clothes folded.  This is for every load of laundry schlepped up the stairs or home from the Laundromat.  This is for the bills paid, the calls home from the principal, the trips to the emergency room. This is for every mother taking care of children and holding it all together, more or less.

In recognition of these and all other burdens carried by mothers, I’d like to suggest: sit down—or better yet, lie down—and repeat to yourself today’s scripture.  Jesus won’t mind if you fall asleep and take a brief nap. I like to think that in this scripture, Jesus is saying that he knows how tired you are.  And he’s saying there are times when you must put your burdens down.  Put them down, and take your rest.

Reflection by Liz Nordquist:

Sons and Mothers

The unseen presence at the British Royal Wedding this past week was the mother whose untimely death and whose colorful persona shaped the choices and character of her son, William, second in line to the throne. As if there were not merely a physical resemblance in her son, Diana was represented there, tacitly, by selections of jewelry, designers, location and even the hymn sung. Her mothering left an indelible imprint on her son and on those around him.

Next Sunday in the United States, there will be a recognition and celebration of mothers, called Mothers’ Day. Many churches honor the mothers in the congregation, a practice to which I object because it so unfairly glorifies married women with children, with no other occasion for recognizing women who have other callings in life. I also feel that often it is salt in the wound of those who long for children and do not have them.  As a mother and grandmother myself, I do not need either a commercial holiday or a liturgical nod to be grateful for that part of my calling in ministry. However, the invitation to stop and reflect on being a mother is a welcome one.

Presently the book market is awash with memoir and advice books on being a mother, each one adding another layer of pressure to mothers, mostly first-time and young mothers, to take specific approaches to discipline, breast-feeding, or play, or to work or not work. Many of them create a spirit of judgment and anxiety for the newly minted mom tying to find her way. It’s not as if all the “old ways” are sure-fire resources either. When I began the process of parenting, I didn’t have the awareness of the ecological concerns that the use of various products have on children and the environment. I did not have to set standards for the use of computers and electronic games. The world keeps changing, and the options keep growing. What is a mother to do?

The prophet Hosea draws a lovely picture of the mothering face of God in Chapter 11, where the Divine One expresses the heart of mothering in a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel. In some deft strokes, the soliloquy begins with loving that child, calling that child. Then come the experiences of teaching, protecting, healing, setting boundaries, delighting, the push-me pull-you of a mother and child as she seeks to nurture and he seeks to become independent. Yet ultimately God does not give up: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? / How can I hand you over, O Israel? …I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim, for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” (8-9). God mothers without fail, no matter how egregious the wandering or seeming rejection; God remains faithful.

That is the Word of wisdom, hope and challenge to me as a mother; the standard is the unfailing Love of the Mystery we call God. No matter what, I am to remain faithful in love. And it is not as easy as it sounds. Some of our children we get immediately; it is if they and we know each other intuitively; we mirror each other. Others arrive with their own little idiosyncratic take on life that takes us by surprise and leaves us off balance. Some have great challenges, some have wildly independent streaks, some break our hearts often, but the mandate is the same: unfailing faithful love. Even at this point in my career of parenting, I need to keep that high bar before me.

On the day before the royal wedding, my own first-born son turned 40.  Even though I anticipated it, it was still a shock, but a delightful one. He is a man with a family of his own. He revels in the life he has created for himself; he has refused to let choices of the past keep him from present day joy. He is a thoughtful husband and an exuberant and present father. It is hard for me as a mother to know what part I had in shaping him, even as I am sure Diana did not know all the ways she was shaping William. But she loved him faithfully. And I have always and with practice loved my own son, fueled by the reality that the Mystery keeps loving me and will never let me go. It makes me glad!



*Not my own words; taken from that all-wonderful source of information: Wikipedia