I did a little research on the trusty Google and discovered that, as with most holidays, Mother's Day has pagan roots. It's believed that ancient people set aside a day every year to honor the earth goddess (Mother Earth!), and in Roman times a day was set aside to honor the goddess Juno. The tradition was adopted by the Catholic church to honor the Virgin Mother Mary, and it wasn't long after that the day came to represent a celebration of motherhood in general. It became an officially recognized holiday in the United States in the early 1900s.
I've heard people take jabs at other holidays the past few years, about why we should or shouldn't celebrate things, how it will scar our children for life to let a jolly fat man come down a chimney to deliver presents, how we should say "happy holidays" instead of whatever specific holiday we're celebrating to avoid possibly offending someone, and how something like Valentine's Day was only invented to create more revenue for the gift making industry, but I've never heard someone take a jab at Mother's Day.
Until this year.
Really? Mother's Day? A day set apart to honor our mothers? This is where we want to draw a battle line???
I appreciate those with a voice needing to be heard. I've read many articles in recent years that shed light on perspectives I'd never considered. The internet is a great tool for getting to know each other better. I like hearing most of the different perspectives on things like Miley Cyrus and Duck Dynasty and public breastfeeding and vaccinations. It's funny how I can read two articles with two completely different opinions on a topic and find myself agreeing on some level with both--even if I don't fully agree with the writer, I usually get where they are coming from, and I'm glad that they've given me some things to think about.
I've read a few different articles about why we need to understand the negative impact of Mother's Day, and although there were some great points in those articles and things were articulated well, I finished reading them and just shook my head. How did we get to a place where we can't celebrate people because it makes other people feel bad? Is it like the "everyone gets a trophy" field day thing? More importantly, how did Mother's Day become about how YOU feel?
I know there are people who long to be mothers, but, for whatever reason, are not. Some of them have very tragic stories that include infertility, miscarriage, or loss of a spouse. Other people have never found the person to have children with, and they don't want to raise a child on their own. Anytime someone wants something they do not or are unable to have, that is heart-wrenching. I went through many years of not having children because my husband wasn't ready--I know that isn't the same as infertility (I would never presume to know what that's like), but I understand the longing. I've lost pregnancies--I understand the pain of loss. These are REAL things, and we should absolutely talk to each other about them, comfort each other, and grieve together.
But we should absolutely NOT make those who have children feel badly because they are being celebrated. It is wrong on so many levels that I hesitated to post a picture of me with my son on Mother's Day because I didn't want to make someone sad who would like a child but doesn't have one. The fact that I have a child doesn't contribute to the sorrow of someone who does not have a child. The nature of our society right now implies that I should feel a little bit of guilt about that. Even though I know that's ridiculous, my empathetic disposition makes it hard to ignore. I should be quiet about my joy, because my joy is a knife in the gut of someone who wants what I have. When I am being honored, someone else is being shamed or made to feel less than whole. The message coming across to me loud and clear is that I need to remember my place--I am lucky to be a mother, so I should be quiet about my joy and pass on the notion that I can accept honor for who I am.
All the feminist say, "What?!"
Because of my faith, I vow to share in the suffering of those around me. I care about women who are hurting, and I will help them carry their burden when it becomes too great for them. I also vow to rejoice with them when they receive the gifts their hearts have been longing for. If we are a community, we don't need to pause a celebration to remind everyone that pain also exists. We can't only listen to the tragedy and tell the success stories to keep to themselves because no one wants to be reminded of goodness when they are feeling so rotten.
We need to stop taking the good in someone else's life and making it about the bad in mine. A friend getting a great job isn't an opportunity to wallow in your less than ideal career. Someone getting married isn't an opportunity to resent that you are single. A couple expecting their first child isn't an excuse to complain about how you don't have the things you want. Those reactions are about internalizing and personalizing an event that is actually about someone else! Everyone's life looks different, and that's actually a good thing!
I am not blameless in this. I have my ugly reactions to things, too. But I'll be the first to say it, here and now: that reaction is NOT right. I'm not proud of it. I want to be better. I do not want to diminish anyone's joy by reminding them of my own disappointment and pain.
Mother's Day isn't about mothers saying, "Hey! Look at me! I'm awesome! Give me some honor!" Mother's Day is about celebrating motherhood. It's a beautiful thing that God created. Whether you've experienced it as a child or grandchild or mother, or even if you've just witnessed it from the outside looking it, it is so special. Motherhood is about so much more than blood--it is about nurturing each other, investing in the future, and appreciating the small, often thankless things people do sustain the next generation. Celebrate that however you want! If the traditional celebration of motherhood bums you out, find a new way to celebrate! And if there is a pain in your heart that truly runs too deep to celebrate, find that nurturing person in your life and let them share your burden. That is a celebration of motherhood, too.