Mother’s Day is next weekend. I have always been excited about thinking of out-of-the-box books to get my mom and now mother-in-law, and the phone calls or messages I send to the women who genuinely mean something to me, and have been there for me in tangible and intangible ways. I could name them all, but it would take all day. I’m one rich woman.
Woman. That’s what Mother’s Day has meant to me–celebrating the women that made me the woman I am today. But not everyone celebrates it in that way. There’s an excellent blog post going around about the tradition of acknowledging moms at church on Mother’s Day weekend by asking the mothers to stand, either as recognition, or to receive a special flower or token at church. I’ll link it here, because you really should read it. It’s all about the compassion we need to bestow on women, particularly those who bear no visible sign of motherhood but may be hurting in deep, deep ways: http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/05/10/an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day/
Back? Great. This piece really resonated with me, because Mother’s Day didn’t really become an awkward holiday for me until recently. I’m 29, married, no kids as of now, and no plan for kids in the immediate future. I want them someday, but right now, I have a dissertation to finish drafting (by the end of summer, as per my director’s and my goals, but that’s a different blog post) and a salaried job of some kind to get. I know a lot of women my age in church who have kids already. A. Lot. And it’s put me in a strange spot in this faith community. Don’t get me wrong, no one is persecuting me or singling me out or belittling me for not being a mom. Although, at Christmastime, a complete stranger (one of the parents of the kids at The Chancellor’s school) rubbed my stomach and asked me why I didn’t have a baby yet. I KNOW.
Still, there is this odd undercurrent around Mother’s Day Church that feels like a rite-of-passage. That I won’t be seen in my faith community as a WOMAN until I am a mother and receiving a cheap carnation from a bodied child or standing and being applauded for having a child.
When I think of the many women in my church who are not married but have served God faithfully and joyfully, blessing my life in the process, I can’t help but become a little upset on their behalf. Where is their recognition? When I think of the work that the Chancellor and I do, reaching out and educating students, many of whom have fractious relationships with their parents, I wonder why being an actual parent automatically holds more value in the eyes of my church than in the missions we undertake.
I don’t intend this to be a poor-me post. I am not poor. By no means am I poor. When I think of the students whose paths I have come across, I feel lucky. When I think of the fellow graduate students and colleagues I have worked alongside and mentored and encouraged, I feel blessed. When I think of the miracles worked in my life, the trials, the joy, the deep, deep joy that lives in my heart, I realize that I am a woman. I am not a woman with children, but I am a woman.
If you are a fellow childless woman who has been made to feel less for not having children, I hold your hand in solidarity. If you are a woman who has lost a child, I hug you from this page. If you are a mom, I salute you. If you are a mentor, a friend, a guide, a leader, then I applaud you for making this world a richer place by making the world your children.
It is my hope that our world will recognize the many ways in which we can guide and direct and love without necessarily being a parent. That parenting is more complex than a fleshly child handing you a carnation. That loving a child or a soul is all it takes.
I am not a mother. But I am a woman.