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I really could do without Mother's Day.
Don't get me wrong – it's not that I don't like the idea of Mother's Day. I love my own mother more deeply and passionately than words could ever express. I love my mother-in-law and deeply appreciate her presence in my life. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a mother. It is the single-most satisfying, profoundly moving season of my life and a role I inhabit with incredible joy and a profound sense of blessing.
And as for the day itself, I certainly appreciate the crude, lovingly handmade cards my children thrust into my hands with beaming faces at breakfast on this Sunday each year. I certainly appreciate the pause my husband gives as we're rushing around getting ready for church to wrap his arms around me and tell me how much he appreciates me and the thought and care I give to mothering our children.
So, what's my beef with Mother's Day?
What I deeply mourn as I look around on Mother's Day each year is the undue importance the day takes on and the shallow myth of perfection we are sold. The Hallmark version of this day that cries out from every TV commercial, internet ad, and in-store limited-time deal seeks to celebrate the idea of a “perfect” mother or worse, a mother to whom others “owe” their love and gratitude, rather than honoring the honest, genuine relationship that exists between the mother and her family. (There are certainly exceptions to this, but the image pervades nonetheless.)
In a word, we are not perfect, and I want a celebration that honors each mother exactly for who she is, the one who loves her children with a love fiercer than a thousand swords and yet who sometimes loses her patience or forgets a promise or cries herself to sleep from the overwhelm or struggles with addiction or maybe who sometimes even resents motherhood despite how cheerfully she gives. We all have those ugly places in our soul, yet we CAN celebrate the work and joy of motherhood without ignoring them.
And in truth, the celebration and honor that comes with the latter is a far better celebration, one that can make you weep wonderful, beautiful tears because you are celebrated for who you really are, not just who other people hope you are. The reason I am so deeply grateful for my husband's words of appreciation is because he knows (really knows) all the ugly parts of me in addition to the beauty and thus his admiration is truly genuine, not based on a projected image of perfection.
And I certainly don't mean to decry the flowers or brunches or any of the gifts – as they in themselves aren't the issue. It's merely that any celebration of another person, mothers included, needs to be a celebration of the true, honest relationship that exists (or in cases of broken relationships, on healing the relationship). And if giving a bouquet of flowers or a gift certificate to the spa is what will communicate to that person that you truly, genuinely value them, then by all means, give a bounty of gifts – just don't do it out of obligation.
That's all I ask – first of all, make it a priority to nourish your closest relationships every day with words and tokens of appreciation, and second, if there does need to be a day set aside to honor mothers, celebrate your mother for who she is, not for who you want her to be (and ask your family to do the same for you).
P.S. There are a lot of mothers and daughters around the world who are hurting – be it from abuse, slavery, or a dysfunctional relationship – and Mother's Day provides the perfect opportunity to pray for and care for these women. If you know someone in your neighborhood who could use extra care this weekend, please seek the opportunity to do so. And if you don't know someone directly, please use the day to pray for mothers around the world and perhaps even support ministries and organizations that help women live safe, meaningful, joy-filled lives.
Please tell us your favorite ministry or organization in the comments!