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I hate Mother’s Day. I think Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day too) is the most fabricated, exclusionary, and covertly misogynistic holiday on the books.
I have every reason to enjoy this coming Mother’s Day. I am married to a dear man who I am positive will make sure I am showered with attention. My three children are healthy and still young enough to offer me hand-picked weedy bouquets and construction paper cards. And for the first time in perhaps 15 years my own mother will be with me. My mother, imperfect as all mothers, did a great job at meeting my emotional needs as I grew up under her loving protection. I am deeply grateful for her presence and steady love in my life.
But still I hate Mother’s Day. As a feminist, as a pastor, as a woman who spent the early years of her marriage pining away for children, and as an LGBTQ advocate (just to name a few) Mother’s Day offends me to my very core. Here are my reasons why:
#1 Mother’s Day is often artificially fabricated and often stilted!
· This is the least of my reasons, but shouldn’t we be thankful for the individuals who love us into being every day? Do we really need a special day to prompt us?
· I’ve observed something odd about Mother’s Day: gift-giving is getting out of control, whether it’s a fancy brunch or a brilliant bouquet or expensive jewels. These materialistic rituals appear to be making up for growing unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
· Some children have terrible mothers. Really. Terrible mothers who should not receive a card on Mother’s Day. Still, our society pressures their daughters to send something with comments like, “No matter what, she’ll always be your mother.” These children should be celebrated for surviving their childhoods, not forced to recognize their mother on a fabricated holiday.
· Some children are painfully difficult to mother. I know a mother who made the brave decision to utterly cut ties with her daughter. She understood that to save herself and save her other children she has to disown her own child. You can lay whatever judgement you want on this woman, but have you reared a sociopath? Mother’s Day leaves this woman overwhelmed with such grief that she often slips back into a depression for weeks.
#2 Mother’s Day is exclusionary!
· I am 100% positive the church tradition of handing out flowers to mothers on Mother’s Day Sunday is well meaning, but it is downright dreadful. It has caused more unintentional pain than can be imagined. I know so many women who intentionally avoid church on Mother’s Day for this reason. Imagine all the women who desperately want children but were unable to conceive, or miscarried, or buried stillborns, or yearned for a life partner with whom to rear their child, or have given up their child for adoption. How do they feel on Mother’s Day, especially as they walk into a place that is supposed to be compassionate, like church?
· Just because you did not give birth to a child doesn’t mean you aren’t a mother. I know two women in particular, childless themselves, who are the most exceptional mothers I’ve ever met to their nephews and nieces and godchildren.
#3 Mother’s Day perpetuates old fashioned, misogynistic, heteronormative views!
· Women should have choice around issues of procreation, marriage and rearing children. Mother’s Day upholds the old fashioned single path for women: get married (preferably before you are 25 and have young eggs), have children, stay home, volunteer at your children’s schools, pack their lunches, and ignore your own desires. If that is your calling, then that will be a blessed calling. But it’s not every woman’s calling.
· Not all women feel called to motherhood and that really is okay. When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up I responded a “mommy.” I meant it. I love being a mother. I also love the color blue and hate high heels. Does this mean I am less or more of a woman? I also do not enjoy being a full time mother but much prefer part time or full time work. Do I love my children less as a result? No, I love them all the more.
· You do not need a vagina to be a mother. Really. There are men I know who have “mothered” their children with more affection, attention, and constancy than their biological mothers.
· If you haven’t noticed, families are elastic these days in surprisingly beautiful ways. Some children have two moms, no moms, a step mom, birth mom, sister-mom, you name it. Some individuals may have egg donors, but they do not have mothers.
Can we please give up the ghost!? Can we please quit this fabricated, exclusionary, misogynistic, heteronormative old school holiday? If you desperately want some special day can we combine Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to create Person-Who-I-Am-Particularly-Thankful-For-Day? (Clearly we would have to work on the name.)
I am well aware that my one woman campaign will be ineffective, but in closing I offer one suggestion. This Mother’s Day send a card or deliver some flowers to someone other than your mother or spouse. Take them to your babysitter and thank them for loving your children. Send a card to your best friend’s Dad who drove you to every soccer practice. Take out your single mom neighbor. Please for the sake of everyone who provides love and affection, celebrate them all, and not just the ones who fit into our designated Ozzie and Harriet gender roles. Everybody who loves should be celebrated. Let’s blow this holiday wide open!
See my posts in May 2013 (make sure to scroll down) and May 2014 to read a more nuanced discussion of Mother’s Day .
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.