Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Mothers’ Day Blues

The U. S.  holiday of “Mother’s Day” was not originally a sentimental holiday to make money for the greeting cards and flowers companies. Originally, it was an organizing of women and mothers to oppose war and militarism.  I usually write on these themes come Mothers’ Day or even point people to contemporary ways to tap back into the original radicalism of this tamed holiday.

But I just can’t work up much enthusiasm for this time.  This year, the entire holiday has me down.  A few years back, I lost my mother to a rare lung disease. My mother-in-law was lost in complications from routine surgery several years earlier.  So, this week, when one of my daughters remarked that friends at school teased her about having no grandmothers (a major change from earlier in history or from global realities), I tried to console her, but it brought up unresolved issues with the loss of my mother. 

All my adult life I have felt that I was working hard, and unsuccessfully, to explain myself to my mother. I never doubted her love. But as she grew older, her politics grew more conservative and I struggled to demonstrate to her that my peace and justice activism grew out of the values she gave me.  She didn’t see it. She kept urging me to “get back into the ministry,” which I never thought I left. But for Mom, the only valid ministry was pastoral ministry and this was to be apolitical.  At her death, all that was still unresolved. 

Reflecting on that, it hits me just how hard this holiday (in the sentimental form that the churches help the greeting cards and flowers people promote) must be for so many.   There are those, of course, who grieve the loss of mothers. But there are also people at odds with mothers–I think especially of gay and lesbian friends from church whose mothers disowned them when they “came out.” And then there’s all those women caught up in the “mommy wars” and trying to fit someone else’s idea of what they should be as a mother–or if they should be a mother at all.  And our society is hardly organized in a way that supports parenting, maternal or paternal.

Jesus was not very sentimental about mothers, as the Gospels show us.  But somewhere along the line, the churches have bought into some almagamated portrait derived in part from Victorian ideals and in part from “Leave It to Beaver.”  That has to make it hard on real mothers, on women in general, and on all of us struggling to reconcile with our mothers.

So, this year, I have the Mother’s Day Blues.

May 13, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized, women


  1. Thanks for giving me some things to ponder about Mother’s Day that our a bit different. I never liked a sentimental Mother’s Day anyway.

    Comment by Looney | May 13, 2007

  2. It is also important to remember that the lady who started the day of honour for mothers then fought to her death against the commercialization of it. It is a tribute to her that you restate and encourage the original struggle of one mother for peace from which grew this holiday.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Tauratinzwe | May 13, 2007

  3. I look at Mother’s Day as more of an modern day way to practice the 5th commandment to honor our parents. It’s a reminder to show them we appreciate them. It gives us an excuse to call our moms even if we haven’t had the best relationship with them lately.

    Comment by Chris Huff | May 13, 2007

  4. Chris, I think the commercialization and sentimentality of Mothers’ Day actually works AGAINST a true honoring of our parents. And it remains a very hard day for those who have lost mothers or who have been abandoned or disownec by mothers, etc., etc. I think the original holiday, although itself tinged with the 19th C. cult of true womanhood (thus, women and mothers were to use their superior moral influence to get men to give up war), was more valid.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 13, 2007

  5. I agree. Most, if not all, of our holidays today have become commercialized. I guess what I’m saying is that we should focus on the good. People will always try to make money off of these things, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hang on to the good (or focus on what can possibly be good).

    Comment by Chris Huff | May 14, 2007

  6. Well done. Honest, insightful, sensitive.

    Comment by Kerry | May 14, 2007

  7. Just saying a prayer for you. I hate “Mothering Sunday” (as it is here, in the middle of Lent, no less!) because of all the “mother issues”.

    Comment by PamBG | May 14, 2007

  8. […] 10. Who: Michael Westmoreland-White Where: Levellers What: Mothers’ Day Blues […]

    Pingback by Thom Stark » Thom’s Top Ten (May) | June 26, 2008

  9. […] 10. Who: Michael Westmoreland-White Where: Levellers What: Mothers’ Day Blues […]

    Pingback by Thom's Top Ten (May) « thomstark.net | November 5, 2009

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