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.
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