an un-mother’s day

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You know those years when you just don’t feel like celebrating your birthday?

Such was my attitude toward Mother’s Day this go-round. I was just not all that into it.

My mothering lately has been grumpy, impatient and frazzled. It’s a stressful season of our family’s life, so I’m trying not to take it too seriously. But I still didn’t feel much like celebrating. Even though I believe firmly that Mother’s Day isn’t something we earn, I decided I’d rather have a normal, quiet, low-key Sunday than a Hallmark holiday.

But as I nursed Grinch-like sentiments this past week, the notion of Alice in Wonderland’s un-birthday wryly popped into my head. What would it mean to celebrate an un-Mother’s Day instead of the normal flowers-chocolate-&-brunch festivities?

First I thought it might mean indulging in a day of activities that had absolutely nothing to do with mothering. For example, uninterrupted sleep! Adult conversation! Spa treatments! Wine! Gourmet meals that someone else cooked! Plenty of geographic distance from one’s progeny!

But I realized that is, in fact, the perfect Mother’s Day. And I got it last year. Whoops.

So then I started from a truly unconventional standpoint. What if I spent the day thinking of un-mothers instead?

Un-mothers could be fathers, the paternal yang to the maternal yin. So yesterday I prayed for fathers – for their work outside the home to provide for their families and for their work at home to nurture their children.

Un-mothers could be children, the necessary and opposite other half of the mothering relationship. So I prayed for children who daily seek the love of a mother to help them grow.

Un-mothers could be women who want desperately to have children, those who suffer through infertility, miscarriage and failed adoptions. So I prayed for the women whose hearts break as the years pass, whose stomachs sink when strangers ask questions, whose hands ache to hold a baby.

Un-mothers could be women who have chosen not to have children, those who feel called to different paths. So I prayed for women whose vocations lead them to other nurturing relationships, rewarding work, and life-giving commitments.

Un-mothers could be women who have suffered the loss of a child, whose motherhood has been broken and reshaped by pain and death. So I prayed for women who grieve for their children, who struggle to redefine themselves as mother after loss, who seek to go on living after the life they held closest to their heart has stopped.

Un-mothers could be women who do not want the children they have. So I prayed for women whose motherhood was forced on them, or who made decisions to end their child’s life, or whose deep sorrow and anger at the world causes them to hurt their children.

In the Christian tradition, one way to describe God is the via positiva: what God is like. God is like a mother. Another way to describe God is the via negativa: what God is not like. God is not like a mother.

One way to understand mothering from a spiritual perspective is the via positiva – what it is to be a mother. Much of my thinking and writing in this space takes this slant. But another way to understand mothering is the via negativa – what it is not. Broadening my perspective to embrace those who are not mothers helps me to understand my own parenting better, situating my cares and concerns within a wider view.

And praying for those whose lives and loves differ from mine reminds me that all of us, mothers and un-mothers, are swept up into the mystery of who God is.

Which is a question well worth pondering, no matter what day it is.

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7 thoughts on “an un-mother’s day

    Second Chances said:
    May 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Love this! I felt similarly this year…not into the “holiday” aspect at all. And wanting to branch out from the traditions of Mother’s day that I was never a part of setting in the first place. A little grumpy? Maybe! But it was seriously the best Mother’s day I’ve had in a long time. Just wrote my own post about it! I love your focus on the “un mothers”. Perfect.

    lazyhippiemama said:
    May 14, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Wow! I read this 3 times. It’s just beautiful! An amazing expression of turning a “stressful season” of your own into blessings for others. You’ve inspired me this morning.

    Motherhood « Exploratory Introspections said:
    May 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    [...] an un-mother’s day ( [...]

    Liz said:
    May 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I always struggle with this balance when trying to decide how to celebrate Mother’s Day with the congregation I serve. In the pews are bound to be so many diverse viewpoints: mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who are excited about a day that honors them, alongside them those who’ve lost their mothers for whom it is a day of grieving, also those who care for their elderly mothers who are in a way mothering their mothers, and also those who aren’t mothers, those who wish to be mothers but can’t, those who didn’t have a good relationship with their own mothers, those who do not have positive relationships with the mothers of their own children. So proclaiming, “This is a great day! God is our Mother!” can be a challenge, and the celebration is more nuanced than I once believed. But I am trying, just like you are, to honor as much of the spectrum as I am able. Glad you are too!

    Claire said:
    May 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Mother’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. The years of infertility and miscarriages put a damper on it, and I also feel bad for people who have lost their mothers or don’t have the greatest relationships with their mothers. I think it’s great that you turned the day into an opportunity to pray for people in a variety of circumstances. I was pleasantly surprised at Mass yesterday when the priest invited all women to stand up for a blessing, and the prayers of the faithful included prayers for women in a variety of circumstances (some of which I mentioned above), and the homily was actually about the Mass readings instead of going on and on about Mother’s Day.

    UNGOT « Exploratory Introspections said:
    May 15, 2012 at 4:44 am

    [...] an un-mother’s day ( [...]

    celebrating: take two | mothering spirit said:
    May 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    […] we all be blessed and be blessings to each other, held in the love of God’s Mothering […]

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