I Screwed Up Mother’s Day

Whoops. I’ve screwed this up, haven’t I? Yup. Must have missed the memo. Or had a momentary lapse in concentration. 

Apparently, I am rostered on to serve at church this Mother’s Day. 

OK, I know it doesn’t sound like the crime of the century. Or any kind of crime at all. The fact remains I have agreed to attend church on a day where I normally avoid church like the dentist. 

I have agreed to attend church on a day where I would normally avoid church like the dentist.

I have nothing against my church. No issues with them at all. I have issues with Mother’s Day, specifically the glorification of motherhood, and the way it shreds my childless heart. So I normally skip this day entirely—or spend it engaged in some form of hard-core self-care. As much as I love serving at church (and I do), it’s not exactly my idea of sheltering and self-care. 

That’s why, when I realised I would be serving on Mother’s Day, I had a big ‘Whoops’ moment. 

Honestly, I am not even sure why churches celebrate this secular event. We don’t do the same for Valentine’s Day (or, at least, I hope not), so why this endless talk of mothering (and fathering) stuff? Can’t we just talk about Jesus, and not risk excluding a significant portion of our church? Or is that too much to ask? 

Can’t we just talk about Jesus, and not risk excluding a significant portion of the church?

OK, tantrum over. I feel better now. 

Yes, I know many churches do Mother’s Day in healthy and inclusive ways. Yes, I know we can spend the service focusing on the motherly nature of God. I fully support these measures. But the fact remains that no matter how well these measures are executed, they are—and always will be—the sting in the tail of Mother’s Day, the ever-present reminder of what I do not have. 

I am not alone in this sentiment. I have childless friends who also opt out of Mother’s (and Father’s) Day services because it is simply too painful. The risk is too high that they will attend the Mother’s Day service and be ambushed in some way—a cute kids’ video, a poem about motherhood, a giving-flowers ceremony—leaving them distraught and disintegrating. 

This is not cynicism speaking. This is my experience. This is why I usually avoid it. 

So how am I going to survive this Mother’s Day? The answer lies at the heart of this story: serving. I will focus on serving, and with my attention fixed firmly on ministering to others, I will be distracted from my grief. This is not a new method. I have utilised this approach during Christmas carols too, as carols can tend toward the ‘child-friendly’ end of the spectrum. Serving makes a big difference.

The answer lies at the heart of this story: serving.

This is the plan for Mother’s Day. I will serve, I will focus on others, I will survive. And I will worship Jesus with every fibre of my being on that day. Because it’s all about him anyway. 

Do you, or your childless friends, struggle with Mother’s Day services? Do you think it’s appropriate for churches to celebrate this Day? How can we survive these Days—or better yet, how can we be more supportive of each other so the need to ‘survive’ is diminished? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

4 thoughts on “I Screwed Up Mother’s Day

  1. Hello. I am a heart broken childless individual. I am the only female in my family who does not have children. I am the only person in my social circle (friends since elementary school) without children. I stay away from them now as there is no commonality, they will not invite me to any get togethers stating “what would you do there”. I do not go to baby showers or christenings. I am called a lazy poor excuse for a female who has done “nothing for society”. This was not my choice. I have had over 10 surgeries due to endometriosis fibroids painful ovarian problems. In the middle of all this a full hysterectomy that did nothing for the horrific pain i am in. At church all the mothers are asked to stand and be acknowledged, receiving flowers at this mass. They receive flowers gifts cards brunch/ dinner reservations by the men who are now fathers because of them. One mother’s day i tried to take my life (obviously i am still here). I have let down by parents and my now deceased mother in law. I wish this holiday each May would be ousted as a holiday.

    • Hi JulieAnn, thank you so much for sharing your story. Both exclusion and insults from others can be so hurtful. I am so sorry to hear that you tried to end your life on Mother’s Day; I am sorry you felt there was no way out and that ending your life seemed like the best option. For the record, I am glad you are still here. You do matter, and your life does make a difference. I hope you have a couple of trusted people you can talk to about this, and that you don’t have to keep these feelings to yourself. I’ve heard good feedback about some helplines in Australia, including Lifeline (13 1114) and Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636); they are both free, 24/7 helplines, and I highly recommend them if you ever feel that way again. In the meantime, I heartily agree about ousting the Mother’s Day holiday (and Father’s Day too), especially in the church context. Why are we focusing on mothers instead of God?? Anyway, thanks again for reaching out, and I hope you can find a way of believing you are valuable and worthwhile. Because you are. God’s peace be with you tonight.

  2. Thanks for sharing this message Steph, it’s a good reminder to me that l am not alone in choosing to avoid church services on Mother’s day!!
    I love your honesty. After years of wearing a mask and smiling as l served or attended such services, which really are like emotional torture for the infertile /childless/lost a child/ women in church, in the interests of self care in recent years l have made a stand personally, that l can no longer do this. I also try to plan family get-togethers for my mum on the Saturday rather than Sunday, this year we are catching up with mum and extended family next weekend because that worked in better with everyone’s schedules! I try to focus on my significant role as a spiritual mother, supporting many and think it should be Women’s day…recognition of the many roles we all play, regardless of whether we were blessed with the ability or opportunity to have children. I also choose myself a present from my 3 fur-kids each year, gotta love the Mother’s day sales ha ha…my clever doggies chose a new winter jacket!!
    Bless you my friend,
    Ros x

    • Ros, I hear you. Those services can be a special kind of torture for those without children. I am glad for your honesty in taking a stand – not a stand against others, but a stand for your sanity and wellbeing – and I hope it serves you well. Good on you for embracing spiritual and fur motherhood! Bless you too.

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