I have felt seated at the margin of Mothers Day many, many times. And I have spoken with quite a few women who also ached silently through the day. So when I read Mary Wilson’s column (Highland Park United Methodist Church), it absolutely resonated. I offer it here in case it fits. Please know that you are not alone. KF
I remember celebrating Mother’s Day as a kid. We went to a Mexican restaurant with my family one year, and they ceremoniously gave all of the moms a pink long stem rose upon arrival. I didn’t realize that only the moms were being given roses. In my four-year-old brain, I had no doubt that all of the females – including me – were getting one.
So I stood there in line eagerly awaiting my rose, and when I was skipped over, tears welled up in my eyes inexplicably. The sting of being left out of such a joyful celebration of females hurt my feelings deeply, and I couldn’t explain it at such a young age. Logically of course, even as a four-year-old, I understood that I was not a mother and this date on the calendar was in celebration of mothers. But I even felt it back then; there was a clear separation of mothers and non-mothers.
Why did it have to hurt so much?
Many years have passed, and I’ve celebrated many a joyful Mother’s Day with my own mom and the mothers and grandmothers who are very dear to me.
I’ve celebrated as a mom of young girls myself, and I’ve experienced the day as an ‘insider’ – but I can’t help but think of all the women who will experience the sting of this day.
My fellow outsiders, if you’d rather skip Mother’s Day this year, this one’s for you:
You’re struggling to conceive. I see you.
If you are desperately wanting to be pregnant and for some reason, it’s just not happening (even if you already have another child or children), I truly feel your pain. This was me for many years, and it was all I could do to get out of bed and attend a brunch to celebrate all of the women who had the only thing I wanted in life. It’s completely draining to put on a happy face when you’re invited to yet another baby shower or get the fifth birth announcement in the mail this year. I’m with you. God sees you.
You lost your child. I see you.
Experiencing a miscarriage or the loss of your child (of any age) is excruciating. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I feel your pain, and I fall down on my knees in prayer beside you. I’ve experienced miscarriage and have close friends who have wrestled in the desert that is loss, and I know how isolating it can feel. I know that you may try to put on a smile for the people around you while inside you’re actually struggling to breathe. You are not alone on your island. God sees you.
You’re a foster mom. I see you.
In my days as a foster mom, I was certainly doing ‘mom work,’ but I didn’t exactly have the title of mom yet. It was as if I was in an alternate universe where I felt like a mom, but I was still an outsider on the official mom spectrum. Foster moms, I commend you. You are doing a very hard thing, and you are rocking it. Your affection and attention will keep that child (or children) clean, fed, cared for, hugged on, disciplined, read to, sung to, and loved on. Whether you care for him/her for a day or many years, you are doing God’s work. You are the advocates and the warriors for children that may not have anyone else fighting for them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God sees you.
You thought you’d be a mom by now. I see you.
We have a way of planning out our life – where we’ll go to college when we’ll get married, have our first baby, and whatever comes next. And life doesn’t always show up in the ways we thought it would. For whatever reason, you thought you’d be a mom by now and it hasn’t worked out that way. You’re afraid it may never happen for you. You get questions from people as if you are choosing to be single or choosing to not have children… and that hurts. You feel forgotten and unvalued, and that’s just not true. I’m here to tell you that you have a tribe of women that feel like you do. They think they’re alone too. Find each other and build each other up. God sees you.
You’re an adoptive mom. I see you.
Adoption is a beautiful thing. It also carries sadness and pain along with it in many cases, and it’s okay to recognize that. As an adoptive mom, Mother’s Day is a reminder that my child has a biological mother who isn’t in her life at this moment. If you have a relationship with your child’s bio mom, it probably carries its own interesting story (with highs and lows) unique to your family. Adoptive moms, we are a rare breed who understand each other. We’ve got to stick together. God sees you.
You’ve been reminded that life is fragile. I see you.
If you, your mom, or your child has received a difficult diagnosis, this day doesn’t feel as joyful as it once did. You probably long for brighter days – before the chemo treatments or dementia. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 16 years old, and I vividly remember feeling as if time stood still. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like a celebration is in order, and that’s okay. The diagnosis doesn’t define you. God sees you.
You’re playing the role of mom & dad. I see you.
Possibly through divorce, death, or suicide… you’ve found yourself as the sole parent doing the work of two people. You’re doing it all and collapsing on your bed every night, just to get up and do it again the next morning. You’re always on clean-up duty… and homework, coaching, and discipline duty. You don’t get a day off. You are making it work, and your kids are going to realize it one day. There are sweet moments, and also lots of hard ones. Keep going, mom. God sees you.
You face a few more challenges in life. I see you.
Your child (or children) brings you so much joy, but you also worry about what’s in store for their life. You fight for inclusion and acceptance. You are an advocate for their education, and you pray they’ll have a best friend (and someday a spouse) who truly gets them. Sometimes things get out of control, and you need others around you to give you grace – and lots of it. Fight the good fight in honor of your child, and then don’t forget to spill your guts with a few girlfriends to help them understand what’s going on behind closed doors. There’s no shame to come from delays and differences. We love you. God sees you.
Your mom passed away. I see you.
My heart aches for those of you who have lost your mom. I personally feel your pain as I lost mine almost eleven years ago. The sting of loss is strong and while it may become a little less potent as time goes by, I still long to hear my mom’s voice on the other end of a phone call or feel her cool hand on my forehead checking to see if I’m running a fever. That feeling never quite goes away, and I don’t know that I want it to. Lean into the memories even when they hurt. Do something in remembrance of your mom. Tell stories about her to whoever will listen. She’s still with you. God sees you.
You have a strained (or non-existent) relationship with your mom. I see you.
We didn’t all grow up with the most nurturing, loving, and kind woman as our mother. If you’d rather avoid this day because ‘Mom’ is basically a four letter word for you, I understand. You may find yourself creating your own identity as a mother (or person in general) because you didn’t have a solid female role model in your life growing up. The painful memories are still there, and Mother’s Day stirs them up even more. You are not your mother. You can rise above the words that were spoken over you and the shame that has been brought on you. You have compassion because of the experiences you’ve been through, and I know you’re going to be ok. God sees you.
You don’t want to be a mom, but others don’t understand. I see you.
Some of you made the distinct decision not to become a mother. Maybe you love being around nieces, nephews, and your friends’ kids – but you’d rather not go there yourself. Or maybe you like kids better when they actually grow up and become adults. I hear the questions you are asked and the gasps of disbelief that follow your answer. “Wait, so you’re saying you don’t want children… at all… ever?!” I’m sorry if you feel misunderstood or unworthy in the eyes of other people. You are complete. You don’t need children to complete you. You are not a second-class citizen, and I commend you for making the decision that fits the vision you have for your life. God sees you.
This year for Mother’s Day, I’m working on something a little bit different, and I encourage you to join me. I’m writing notes to women – some I know and some I’ve never met. These women fall into many of the categories I’ve written about above. I’m showing them that I see them, love them, and – most importantly – that God sees them and loves them.
If while reading these words, you’ve had names and faces pop into your mind, that’s God nudging you. Write them a quick email or card, shoot them a text or give them a phone call. Mother’s Day can be a day for us all to join in together and be inclusive rather than purely celebrating the happy circumstances (which are amazing as well). Ask God who needs you, and go to them. It will mean more than you could ever imagine.
P.S. If you have read through this list of people and haven’t found your reason for feeling like an outsider, I hope you’ll email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you. I see you, too.
Just so you know:
Is Mother’s Day hard for you? We see you.
For a variety of reasons, Mother’s Day can be a difficult and painful day. We want you to know that we are here for you, and we want to walk alongside you. No matter what your struggle is today, there is a place for you at HPUMC (Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas). The Invisible Sisterhood, a community of women who are unable or struggling to have children, meets every other Thursday; Healing Estranged Relationships (H.E.R.) meets on the second Tuesday of each month; and Forever Moms, a support group for women who have experienced child loss, gathers on the second Wednesday of each month. We see you, and we are glad you’re here.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Kathleen Neely said:
Great article. So insightful! Sending it to a friend who wants to be a Mom! Thank you Kathleen.