May 11, 2014

-image-oh, stuff about mother’s day and the church

Last year during Mother’s Day week, I found a blog post about Mother’s Day and the church and what the church should do about this day. There were over 1,000 comments and there’s no way I could read them all, but as a childless woman who finds this day hard and who avoids church every year on this day, I was struck by a recurring theme in a fair portion of the comments:

The childless women’s comments were frequently countered with “Well, yeah, you’re sad on this day but you’re supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice, the Bible says.”

You know, I love it when people use only half a verse to make their point or take a verse out of context entirely because, yes, we are supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice BUT – as the verse goes on to say – we are to mourn with those who mourn.

As it relates to the childless, when does the church do that, publicly? When does it mourn with other mourners – publicly? If the church is going to publicly rejoice with moms, then by extension, if it’s going to live out this verse, it should publicly mourn with the non-moms, but it doesn’t, or at least I’ve never seen a church that does. To be fair, I think it doesn’t because it just doesn’t know how. (I have some ideas, actually, because I know this road intimately.)

The church acknowledges moms a lot. They’re not forgotten. It’s not hard to find support and friends with that common bond, is it? Mothers are everywhere in the church, so they can’t possibly feel ignored, generally, in the church. There are lots of programs, lots of women walking a similar road, lots of moms with whom to commiserate, so to my eyes, there’s no lack of company. I’m not saying that moms can’t feel alone sometimes; I’m saying the state of motherhood is certainly not ignored in the church at large.

But, frankly, I don’t think it’s the church’s job to celebrate moms. It’s the job of the individual families to celebrate their own moms. I think the church should leave this manmade Hallmark holiday to the culture at large and keep it out of the church entirely. Enough with the mom sermons on Mother’s Day (and enough with the dad sermons on Father’s Day). Enough with the flowers it gives to moms one year and enough with the flowers it gives to all women the next year so no one feels left out. (I’m not stupid. I know I’m not a mom. A flower doesn’t fix it and it’s just awkward and pandering. In the past I said “no, thank you” to those flowers.)

But back to the post I mentioned at the beginning of my tirade. You know, I was also struck by just how many Christian moms commented that they want to be asked to stand in church on Mother’s Day and that they want to be acknowledged and applauded by the entire church. Why? Why are moms entitled to acknowledgement from the entire church? Several women gave the rationale that it’s no different from Veteran’s Day when veterans are asked to stand.

And … then I had to comment. First calm down and then comment.

Because, no, it’s not like Veteran’s Day at all. When veterans are asked to stand on their day, they have served EVERYONE in that church in their service to our country. Moms don’t serve the entire church. They serve on a much smaller but no less vital front: their own home. Expecting honor from people you don’t serve in your capacity as mom is expecting honor that you’re not entitled to. If I were a mom, I’d care much more about things like a scribbled homemade card that says “I love you, mommy,” burnt toast and runny eggs, a sloppy mani-pedi, or a bouquet of random flowers from my yard than any polite applause from people in church who don’t even know what kind of mom I am. Who cares about that? And if a person does care about that, I think they have to ask themselves why.

Maybe moms want to feel like heroes for a little while. I can understand that, but, again, they’re heroes to the family they serve, not the church at large. No, it’s not on the same scale size-wise, but isn’t it much more meaningful?

And about that standing acknowledgement, can I be blunt – or more blunt? The only thing that separates a mom from a non-mom is that all the male-female parts worked correctly and in a timely fashion. The “standing mom” acknowledgement that some churches employ is for the physical fact of being a mom. It isn’t a judgment nor is it an endorsement. It’s not saying “these women are all great moms”; it’s saying “these women are all moms.”

At its core, it’s really a physiological difference that separates a mom from a non-mom, but the church doesn’t do other such acknowledgements and celebrations based on physiological differences, does it? You don’t hear “Stand up if you don’t have diabetes.” “Stand up if you can see.” “Stand up if you don’t have ED.” “Stand up if you can stand up.”

Absurd, right?

I stay away from church on Mother’s Day. I have for years and I don’t see that ever changing – for the rest of my life. I won’t go. In my house, it’s called “Tracey Day” and I get spoiled rotten. That’s how I cope and how I will always cope with this manufactured, exclusionary day.

But would Mother’s Day really be diminished for Christian moms if the church didn’t acknowledge it? Would the Christian mom feel gypped if there weren’t flowers passed out, sermons preached, applause offered? There are plenty of non-Christian moms who don’t get applauded by a roomful of people on that day, so are their Mother’s Days qualitatively worse for the lack of it? I rather doubt it.

I just looked this up: Mother’s Day was established as a holiday 100 years ago – in 1914.

So I’m just wondering.

If this were 1913, what would Christian moms do?


  1. Precisely.

    I go to church to honor Christ. Not anyone else. If I am asked to “honor” anyone besides Jesus, at any church, I will find a different church.

    The command to “honor your father and mother” is a command meant for individual households. In the whole history of Christian worship (including its roots and origins in ancient Judaism), there has not been a “day for exaltation of motherhood.” In no way is this a “Christian tradition”.

    If your church is “honoring” anyone for any reason other than that person points to Jesus, your church is doing it wrong.

    Comment by Katie — May 12, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

  2. Kate ~ Amen!

    Comment by tracey — May 14, 2014 @ 10:29 pm

  3. Tracey,
    Although my kids are mostly grown and by God’s grace, they appear to have “turned out” and thus “validated” my stay-at-home and homeschool mom role, culture as a whole, even Christian culture, does not consider motherhood to be a valuable vocation for an entire lifetime. It is ok to be a mom, but only if you are “taking time off from your career” to raise them “until they go to school”. Mother’s Day was the one day a year when at least some lip service was given to the importance of being a mom and the applause was nice. Perhaps I was wrong and I certainly don’t mean to add salt to the wounds of those who aren’t moms, I’m just sharing how it felt to me.It sure felt an awful like “you go girl”.

    This statement, “The only thing that separates a mom from a non-mom is that all the male-female parts worked correctly and in a timely fashion” minimizes all moms who became moms through adoption or are foster moms. They are just as much moms as those who gave birth to their children. I don’t think you meant to do that.

    As for the church honoring various groups, if you think of the church as a family gathering for 1) worship and 2) family memories/bonding/encouragement/fellowship, it makes more sense. We honor graduates, give them a chance to share their future plans, and pray over them as a church every year in June. We honor veterans and pray over the active duty members in November. Those are good things for the church family to do, I think.

    Comment by MamaTod — June 20, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

  4. Tracey,
    I’m so glad that you are posting again. Your writing touches my heart, especially posts like this one. I also am not a mom, for different reasons than you, when I always wanted to be.

    I think the church in general has difficulty being encouraging and inclusive to those who are outside the mainstream, traditional path. I agree with you that, again generally, it doesn’t know how to mourn with those who mourn (non-moms, singles, and other groups). Instead most of those people just remain silent in the midst of their hurt.

    Really, why do churches celebrate “hallmark” holidays? Why do they want to celebrate someone other than Jesus?

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing yourself, and welcome back.


    Comment by Laural Hildebrand — July 7, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

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