Sisters Speak: The Mothers Day Conundrum

Whimsical by Kim Dean

The Exponent II publication’s next issue will be loosely focused around the theme of motherhood. As the Sisters Speak editor, I thought I could craft an interesting column about attitudes and experiences (good and bad) surrounding the celebration of Mothers Day in church. Please share your ideas on this topic. Some of you will receive emails from me asking if I might publish your comment in the magazine. Thank you!

To get the ball rolling, I’ll tell you about a memorable Mothers Day Sunday I’ve had. I’ll never forget the RS program that was put on one year about the mothers of the Prophets. It was a readers theater, and my overwhelming impression after the half hour production was “Thank goodness for birth control!” (In fact this is the statement that came out of my mouth a bit too loudly when the program ended.) It just seemed like a surprising number of mothers of the prophets either died in childbirth in their 40s or 50s after bearing A LOT of children, or they just had enormous families that must have wiped them out physically and emotionally. I got a few strange looks after those words about birth control flew out of my mouth, but I stand by the sentiment.

  • Do you think Mothers Day should be celebrated during church through special talks, lessons, and gifts? Why or why not?
  • What suggestions would you make for bishopric gifts to the women?
  • What would you like to hear in Mothers Day talks?
  • What experiences – positive and negative – have you had with the celebration of Mothers Day in church?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

You may also like...

46 Responses

  1. prairiegirl says:

    Well–

    I don’t, per say, have a problem with Mother’s Day celebrations at church.

    And as long as they give gifts out to every woman–rather than every “mother”–I’m fine with it (chocolate is fine for me–although I know many women have diet issues that need to be taken into consideration).

    BUT–if I hear one more FREAKING talk about how “even if you’re a woman and are not married or cannot have children–you can still be a mother” I will stand up and walk out!!!!

    Especially because it is almost always the MEN or the MARRIED WOMEN with a dozen children who say such stupid things (or I’ve even heard some single men–who are single out of their own CHOICE, thank you–saying such stupid things!)!!!!

    There’s never talks about aunts, about good women friends, about women who have dedicated their lives (because they were not able to have children or husbands) to serving every other person’s child in the freaking world!!!

    And if they do share a story like this, they’re either in passing, or the focus always is that “they only did this cause they were childless or husbandless”–or that somehow a single woman has all the time in the world to serve all the other “more important people” in the church–never that, geez, women no matter their “station” or “chapter” in life can do wonderful things to serve the Lord and fulfill their mission of Womanhood no matter what comes or does not come to them in this life!

    (And never mind the fact that uncles are not even mentioned in this church….let’s not even go there….)

    So–that’s my comment. My personal take on things is that celebrating it is fine–but don’t talk about things you do not understand anything about, nor have ever experienced!!!

  2. Starfoxy says:

    I’ve always longed for them to pass out nice pens for mothers day. Who couldn’t use a nice pen? Not too nice, but better than a plain old Bic.

    Anyways, I’ve also thought that Mothers day is best when talks encourage people to focus on respect for their mothers (everyone has one, even if they don’t know her), rather than on being a mother. And how can you best show respect for your mother? By doing her proud and being a good person. And that even fits in with the pen idea- give one to everyone and tell them to use it to write a letter to/or about their moms.

  3. amelia says:

    Last time I went to church on Mother’s Day (I often avoid it now), I refused to stand when the ward leadership (men, of course) asked all the women over 18 to stand and be honored. And when one member of the bishopric who was helping pass out the gifts approached me in spite of my sitting down to give me the requisite chocolate, I looked him in the eye and said “I’m not a mother.”

    I am not a mother. And I’m okay with that fact. I would like to be a mother. I hope someday I will be a mother. I nurture and foster a lot of children, when I have the opportunity. I have 24 nieces and nephews after all. But I. Am. Not. A. Mother. And don’t insult me by telling me that somehow, through some miraculous bout of mental gymnastics, I am one by virtue of the fact that I have mammary glands, ovaries, a uterus, and a vagina.

    If they would just stop saying that all women are mothers, then I might go back to a Mother’s Day sacrament meeting. But they won’t. Not until the leadership of the church pulls its collective head out of the sand and recognizes that the church as an institution and they as our leaders need to recognize and authorize and encourage all kinds of opportunities for women, rather than just motherhood. Because right now the only life path they proactively authorize and encourage for women is to marry and have children. Yeah, yeah. They are getting better about acknowledging that some women need to work. And things aren’t quite as sexist and disgusting as they used to be. But the fact remains that the church refuses to sanction any life path other than wife and mother. Any other life path is an accident. Because, you know, I’ll meet my eternal spouse in the next life because he’s not here for some reason. Or because my husband got run over by a steam roller when he was on his way to church last Sunday. Or because the big horrible no good world won’t pay my bread-winning husband enough money. When a woman is a non-wife, or a non-mother, it’s an accident. An accident of biology or circumstance or evil. It’s never an acceptable choice. It’s not a simple reality. It’s an aberration, unavoidable but regrettable.

    But my life? My life in which I am unmarried because that’s just the way it is, because some people, whether male or female, just don’t get married? That’s not a legitimate way to be. My life in which I spend my time working and building a home for me–just myself, not me and a husband, not me and children, just me–my life is an unacceptable and inexcusable substitute for the Real Life of a Woman. Heaven forbid that the leadership of the church bother doing its damn job and teaching the teachings of Jesus rather than prescribing roles and life choices and proscribing others.

    And because my life is an unacceptable and inexcusable substitute for the Real Life of a Woman, I must be consoled. I must be made to feel that life is okay afterall, because by virtue of having mammary glands, ovaries, a uterus and a vagina, I am, actually, after all, a Mother. Phew! Now I feel so very much better! Everything I do in my life is suddenly worthwhile and wonderful! No matter that I am husbandless and childless and with very little hope that that will change anytime soon (I’m on God’s timeline, not my own after; I’ll find a fabulous, hunky celestial husband after I’m dead)–no matter! I’m female, therefore I’m a mother, therefore life is beautiful and good and God loves me!

    Yeah. In the face of that logic, it’s a really amazing thing that I haven’t told someone to their face, in no uncertain terms, exactly where they can go.

    So yeah. When they can celebrate motherhood without insulting every female sitting in the room, maybe I’ll be interested in joining in that celebration at church. In the meantime, I celebrate it by honoring my own mother who is incredible and flawed and who I love dearly. And I think the church should butt the hell out. Teach us about Jesus. Tell us to love each other and be kind and compassionate. Remind us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But it should make a better effort to do that itself–to realize the teachings of Jesus rather than trying to dictate to its members what choices to make, when, where, and how. If I remember correctly, that was Lucifer’s plan, not Jesus’s.

  4. dk says:

    HI FIVE AMELIA! Seriously.

    I’m a mother and I hate Mother’s Day and all the sap that goes along with it, especially at church. Somehow every year I end up feeling like I don’t measure up. I guess I’m a mother who doesn’t know. Or something.

  5. Jenne says:

    Amelia touched on the part that I feel is missing from Mother’s Day meetings. I think quoting from the song “Parents are People” from Free to Be You and Me would go a long way to making that meeting more fulfilling for me. My big gripe right now with the church’s treatment of women is that I feel treated like I’m something other than human because of my reproductive ability that men don’t have. When I am recognized as a human at Mother’s Day, I’ll be happy.

  6. Whitney says:

    I’m not gonna lie, I like getting a piece of chocolate at the end of sacrament meeting, even though I’m not a mother. Mostly because I get hungry at church, and I love chocolate.

    But I DON’T like the way that saying every woman is a mother trivializes the hard work and sacrifices of the women who actually are engaging in childrearing. I DON’T like the way that saying every woman is a mother trivializes any other valid and important contribution (non-mother) women make to the church, to their wards/branches, to their communities, to their families and friends, and to their fields of employment. I DON’T like my whole self being equated with my reproductive organs.

    We don’t say that “every man is a father.” We recognize–BOY do we recognize–the important and meaningful contributions that men in the church make in their church service, employment, and communities. Of course, we don’t always recognize the nurturing they do for their kids. Does it have to be either/or like this?!

    • amelia says:

      Amen, Whitney! This is what I want (and Jenne said it so well, too): to be acknowledged as a contributing human being. One who does a great deal of good in her life. Whose life is valid and good and fulfilling because she makes good and interesting decisions, and learns from her mistakes, and screws up again, but always eventually tries to find something beautiful and good to appreciate and love and make out of her life. I don’t want to be appreciated because of my sex organs. And I don’t think mothers want to be appreciated because of their sex organs either.

      I have nothing wrong with having a day dedicated to honoring mothers and one dedicated to honoring fathers. As long as we don’t reduce either women or men to their reproductive and parenting capacities. We do this much more with women, but reducing men to their breadwinning and leadership capacities is, in my opinion, just as damaging.

      Like I said, let’s get back to what Jesus said. Hard to go wrong there. But we sure as hell screw up when we start dictating what it means to be Male or Female. Or Mormon. Or any other category.

      • Ziff says:

        I don’t want to be appreciated because of my sex organs. And I don’t think mothers want to be appreciated because of their sex organs either.

        That’s really the central issue, right? I mean that’s why all women have to be “honored” (however ineptly) on Mother’s Day. Once the Church goes down the path of granting or denying access to priesthood and administrative power based on sex organs, then they feel they have to reinforce that dividing line. So it’s not that women are denied the priesthood (for example) because they’re mothers, because some women aren’t mothers. So there’s the need to redefine what motherhood is, to make sure it includes everyone with female sex organs, so that they can be properly differentiated from those whose sex organs say “priesthood.”

      • amelia says:

        Ziff,

        I’ve been thinking about your comment for the last day or two. I think that we have to celebrate all women as mothers precisely because we, on some level, equate motherhood and priesthood. I don’t know that it happens overtly as often anymore, but I do think that tendency remains a very strong undercurrent of our culture. Men have priesthood. Women have motherhood. And therefore, in order to make sure non-mother females aren’t made to feel like they have no status, we must redefine female to mean mother.

        The thing is that any male can have the priesthood. Any “worthy” male, anyway. And every male is encouraged to pursue other avenues of fulfillment, other means of contributing to their societies. Women, on the other hand, are not. And that is the crux of the problem. Even though we may not as overtly make the priesthood = motherhood claim, we do continue to make very strong, very overt claims about the distinct nature of men and women. And inside the church man means priesthood and vice versa; and woman means wife/mother. The problem is that we allow no room in the latter for other things. We acknowledge the necessity of a woman working, but only if it enables her to fulfill her responsibility as wife/mother. We encourage our girls to be educated, but primarily because it will allow them to be a better wife/mother. Men on the other hand are presented with and encouraged to pursue many avenues to fulfillment and contribution–priesthood, church service, husband, father, worker, public servant. So the construct “man” expands out to encompass many things; the construct “woman” collapses in on one thing, no matter how broad an individual woman’s experience may be.

        And that construction of woman means that the women like me are sort of non-entities inside the church. Which is precisely what leads to the tortured mental gymnastics by which female = mother by virtue of having the right equipment. It’s not comfortable to have non-entities be a part of our communities, so the community as a whole develops tortured explanations of why they aren’t actually non-entities–explanations that are the moral equivalent of the 19th century arguments about why slavery was good for Africans.

      • Caroline says:

        Amelia,
        I loved your point about this:
        “So the construct “man” expands out to encompass many things; the construct “woman” collapses in on one thing, no matter how broad an individual woman’s experience may be.”

      • Alisa says:

        Amelia and Ziff, well said. Even as a married woman without children for 8+ years in the Church, I really felt my “non-entity” status. It is what triggered my feminist awakening.

  7. Whitney says:

    P.S. LOVE the “thank goodness for birth control” remark after sacrament meeting!!!!

  8. KLC says:

    Amelia, I’m old enough to remember when they did only give gifts to real mothers, they also gave gifts to the newest mother, the oldest mother, etc, etc. Why did they stop that? Because many many women chastized the male leaders for singling out mothers only, for being so insensitive. So several years ago, in response to that, mother’s day became woman’s day with the requisite gift to all women. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  9. Allyson says:

    Ditto Amelia.
    I’ve got mammary glands, ovaries, a uterus, all those female bits, but little good they did me. My husband and I are unable to have kids, though we now have two beautiful and amazing children we adopted. During those years of trying to get pregnant, of course Mother’s Day was frustrating and getting the flower or potted plant (or whatever that thing was) plus the pats on the back or the little one-arm hugs from ward members was even more frustrating, hurtful even. The talks and the syrupy accolades to us women because we have female ‘bits’ was more than I could take. I quit going on Mother’s Day. Even though I “now have kids”, I don’t go on Mother’s Day. (I did go last year because I’m the Primary pianist now and I had to play the song for the kids to sing in Sacrament Meeting, but when it came time for my “anatomy prize” I quickly and discreetly walked out. I was stopped by one of the men who tried to give me the prize, but politely told him, “No, thank you.”) On Mother’s Day, I just think of my friends and people I know who can’t have kids, have troubled relationships with their kids, or have so many kids they’re so gosh-darn tired, or friends who don’t have a mother or they have a strained relationship with their mother, or the mother who has lost their child too soon. My heart goes out to them on this day. Then I think of the birthmother’s of my kids and how things were and how things are for them. Then I think of my mother who was a wonderful mother and still is and how glad and how lucky I am to have her. Then I think of my kids and I just try to be grateful.
    I just don’t think we should be doing this at church. Nothing wrong with the bishop getting up and wishing a Happy Mother’s Day but that’s it. No talks on it, nor do I think we should be getting gifts. Use the money for that to give to the YW program to try and equalize the spending between the YW and the YM’s programs. Better yet, use it for humanitarian or service efforts.
    My favorite way to celebrate Mother’s Day (and this was also during my infertility struggles) is to have lunch with my Mom and give her a little gift and, now, ooh and ahh over the bowl of cereal and slab of chocolate my kids will bring to my bed Sunday morning. Sweet, simple, private, at home. A day of reflection.

  10. I had five children because I wanted them, and I cared for them because that was my job. I don’t need people to stand up in church and tell me I’m wonderful for reproducing and for raising the children I brought into the world.

  11. amelia says:

    KLC, I’m old enough to remember those days, too. My mother was always among the last women standing in our ward for “mother of the most children” (I’m one of 7; there was one family of 8 in the ward; some years my mom got that gift cause we also had a couple of foster kids through the Lamanite program, but now I digress). I understand that the leadership is in a damned if you damned if you don’t situation. I’m with Allyson and Course Correction on this one–the church should stay the hell out. That way they offend all women equally and Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) can be the private family celebrations they should be. That way none of the painful problems Allyson mentions get dug up. People with horrible relationships with their mothers can ignore the day. Or use it to reconcile. Or celebrate with their favorite Aunt. Women who have been unable to have children for whatever reason can mourn if that’s what they need. Or ignore the day. Husbands and children can honor their own spouses and mothers and grandmothers.

    And church can be about following Jesus. Which is what it should be about. We spend so much of our church time focused on stuff that is beside the point. We’d be so very much better off if we instead focused on what really matters: loving people, which is, at the end of the day, all that matters, whether we love in our capacity as children or parents or friends or neighbors.

    • amelia says:

      I’ll also add that were our culture and our church not so disgustingly and disturbingly obsessed with women being wives and mothers and pretty much nothing else, those women in the congregation who were not mothers would not be as prone to feeling left out or hurt when only women who self-identify as mothers are honored on Mother’s day. Having sanctioned outlets other than marriage and child-rearing, living in a culture that celebrated women’s other achievements, would make it more possible for non-mothers to simply enjoy celebrating the commitment and work of those who are mothers.

  12. CatherineWO says:

    Wow! Great comments!
    I haven’t been to church on Mother’s Day in almost ten years, for all the reasons the rest of you have stated and because it seems so artificial, praising women on one day of the year for this one role some of them play. And then there is the attitude that often comes across of how we need to protect motherhood and women. I don’t want to be protected. I just want to be treated like an adult (equal to men) human being.

  13. amelia says:

    I love the idea of embracing International Women’s Day and making the sacrament meeting about all the kinds of contributions women make to the church, their communities, the world, etc.

    And for the record the *only* part of the typical Mother’s Day celebration I like is the primary children singing. They just crack me up. There’s always one or two little ones up there doing something they shouldn’t and a couple others making adorably funny faces while they sing and a shy one hiding. It’s fabulous. The meeting goes seriously downhill from there.

  14. amelia says:

    I’ll share the only thing I’ve seen done recently to celebrate Mother’s Day that I sort of liked:

    In my last ward, our RS president (a somewhat outspoken, slightly brash woman with a heart of gold) turned the RS meeting that day into an hour long tea party of sorts. I was in So. California so the weather was usually good. We’d meet on the lawn and have delicious food (delicious!) and most of the women wore hats and the RS president called it something like divine sisterhood day or something about goddesses, I can’t remember exactly. She wanted it to be about celebrating women as women and sisters, not just about mothers. And she was really aware that Mother’s Day was a hard day for many women. There was still a lot of schlock and plenty of offensive gender stereotyping, but both years I was there there was also talk about or Heavenly Mother which was wonderful. And it was a forum in which, when other women talked about the stereotypically feminine attributes of our Heavenly Mother, I could speak up and add more stereotypically masculine attributes, claiming for our Goddess strength and courage and etc. The fact that we spoke openly of our Goddess (even if we referred to her only as “Mother”) compensated for some of the more unpleasantly stifling aspects of the day.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    In our ward, the Bishopric arranges for all of the women’s callings to be covered by the men for Mother’s Day.
    For example, this means that my husband as Elder’s Quorum President, is in charge of the Primary for the second and third hours. He is responsible for sharing time, singing time, and finding teachers from his quorum for all the primary classes.
    In the meantime, all the women congregate in the cultural hall for appetizers and chatting. The third hour is a program prepared by the Bishopric and youth in the ward. They perform musical numbers, read poetry, and share other talents.
    It’s a lovely event that includes all the women in the ward. I look forward to it every year.

    (This is not to say that there aren’t parts of Mother’s Day that I don’t like or that aren’t painful for some. In fact, I would love to see the same program in our ward implemented for International Women’s Day instead.)

  16. Caroline says:

    Wonderful anecdote, Tempmoniker. Thank you.

  17. Caroline says:

    Thank you for all your comments and experiences! I’ve loved reading them. This is going to make a great column.

  18. amelia says:

    I meant to say that I really love your suggestion of a humanitarian aid/service type gift in the name of the women of the ward. I don’t know how likely it is but I think it’s a wonderful idea, one that I suggested in the ward I was attending last year (it wasn’t met well). I’d much rather see my ward make a donation of $200 (our ward was very large) to a women’s shelter than eat my $2 worth of chocolate on Mother’s Day. Apparently our bishopric felt the women would feel slighted if they didn’t get a tangible gift…

  19. TopHat says:

    We moved to a new ward last year right before Mother’s Day (like 2 weeks before) and I actually had one of the best Mother’s Days ever. The ward had men take over all the women’s callings and all the women and young women had a brunch during the 2 hours of Sunday School and Relief Society. The Relief Society put on a program for us- 3 women in the ward got up and gave 10 minute talks about a woman in the Old Testament of their choosing. That was also when the Primary came to sing to us. Sacrament meeting was pretty “regular” but I do remember the last speaker being one of the older ladies in the ward (maybe a widow?) and I liked how she got to be the last speaker, when so often it’s a man.

  20. Stephanie2 says:

    Both my grandmother and great-grandmother (different sides) had mothers who died in childbirth, and then they were raised by step-mothers who went on to have more children. Neither of them had particularly good experiences with that (step-mothers favored their own children, etc.) That does seem to be a “norm” back then and makes me grateful that I did not live in that time.

    The worst Mother’s Day gift given out in our ward was picked by my husband. He was so excited about it and anticipated it for weeks. It was a huge flop (even I had to be honest and tell him that it sucked). He was crushed. I felt bad for him. But, I know he was sincere and his intentions were good. After that, I am much more forgiving of Mother’s Day stuff at church.

    He also bought me a gorgeous corsage one year. He spent a lot of money and designed it himself. I felt very uncomfortable wearing it. I did wear it to show him my appreciation, but after enough time had passed, I told him that I don’t feel comfortable being singled out like that. Other mothers do far more and sacrifice far more than I do and don’t receive a corsage. I would rather be acknowledged and appreciated at home.

    These poor men. Mother’s Day sets up such an awkward conundrum for them. My husband also spoke on Mother’s Day once, but he didn’t want to offend anyone, so he just gave a general talk on parenting. I am not sure how well that went over either. He just can’t win. 🙂 Let’s spare him the embarassment.

  21. Marjorie Conder says:

    My first Mother’s Day as a Mother was jarring. I knew there was something dreadfully wrong, but I was decades away from being able to articulate it. This was years before I had my first remotely “feminist” thought. Who is this Mother’s Day lady anyway? She sounds like a Boy Scout—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. To which I would only add “sometimes”—for every Mother and Boy Scout I know. Mother’s Day was the one day of the year I felt “murderous” towards the role, and its simpering, simplistic expectations. Regrettably I was less than gracious to my own children’s efforts to celebrate the day. I have done better with grandchildren.

    As the years passed, I was coming more and more to a place where I resented my identity being defined by men—as though they knew more what it was like to be a woman and how I did or should feel than I did. So many of these societal pre-scriptions just did not ring true for me. It made no more sense to me that all women should (fill in the blank) than all men should be farmers (based on the scriptural instructions to Adam.)

    Some part of me (for the survival of that which is most core to my being) understood this at a deep archetypal level and sought desperately to distance myself from the Mother’s Day stereotype and not to be co-opted/blinded by something that was in truth a diabolical caricature. However, being a Mom, and a very good one, is the most important thing I have ever done. I am grateful beyond words for this blessing and I am grateful to my husband not trying to make me something other than myself, like the Mom of the stereotype.

    On Mother’s Day in 1984, I gave what for me was a watershed speech. I had never given a talk to that time in my life that concerned me more. In the end I felt very good about it and received a lot of positive feedback, especially from women. My Mother came but sat on the back row for quick exit if she didn’t like it. She stayed. One neighbor guy did not like it one bit however. He even said I had “No right to have given that talk and besides all the women were nodding, yes, including my wife.” He later asked me to come over to his house to talk to him about it. Sitting in his den (his territory) he solemnly said, “Marj, I had the worst Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.” I was absolutely incredulous and replied, “Well, it wasn’t for you anyway.” For years after that on Mother’s Day he would wish me happy Mother’s Day and I would always say, “And same to you.”

    This whole experience reinforced questions such as “Who is Mother’s Day for, anyway?” “What forces are at work that insist on the ‘traditional’ approach?” “And how can so many insist that Mother’s Day remain just as it is (and even that women have no right not to enjoy it) when so many are offended about much that goes on “in their honor?” I finally decided it was all political and that as Mothers “we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things”—including Mother’s Day.

    • Caroline says:

      Marjorie,
      That must have been some talk to get that reaction! I’d love to read it. 🙂

      • Marjorie Conder says:

        I wish I still had it. It was recorded (to send to my missionary at the time) but got accidently erased before I sent it. This was on the front end of my feminist blossoming and the reaction I got, especially from the women of my ward certainly encouraged me down the path I have since taken.

  22. SilverRain says:

    I’ll say the same thing I’ve always said, even before I had children of my own. It’s just Mother’s Day. I have bigger things to angst about. I focus on thanking my mom, and my grandmas, when I had them here, and don’t worry about the nasty chocolate or dying flower gifts from Church.

  23. Marjorie Conder says:

    It isn’t just angst about one day a year, but like the post at fmh about antiquated chivalry, Mother’s Day makes visible, for those with eyes to see, what the underlying assumptions and proper roles of females are (as defined by men). Some of us find that a box we don’t want to climb into.

    • SilverRain says:

      I suppose I just don’t choose to “see” it for two reasons. First, “seeing” it, meaning worrying about it, benefits nothing. Secondly, I’m already doing what I can to discourage those underlying assumptions and proper roles in the men and women around me.

      It’s part of the whole Serenity Prayer thing.

      • Marjorie Conder says:

        I agree with the serenity prayer and I have actively worked to change the Mother’s Day culture of my ward. (and there have been substantial changes over the last almost 50 years) because it was something I could do.

  24. Darlis Beale says:

    I had to give a Mothers’ Day talk in Sacrament Meeting. Mothers’ Day had been extremely awful for me after eight years of trying to get pregnant and before our adoptive daughter was placed with us. I was also very vocal about how painful it was for me to even attend church on that day. In the early ’90’s, my brother (who was in the bishopric at the time) came over to our house to watch the Giants baseball game with us. About the sixth inning, he asked me if the bishop had talked to me lately. “No, why?” “Uh, no reason.” About the seventh innng, he says that the bishop would like me to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. “THAT’S MOTHERS’ DAY!!!” So after a long diatribe of why I hate Mothers’ Day, which he already knew, I agree to do it.

    Sunday morning, there I am, on the stand, six words on the back of some scratch paper in my hand, looking over the congregation, waiting for my turn to speak. The Primary children are adorable singing about Mommy coming home. Then the youth speaker tells about loving her mom and gramma. And now it’s my turn.

    I start off by explaining that the bishop hadn’t actually asked me to speak so I could talk about whatever I wanted to for as long as I wanted to. Then I said that Mothers’ Day is a very painful experience for many women and that I wouldn’t trivialize those raw emotions by listing the reasons for people’s pains. I go on to say that if someone wishes you a “Happy Mothers’ Day” not to bite their heads off, but to just say thank you, since they are just trying to acknowledge a holiday, like saying “Merry Christmas” in December. And also to remember, that people are just trying to be nice and may not know of the pain the day is causing you. Then I proceeded to give my talk about something else entirely.

    After the meeting was over, not one person said anything to me. Not one. No “nice talk”–no “good job”–nothing. Since Mormons are so supportive and will tell the worst speaker in the universe that the dull boring talk s/he just gave was really nice, I was a bit worried that I really offended everyone I knew with what I had and had not said about Mothers’ Day.

    However, before I left after the third hour, twenty (really, twenty) women had sneaked up to me and whispered into my ear that they had really appreciated what I said and that I had said really needed to be said.

    In looking back at that experience, I still firmly believe that celebrating the day in church is a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” kind of experience. Gifts of flowers are rarely enjoyed by the women/moms who watch their sons turn them into weapons with which to hit their siblings and friends. Candy bars are shared by the children, now with a sugar high, heading to Primary. Certificates fly around the chapel in the shape of paper airplanes then need to be picked up. If the priesthood takes the women’s positions during the auxiliary meetings, the “love of his life” probably had to help prepare the lesson the night before. I am really in favor of staying home with a good book or a movie on tv one Sunday a year.

    • CatherineWO says:

      Darlis, you have my admiration for giving that talk, and your last paragraph here echoes my sentiments exactly.

  25. jes says:

    A little late to the game, but I wanted to share the gist of my daughter’s Mother’s day talk. She asked myself and another couple of mothers to share with her what the most rewarding part of motherhood is and the most challenging part. Her talk consisted of sharing those things, stating that she’d like to be a mother someday and then saying what she thought would be the hardest and best part of being a mother would be for her someday. I thought it turned out well. No idealizing, no faint praise, just realistic and practical.

  26. Stephen says:

    Wow, this is pretty intense. Thank you for all of your thoughts. You’ve given me much to think about.

    I’m a minister, struggling with what to do with mother’s day. The reality is it’s here. Mother’s Day is upon us whether we like it or not, and to completely ignore it would would upset and offend every mother in the house.

    We also have people in our congregation who long to have children but cannot, and for whatever reason, they feel inferior, like somehow God loves them less. So if we honor the mothers at the exclusion of the non-mothers, it leaves some feeling more hurt than when they started.

    So in an attempt to hurt and offend as few people as possible, we celebrate all the women. Then, next month, we’ll celebrate all the men on Father’s day.
    That way, within two months, we’ve honored all the grown ups with a gift of appreciation.

    We really don’t mean any harm handing out flowers and chocolate. Just trying to show that we love and appreciate everyone.

  27. Moss says:

    Very late to the party, but I just wanted to say that I never miss Mother’s Day- it is the only day my ward ever sings O My Father.

Leave a Reply