When Mother’s Day Hurts

Of all the days we celebrate, Mother’s Day is easily the hardest for me. With my own mother over 2000 miles (and several time zones) away, and no children of my own, it’s a day I look forward to about as much as baby showers and tooth extractions.

I’ll never forget sitting in church one year and being the only female, young or old, not involved in giving or receiving a Mother’s Day rose. Not only that, I was in front of everyone, sitting at the keyboard — I couldn’t pretend to be busy, or run to the restroom to hide. All I could do was swallow my tears and act like nothing was wrong. Later on, after all the mothers were gone, I was offered a leftover flower . . . but instead of cheering me up, all it did was make me feel like yesterday’s cast-off.

If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, walked through a season of infertility, or said a lifelong goodbye to your own mother, then you probably know exactly the kind of pain I’m talking about.

Yes, we should certainly honor the faithfulness and steadfastness of those who do the (often) thankless tasks of raising children. Scripture tells us to, and it’s common sense that we owe our mothers a great debt of gratitude. But must it be done to the hurt of so many others?

When Mother's Day Hurts - DogFurandDandelions.com

Motherhood is one of the most emotional topics for a woman. Just look at how much our culture spends making the perfect pregnancy announcements, gender reveal parties, baby showers, and nursery decor. We value motherhood — and we should. But it is not our highest goal, despite what many Christians believe. God has not called all women to be mothers, any more than He has called them all to be wives.

Women, including mothers, are to be treasured not because of the people who give them roles and responsibilities, but because of their godly character and steadfast love for others and faithful obedience to God’s Word. THAT is the highest calling for any woman. THAT is the woman who should be emulated and praised.

Sometimes I feel like my barren body has betrayed me, and rejected the reason it was made. I have grieved for the children I will never have, and put to death a long-held dream. I have spent long days feeling like “less of a woman” because of my failure to propagate.

But the truth is, my body has not betrayed the Creator’s plan for me.

He is loving and good, and if He chooses to give me children someday through adoption, then I will gladly join the time-honored ranks of motherhood.

But if not . . .

He is still good — and I will still rejoice in His plan for me.

When Mother's Day Hurts - DogFurandDandelions.com

It hurts, but I know that my value does not depend on my role as a wife, a mother, or anything else. Failing to be a mother does not make me “less than” in the eyes of the Creator.

We can still give higher honor to those who are mothers. But there are ways to make it hurt a lot less for those who aren’t mothers . . . whether it’s Mother’s Day or any other day of the year.

Pastors, don’t ignore the hurting.

Why can’t we honor mothers without making all other women feel awkward or less-than? Rather than making all the mothers stand up in church  (and isn’t that rather impractical for moms of littles?) — why not acknowledge their hard work and sacrifice in a special time of prayer?

Praise God for each of them. Beseech God to strengthen and equip them as women and role models. Honor motherhood . . . but don’t give the impression a woman’s worth is determined by her positioning with kids.

Acknowledge those whose children are in heaven, and those who still hope to have children someday. Remember those whose mothers are in heaven as well. It’s not easy for any of them! Pray for His divine comfort on their hearts.

If you still want to share flowers, why not give them out in the lobby as people leave after church? That way you still share some tangible token of appreciation, but without making it super awkward or painful for others.

Moms, include us in your family’s journey.

It’s hard enough to hear those pregnancy and adoption announcements. But it hurts even worse when those friends pull away because they don’t want to cause any more pain. Yet that doesn’t shield us from the hurt — we simply end up losing a good friend, rather than being a mutual encouragement.

In fact, some of my dearest friends have multiple children. Our friendships have been strengthened because they’ve included me in their parenting journey. No, I can’t fully relate to their struggles — but I can offer a shoulder or listening ear, and be a prayer warrior on their behalf. I love those opportunities of being included! I may never have the chance to pray for my own children, but I can pour out my heart for a friend’s child. I may never understand the challenges of parenting, but I can serve as a compassionate listener or voice of encouragement.

So, mothers: include the rest of us in your life, both the good and the bad. Infertility doesn’t have to break a friendship. Give us some space — but don’t give up on us. Let us know the exciting news of another pregnancy, but give us permission to skip the showers and gender reveal parties. Share about your kids’ milestones and challenges, ask us to support them (and you!) in prayer, and give us the freedom to be a part of your family for ordinary evenings and days spent out on the town.

And those of you who are not mothers: don’t hold back from getting involved. Sure, it’s messy. Sure, it will hurt. But the resulting relationships are worth walking together through the pain! Don’t miss out on a life-giving friendship because you’re scared of a little pain along the way.

Friends, don’t give us consolation flowers.

If you love someone who’s not a mom, don’t offer her pity flowers. Nobody likes being a consolation prize — or getting one — but that’s what “extra Mother’s Day flowers” often feels like. So don’t give us something just so we don’t feel left out. Don’t give us leftover sentiments, or pretend we’re mothers of pets or of (possible) future children. It’s not the same!!

Sympathy is nice, but it doesn’t change us. Truth can help us think and respond differently. So be honest about our non-parenting status . . . but with compassion and grace. We want to be treasured and loved as women made in God’s image, despite our inability to bear children.

If you want to do something really special for a non-mom, pull her aside (someplace where she doesn’t have to hide the tears) and share a heartfelt expression of what she means to you. Don’t ignore or belittle her pain, but acknowledge the hurt and offer a shoulder to cry on whenever she needs it. Acknowledge the strain it puts her under, and share life-giving truth with her rather than false hope. Want to really touch her heart? Spend a few minutes praying with her, praising God for her life and example and pleading His mercy and compassion for her.

With a little forethought and compassion, Mother’s Day can be turned into a day of sweet fellowship and mutual honor, rather than a day of sorrow and grief.

What are some other ways we can acknowledge those who are hurting, without disregarding those who are due rightful honor?

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2 thoughts on “When Mother’s Day Hurts

  1. Thank you so much. Everything you experienced I experienced too—and my husband is the Pastor! It’s only when I’m the only one not standing, or when he sees someone remind me, “oh your not a mom” that I’m encouraged to stand. I don’t even want to go to church on mother’s day. After 25 years of marriage, it still hurts. My mom and grandma are still alive so I should be rejoicing but I would have loved to bear a child and be a mama. Hubby didn’t want to adopt. God is Good.

    1. I’m so sorry for the pain. 🙁 I completely understand! Unfortunately, I’m the church pianist and often have to teach the children, so staying home isn’t really an option for me… but I do admit to wearing black on most Mother’s Days! 🖤 I’m so thankful that we can learn to lean on our gracious God more and more, no matter how deep the hurt goes. His love never wavers and He remains our firm foundation, however weary and hurting we might be. I will pray for you to sense His presence and steadfastness even closer this year.

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