“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens come to mind when I think about Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday. For many, this is a wonderful day to celebrate amazing women–mothers, grandmothers, aunts, step-mothers, women who were “like a mother,” mentors, and friends. Many will go out for brunch or have breakfast in bed or gather with family for a nice meal at home. Many moms will be given the royal treatment and will be acknowledged for their many kindnesses and sacrifices. It may be a joyful day for forgiveness and reconciliation for some. Card and flower sales will peak this weekend. Women who struggled to conceive will be amazed at the miracle of life that finally came to them. Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate life and family and so many good things.
For many others, and even for some of the very same people who are celebrating the good things above, however, I imagine that this day is among the “worst of times.” The women who desperately wanted a child that never came. The women who are estranged from their mothers or from their children. The people who grieve the mother they never really had because of mental illness, incarceration, an early death or a myriad of other things that may have left a void in that area. The family who is facing Mother’s Day with grief for the mother who is no longer on this earth. The women who feel like frauds because they do not live up to their own expectations of what a mother should be. The women who carried a child in their womb for a period of time but did not have a viable birth. The women who have had to bury their own child. I imagine that this day can be heartbreaking for many–a day of loneliness, guilt, anger, or grief.
As I ponder all of this, I wish I had some great wisdom to impart or something profound to write. People who are far more eloquent than I have written about motherhood through the ages. I have only been a mother, officially, for four years, but I have learned ever more strongly through this season that life is complicated, that there is often much more going on beneath the surface of someone’s life than we could ever imagine and that if we knew about it, we would find it much easier to be more compassionate and less judgmental. I have learned that “best” and “worst” and other apparent opposites often exist simultaneously, and that people need to be loved, acknowledged, forgiven, and accepted more than anything else. Don’t imagine for one minute that I have it all together (I don’t), but I’d like to encourage us all–me and you– to be more mindful of others and their struggles and joys and to be more kind and gentle and loving than we otherwise might be. Maybe we could celebrate Mother’s Day by “mothering” each other a little bit more–offer words of encouragement or wisdom or just a hug. Life can be brutal…and beautiful…and we need each other to make our way through it.
(Look for “Mother’s Day: A Few More Thoughts” coming soon.)