Mother's Day and Daughters
So tomorrow is Mother's Day in Canada and the USA. Naturally your first focus should be on the old lady, however you feel about her. If she is alive and you love each other, you should (if possible) go and see her and take her out for some treat. Bring her flowers. If she is alive but an absolute nightmare, you should at least call her up and/or send her a card and some flowers. No matter what, she is your mother, and the Fourth Commandment says you have to honour her, so do it.
If your mother is no longer alive, Mother's Day can be very sad. I think the thing to do then is pray for your mother, and maybe go to the cemetery and tidy up her grave. You could look through old photographs, and maybe write about her in your diary or on your blog. And then you should give yourself some treat that honours your femininity--your daughterliness and your motherliness--unless you have some children who already have taken that in hand.
Mother's Day and the Childless
If you are Single and childless or if you are married and childless, Mother's Day can carry some pain. Before I married B.A. I felt no pain whatsoever on Mother's Day until I went to (OF) Mass. At Mass on Mother's Day, the fact that that you are not a mother sometimes comes roaring up at you. If you are lucky, the ushers are giving all women flowers, not just asking "Are you a Mother?" first. And if you are very unlucky, after Mass the pastorally clueless priest will ask all the Mothers to stand for the blessing. It will not occur to him, called Father every day of his life despite having no children of his own, that the women left behind might feel abandoned, disrespected and ignored, not only by the priest, but by God.
Personally, I am all for respect for mothers, and so I have no problem with blessings for mothers. I just think they should not be physically separated from the rest of the women in the congregation. And meanwhile, I think the spiritual motherhood described by Saints Edith Stein and John Paul II should get a mention in the Sunday homily. In fact, I would love a Catholic women's revolution in which every adult woman in the congregation, especially the nuns--the first among spiritual mothers--stood for the blessing for mothers.
Reader Sheila, who is a physical mother, carries on her own revolution by refusing to stand for the Mothers' blessing. Bless her for that. If the enforced sitting happens to you tomorrow, remember Sheila, stubbornly refusing to stand.
Mother's Day and Spiritual Mothers
The concept of spiritual motherhood honours the orientation of almost all women towards motherliness. (I am contemplating women who, unfortunately, really, really, really, don't like children or helping people. However, such women sometimes come alive when presented with a cat or dog or some other endearing animal.)
I was super-fortunate to be 12 when my youngest sibling was born, which meant I was just old enough to really enjoy taking care of a baby: giving her a bottle, later spoon-feeding the mite, helping give her a bath (can't remember if I ever did that on my own), rocking her to sleep and, especially, getting up in the middle of the night to rock her back to sleep. I bet that last bit was WAY easier for me at 12-14 than it was for my mother at 30-something, not to mention what it would be like for me now at 40-something.
Looking back, having the chance to do that was a real gift, for I have not had any children of my own. However, one of my sisters and one of my brothers has had children, and my dearest friend of theology school days has had three, and this means I have the fun of sending cards and presents. The postage is a killer, but I don't care. I didn't realize, when I was a child, how much fun it must have been for my American grandmother to choose and send presents. Now I know.
By the way, I have to thank reader Michael again for the wine he sent me after Mothering Sunday. It wasn't three bottles; it was SIX!
Mother's Day and Physical Mothers
When I was in my favourite Edinburgh hipster café doing my Polish homework this week, I overheard a loud Scottish girl complaining about some bosom pal to a Spanish woman. The loud Scottish girl was an art student of some kind, and her bosom pal had fallen in with a group of religious people. The art student had met some of them, apparently, for she was really shocked that "one of them had three children and she was only TWENTY-SEVEN!"
I did the math. My mother was, in fact, 29, when her third child was born. However, it seemed so odd to me that anyone would find it outrageous that a married 27 year old had three children that I paid more attention and, to my horror, realized that the religious people she so despised were very likely Roman Catholics. (She fussed a lot about them being Ruled by Men who denied women Freedom of Choice---all the cliches, minus the clinching "Old Men in Rome", so actually she may have been describing the local Wee Frees, to be honest.) I was tempted to whistle some old Orange anthem--but I don't know any. I do know a particularly vile anti-Catholic football song, but really, that would have been TOO MUCH, and I don't think she would have got the message anyway. From the general drift of her over-loud conversation, I had long since concluded she was not that bright.
The point of this story is that, while we nulliparous women are all feeling sorry for ourselves, we should consider the contempt too many people in western societies have for mothers with more than two children. So on the one hand, I think we should all do something to honour our Spiritual Motherhood on Mother's Day (treat! treat!), but on the other hand, I think we should feel a strong solidarity with Physical Mothers, women our age who have children and therefore have problems and sufferings we know nothing about. It would even be kind to send young mothers of more than two children a Mother's Day card or to call them up and thank them for giving the world (and, if Catholic, the Church) such beautiful children.
That strikes me as an incredibly selfless thing for a woman mourning Singleness or infertility to do. I am not sure I would have the selflessness to do that myself! However, it is something to think about. How much I wanted to give that bigoted ignoramous in the café a piece of my mind. Three children at 27--what a blessing! And yet to this girl, this stupid art school twenty-something adolescent, they were a social solecism. Grrr!