Saturday 9 May 2015

M-Day Approaches

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!


  1. Oh, I don't know. I grew up in a very large family, and my parents receive comments like that all the time. They sting, but they're able to console themselves pretty easily by the fact that A), they know that these people are in the wrong (and maybe even pitiable that they think a large family is so awful) and B) they have a beautiful family of almost a dozen children to enjoy.

    I'm just so, so tired of my facebook feed being filled with various mommy blogger posts to the effect of Catholic (breastfeeding, crunchy, etc.) mothers are sooo misunderstood and malingned, wah. Everybody just hates children/breastfeeding, etc., and unless you are a Catholic mother yourself, you just have no idea. Motherhood is the most incredible experience in the world, I never knew anything until I gave birth, we mothers have to stand together, etc.

    I (and I would bet, pretty much any young Catholic wife and mother with plenty of children) would rather have a husband and six children and have strangers in the supermarket comment on your family size, then be single and childless, and disdained (or just ignored) by young-middle aged Catholic married women.

    Okay, not all. I know several lovely women that I've known since before they were married who strive to keep in touch with me even now that they have children, and certainly you are amazing!! But seriously, I cannot count the amount of times that I've been asked if I have any children and then a bored, glazed look replaces the interested one as soon as I admit that I don’t. (And I do try to do it cheerfully, and not as though I'm dying of some loathsome disease. :)

    But . . . I know you are right.  I know moms suffer too (and people do make nasty comments about children), and that it’s better to be selfless as you suggest then to cling to hurt and pain. But, boy, it’s hard when EVERYONE I know is constantly praising the sacrifices made by mothers, but almost no one, except for you and the readers of your blog, ever acknowledge the hidden sacrifices and sufferings of the childless and single.

    So, tomorrow I’m going to wish my younger sister and friends with children a happy mother’s day (and mom, of course!), but I’m also going try to find someone who is suffering because of the day, and do something nice for that person. I haven’t quite figured out what, but I’m thinking along the lines of bringing of bouquet of flowers to a nursing home and asking to give it to a woman who won’t get any visitors tomorrow.

    1. Oh, and I did forget to add that I've become a lot happier recently since I've finally figured out how to unfollow/unfriend people so that my newsfeed isn't constantly cluttered by things that make me mad/give pain.

  2. Domestic Diva9 May 2015 at 15:43

    Ditto to booklover on her frustrations with the Catholic moms. I also had to detach from them - I wanted to walk with them and be supportive of them, but it was always a one-way street and I always felt so put down by their outrage toward anyone who wasn't also raising a brood of kids. I will say that I've found moms of teenagers are less like this: they're still rather in their own mom world, but something about having teens has humbled them a bit and they don't come across quite so self-righteously.

    Thanks, Seraphic, for encouraging us singles and childless. We call you Auntie, but you really are a spiritual mom. Happy Mother's Day and thank you for all you do to mother us.

  3. If Sheila is sitting when she has been invited to stand, perhaps those of us who are childless should join her rebellion and stand when we have been invited to sit to celebrate our spiritual motherless?

    1. Go for it! St John Paul II said all women are mothers, so up you get!

  4. I meant "motherlessness"!

  5. This is a good space for anyone who wants to complain about the treatment of Single and childless women to just rip! Go for it!

    To be honest, I don't know that many young mothers, even on Facebook! And nobody I know is super-interested in kids. I'm surrounded by people who don't have kids, or who have kids but combine parenthood with careers. Thus, my reality of childlessness is really different from those of you who are in young, tight-knit Catholic circles.

    I feel bad that you feel rotten, and yes, fixing Facebook so that it does not make you feel rotten any more is most definitely the way forward. Meanwhile, booklover, that is an excellent plan. Good for you.

    One really nice thing about British Mothering Sunday is that I now get cards or text messages from Seminarian Pretend Son to wish me a happy Mothering Sunday. That is really sweet.

    Thank you, Domestic Diva! One great thing about blogging for all these years (over 8!) is that my spiritual motherhood is really tangible. I get many blessings from it too.

  6. *Nobody I know in the UK, that is. Well, maybe one or two women from church.

  7. Domestic Diva9 May 2015 at 23:45

    Adding to my comment above:

    It was a real epiphany for me to realize that I didn't have to stay plugged in to the young moms, online or in person. I finally realized that I'm NOT a young mom, and even if I am ever blessed with children, I will never be a young mom...I will be a new mom, but an older mom. It was amazingly freeing to stop trying to be part of a group that I'm not part of now and never will be. They can rant all they want, and I don't have to hear it.

    Not too long after that little epiphany, I received a thank you note from a former student, who told me that I had been a spiritual mother to her in a very real way. I have cried every time I've read that note...she had no idea what my struggles have been in this realm and was only expressing her gratitude to me. But it was like God knew I needed to hear someone recognize my motherhood and so He prompted her to put her thanks into those words.

    As I've read some of the posts on FaceBook about parish practices honoring mothers, I've been able to maintain some peace...I AM a mother, whether the young moms, or my own mom, or the Catholic blogosphere know it or not. Some people recognize that I've invested myself in making their life better, in helping them know the Lord better, in giving of myself to them. They know; I know; God knows. And really, that's all that counts.

  8. Yep. "Unfollow" on Facebook is a God-send. Seraphic (and others), have you ever read the blog STFU Parents? Google it. It's pretty funny. I don't agree with EVRYTHING the blogger writes, but it's definitely good when you are OVER parents.

  9. Heather in Toronto11 May 2015 at 15:37

    I was pleased that this year we had the blessing of mothers following immediately on the heels of the closing prayer before the final general blessing, so everyone was already standing and there was no singling out. I didn't get a chance to express my appreciation after Mass as Father had already headed to the sacristy by the time I was done collecting the stray hymnals and missalettes, but I'm thinking I might mention it next time I see him, because we've had the "all the mothers please stand" in previous years.


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