Mother’s Day: It’s complicated

Perspective Logo
By on May 1, 2022

Gillian Hoyer with her childMay – the month of spring; of flowers and, hopefully, sunshine; of the “May 2-4” weekend and planting our gardens; and the month of that beloved Hallmark Holiday, Mother’s Day.

Each year my social media fills up with reminders to celebrate mothers and the best ways we can honour the mothers in our lives and in our churches. It also fills up with reminders that Mother’s Day is not a festival of the church and so we, as clergy and lay leaders, should resist all attempts to mention Mother’s Day at church.

Like many in the church, I have a mixed relationship with Mother’s Day. There have been many years, in the nearly 20 years since my own mother died from cancer, where I have found a reason to avoid church altogether on Mother’s Day. It was often easier to skip church than to respond to well-meaning questions from fellow church members about what I was doing for my mother that year, or when I planned on becoming a mother myself. 

That avoidance became infinitely more difficult once ordained! Now I HAD to be at church each Mother’s Day and so also had to reckon anew with how we as a church celebrate, or do not celebrate, mothers and Mother’s Day. And, as someone who is both a priest and a mother, but whose journey to motherhood was neither straightforward nor easy, I am acutely conscious of the ways that we can care for or alienate those in our midst on this day.

Is there a place in the church to celebrate women, mothers, and all those who offer “mothering” to us, of all shapes and sizes? I think there can be. But how we do it matters. 

Many will be quick to remind us that Mother’s Day is not in our liturgical calendar; it is not a feast or festival of the church. Which is true. Neither are many other days which our churches acknowledge.

So perhaps consider not having it as the main focus. Pray for mothers and all who mother, but don’t single anyone out or worse, alienate all those who would like to be mothers by asking all of the mothers present to stand and be applauded. Instead of giving flowers out, if your church is located next to a cemetery, have a bucket of flowers that anyone can take from, to take flowers home or to take flowers out to mark the grave of someone who has offered mothering in their lives.

Acknowledge that this day is fraught with emotions, both positive and negative, for so many. Talk about how hard it is for those who don’t have a great relationship with their mother; those who cannot, but may deeply want to, have children; those who have lost children and those who have lost mothers. Naming aloud these complicated relationships and reminding us all that God is present with us in the joy and in the pain around motherhood is a powerful and important way of showing how we include all of the diversity of our church.

And instead of limiting ourselves to seeing motherhood as solely women who have children, I invite you to consider the aspects of motherhood that we admire – qualities like support, nourishing, and protection. Talk about those qualities, and give thanks for all those people in our lives who exemplify and offer us those qualities. These people might be mothers or significant women in our lives, but they might also be dads, friends, or people in our churches who offer that kind of love to us.

Lastly, remember all of the incredible imagery of God as our mother in the Bible: God as the protective mother bear, God as the soaring mother eagle, God as the mother labouring to bring her children into the world, God as a midwife, Jesus the mother hen gathering her brood under her wings. Perhaps Mother’s Day is another opportunity for us to consider how to become more Christ-like, how we are called to embody the amazing love of God for all of those around us.

However you do, or do not, celebrate Mother’s Day this year, my prayers are with you. May you know the abundant love and care and nurturing support of God our Mother.


Keep on reading

Skip to content