When Mother’s Day is Difficult

If you are living in the US, I’m sure you are well aware that Mother’s Day is this weekend. Reminders are ever-present, from the post titles popping up in my blog reader feeds, the advertisements in the storefront windows across the street, to newspaper flyers landing on my doorstep.

Even churches celebrate in many different ways, often asking mothers to stand up, filling the month of May with Mother/Daughter teas, or offering elaborate baby dedication services on that Sunday.

My best wishes for a pleasant day go out to all mothers (and/or daughters) who are joyously celebrating this weekend. Please know, you are blessed! But today, I am writing to those women for whom Mother’s Day is a difficult day; often a day full of the challenge of balancing emotions along with social obligations. 

This day is frequently a day of deep heartache for many women, who are often ignored in the blur of holiday celebrations. Will you join me in recognizing these women; whether it be with an extra hug and smile of affirmation, a quick prayer, or a special gift?

Dear friend, I cannot know exactly all you are feeling today, whether this day is bringing you new recognition of a recent loss, or a difficult season that has burdened you for years. But I want you to know that I care.

Many women face Mother’s Day grappling with a loss (or lack) of their own mothers. This can be especially challenging for women who are isolated from family for whatever reason. Some women with children are able to brush past this aspect of the day, by focusing on their young ones at home. But for many, this day can bring a very keen sense of loneliness; possibly more than any other holiday. (Oh, such an irking feeling to be absolutely excluded from a very “national” holiday!)

Perhaps you are one of the women who is struggling with infertility/pregnancy loss. Whether you are waiting for your first child, or your arms ache with the knowledge that your family is not yet complete, this day can be so bittersweet. (I encourage you to read this “Prayer for a Woman in Waiting.”) 

In any case, you may feel an odd sense of betrayal, as you try to handle the day when someone asks you “How many children do you have?” (as you think of the little one you’ve lost) or you feel almost dishonest in accepting that potted flowering “mum for moms” as you leave a church service (without any little ones in hand).

Single women (or married women whose husbands are on long absences for work) are not immune to the challenges of Mother’s Day. This season of life can often bring its own sense of “infertility,” as their hearts are longing for marriage and motherhood. But they are often relegated to babysitting in the nursery, or expected to smilingly hand out flowers to mothers, as they carry a deep ache within. (Even their own mothers may inadvertently add to the pain of the day, asking “When are you going to make me a grandma?”)

My Story
When I first left home to attend college, Mother’s Day became a day of intense homesickness, as dorm life focused on special “Mother/Daughter” events. Since my mom was living 3,000 miles away, I chose to immerse myself in working an extra shift that day (as a nursing assistant, caring for the elderly). 
I focused on blessing the lonely older women for whom I cared, trying to give them a special day. But when I returned home to my dorm room, I discovered that my roommates had “borrowed” all my dishes for their special Mother’s Day meal (without asking or washing them!).

When I met the man who would become my husband, he surrounded me with love on Mother’s Day even before we got married. Wearing my new engagement ring on my finger, I accepted his invitation to go out to lunch after church. As we looked at the families with children dining at tables around us, I giggled at the “silliness” of celebrating the day together, and yet so in love with the man who now held my heart. He told me that he wanted to honor me as the “future mother of his children,” and wanted it to be a special day for me.

Soon after our marriage, though, the ache of infertility set in. We sought to honor our mothers on that day (although we lived out-of-state from family), but the societal/church activities were often too much to bear. I soon learned that if a church’s services were encouraging bitterness, instead of a sense of worship within my heart, that it was healthier to skip church that day. (And I heard plenty of discouraging comments on that practice, as well!)

As a couple, we formed a tradition of whisking off to the coast for a weekend of beach camping. The campgrounds tended to be fairly quiet for the holiday, and we were able to isolate ourselves and worship God amid His creation. We would prayerfully sit out on the beach in the chilly winds, praying for God’s blessing of family, or weeping in grief as we worked through the loss of recent miscarriage. 

Overall, we were surrounded by beauty, and the promise of a faithful God, as we watched the tides roll in and out, and the sun rising and setting in its glorious colors each day. We have continued this tradition even after we had our first baby, and plan to go again this next weekend.

As we proceeded with our journey of pursuing adoption, Mother’s Day took on a new meaning. Our adoption agency called us “paperwork pregnant” as we waited in faith for our little one to arrive (although we had no idea how many weeks/months/years it might take)

Friends and acquaintances did not always embrace this viewpoint; and thought we were odd for celebrating as any other pregnant/expectant couple would. They often did not want to recognize that I also carried a role of “motherhood” for our little ones in heaven, and ignored that aspect of my life. (Thus our beach trips made this holiday more manageable.)

I share these thoughts with you, not to make the day more miserable, but to let you know that you are loved, and not alone. If this day is a challenge for you, God has placed a “mother’s heart” within you, and it is my prayer that He will guide you to how it is best focused during this season of your life. 
Here are a few resources/ideas that you may find helpful (as I have), and I welcome any additions you may have to this list. You are welcome to share your heart as you experience this weekend, either in the comments section, or by sending me an e-mail (paisleysister [at] yahoo [dot] com). 
These thoughts are not intended to necessarily remove the difficult emotions of the day, but to encourage you to acknowledge them, and to find a healthy place of solace in the day. These are shared from my experiences, and include titles of books that I personally enjoy from my own bookshelf.

  • Spend time focusing on a biblical viewpoint of your femininity. Take time for pampering and meditative prayer, pouring out your heart and allowing your Bridegroom to minister to your heart. (A bubble bath might be a good place to do this!) The classic devotional book Come Away My Beloved is a perfect daily resource.

  • If you are in a season of “singleness,” I highly recommend the book Latte for One and Loving It!. The authors provide wonderful suggestions for cultivating the senses of your femininity. (I have loaned it out many times, as friends have gleaned wisdom from it.) 
  • If you are especially struggling with your identity/significance, the book A Woman of Significance may be helpful. Remember, you are a daughter of the King, and he knows your heart. 
  • If your mother is absent, is there another woman who has played an encouraging/mentoring role in your life recently? Remember to thank her, and let her know what she means to you.
  • Do you carry a love for a special child/children (whether it be friends or nieces/nephews), or do you see little ones who need some extra nurturing? Allow your mothering heart to rejoice in these little ones. (I would often create gifts or special outings for little friends, as I waited for my own children.)  Your love is often a deep encouragement to the children’s busy mother, as well.
  • Pray as you receive invitations, look at your calendar, and before you go. If attending a Mother’s Day event will present a temptation for you to dwell in bitterness, jealously, etc., then graciously decline (flee from sin!). If you feel God prompting you to attend, pray for His joy and strength to clothe you, so that you may be a blessing (and be blessed) by the event.  (This is where pre-planning a getaway, such as our out-of-town beach trip, may be helpful.) 
  • If you are specifically struggling with contentment in this season of life, seek out a renewed focus through prayer. You may find the book Riding the Waves an encouraging and inspiring read. 
  • Make sure (if married) to communicate your emotions regarding Mother’s Day to your husband- before the day arrives! If you are unmarried, consider confiding in a close friend who can help support you/pray for you during this season. A picnic together in a local flower garden/park might be just the refreshment you need.
  • Develop your creativity. Part of the joy of motherhood is participating with God in creation of a little life, cultivating a child’s development as they grow up.  If this “lack of creativity” is where you are keenly feeling an ache today, seek out creative opportunities to glorify Him. Try out a new media, explore the depths of flower gardening, or try new flavors in the kitchen. (Then, if you’d like, bless someone with your creative results!) Or, pursue a way of helping encourage creativity in others; perhaps a “ladies’ crafting night” with friends or volunteering to share your skills with others’ children. Explore the library for books of inspiration!
  • If you are dealing with infertility, resources such as the book When the Cradle is Empty or a subscription to Stepping Stones may be helpful.

I am praying for you today, friend, that God will draw you into a special closeness with Him, and bless you with the desires of your heart.

Clip art courtesy of vintageholidaycrafts.com.

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