Mother’s Day: My talk

May 5, 2009 | 23 comments
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It’s hard to strike the right balance, between affirming Moms who really need to be told that they made a good decision; and letting others (especially women) know that they’re okay, too.

Last year, I gave this talk. It worked well in my ward, I think. It shows one way of trying to navigate the tension.

K talk.

Thanks, M.

I agree with so much of what ___. *Add detail. It’s good to be married to a person who I’m so often on the same page with.

It’s an interesting challenge, MD talk
For many, it’s a great day. Affirmed in your choices. Love the ___.

For others, it’s a tough day.

One friend, hates the day. Unmarried. Says it’s, “flower day.”

It’s complicated, important. Affects all of our lives.

For whom is MD hard?
Outside category:

-For unmarried
-For those with no children.
-Those who are told, they waited too long.
-Children have died.
-Feel judged, ___.

Within category:

-Children are estranged, mothers are estranged.
-Adoptees.
-Part-member families.
-Divorce
-Mothers who feel inadequate.
-Feel judged as parents.
-Some don’t feel like natural nurturers.
-Feel like they’re not the perfect moms in MD talks.
-Young moms, say, that’s it? All my work, effort, and I get a flower?
-Work all year, judged, get one thank-you per year.
-Some moms feel that they were forced onto the mommy track – would rather have taken other paths, haven’t found happiness promised in mommy land, resent the reminder of the choice.

What to do? How to make this talk ___? How to give thanks and praise for righteous mothers; support them; without telling others that their own life choices are wrong, or making them feel judged, or inadequate, or implying that empty words are enough. It’s enough to make one want to skip church. Unfortunately, we already used our one skip talk for the year. So, I have to figure out something to actually say.

I’ll try to include everyone, including those who may feel excluded this time of year. If I fail, ___.

(Like bishop. Do you give the flower, or not? Either way, someone might be hurt. If excluded, why? If included, is it an empty gesture?)

I’ll start with a dose of good, old-fashioned praise for mothers.

There are many wonderful mothers ___. And mothers often have a profound effect. I think of righteous, strong, intelligent mothers, and I think of Lucy Smith. ___. *Wagon story.

I think of Zina Huntington. *ADD.

Mothers really are remarkable.

I think of a friend of mine, who recently gave birth. *Taryn – add.

Every year, half a million women die in childbirth worldwide.

The act of birthing, and then nursing.
*To some extent, childbirth is the closest thing to atonement any human will undergo. Bleeding at every pore, suffering for another’s life.
*Nursing – drink, this is my blood.

Maternal images Jesus used for himself (the mother hen and her chicks, laboring women, nursing mothers…). In the Atonement, Jesus acted ___. In trying to emulate Christ, we should all try to be more maternal.

Mothers in plan of salvation.

What about others? A variety of messages, some of which may help.

Acknowledging, and saying what we have. Acknowledge, that not all are mothers. And not all find happiness in motherhood. Many do, and that’s wonderful for those people. Others don’t.

Acknowledging, you may feel excluded or sad. Mother’s Day talk is difficult for many of you. Some of you, unmarried, infertile, etc. – feel judged. So many struggle. A significant number of women struggle with Mother’s Day. Perhaps they are infertile, adopted, have lost a child, or lost a spouse, or feel motherhood as oppressing.

Nurturing. Helpful, for some. Others find it comes less automatically. Feel judged. Feel failure.

Acknowledge, no one talk can address all of your concerns. I’m not going to try. I don’t have all the answers. I can say a few things that work for me, for friends. I don’t know if they’ll work for you; I hope that some of it will ___.

Some find comfort in the idea that “all women are mothers.” Sheri Dew. Others find that even more oppressing.

For those who draw strength from that idea, know that there are significant scriptural ___.

Perhaps all will ___. For some, that can be comforting. If that’s comforting, ___. We see that idea in scriptures, sometimes. Promise to all that the barren will bring for children (Isaiah).

Significant barren women of the covenant (Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Elizabeth) bore children late, after years of difficulty.

You may find comfort in looking to a future as a mother, even if that differs from the present.

For others, that idea is also problematic ___. If that’s you, don’t let me suggest another idea.

The scriptures do celebrate mothers. But they also, make clear, that motherhood isn’t the only way that women ___.

Strong scriptural women who were noted for their nurturing, life-giving, faithful service in areas that were other than maternal.

-midwives who defied the Pharoah.
-abish
-abigail
-emma smith

God knows and recognizes the many other areas in which women excel. (As a community, we don’t always do as well as we should.)

I don’t know if that helps, mentally. I hope that for some, it does. I like to ___.

Let me give another response. I know that sometimes there’s no answer, mentally. But there are other answers.

For those who struggle, know that HF loves you. Know that, daughter of God.

HF loves you and cares for you. Whether you’re a mother now, or are planning on __, or even never ___. You’re here for a reason. HF loves you.

And more than that. We have more than just a father in Heaven. Our hymn tells us, we’ve a Mother there.

I don’t want to go out too far, doctrinally. We don’t talk about her often.

But there are some things that I think it’s safe to say. Our HM loves us, deeply. Our HM watches over us. As a Mother herself, she knows the trials and burdens that mothers face, and that women face. She is sensitive to all of our concerns. As a mother herself, she’d particularly sensitive to the concerns of mothers.

We don’t see a lot about Her in scripture. But we do see her presence between the lines, and in the world all around us. And I think we can say with certainty: Our HM loves you.

When, if not MD, to acknowledge the great love that our Mother in Heaven has for us.

What we celebrate about mothers is much more than a biological link. It’s the desire to connect with others, to love and help other people. That’s not to say that everyone who cares is a mother. But it’s caring that makes mothers worthy of ___.

Celebrating this idea isn’t limited to our kin. It can, and should, be much more. It can be a celebration of women who set tremendous examples for us. Of people we see every week at church, tending their children, or greeting and welcoming other ward members, giving hugs. It can be a celebration of nurturing in mother earth. The character of nurturing and giving and caring for others, is something we can all celebrate.

MD is a time to tell people around us, “You are a wonderful daughter of God who is enriching the lives of people around you.” This may be as a mother, or through work and your calling, or through personality ___.

Above all, MD is a time for peace. Both geopolitical – the holiday was actually begun as __ — and internal. It’s not a time to judge or find fault, but to help others and ourselves find peace.

On that note, let me suggest a MD gift. Every year, we give gifts. Flowers. Chocolate. Helping around the house.

What is our MD gift for HM? What can we do?

Forgive – self and others. Forgive ourselves for our failings, perceived faults. Especially, moms. Forgive yourselves for ___. Do it, because when you feel guilt, sorrow, pain, your HM feels it, too. Forgive self, as a MD gift to Her.

Know, that you are not a bad mom. You’re not a bad person. You’re not raising your kids wrong. You didn’t marry wrong. Reject the voices that tell you you’re not good enough, and forgive yourself. Let go of guilt or shame or frustration. Elder Holland’s words, you’re doing terrifically well.

Put your own name on the line. Shirley, you’re doing terrifically well. Amy, you’re doing terrifically well. Leslie, Erin, Kim, Judy, Karen, Doris, Kathy, Asako. And so on, I can’t name everyone. Put own name on the line.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate motherhood. Forgive others and selves, and try for a moment to see ourselves as God sees us – as loved children. I pray that this can be our MD gift, to ourselves, and to our Heavenly parents.

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23 Responses to Mother’s Day: My talk

  1. Michelle Glauser on May 5, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Fabulous.

  2. Matt W. on May 5, 2009 at 8:09 am

    While I don’t want to jack this thread, where is the line between forgiving ourselves and acknowledging we need help? Maybe it is just the differences of where we live, but I find myself too often not doing terrificly well, and surrounded by those who are not doing terrificly well, all the while chanting “all is well” and then getting a divorce a few days later, or kicking their teenager out, or smoking pot, etc.

    But how is it even possible to balance trying to give a message of love and hope to some who struggle with self-confidence without hurting those who struggle with self-deception. I guess you need to pick your audience.

  3. Ron on May 5, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I once had to give a Mother’s Day talk, but my bishop asked me to talk about how priesthood holders (men, boys…)should honor all women in their lives. It really forced me to address a lot of good issues. Still, I wish I had had the above talk to crib from…Thanks.

  4. Shelly! on May 5, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Thanks Kaimi. Wish I could say I’ve been in a Mother’s Day service that touched so well on issues of motherhood.

    For years growing up my mom took us to a local Friends church to celebrate Mother’s Day. One year we stayed in our ward and I finally realized why we always left. The speaker got up and celebrated his wife – including all the ways she ironed his pants right (even managing to get the crease right), folded his socks in just the way he likes, and always had dinner on the table. It turned out to be more of a celebration of him and his expectations of wifedom than of motherhood.

    Wouldn’t be so bad if the stake didn’t ask him to speak every year.

  5. TMD on May 5, 2009 at 10:33 am

    To what degree is being pained by mother’s day the product of a deeper problem, one which doesn’t seem all that righteous to me–that of deriving too much of one’s self-esteem from social comparison?

  6. Keri Brooks on May 5, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Kaimi. As a single woman, I find Mothers’ Day to be painful. I would love to hear a talk like this in my ward.

    I have no problem with honoring mothers. They deserve honor. However, Mothers’ Day celebrations have a tendency to honor mothers by putting down those who have been called to another path.

    I really have a problem with the tradition to hand a flower out to all the women, regardless of whether or not they’re mothers. It cheapens the very real sacrifice that mothers make by giving the honor to all regardless of whether they’ve made the sacrifice. It also cheapens the life experiences of those who are not mothers by basically saying that everything they’re doing in life is meaningless.

    I love how you made your talk about our Mother in Heaven. I’m definitely going to remember Her this Sunday.

  7. Zat on May 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Your talk seems watered down by telling those who aren’t mothers “It’s OK, really.” I don’t think those women are that thin skinned. It’s a sacrament meeting to celebrate mothers and be centered on Christ. Can you imagine giving this talk on Father’s Day? I think you spend too much time hand holding women who are stronger than you give them credit for.

  8. CatherineWO on May 5, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I like this talk. You go to great lengths to be inclusive and acknowledge that there is more to mothering than ironing shirts and fixing meals. I hate being praised for things that any hired hand (male or female) could do. That and the perfume. I quit attending church on Mother’s Day years ago. I consider it my Sunday off.

  9. Mary on May 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Kaimi,

    In your Sacrament blog you mentioned Hansel Rayner. I came across your blog because I was looking for references to Hansel. In 1969 he was a witness at my Temple marriage in the Los Angeles Temple. He was also my Young Adults Sunday School teacher in the Inglewood Ward. (At that time we were called the M-Men & Gleaners). I was the Stake Gleaner Representative and my husband was the Stake M-Men Representative.

    Hansel was teaching at Pepperdine at the time and had a delightful young family. Through the years I wondered what happened to Hansel and yesterday I started to look him up. I couldn’t find much. I did find a female blogger that mentioned him as the recently deceased Hansel Rayner and I wondered if this was true. Is there anything you can tell me? Sorry to interrupt your blog but I didn’t know how else to find out. Thank you.

  10. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 5, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I commend Kaimi for trying to support the honor given to mothers despite the lack of enthusiasm that some women have about it. I concur that it is not appropriate to use the pulpit to tell mothers that they are falling down on the job, to exhort them to do better. By the same token, those women who cannot claim the status of motherhood have no right to deny a little celebration to those who have been fortunate enough (yes, chance and other people’s choices are involved) to become mothers. And a little humility on the part of mothers about the factors outside their own control that could have denied them that status should give them sympathy for those who are not.

    We honor those who serve as missionaries. That does not mean we are denigrating or disrespecting those who did not take that opportunity in youth. Mother’s Day and other celebrations are not occasions for us to exercise pride, manifested in either glorying in our accomplishments or resenting our lack of accomplishments. Humility and gratitude are in order for all, both mothers and those who are not. If we are onf one heart and one mind, we should be happy that the woman sitting on the row behind us has had a blessing that we have not received.

    I know that Mother’s Day was painful for a number of years for a relative, who had given birth to a child out of wedlock and given it up for adoption. I think she overcame that when she started having her own family.

    Mother’s Day can also be painful for a woman with a child lost to death, even if she has other children. It can be painful for a mother who has a child who has rejected her. But experiencing failed aspirations about our children is one of the basic truths of life; it should help us to empathize with our heavenly parents, and with our righteous ancestors. We are not alone in such disappointments. And the Restored Gospel has so many ways to give us hope about lost children that is not available elsewhere.

    I guess it can be painful to hear about motherhood when you are single and don’t have that prospect ahead of you, except in the eternities, and are missing the opportunity to be honored. On the other hand, doesn’t every such woman have a mother of her own? Shouldn’t our own focus on Mother’s Day be to honor and thank your own mother, thanking her for the good she did and forgiving her imperfections, as we would wish to be forgiven, and not be expecting praise for yourself?

    If a ward is going to give out flowers, why not distribute them to the children in Primary, Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women, so they can be given to their own mothers? (And not have to carry them around during the last 2 hours of church.) Let us invite ward members to each take a flower to their own mothers, or take it home and display it in honor of their own mothers. Let us take a flower and honor a woman in the ward who has been motherly to us. I know we are talking about a lot more flowers here. And we are not going to have an enforced equality that has no relation to actual mothering relationships. But single women or married women without children can each take a flower and remember that it should remind them of the planting, and digging about, and nourishing and watering that our mothers (by and large) invested in each of us, and that we each honor our own mothers best by how we bloom.

  11. Keri Brooks on May 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Perhaps I was unclear. I didn’t mean to say that there was something inherent in Mothers’ Day celebrations that denigrated non-mothers, merely that Mothers’ Day as traditionally celebrated in LDS Sacrament Meetings can have that tendency. I fully intend to honor my mother on Sunday, and I know that the day is about her, not me.

  12. Ardis E. Parshall on May 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Shouldn’t our own focus on Mother’s Day be to honor and thank your own mother, thanking her for the good she did and forgiving her imperfections, as we would wish to be forgiven, and not be expecting praise for yourself?

    If only wards would DO it this way, then I’d have no problem with Mother’s Day, but you turn the usual ward practice on its head and blame the wrong parties, Raymond!

    It’s that the wards generally insist on “honoring” us with an honor we don’t claim for ourselves that makes it humiliating. Don’t insist that all women age 18 and up stand for recognition. Don’t insist that they take your flower or candy or whatever. Reserve the honor of Mother’s Day for mothers, and this faction of the dissatisfied would be fine with it.

  13. Clair on May 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I agree with the notion that Mothers Day should be about our mothers, not about our wives or our daughters, and certainly not about the sister down the street, whatever her situation is.

    That would avoid most of the concerns people seem to have about the day.

  14. Alison Moore Smith on May 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    This topic comes up every year and I really don’t understand the Mother’s Day angst much.

    When I dealt with six miscarriages, it was awful, but Mother’s Day wasn’t about my loss, it was about honoring mothers. And there were plenty of them to go around.

    Don’t get me wrong, I spent plenty of time crying and feeling sorry for myself. More than my share. And now I’ve got a 22 years and counting full of stupid mothering stuff that I regret and wish I could have a do-over to fix. And I can’t, so I’m not worthy and all that.

    But the pains of non-motherhood and of motherhood never transformed into pain toward all-thing-relating-to-mothers — and I don’t think it has to.

    I’m an adoptee, too, but can’t figure out how that alone would put me out of the Mother’s Day loop. A mother is the one who cares for you, not the one who got impregnated with you. I was blessed to have a REAL mother who loved me unconditionally–and that was something! I really miss her and will be honoring her this Sunday.

  15. Cynthia L. on May 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    #5 TMD, to no degree. Good grief! If somebody’s spouse died on Christmas Day, and that was always kind of a tough time of year for them as a result, is that because of unrighteous social comparison? Or because they are reminded of a very real hardship stemming from a righteous desire for family togetherness?

  16. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I agree that many Mother’s Day programs are done in ways that are offensive to mothers as well as others. My wife has told me about it every time. In the novel Paradise Vue, there is a great scene in which the mothers are given, instead of flowers or plants, TV dinners, as an example of the somewhat inept, though well meaning, efforts of those presenting the program on Mother’s Day.

    One of the ubiquitous practices on Mother’s Day is talking about the 2000 Ammonite warriors’ tribute to the faith of their mothers, and applying it to those in the congregation. But seldom do these recitations acknowledge that what the Ammonite mothers did that proved their testimonies to their sons was beyond the range of what most American LDS moms do. All of those young men were children too young to take the oath against violence with their fathers and older brothers. They witnessed their fathers go out, unarmed, to meet the oncoming Lamanite army with prayer rather than physical struggle. They saw their mothers supporting their fathers and older sons, in the full knowledge that the attackers could work their way right through the men, and begin to slaughter them and their other children. To claim the mantle of faith that those mothers demonstrated on that day is a fearsome responsibility. It is on the level of the courage of the mothers involved in the most harrowing experiences of the persecuted Saints of the Nineteenth Century. It should make all of us–mothers and fathers and otherwise–feel inadequate, humbled, and dependent on God, rather than satisfied with ourselves.

    I am a 20 year military veteran. As an attorney I did not experience combat, though many of my colleagues did. That is also true for many of my military peers, even though we served during the conflicts in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. When we see combat veterans being honored, we wonder how we would have acted under pressure, but we join in honoring them, having perhaps a better appreciation than the public at large for what valor means. We don’t begrudge them the honor, and we don’t feel honoring them is dishonoring us. We know that we were ready, willing and able to take on those responsibilities if we had been called to do so. Such occasions are also emotionally charged for many combat veterans, who remember comrades in arms lost or wounded. But there are good reasons for honoring those veterans.

    Motherhood has a lot in common with military service. It is something not easily left behind, and can commit a person to all sorts of harrowing experiences and losses, as well as bring the occasional triumph. Both the positive and negative experiences are, to a large extent, beyond personal control. It creates opportunities to exercise humility and dependence on God. It is an experience worthy of sober celebration.

    One practical suggestion: How about the bishopric asking the Relief Society to organize the program for Mother’s Day?

  17. Ardis Parshall on May 6, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Continuing your analogy, Raymond, how would you feel if the officer in charge of honoring combat veterans insisted that you stand with them and accept their applause and put on their medal, while explaining in his most sympathetic voice that everybody honors you, too, because you would have so served had you been called?

  18. TMD on May 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Cynthia, your analogy is inaposite. In most of the ‘cases’ Kaimi addresses, it’s not a question of personal loss. It’s a question of ‘am I doing as well/better/worse than X,’ about comparing some set of perceived failings in ourselves or others because some set of ideals are being talked about.

  19. Kaimi Wenger on May 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    I realize that not everyone has concerns with Mothers Day. If you are someone who doesn’t feel any discomfort from the way that the day is generally celebrated, excellent. If you’re in the ninety and nine who don’t have any problem with traditional celebration, more power to you.

    Please recognize that there are people who don’t fit into the ninety and nine. And it’s my view that, following the Savior’s example, we should reach out to everyone — *especially* the ones who may feel sorrow and pain and feel excluded from the community. When one sheep struggles or calls out, the Lord’s response is not, “well, there are lots of other sheep that don’t feel that way at all, I don’t see what your problem is.” The Lord’s response is to take special measures and reach out individually to that sheep.

    So if you’re in the ninety and nine who don’t need any special care, excellent. (Though don’t get too comfortable — it seems to me that we all spend some time as the one lost or excluded, sooner or later.) In the meantime, please don’t begrudge my own and others’ imperfect efforts to reach out to people who aren’t as comfortable as you are.

  20. TMD on May 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    But at the same time, those in the ‘one’ category are not homogenous. Some are there because they have a particular personal grief (aka a recently dead child), but others are there because of a lack of conversion, an inability to celebrate others without feeling bad about themselves. (of course there are at least some in the 99 who are there because they are mentally making themselves feel good at the expense of others, no less a problem.)

    If we treat them all the same, if we think of them as being the same, we only help perpetuate the latter group’s unhappiness. How is that compassion?

  21. TMD on May 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Put differently, I think much of the angst over mothers’ day is the product of people engaging in invidious social comparisons with others, and deeming themselves–or believing others are seeing them–as not living up to some standard, unlike some other individual or set of people. By explicitly addressing these points of comparison (as you do so exhaustively), you actually encourage them via legitimization. So, rather than helping people actually ‘get over themselves’ and quit deriving their self-worth from social comparisons, and thus be happier in the church, you actually encourage these kinds of group markers, making them salient, perpetuating the cycle of social self-comparison and unhappiness. Even as you given them a shout-out that might feel nice for a moment.

  22. Kate on May 7, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I loathe Mother’s Day, and it has nothing to do with not having kids. It didn’t even occur to me that I should feel bad about that until someone guessed that was why I skip church on that day every year. Since I haven’t met my future children’s father yet, I certainly don’t want the kids to exist yet.

    Nope, I skip church every Mother’s Day because my mother died when I was 20 and I don’t want to sob for three hours in front of other people. I miss her so much anyway, and since she always strived to what the Lord wanted her to be, Mother’s Day is a gigantic sign saying “YOUR MOTHER DOESN’T EXIST IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE”. It’s like a funeral every single year.

    I don’t have kids, so of course Mother’s Day isn’t about me. It is a reminder of a horrible loss.

    I don’t want to take it away from other people, though, so I just don’t go.

  23. Ann on May 8, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Kate, it doesn’t have to be a big sign. You can still have her right in your heart.