Mother’s Day and the Childless Female Mormon

Let me say right at the outset that I am a fan of Moms. I am a fan of my mother especially. I believe that Mothers absolutely deserve to have a day when their efforts and love are acknowledged, when they are cared for and loved in return. I am a huge supporter of Mother’s Day for Mothers. Actual mothers deserve everything they get on Mother’s Day and more. So, mothers of the world, please don’t take the following as an attack on you personally. It’s not you, it’s me.

Due to factors beyond my control, I won’t be in church this Sunday, and I am ecstatic. Depending on how it goes, I may not ever go to church on Mother’s Day again. I hate going to church on Mother’s Day. It was not so bad when I lived in the same town as my mother, when my own status as a child (though an adult) rather than as a mother was understood. I could listen to the homilies about angel mothers and sing the songs and participate in discussions about how necessary good mothers were, using my own mother (who really is pretty amazing) as reference. I could nod along in agreement—“Why yes, my mother is a saint for putting up with me. Why yes, motherhood does sound difficult and thankless and lonely. Why yes, of course Heavenly Father values and blesses mothers.” This was not so bad because the day was clearly not about me.

Now that I live away from my mother, among people who have never even seen my mother, things are different. I am an adult. All of a sudden, I see that those “consolation prize” assurances are directed at me. “Every worthy sister will eventually receive all the blessings that the Lord has promised–” those blessings being, of course, a husband and children—“if she will remain righteous,” runs one familiar refrain. And here I was thinking that I was already blessed, and already righteous (enough). Silly me. “There are many different ways to be a mother,” runs another. “Some women are mothers without ever having any children, as they teach and care for children in their sphere of influence.” Talk about immaculate conception. Now I can be a mother without ever even bringing a child into my home. Looks like labor and childcare are for suckers.

As if the afterthought speeches weren’t bad enough, there’s always some stupid gift that’s given to every adult woman at church. I hate these. To me, they say, “We know that for whatever reason, the Lord hasn’t seen fit to trust you with a child—a thing even Christina Aguilera could do—but maybe you’ll do better with an African violet.” My violets always die. Maybe they’d do better if they didn’t wind up in the trash as soon as I got home.

I don’t mind honoring mothers at all, but I resent the fact that somehow I am supposed to be included in this honoring. I know people mean well when they include childless females in the gifting/honoring that happens on Mother’s Day, and maybe some women really are comforted by all of this, but I feel that these very actions actually degrade me. They make me feel like less of a human being altogether. It’s one thing to say that a woman’s highest achievement and greatest happiness in life can be found in roles as wife and mother; it’s quite another to imply that “woman” is synonymous with “wife” or “mother.” The latter is exactly what happens every Mother’s Day. And if woman = mother, then logically if I’m not a mother, then I’m not a woman. And if I’m not woman in a system in which one must be either a woman or man, what am I??? Again, I know no one means for this sort of thing to be said, but this IS what’s being said when all women are grouped together on Mother’s Day.

I never felt like I was “only” a daughter of God until I realized that people expected me to be a mother, too. I never resented the so-called “divine roles” of wife and mother until my identity became dependent on those labels, particularly since I have so little control over making them happen. I think that I am already abundantly blessed by being “a daughter of [my] Heavenly Father, who loves [me], and [I] love Him.” I think I have quite enough to do just trying to fill that role to the best of my ability. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my following God’s plan for my life—a plan which, at present, does not involve motherhood. I believe those things, except for on Mother’s Day.

I’ve had about enough of watching other women—my apologies, I should’ve said real women—beatifically smile as their little ones warble a shaky “Mother, I Love You” from the pulpit. If I have to sit through one more Mother’s Day full of stories about giving birth, potty training, or breast feeding, I may smack someone. I want to shake those women who so luxuriously and ostentatiously complain about Logan and Madison’s arguments, about Jenny’s booger-eating habit, about how Eli throws toy cars at the babysitter. Don’t misunderstand me; mothers are perfectly justified in enjoying the rewards of their position. I’m glad they’ve found community with each other. I’m glad they have the chance to share their concerns and frustrations. But I am not one of them and those are not conversations in which I can participate. When I go out on a limb and venture a comment, I’m invariably told how much better I’ll understand the issue once I’m a mother myself. “Don’t worry,” they pat my leg, “It’ll happen someday.” The woman with mashed Cheerios in her hair pities me? Only on Mother’s Day. And I understand it because on Mother’s Day I pity me too.

If you want to honor women, that’s great. Let’s have a Woman’s Day. I’d love that. But that’s not what we have. We have Mother’s Day. Honor the mothers. They’re the ones who have sacrificed so much for their children. They’re the ones who give up their own desires, their own sleep, their own privacy, even previous identities, to an extent, in order to provide their children with what they need to succeed. Good mothers hurt when their children hurt and rejoice when their children rejoice. Good mothers nurture, teach, and protect their darlings. Our relationships with our mothers are not always positive or uncomplicated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the amazing gifts they have given us. I’m alive, so I have at least one major reason to be grateful for my mother. Let me honor her. I don’t want her achievements to be cheapened by the inclusion of people like myself on her special day. I’ve done some cool things in my life, but it’s just ludicrous to celebrate what a great mother I am. The only living thing I remotely mother is a fish, and I haven’t cleaned his bowl in over a month. I think I fed him a couple of days ago, but I can’t be sure. Clearly this is not the kind of commitment actual good mothers have towards their children. Let us honor and celebrate them and leave me happily out of it.

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