This is a picture of a flower that was handed to me today in church by one of the children. We celebrated Mother's Day as well as Children's Sunday today. Children's Sunday represents the close of the Sunday school year and it is a celebration and recognition of what the children in our church have accomplished throughout the school year. The handing out of the flowers has been occurring for a few years now. I remember the first year the flowers were presented on Mother's Day. Before the children came out to present them both that year and this year, my minister prefaced this beautiful gesture by telling the congregation the flowers would be given to those of us in church that "look like a mother." I remember sitting in the pew that very first year and thinking how difficult it was going to be for me when the children bypassed me and I was left without a flower. Left with an outward sign of who I am not. A mother.
But miracle of all miracles, I received a flower that year and I have received one every Mother's Day since. All the women in our congregation do; because even if we have never given birth, adopted, or raised a child of our own, we all have in some way mothered a child or another human being. The flower is a symbol for the mother that lies within us.
Mother's Day has notoriously been a very difficult day for me over the years. Correction: I have made it a difficult day for myself. The reason is simple. I love children, have always wanted some, or at least one, and have never had a child of my own. The reasons are numerous and complicated. I know it is something that I will eventually write many essays about but for today, writing about Mother's Day is enough.
As the years have gone by, I have struggled with Mother's Day because I have always focused on what I did not have and that is: a child of my own. One that I can raise, nurture, and love. As the day would approach and come to slap me in the face with my reality, I would dread it. Because I knew that most likely, I would never have the opportunity to be celebrated on that one special day each year. I would never possess that which is known to most of our society as the ultimate bond between two people: the bond between a mother and her child. It can be quite a difficult thing to live with in our culture and society where being a parent is given the utmost priority and acceptance. It can be quite a difficult thing to live with period. Sometimes you feel like you don't fit with the rest of the world. Sometimes you just feel plain old sad. But those are topics for another day as well.
Luckily though, my thinking about this issue has evolved over the past year or so. And it has not come easily. Changing my thinking about going through Mother's Day with no children has taken a lot of soul searching and yes, even some acceptance. It is not because I like children any less. But rather because I am more focused on what I do have rather than what I do not have. To start with, I have my own incredible mother. One that has nurtured me and supported me my entire life and whom I would probably be lost in life without. I do not want to waste precious time feeling sorry for myself on Mother's Day when I could spend that time honoring and thinking about my own mother. And there is my fiance's mother. How grateful am I for her? The person that brought the love of my life into existence. The man who has completely changed my life.
Most women in my life, whether they are friends or family, are mothers. I have been blessed by the grace of God to know them and to witness the everyday struggles, challenges, joys, and blessings that come with raising a child. To be honest, I do not think that every mother is a great one or even a good one. But in my circle, they are. So on this day, I honor them in my heart. I feel lucky to be a part of their lives.
What I have also come to realize, similar to how my church treats the women in our congregation on Mother's Day, is that being a mother is not just about having a child of your own. It is about how we, as women, nurture and support the children in our lives whether it is in our own family or in our community. I now can stop and think of the times I have nurtured other people's children. I have cared for, nurtured, and loved nephews, future adult stepchildren, goddaughters, and children of friends closest to me. I have supported the children in my congregation in their endeavors and activities. I have been a mother to every single pediatric patient I have ever taken care of by holding their hand, disciplining them, and singing to them in the middle of the night when they were scared or in pain.
I have been present.
Is it the same thing as raising a child of your own twenty-four hours a day? No, it is not the same. But I do not think that fact makes it any less important, or any more important for that matter. It just makes it different.
I am not living in denial of the difficulties associated with losing a part of my life's dream. Now though, I try to not let it define me by who I am as a woman. From this Mother's Day on, I refuse to let it overshadow what this day is supposed to be about and that is love. So Happy Mother's Day to all of the women in my life who are mothers. Those who have:
Given birth to a child,
Adopted a child,
Raised a child,
Encouraged a child,
Been a role model for a child,
Helped a child,
Loved a child....
You are all truly my inspiration.
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Myers