On the Joy and Sorrow of Mother's Day

Mother's Day I am weary this Mother's Day. Last night, I burst into tears at the prospect of making dinner in a kitchen littered with unwashed dishes, unopened mail, and the food from my daughters' play kitchen.

My husband took one look at me and sent me to bed. "I've got this," he said.

All I really want for Mother's Day is a nice long nap.

As my own amazing mother has always told me, being a mother is hard, hard work. It is beautiful, fulfilling work, but it calls for all of me everyday. Or as it often seems, it calls for more of me than there is to go around.

For this reason, I am thankful for Mother's Day, for a day that honors and celebrates the many women who have sacrificed to give and to nurture life. I think of my own rich legacy of motherhood: my grandmothers, my mother, my mother-in-law, my friends' mothers, and the many, many older women who took note of me over the years, who in their own unique ways encouraged and invested and loved.

These women, some of them mothers themselves, some of them childless or single, taught me to cook and to sew, to see Jesus in the everyday, to value myself and my gifts, to count the nurturing of little souls as sacred, significant work. My own mothering is in so many ways an overflow of what they poured into me.

It is right and good to celebrate these women and others like them. I'm glad for the existence of a holiday like Mother's Day, for the way its regular appearance on my calendar reminds me to stop, take a break from my own busyness, and remember with gratitude.

But I also know it's not quite as simple as that. I remember the pain of my own childless Mother's Day, when CJ and I had been trying for nearly a year to get pregnant. I remember how alone I felt when all the mothers in our church stood to be recognized, how I left the service sobbing.

This Mother's Day, I ache for the daughter who is missing, and I ache too for many of my friends. I think of my pregnant friend caring for her two young daughters, wishing her own mother could have met her sweet babies. I think of my single mom friends, with no one coming home to relieve them of dinner preparations after a hard day. I think of my friends who long for children of their own, of the many brave ways they love and invest and nurture.

I'm sad that Mother's Day can be a hard day for these friends and others like them, even as I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the many amazing mothers I know. It is hard to hold onto both of these emotions. I understand the impulse to ignore the hurting on a day of celebration or to rail against Mother's Day because it can be a source of pain.

And yet, I hope there is another way, a way we can somehow embrace both the beautiful and the broken, a way to sit in both the joy and the sorrow with one another. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I hope, this Mother's Day, that I can do both.