When Mother's Day Is Hard

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Motherhood is sometimes so glorified that the implied message is that women without children have missed out on the most fulfilling and important part of life. And all of us know of couples who are trying to conceive or who await adoption, and the ache caused by the empty cradle.

And over the years, I've found another, perhaps even more unexpected group for whom Mother's Day is often difficult: mothers! It seems even the best of mothers have times around Mother's Day when she has to wrestle with guilt feelings. The sentiments of so many greeting cards are so idealistic that no one could live up to the expectations. Clubs, organizations, churches, and mother-daughter events often include in their program quotations that almost canonize mothers. A favorite is, "God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers." What a lovely sentiment--but what mother can fill the place of God?

Yes, Mother's Day is difficult for many, but this does not mean that we should discontinue the holiday. It is a helpful, even needed time that brings joy to so many. Here are some suggestions to make the day better.

1. Remember your mother. If she is living, send a card. Buy one. Anyone can afford a 99-cent card. Better yet, make a homemade card, or print out one on your computer. Best of all, if you have grandchildren, have them make a card, too. Call mother. If possible, find a way to visit.

2. Express your love in the way your mother appreciates it most. Dr. Gary Chapman, an expert on interpersonal relationships, points out that people express and receive love in different ways. He identifies the five languages of love: quality time, words of appreciation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Remembering how your mother expressed love is a good indication of how she most likes to receive love. If you express your love in a way your mother doesn't understand, she may not feel that you have expressed your love at all, even though you may have given her an expensive gift.

3. Keep it personal, not commercial. Anna Jarvis, the woman whose efforts resulted in Mother's Day becoming a national holiday in 1914, filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother's Day festival in 1923 because she was so troubled that the day had become commercialized. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," she protested. The commercialization so disturbed her that she said she was sorry she had worked to establish the holiday, and she spent all of her inheritance trying to return Mother's Day to the simple, loving time she had intended.

Your observance will not be commercialized unless you make it so. Keep it simple and personal. Speak encouraging words. Be honest. If you don't think you had the greatest mom in the world, don't say so. Rather tell her what you did appreciate and the lessons you have come to value.

4. If you are the mother, be appreciative of any cards, calls, visits, or gifts from your children. Be positive. What do children fear most on Mother's Day? My informal survey came up with one surprising result--a guilt trip. Tamara quoted a familiar saying: "Want to feel guilty? Call home." Her friends nodded their heads in universal agreement. I remember from childhood the sermon Mom gave me every Mother's Day. The theme was always, "Thank you, but remember Mother's Day should be every day of the year." Looking back as an adult, I am sure she did not realize these words came across as judgmental to a young child.

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5. Be aware of those for whom Mother's Day may be a difficult time. Make opportunities for them to talk with you about their feelings. Healing can come from sharing with a friend.
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Related Topics: Holidays, Love Family

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