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Challenge: Digging Deep

Mother's Day Is Complicated

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Mother’s Day is such a beautiful and broken and complicated holiday. Ideally, the day would be full of brunch and flowers and handmade cards and warm feelings of love and joy for everyone. But for so many women, the day is tinged with sadness. In an effort to be inclusive, I’ve heard many people say, “Well, everyone can celebrate on Mother’s Day because everyone has a mother!” Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that clean and simple? But the world is broken and things that should just be beautiful and joyful aren’t always that way. What can help bring some beauty into the broken is the way we love each other. We all know someone hurting this Mother’s Day…

There’s the woman who sits next to you in Sunday School who is absent this week because she’s crying under the covers and can’t bring herself to come to church. She miscarried a few months ago, and the thought of sitting in the pew while the pastor asks all the new mothers to stand is simply unbearable.

There’s your neighbor who is tying desperately to avoid all grocery stores and shops right now because the minute she walks through the sliding doors she’s bombarded with balloons and bears and giant cards urging shoppers not to forget mom this year. How could I? She thinks to herself. It’s all she thinks about. Every day she wakes up hoping this month will be the month she sees that little purple plus sign.

Your nurse has a pit in her stomach. This year will be her second Mother’s Day without her own precious mom who won her battle with cancer in a different way. She misses being able to pick up the phone and talk about her day or get advice on how to deal with an issue. She’ll celebrate this year with her own kids, but the day will be tinged with sadness. She misses her mom.

Your co-worker sighs behind her desk as she wonders if her teen even cares that it’s Mother’s Day. He’s been acting out and testing boundaries (and every last one of her nerves.) She knew the teen years could be hard, but this was beyond what anyone warned her about and she’s worried… and frustrated… and sad.

The lady in your bookclub thinks about her mom a little this time of year and wishes it could have been different. They haven’t spoken in over a decade. She wonders what she could have done differently and tries not to dwell on it too much. She shakes the “what ifs” away with a forced laugh and focuses back in on the conversation.

Somewhere in a hospital there is a mother who has signed a paper and tenderly kissed her baby and gently placed her into another woman’s arms. She chokes back sobs for a minute before they leave the room and she breaks down completely. She loves that baby girl more than her own life. She just made the hardest decision on the planet and for the rest of her life Mother’s Day will be different.

Down the road in a county jail cell sits a woman who will receive her handmade cards with her mail. As she turns them over in her hand, tears slide down her cheeks. I should be home with them, she agonizes with regret. As she gives into her tears she vows to make different choices for her kids and hopes she gets another chance. Meanwhile, her kids sit in Sunday School and listen to the teacher talk about the wonderful gift our mothers are to us. They shift uncomfortably in their seats and hope the other children don’t find out where their mom is. They make the craft and put on fake smiles and pretend everything is fine in their world. They wish someone would notice and tell them it’s okay to not be okay. Their Grandma sits in the church pew praying for her incarcerated daughter. Wondering if she did something wrong. Vowing to be there for her grandkids.

At a rehab center an hour away, a young mother sits in the parking lot weeping. She’s just visited her husband and she’s feeling overwhelmed and all alone and so incredibly sad. She’s keeping his addiction a secret from their kids and their friends and their family. The burden is a lot to carry. She wishes she could sleep in this Mother’s Day, or take a short nap, but the load is entirely hers to carry this year. So she wipes her tears, takes a deep breath, and pulls out of the parking lot to face the rest of the day.

There’s a little boy on the next block who has so many questions he can’t find the answers to. Mother’s Day makes him feel sad and he doesn’t understand why. There’s a mommy an ocean away that he doesn’t remember, but he wonders about her and imagines what she’s like. His mommy tells him that he’s wonderful and loved and that adoption doesn’t mean he wasn’t wanted or worthy. But what about that other mommy? Should he make her a card? He doesn’t know, so he makes one in secret and hides it under his bed and then falls asleep feeling sad and mad and confused.

The waitress at Sunday brunch has longed to get married and start a family for years. As time passes she wonders if it will ever happen for her. When she was a little girl she dreamed of being a mother someday. As she’s watched her friends walk down the aisle and bring home their babies she can’t help feeling left out. She serves pancakes and eggs to tables of laughing and happy families, then goes to the back of the kitchen to swallow her tears. Maybe next year, she thinks as she grabs her tray.

As the day winds down, there’s a stepmom smiling through her disappointment. She knows the marriage is new and everyone is trying to adjust and gracefully work out how to be a blended family, but she had hoped for a card or some acknowledgement this Mother’s Day. She’s loved her stepchildren as her own, but has struggled to gain their trust and love in return. As happy as she is that they are close with their mother, she hopes someday they’ll be close with her, too, and wishes that day were today.

In every church pew, in every office, in every school, in every cafe, on every block there is someone hurting this year. Someone crying and praying and hoping … maybe next year will be better.

Let’s remember to reach out to those who are hurting and let them know we see them and we care. A simple card, word of kindness, phone call, or hug can go a long way.

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