The Annual Grump

It has started – the annual grump of those church people who hate Mothering Sunday. I have a certain grudging sympathy with those who dislike the commercialised aspects of the day – I know that some of them will grump in the same way over Christmas, and that all of us will grump over the joyful pagan celebration of Good Friday (Easter eggs scoffed in the supermarket car park while we are fasting). I appreciate many congregations do not want to derail the flow of the lectionary with the one-off Mothering Sunday readings.

No, what gets me is the ‘I had a bad experience as a child and mother and now you will not celebrate’ grump. Because we are all excluded from something. I’m sorry for those who had a bad experience as child and mother, or virtually no experience as both. Really sorry.

My marriage was pretty much a disaster, more especially as its ending seemed to me to retrospectively destroy what had seemed the joyful times of the early days of the relationship. I did not get to take any happy memories away from it. I don’t expect ever to have another romantic relationship that goes further than a shared coffee. Anything to do with weddings and marriage reawakens pain.

But I don’t expect Christian marriage to stop, I don’t WANT it to stop, or Valentine’s Day, just because I think of them with sorrow and guilt.

Please – be glad for me that being a daughter to a beloved mother, and a mother to beloved children made me happy and fulfilled, and that my daughters, too, rejoice in motherhood.

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2 responses to “The Annual Grump

  1. I admire your sentiment and courage.

    For me, it’s more of a minefield than a grump. I look around at a sea of faces on mothering Sunday, and there are people whose mothers died young, adopted people who never knew their mothers, people who have lost touch with their mothers, people who long to be mothers, but can’t, or for whom the hope is fading. Tear-stained faces arrive at the altar rail to receive communion year by year on Mothers’ Day. Each year I wonder – why do we put ourselves through this?

    Then there’s the whole gender thing. We know that Fathers’ Day exists primarily because it suits greetings-card companies for it to exist. Mothers’ Day has a unique, but dubious, meaning. Often the sentiment is – “look how hard mothers work all year round, cooking, and washing and cleaning, and looking after children” – and Mothers’ day is the Day when she gets breakfast in bed, and a little gratitude – to use Karl Marx’ metaphor, flowers are allowed to grow on her chains. How about we rename it ‘Domestic Equality Day’ and use it to challenge the stereotypical roles that our mothers were expected to perform?

  2. rosemaryhannah

    As regards paragraph one. You can do a number of things with emotional pain. 1)You can deal with it, by coming to terms with it, and making your peace, and then moving on. 2)You can put it on the back burner, and get on with life, and this is most useful following dealing with it, or so it seems to me. 3)And you can deny it and ignore it.

    In an ideal world, the Church helps people to do one and two. In my experience, it often looks pretty grim while one is going on. But I doubt if 3 is a good long term solution. Ignoring Mothering Sunday will not heal hearts. In the days when I preached I used to say that Mothering was not just about mothers – it was about all our experiences of being mothered, and mentored, and being motherly and mentoring. About beloved teachers, coaches, and all the rest. and I would also speak of the pain of mothering, and of not being mothered or having children.

    I don’t know anybody who got it all – lover, children, fulfilling career, good pension, or indeed, pension at all. Most of us are lucky to get a couple of these, and most of us keep working at getting a third in the bag. There is a lot of pain in life, and the question is what we do with it. Does it become a means of growth, healing, resurrection, or does it become a hidden sore? Can we learn to celebrate what we cannot have when others have it?

    These days, being a mother is no longer an automatic choice. Women are no longer forced to stay at home if they have children – indeed they may too easily feel they have to leave the child in order to keep an (extortionately priced) roof over their heads. Both parents are usually involved in an endless scrabble to balance children, home, work. I just do not accept that motherhood=chains, except that anybody with children has so many hostages to life.

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