Posted by: skyward | August 17, 2008

Motherhood: Sugar-Coated

This might sound utterly out of season.

But I’m going to write about Mother’s Day. 

Because I have never understood the kinds of Mother’s Day gifts solemnly presented at churches.  

I admit I have been to only a handful of churches over the years, and yes, stereotyping can be dangerous.  That aside, I have found myself puzzled, even annoyed, by those gifts.  Memo pad (things-to-do list, that is).  Refrigerator magnet. Dish towel (!!).  I’m not a feminist (though I have contributed a chapter to a feminist textbook used worldwide) who would go on and on about gender bias; and I’m polite and mature enough (well, at least, most of the time) to smile serenely and act delighted like most other mothers.  And no, I will not throw them away.  To this day, I continue to use the floral memo pad, and the magnet should remain on the fridge door as long as my daughter hasn’t removed it, turning it into a toy.  But I don’t know where the dish towel went —-perhaps because I hate doing the dishes.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m keenly aware that those are well-intentioned gifts within the church’s limited budget.  And I can even envision a group of men (I assume) venturing out to the mall, in their earnest search.  So I wouldn’t say that a gift like Channel lipstick would be far more appreciated —though I admit I wouldn’t mind receiving one.  (Mauve is my favorite, by the way.)  Undoubtedly, that type of gift would help enhance the church attendance rate, too.

But what bothers me more –far more– than those gifts is a typical Mother’s Day sermon linking maternal love to God’s love.  (OK, I should delete the word, “typical”; I certainly hope not all ministers preach that way.) I have no idea how many mothers actually have “unconditional” love for their children.  A mother who drives her son diligently to his SAT prep course after school may secretly dream of the day when an acceptance letter from an Ivy League school arrives in their mailbox; by expecting him to shine in the limelight, she very well could be striving to live vicariously through his accomplishments.  Accordingly, she might find herself devastated if her son, after all the money spent on his prep school and prep course, decides againt attending college and opt for the military instead–even if that path will make him happier. 

This is just one example.  I recall one achingly honest and thought-provoking essay from Newsweek several years ago, published shortly after a Texas mother murdered her own five children.  The author powerfully dispelled the “sweet motherhood” myth, which I could have cited here, but unfortunately, I no longer have the copy.  She, too, was quick to express her disgust  with the “mother’s love is close to God’s love” rhetoric. 

Mothers are not apron-clad angelic figures.  We, too, are weak, self-centered creatures grappling with our own imperfections day by day.  Don’t give us the sugar-coated version of motherhood.



  1. skyward,

    It’s great to see a mother and son team, wish you well in this bonding. No mother how one feels sometimes one cannot escape the different stages of parenthood. I invite you to visit my blog – for my piece on the role of a parent. Bye.

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