Mother's Day

The "Toughest Job in the World"? Yes! Taking Back Mothers Day!

*This piece is running on Fox news here:
(*Thank you for sharing this post! Let me know if you do--and I'll be giving away another book and audio book!)
I’ll confess right up front, I’m a mother, and I’m likely a sap. I did actually dab my eyes while watching the online ad extolling motherhood as “The World’s Toughest Job,” because I believe it is.   (If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here: ) 

The backlash against the heartwarming ad which has more than 17.5 million views by last count, has taken many by surprise. Not me. Predictably, wherever emotions are evoked, cynicism and all manner of sentiment against sentiment will follow. And, predictably, whenever motherhood is raised, a firestorm will ensue. Here’s a taste of it.
Smriti Sinha at policymic declares it “a little silly to objectively argue” that motherhood is “the toughest” job.  Many others chime in here, ridiculing the superlative “toughest” and the extremity of the described working conditions:  no breaks, no rest, no sleep, no time off, no pay, etc. And---suddenly on Mother’s Day we demand literalism from our commercials? 

For me, as a mother of six, the ad is not terribly far from the truth, but can we remember the genre here? This is a commercial, not a college essay. And it’s a tribute, not an argument, using hyperbole, deliberate overstatement to make a larger point. Did we miss the larger point, and is it really controvertible---that mothers work very hard, that they’re often insufficiently recognized and compensated and they should be appreciated more? Do we really disagree with this?

Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon titles her piece, “Motherhood Isn’t ‘World’s Toughest Job."   She complains not because the ad went too far, but because it didn’t go far enough: "You want to thank women, want to show women they have value? Close the wage gap. Challenge the insidious rape culture that exists in the military and in our colleges. Join the fight for our reproductive rights.”

Yes, Dear Card Company, what were you thinking? Why are you making cards and ads that express love and appreciation for mothers instead of battling Congress to fix these national woes? Do it big, do it all or go home, her message reads.
This all-or-nothing thinking continues in Charlotte Alter’s piece in Time magazine. Alter complains that the ad says nothing about fathers or stay-at-home dads. “This ad shouldn’t be about motherhood, it should be about parenthood.” A blogger, a father of twins, also complains about the exclusion of dads. How welcome to hear a man weighing in and a woman asking for the inclusion of men, but the exclusion is obvious and simple: it’s Mother’s Day this week, not Father’s Day. Don’t worry, Dads. Your day (and ad) is coming!     

But these complaints are only the latest in a growing grumble against the day itself. Even the gentle practice of handing out flowers to mothers in church has come under attack recently. (I fought vigorously for my flower here:       

We are asked by sensitive dissenters, What about the millions who want children and cannot have them? What about those whose mothers have died? What about those whose mothers abandoned or abused them? A dozen other scenarios are trotted out to dampen the day.  Truly, I don’t deny that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are emotional minefields for most of us, for myself perhaps even more than others, but may I also say, Welcome to Life?

            Here’s part of what’s wrong. Our insistence upon inclusion 
has become a kind of exclusion.  It’s all of us, apparently, or none 
of us. When celebrating mothers, we can’t exclude women who 
aren’t mothers. Heck, when celebrating mothers, we can’t even 
exclude fathers. So, the reasoning goes, let’s either celebrate 
everyone, or ditch the holiday entirely. This is familiar territory in 
a culture where children can’t lose and everyone gets a medal, a 
kind of equality where everyone ends up losing.

Here’s another part related and less sung:  Our culture has a 
dangerous intolerance for pain. We’re so focused on happiness, we’ll do anything to avoid pain, especially on a holiday.  But let’s face it, imperfection and pain is an integral part of mothering and it always will be. Nor does pain come to us equally or fairly. I fear that we’ve become so happiness-driven and so self-focused we’ve lost the ability to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”

This Sunday, I hope we can reclaim Mother’s Day from selfishness, politics, cynicism and illogic to do something simple: to rise and bless those women who have loved and raised us, however imperfectly. That celebration may include tears, and it may or may not include flowers and gifts. But loving and raising human beings, by any calculus, is a tough job that deserves at least a sentimental card, even a whole commercial. 
Maybe even a whole day.

Are you with me, mothers?

(If you are, and you share this post, let me know and I'll enter your name in the hat for a Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers book or an audio version of it.)

California Wildfires, Windmills+A Final End to The Mother's Day Wars

Don’t take away my flower. You know, the one you stand up for in church on  Mother’s Day when the pastor says, “Would all the mothers stand?” And a flower, usually a carnation or a tulip, is handed out by a frilly-dressed little girl or a cute little boy.


A Mother’s Day war is brewing over that flower.  There are women in every church whose gut aches and bleeds because they can’t stand to take a flower.  How can we keep hurting them, people are asking. Some are calling to end this barbaric, thoughtless practice.

But there are so many reasons I will fight to  defend that one tiny spray-painted carnation that I’ve stood to receive and then gripped all through church in my hot mother’s hands for the last 24 Mother’s Days. 

I was reminded of one reason this very last weekend, when I drove  with  my husband literally through wildfire for one of my sons.  He just graduated from college.
 We flew down from Kodiak to southern California--more than a little jaunt---for the weekend of celebrations. Two days before the ceremony a fire broke out next to Highway 101 in Camarillo Springs, and quickly spread. We set off for Santa Barbara early, knowing some of the highway had been closed.   

Our four hour drive turned to seven. We drove past three other fires, two of them right down to the highway we were driving on. We missed the baccalaureate. ( But not graduation)

But this is why I want my flower.  This is what mothers do. We drive through fire. Two mornings later, when I drove past windmills at 6:00 a.m. with theirs arms spinning already in the wind---we know that is us as well: 

women who   ceaselessly turn and spin and make energy and food and love out of storm and wind.  We light up houses. We fuel bodies and cars.  We go through fire, through flood, through famine and feast.

We go through years with so much emptying and spinning  and fueling, that one little flower placed in our hands can crumble us to pieces. 

But those firing shots at Mother’s Day in church are right: we are not the only ones who do this. Fathers sacrifice and uncles and friends and teachers and neighbors .  .. .   

And what of the mothers who have lost a child, who have had yet another miscarriage, who can’t get pregnant at all, whose son  has just gone to jail, whose daughter has just run away? What about the mothers who did not have mothers themselves, who long for a mother’s love that never came, whose mothers  left them, whose mothers never said ‘I love you”? What of them?  Don’t they deserve a flower too?

Of course.  Let’s give them all a flower, every woman.  Is the world short of flowers? It is only short of hands to present them. 

But most of these women need more than a flower. They need  a mother. 

Maybe that’s what we should be doing on Mother's Day.  Instead of giving each other flowers, maybe we should be giving each other mothers. 

Older women, look among the younger women. Who needs help? Younger women, look among yourselves and to those younger: who needs your ear or your arms?   

I’m not trying to ruin Mother’s  Day,  to heap yet more service upon women already overlooked and overworked.  I’m saying, take your flower and then look for someone who might need your  mother’s heart: a pure heart, a wise heart, a heart ready to love the motherless.    

No more debate and volleys about what pastors should and shouldn’t do this Sunday.   Give a flower to all. Be a mother to someone without one. 

As best you can.  

As God gives strength and love.

And He will.