Your Church’s Mother’s Day Carnation is Not Worth Any Woman’s Broken Heart – A Critique of ‘When Mother’s Day Feels Like a Minefield’ by L. L. Fields
Please note this blog post has undergone some modifications here and there since I first published it – a few fixed typos, some additional thoughts have been added here and there.
2022 Update Below
Here’s the link to the editorial – below it, I will comment about it, then a bit later, provide some excerpts from it, followed by yet more critiques):
(Link): When Mother’s Day Feels Like a Minefield – Let’s reimagine ways we can honor mothers without wounding others. by L L Fields via Christianity Today magazine
Here are some of my thoughts about the editorial:
As I first began reading it, I had high hopes. I was optimistic.
It started out on the right foot but descended into a let-down where Fields is arguing for the status quo, which is inexcusable, especially after she admits she was educated, (after she publicly asked for feedback from women), as to how so many women find church Mother’s Day celebrations so painful.
(The summary of her piece: she doesn’t really care about your pain, you childless woman, or you women who are grieving for their dead mothers; she still wants her mother’s day carnation handed to her by a pastor, dammit, and culture doesn’t do near enough, she argues, to honor motherhood!
She would no doubt want to push back and say, ‘hey, I do care about other women’s pain’ – but no, she does not, if she is still arguing to keep Mother’s Day in place as-is. Please keep reading.)
First of all, motherhood is a choice for many women.
You chose to have a child. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s women who deliberately walk into a pregnancy and then spend 15 – 20 years complaining about how exhausting motherhood is.
We have birth control these days. There’s celibacy. There is nothing saying a woman must have a baby, even if she is married. You chose to have a baby, and babies and children and teenagers are hard work.
So, when women such as Fields complain (as she does in her essay) about how physically exhausting motherhood is, especially in the context of asking single childless women such as me to be more open to the idea of Mother’s Day being celebrated in churches, it falls flat to me.
At one point, Fields actually comments about how being a mother is hard, oh so hard, as one rationale as to why she believes churches should publicly honor mothers during church services.
One response to that (on this blog):
Why do Fields and women like her feel it’s the duty of churches to honor her, or mothers in general? Why should churches be obligated to do this? Why are mothers so entitled on this point?
Fields, and other mothers, does not need a church to honor her once a year in a church service: her husband can take her out to dinner for mother’s day, or her adult children can treat her to a brunch on that holiday. That should suffice.
Sadly, oh so sadly (and shockingly), I’ve come across Christian mothers online who are incredibly hostile, hateful, and unsympathetic towards people who find Mother’s Day painful, and who ask churches to either omit Mother’s Day, tone it down, or find some way of acknowledging ALL women in attendance, so that nobody gets hurt.
(You can find examples of this by searching my blog for previous posts I’ve done about Mother’s Day.)
I even saw a woman who runs a semi- popular and heavily visited Christian Abuse Survivor type of blog write a post a year or two ago where she chided churches who want to tone down or omit Mother’s Day celebrations at churches.
This woman blogger I am discussing is a mother herself. She is in her 40s, has at least one daughter and one son.
Abuse Survivor Blog owners usually champion the people who have been wounded by churches or by Christians – they above all should be more in tune with how and when churches hurt people and stand opposed to it.
However, I was amazed she, the woman behind the blog, didn’t ‘get it.’ She didn’t get how honoring mothers on Mother’s Day is alienating to childless, childfree, or single women, or to women with abusive mothers, mothers who have dementia, or mothers who are deceased.
I had posted to the Survivor Abuse lady’s blog before and had mentioned how childless, child-free, or single women are marginalized by churches, so I thought she’d be the LAST to be so short-sighted on this “Mother’s Day” issue. Boy, was I ever wrong.
She was arguing in this one blog post about Mother’s Day that it was mean, heartless, or sexist for some church to publicize that they would NOT be honoring Mother’s Day that year.
The blog lady felt it was mean to mothers at that church. I tried telling her in the comments on her site that it was actually mean to hold such services in the first place, because there are women in the audience (congregation) whose mothers are dead, their mothers were abusive, or they cannot conceive even though they want to have a baby of their own.
Many such women find Mother’s Day very painful to endure.
I cannot believe that women who are Christian and who are mothers can be so staggeringly ignorant and blind to how the topic of motherhood can be very painful to childless or childfree women that they need to have it explained to them. One would think it would be self evident.
Churches already place such a heavy premium on motherhood that there is NO NEED for a once a year in-church celebration of motherhood.
A lot of women, such as me, deal with the inevitable Mother’s Day celebration in churches by skipping church that day (of course, I haven’t gone to church in years, so for me, this may be a moot point, but I’m thinking of all the women who are still Christian who still attend church).
I have been blogging about the painfulness or insensitivity of Mother’s Day in churches the last few YEARS on my blog, and while I am glad to see pieces such as this one below, it also makes me sad… sad that this Fields lady is just NOW discovering this. And she also is still arguing to keep church Mother’s Day in place, in spite of many women contacting her to tell her how painful it is to them.
I’ve been Tweeting links to my ‘anti- Mother’s Day’ posts for YEARS now, but this lady is only just NOW seeing how painful this holiday is for some women? Better late than never, I suppose, but it concerns me.
I have more comments below these excerpts from her editorial, so please keep reading-
A week ago, as I anticipated this upcoming Mother’s Day, I felt ready to fight for my flower. Each year, I look forward to the carnation and the vague, glowing tribute churches often pay to women who mother.
After all, haven’t I earned it?
After birthing and raising a daughter and (count them) five sons, after 29 years of the daily dying-to-self that defines mothers’ lives, I am grateful for any Mother’s Day payback—even for the greasy (delicious) donut my church handed out one year.
But I am increasingly recognizing the tremendous cost of that flower (or donut).
A few days ago, I posted a simple query on social media: “How do you feel about Mother’s Day celebrations in church?”
In one day, 150 women responded with passion and detail— and the messages are still coming. After reading their stories, it became clear to me: Mother’s Day Sunday is, for many, the single most painful day of the entire church year.
[The author cites many examples of women who told her why they find the holiday so painful, women who could not conceive, women whose mothers had died, a woman whose daughter died of cancer, etc etc]
…However well-meaning, Mother’s Day messages from the pulpit can be disturbing as well. Amy, who married later in life and is mom to stepchildren, told me she is weary of sermons that glorify motherhood and tending a home. Some pastors go so far as to say or imply that a life of motherhood and housekeeping is a woman’s highest calling. // end excerpt
Here is where I partially disagree with the author:
We can’t—and shouldn’t—ignore it [Mother’s Day celebrations in church]
We can’t ignore Mother’s Day in church any more than we can ignore Christmas—nor should we.
….During the 20-plus years I was either pregnant, nursing, or potty training, I struggled, unseen and silent, with combat fatigue and exhaustion. During that period in particular, Mother’s Day—at home and at church—offered a day of renewal and remembrance. // end excerpt
First of all, to basically equate Mothers’ Day with Christmas as Fields does here is stretching things, or, is a bit appalling.
Mothers, as much as we love them (assuming you had a non-abusive mother) are NOT Jesus Christ. My mother was a wonderful, loving, kind woman who meant the world to me, but she did not take away the sins of the world.
Christmas, on the other hand, if one is a Christian, is about the birth of your Lord and Savior.
Is your mother sinless? Is she the world’s savior? No, she is not.
Christmas is something that can be celebrated by everyone in a church setting, because Jesus is Savior to all.
However, Mother’s Day cannot be celebrated by all present, because some no longer have a mother or cannot become a mother themselves.
Therefore, Christmas is inclusive from its very foundations, and it is applicable to all; Mother’s Day, however, is not inclusive or applicable to all.
Here’s another problem with that thinking by Fields: the church and the culture are not “anti- motherhood,” which Fields seems to believe.
The church already gives motherhood more than its due, and it does so through-out the entire year, not only in church settings on Mother’s Day, but…
on Christian television, blogs, radio programs, books, pod-casts, “Focus On The Family” type organizations, and in magazine articles.
Only mothers are blind to the fact that Christian culture applauds motherhood through-out the entire year, not only on Mother’s Day, and even in venues outside the physical church.
If you are a woman, such as myself, who is past the age of 40, who never had children, you are more than aware of the fact that churches basically celebrate Mother’s Day 364 days a year, and not just in the month of May, as Fields and other mothers believe.
Outside a tiny minority of very left wing, secular, kook, feminists, nobody bad-mouths motherhood, not even moderate, left wing, secular feminists. I’ve been to their forums and blogs and have lurked a lot, and many moderate left wing secular feminists are themselves mothers, they are married to men, and they love their families.
(I myself am a moderate right wing independent who does not go by the “feminist” label, if you are wondering.)
The only thing moderate, liberal secular feminists will say in regards to this topic is that women should be permitted to follow their own course in life and not be judged for it, whether that includes having children or not. Such moderate secular feminists do not condemn motherhood.
Secondly, there is NO HOLIDAY, there is no once- a- year public church recognition, for never-married and childless women such as myself.
If the church is not going to offer a holiday in church, where the pastor sermonizes specifically about childless women and/or never-married women, they should not do so for mothers.
Single women do not have a “Singles Appreciation Day” where we get flowers handed to us in church, or entire sermons, extolling how wonderful single women are. If we singles don’t get honored, neither should the mothers.
Either all life stations and persons get honored by churches, or none should be.
If a church is not going to have a special day for singles, mothers do not earn or deserve one. If a church is not going to have a special day just for the childless or childfree, mothers do not earn or deserve one, either.
I, as a single and childless woman, get zero affirmation and outside validation for being single and childless by churches or Christian culture.
Christian culture, 99% of it, is constantly telling single and childless women that we don’t count, we don’t matter, we are not fulfilling God’s only role for us.
And you want women like me to feel bad that you don’t get a carnation for being a Mom in some church service once a year? I am amazed.
Fields also said,
And remembrance is biblical. The fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12), was hardly an afterthought of God’s. It was and still is essential to the well-being of God’s people… // end excerpt
But that is up to a child to obey that command in regards to his own mother – it is not intended to be a church-wide command for corporate worship.
I did honor my mother, up until she died. I honored my mother while she was alive. When I was a child, I brought her my hand-made mother’s day cards. As an adult with a job, I brought her flowers on Mother’s Day.
The Bible does not call me to honor you for YOUR motherhood specifically, Mrs. Fields.
The church corporate doesn’t honor me as a daughter – a spiritual daughter, as I am an unmarried and childless woman.
Instead, many Christian married mothers such as Mrs. Fields follow the “Billy Graham Rule,” which tells them that men (especially married ones) should not ever meet with me for any reason, because I am supposedly a sexual temptation.
I have no family inside the church, and not much outside of it (most of my biological family is dead or estranged).
I’m sure not inclined to honor some other woman’s motherhood status when the church won’t acknowledge my spiritual daughter status. No thanks.
Your adult son can and should take you out for a Mother’s Day brunch, but do not ask or demand that an entire room of people, some of whom are NEVER MARRIED VIRGINS such as myself (whose mother is now dead, which I find painful) sit hostage to your desired pro-Motherhood sermons.
Just as there is no biblical command that says an entire church congregation must come together to honor all mothers in public in one setting…
There is no biblical command in and of itself that says, “And the church shall Honor the Childless and Singles among you on one special day a year, in the church building.”
If we singles don’t get honored in and by church (and we usually do not, not on a lone holiday in our honor, nor are we celebrated the rest of the year), it’s only fair that the married mothers don’t get a special day, either.
I don’t care how stressful you find raising children, I don’t care if you feel the culture doesn’t value motherhood enough, none of that is an excuse for your group of people (mothers) to be honored, but other groups get nothing.
I should not have to suffer, or made to feel less-than or be reminded that my mother is dead, all because you insist women like me sit through a church gathering where the pastor blathers on and on about how wonderful motherhood is, and he hands you a flower for being a mother.
It’s not MY fault you chose to have children. It’s not MY fault if you feel as if your husband, kids, church, or culture doesn’t celebrate motherhood enough to suit your tastes.
Guess what? Culture doesn’t celebrate my singleness or my child-free status. Your church, and other churches, don’t celebrate my single or child-free status.
Your husband and your kids don’t celebrate my childless single self either, but I can make-do without a “Singles Appreciation Day” by them or by your church, so long as churches back off of the Mother’s Day stuff, too.
…Yet as members of the body of Christ we are called to something more: to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). We must honestly acknowledge our own afflictions even as we’re beckoned to enter into others’ joys and afflictions. / end quote
Women such as me have endured decades of “honoring motherhood” already.
We finally get to speak up now, and point out to women such as Fields what a problem Mother’s Day is, now that we have Twitter, blogs, and forums. Prior to the internet, women such as me had a difficult time being heard by Christian culture.
Fields, how many sermons have you had to sit through where a preacher went on and on about singleness, where he honored single and childless women for being single and childless? I’d guess about ZERO. I would be shocked if you sat through more than ONE. (If any at all.)
On the other hand, I’ve sat through 56 billion sermons in person, on You Tube, or on Christian blogs or pod-casts, that are “pro- motherhood,” where I’m told how motherhood is God’s highest calling for women – and all the other propaganda that comes along with glorifying motherhood.
My singleness and my childless status have never been celebrated by churches or by secular culture.
I do not get a holiday in my honor, why do you think you deserve one for your station in life?
We single and childless women have been subjected to brain-washing by conservative Christian literature, radio programs, podcasts, blogs, and from sitting through Mother’s Day sermons, and via secular culture (“buy your mother flowers this year” in TV commercials and the like) that we are failures for never having pro-created.
We are taught by complementarian Christian churches above all (the sort I was brought up in) that we have failed God in some way and are flawed if we don’t marry and don’t have a kid.
You, Fields, do not receive such indoctrination, or remain blind to it, because you married and had kids. You don’t pick up on the subtle or not so subtle signals that single or childless women pick up on in sermons and from Christians on these topics.
You have no effing clue how insulting, depressing, and de-humanizing it is to be told directly and in-directly, repeatedly, by Christians, since youth, that your value is wrapped up not in Jesus Christ, your intelligence, college education, or other great inner qualities – but your value and identity is based on if you marry and have a baby, and you find yourself over the age of 40, still not married, and you don’t have children.
The church already excels at rejoicing with those who rejoice, especially if the one in question achieved the Evangelical Dream of Marriage and Parenthood. Churches worship motherhood, so if a woman achieves motherhood, churches will rejoice with her up and out the rear end.
The church, however, does not weep with those who weep.
When my mother died years ago, and I reached out to Christians for a shoulder to cry on, I was told to suck it up and get over it. Nobody wept with me through the grief, not even church-going, Bible believing Christians.
When I cried over being single and wanting a husband of my own in years past, Christians only shamed me for that. I was told lame-o, shallow, shaming advice like, “be content in your singleness,” or, “Jesus is your husband,” or “you’re making an idol of marriage.”
And, ironically, you’re, Field, also playing victim here, in this very editorial. You’re saying unless the church caves in and gives you what you feel is your deserved day of recognition, that you are a victim.
Well (should I add a “Wah, Waaaah” sound effect here?), nobody honors me for being single and childless, either, so why should they honor you for being a mother? Sometimes being single and childless is hard, tiring, thankless work, too.
Mother’s Day offers another chance to enlarge our compassion and empathy. Let the exhausted pregnant woman comfort the grieving childless woman. Let men give praise to their wives.
Let children thank their spiritual mothers. Let the happily mothered comfort the abandoned daughter.
In other words, let the body of Christ minister to its own members—for this is our truest family. … / end quote
The church will not do this.
I’ve been blogging for years about how the church is supposed to act as a surrogate family for those adults who are single, are childless, live alone, are widowed, etc, but churches continue to only acknowledge Nuclear Families.
If and when I mention to conservative Christians on other sites that churches ignore singles and pay way too much attention to Nuclear Families, they normally jump to the (wrong) conclusion that I must be a Democrat-voting, man-hating, liberal feminist. I have to continually explain that no, I’m actually a conservative.
So deeply do Christians worship the Family, Marriage, and Motherhood, that when another conservative (such as myself) tries to politely point all these dynamics out to them, they automatically assume the messenger of said point is a liberal, feminist Democrat.
That should alarm you if you are a Christian. It should tell you how deeply the heresy of “Focus On the Family” has been ingrained in the thinking of other Christians.
This is one example of how bad Marriage, Motherhood, and Family idolatry by Christians have become:
Too many American Christians now conflate or confuse The Gospel of Jesus with having a Nuclear Family.
I’ve given up on church. I stopped going years ago.
Church is a place where I will be ignored (if not out-right put down) due in large part specifically to my single and childless status, be told indirectly in many sermons I am a failure for not having married and had a kid, etc.
Church ministries are directed at married couples who have kids – none meet the needs of single adults past the age of 30.
We can start by acknowledging the realities of mothering in a deeply fallen world. Let’s give the overworked Proverbs 31 woman a rest and instead make room for the complexities and struggles we all live with every day.
To do this, pastors can invite women to share their stories, however they choose to tell them.
Let’s bring the microphone to the pews (as my church does), making time and space for stories both beautiful and tragic. For those who cannot speak, we can invite them to write their story. Perhaps the church bulletin can host a collection of brief quotes or stories … / end quote
Would this include allowing women like me to either get up and speak or publicly post an essay on what a crock Mother’s Day in churches is, and how it’s nothing but a further extension of how American Christians have turned Motherhood (and ‘The Family’) into a false idol?
And how churches marginalize adult single celibates in the process?
Because that’s exactly what I would do, if I were permitted to opine publicly in a church about all this.
I would not sit there in a church on a Mother’s Day and offer up a sweetly cloying commentary on how hard motherhood is and how great mothers are.
Part of Field’s conclusion reads:
If we do this, will some still feel deep hurt or will mistakes still be made? Of course. // end quote
Then why continue doing it? You’re basically arguing that the needs and feelings of women who have children out-weigh, or take precedence over, women who are infertile, single, who find mother’s day painful for whatever other reason.
And I see no reason to believe or assume that the feelings and considerations of mothers are more important than those of non-mothers.
There might be women out there who are infertile, single, or who have deceased or abusive mothers who are just fine with churches celebrating Mother’s Day, but I’d just lump them in with the mothers out there writing these editorials defending the status quo.
This particular single and childless woman writing this very blog post is NOT okay with the continued emphasis upon marriage and parenthood by churches, and certainly not as it manifests itself with Mother’s Day church services.
Fields is basically arguing on behalf of the status quo – and at that, even though she already received much feedback from various women on how hurtful Mother’s Day is.
And in spite of the fact she was told that some women skip Mother’s Day church services because of how hurtful they are.
I guess she would rather such women continue to skip church that day so she can get her Mother’s Day fix.
There is no command in the Scriptures that a body of Christians must come together one day a year to honor mothers specifically.
There are also no commands in the Bible for the New Testament church to have a special day of honor for orphans, widows, the divorced, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, or sisters.
It makes no sense to me why anyone would continue to defend churches in maintaining a day that started out as a secular holiday and one that hurts so many people.
I don’t think honoring mothers one day a year with a sermon and a flower is worth hurting even one woman present who is infertile, who is child-free, whose mother is dead, or what have you.
No, I will not rejoice with or for these women who are mothers. Nobody, not even Christians I went to, wept with me over my mother’s death or over my unwanted lifelong singleness.
Fields’ editorial started out very promising, but ended on a sour note or two. It’s unfathomable to me how in spite of how women like her (who are mothers) receive ample feedback on how horrid church Mother’s Day is for so many people, yet… they keep arguing on behalf of it.
They want their shoddy Carnation flower and external validation from strangers that badly; they don’t care how many tears or other hearts are broken by it. It’s nothing but justification out the yin-yang to keep up with a holiday that is so difficult on so many.
I don’t think it’s the corporate church’s responsibility to up-keep with a secular holiday such as Mother’s Day anyway.
May 2022 Update
I didn’t notice until a day or two ago, but Christianity Today magazine actually re-tweeted a link to this same L. Fields essay in May of 2022!
Christianity Today magazine keeps presenting this same Mother’s Day essay by Fields as though it will “mend bridges” and teach Christians how to thoughtfully and sensitively minister to the hurting in churches on Mother’s Day, or how to sensitively handle Mother’s day in a church service, but it actually does the opposite, as I outline in my critique above.
Christianity Today also tweeted out a few other “rah, rah motherhood!” type tweets on Mother’s Day.
I honestly never see this kind of support for childless, single, widowed, childfree, or divorced women from Christian groups or resources.
(Link): Mother Entitlement – Selfish, Self-Centered Mothers Complain that They Are Not Getting ENOUGH Mother Worship from Culture, Church, or Family on Mother’s Day and Some Moms Complain About Churches Showing Compassion to Childless Women