I came across this beautiful letter by Amy Young – “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother’s Day)” and was really blown away.
She felt shamed in her church when mothers were asked to stand and she wasn’t one. I’ve seen similar posts all over my Facebook newsfeed – from those who survived toxic mothers to those who couldn’t have children or whose children have died or run away or who are lost to addiction.
The thing is, there’s a lot of mothering out there to do, and a lot to be had, and I think this gets at some of the million ways women have to contend with this category, this supposed birthright, this expectation.
I’ve never felt ‘less than’ as a non-mom — for me, it’s a victory that I withstood the pressure, having watched so many female friends who didn’t want children decide to have them — and I’d want to assert, out loud again, that not having children is not even a little terrible. I’m happy to have an identity that is not dependent on having given birth or even to mothering a child. I don’t feel my capacity for love or pain or selflessness is less. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on an essential experience of woman-ness, either; we are all women in different ways, and while being a mother may be what some women want more than any other thing, I think it’s hard to judge what you want in a culture that tells us, from birth, that we should want children or we are somehow deficient.
I’m not deficient. I’m a person who chose not to have children, and I’m very, very glad I did.
So here’s Amy Young’s list, which she wrote to “address the wide continuum of mothering”:
To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.