Mother's Day For All Mothers and Caregivers
By Jan Andersen
Although Mother's Day is traditionally for recognising and pampering mums, it can be a trying time for many people; those who have lost their mothers and mothers who have lost children for example. What a wrench it must be also, for those women who have never had the benefit of a loving, caring relationship with their mothers. However, most of us have someone in our lives to whom we have turned in times of crisis, friends and relatives upon whose shoulders we have cried and those who have shone a ray of hope upon us in desperate times. Those are the people who should be remembered on Mother's Day, irrespective of their gender or their biological connection to us.
Mother's Day is for anyone who has mothered someone and for anyone who has carried a child, whether that applies to biological mothers, adoptive mothers, stepmothers, foster mothers, care providers, childminders, mothers who've lost a child, single mothers, single dads, grandmothers, aunties, sisters or close friends.
Mothers Who Have Lost a Child
In January 1990, a friend of mine tragically lost her first baby a few hours following the birth, due to an incurable heart condition. On Mother's Day, two months later, she should have received her first Mother's Day card. None came. "Does it mean that I'm not a mother, just because my baby has died?" she asked me. "Of course it doesn't", I said, but I too felt guilty for not having had the forethought to recognise the fact by sending her a card. The love for her son was still there, but no acknowledgement that she had ever given birth. Her husband, who was still grieving himself, felt that it would have been cruel to give his wife a card under such tragic circumstances and I presume that her parents felt the same way.
Two years later, my friend gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The following Mother's Day, she received a card from her mother that said, "Take it easy on your very first Mother's day". Her mother wasn't consciously being insensitive and yet my friend was mortified. It was not her first Mother's Day, but her second. It was as though her son had never existed.
That experience taught me that even when someone has lost a child, they have a right to celebrate the fact that they have been a parent and this should be recognised by everyone close to them. Whilst it may not be prudent to send them a card that says, "Happy Mother's Day", there is no harm in sending an innocuous blank card, inside which you can write your own special message to let them know that you are thinking of them. They might even appreciate a bunch of flowers or other gift that makes them feel acknowledged, included and respected.
When I use the term, "motherless", I don't just mean those whose mothers are no longer alive, but those who have never been lucky enough to have a close bond with their mothers.
Although I had an unhappy childhood, I still used to buy my mother a card and a gift each year to acknowledge that she had still fed and clothed me and provided a roof over my head. The Mother's Day that I remember most was the one when I was ten years old, the one where my mother threw back at me the gift I had presented to her, saying, "What would I want with this? You might as well keep it." Maybe she didn't mean it nastily and maybe she hadn't intended to deliver her words in such a hurtful manner but, nevertheless, I was mortified. When she had left my room, I curled up into a ball and sobbed. I wanted my Gran, the one with whom I had a real mother- daughter relationship and the one to whom I then felt I should be giving gifts and making "thank you" gestures.
I no longer focus on the negative, but the positive. As a mother myself, I derive pleasure from the love that my children and I give to each other and the appreciation that I am able to show to my stepmother, my father and all the other people in my life who have never failed to show that they care.
The word "Mother" means to nurture, protect, care for, nurse or tend. It doesn't just mean "a woman in relation to a child to whom she has given birth." Whilst it must be tremendously painful for a son or daughter to lose their mother, especially if they have had a close, nurturing relationship, there are many other people who are deserving of the accolade "Mother". Mothers who've passed on can be recognised posthumously year after year, but this shows how important it is to also appreciate those existing people in your life whom you care deeply about and whom have supported you in the maternal sense.
Single Mums and Dads
I'm sure that most of us know a single mum or dad who deserves to be treated and shown appreciation. Single parents, particularly those who aren't fortunate enough to have family living close by, do not often have anyone to whom they can hand over the demanding task of childcare in the evenings, when they are sick, when they work or when they have any other pressing engagement or appointment. Whilst there is not such a thing as a non-working parent, single parents often have a raw deal when it comes to calling for assistance in times of need.
If you know of a single parent whose children are too young to be able to initiate a surprise themselves, why not help them to organise something special for their mum or dad? Sometimes, older children may need prompting too! If you have time on your hands and don't have a huge family to cater for yourself, why not arrange to take the children off of the parent's hands for a few hours or invite the family over to spend the day with you?
Sometimes, these parents may feel too proud, or may not have the courage to ask for help. Offering your support on Mother's Day is a way of letting them know that you are available to rally round if necessary, without making them feel that you are intruding or implying that they can't cope.
Recognising those you love and those who have loved you is not a difficult task. Sometimes the simplest of gestures can mean so much more than the most expensive gift; a few words of comfort, a hug and a listening ear, for example. For those who have lost mothers and children, although it may be painful, spend time remembering happy moments of love and joy. Their love lives on in you and is what gives you the strength to give love to others.
Finally, pamper yourself and allow yourself to be pampered!
The Compassionate Friends
Bereaved Parents of the USA
Mums living without their children
Support for women without mothers
Single Parents' Network
Single Parents' World - For all types of single parent
The UK's number one stepfamily site
Stepfamily Association of America
Australian stepfamily site