I always had mixed feelings about Mothering Sunday. One can look to the way that those in domestic service were given the day off to visit their mothers or think about the relationship of mothers and their children. However, as someone who had a very difficult relationship with her mother, and who is childless and doesn’t want children, then Mothering Sunday can be an awkward time of year.
There is the expectation that I will send flowers to my mother, to be seen as the dutiful and loving daughter, with the feeling that such expectations are paraded out as required, smoothing over the cracks in what is otherwise a dysfunctional relationship.
It took many years for me to realise that Mothering Sunday is not about my relationship with my mother. It is not about her feeling left out if she doesn’t receive the anticipated gifts. It is far more than any expectations of how or when certain perfunctory actions are performed.
If we scrape off the hype, the human expectations, and the dutiful obligations around Mothering Sunday, then what is left? Nurture, care, compassion, light, joy and life. A coming together in joy in what is otherwise a penitential season on our journey towards Easter. Austerity is put to one side, as people share joyfully together. Through sharing together, we receive nurture and life. Those around us care and are kind and compassionate. That is, in part, what we know of as mothering. The act of care and compassion to each other, regardless of familial relations.
When one is shown care and compassion from another human being, it is up to the recipient to receive that gentle love. So, for me, mothering begins at home. It begins in my heart. It begins when I am ready to receive the love shown to me by my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It begins when I understand that mothering per se is not about the dysfunctional love that my mother shows me, rather that it is about the way I respect and love myself and replicate that love and respect to others. It is about the way in which I share with others, laying to one side all the hurts and expectations that people have about women, mothers and children. Joy and the light of Christ is part and parcel of the love shared and brings our focus back to the central point in our lives – that of Jesus and why we serve him.
The Rev’d Ellie Charman