I start most mornings in the wee hours of sunrise with a cup of coffee and a quick glance at online news headlines. Today, this column caught my attention:
I don’t know Jacquelene Amoquandoh. Have never seen the name until this morning, let alone read anything by her before.
So, it’s not personal. But, still, I’m really struggling.
Is it just me, or does this column reek, at once, of envy and its invariable consequence, human mediocrity.
It seems oddly embittered.
Its seems iconic of what for me is a virulent and increasingly contagious disease of modern American worldview and what ironically passes for critical thinking, compassion and sensitivity.
I’m asking, how and why would celebrating the vocation of motherhood be a snub to women who cannot or choose not to be mothers? How and why would celebrating the vocation of motherhood be evidence of insensitivity to women grieving their mothers who have died?
Like, if I decorate a woman with an Olympic gold medal for sprinting, have I aggrieved all other bipedal female hominoids? Or those with only one leg? Or those who instead chose to broad jump? Or play backgammon?
If I really like my mother, if I happen to think I’m lucky to still have her with me a few weeks shy of her 86th birthday, if I see her as she is and still wrap her up in love, if I happen to think she has rare courage and integrity both in her victories and her failures, if I am forever grateful that she more than anyone grafted into my soul the knowledge of God and my limping, wounded journey towards my Maker, and, if all this makes me spend a few dollars on a card I mailed just yesterday …
… tell me: How exactly could this cause anyone consternation? How could it make you feel left out? How could it make you say “Mother’s Day is the worst?”
Not to mention, what if I published a similar column about Father’s Day? I mean, Father’s Day is a day, for me, of no little ambivalence.
I’ve had a life for which I’m grateful. On the whole, happy, meaningful and beautiful. But I was unlucky in fathers.
Once each year I would stand before the greeting card rack, besieged by poetry expressing how “you were always there for me,” and how “your kindness and guidance made me the man I am today,” etc. I would feel a familiar sadness. An emptiness. Invariably, I would find a ‘funny’ card behind which I could hide the father wound in my soul but still successfully transact the necessary social graces required of me … and move on until June came around again.
But I don’t think Father’s Day is “the worst.” I celebrate good fathers! I am not merely happy for people who had/have good fathers, I find it personally redemptive! I watch good fathers – total strangers at the grocery or on the sidelines of football practice or at the recital – and I smile deep within my soul.
And striving each day to be the father I always wanted to have has been the greatest gift of my life. It makes sense of everything – good and bad – who I have ever been or will be.
Life is difficult. Suffering is part of the very fabric of existence. But the path of hope and redemption is so much more interesting than the narratives of exclusion, sleight, envy and … well, whining.
I should know. I was too long the Chief of Whiners. I wasted time walking those unlovely paths.
Not any more.
Not all women are called to be mothers. Some women know this from an early age. If this describes you (and you thusly did not become a mother), then you have been faithful in your calling. You have integrity.
Other women believe themselves to be childless more as a series of accidents regarding career paths, variable luck in finding life partners, or medical conditions making motherhood unlikely or impossible. These women might grieve the outcome of being childless, but eventually find peace in both their choices and their circumstance. Again, integrity.
Still other woman in the above paragraph rise up and say “Nothing will stop me from being a mother!” If they have the means, they access fertility procedures or surrogates, or passionately and gratefully adopt, sometimes regardless of marital status. And to them I say, “You inspire me.”
Some women are deeply grieving mothers who have died. Mother’s Day will, then, always contain an invitation to sit gratefully – or, if you wish, bitterly – with your grief.
But none of these diverse attitudes with the vocation of motherhood have anything to say about the vocation of motherhood in itself.
Am I missing something? Weigh in.
(Steven Kalas is an author, therapist and Episcopal priest. You can correspond with Steven Kalas via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)