If you could wish whatever you wanted on MOTHER’S DAY 2021 what would it be?   

Filicia was one of the oldest in the group.  She spent some time reflecting on the years and her experience of motherhood and of teaching and caring and thought “what have I learned, and I wonder what others around me would wish for?”    So she asked here and there, her facebook and whatsapp contacts and got some interesting answers.   Some older moms looking at their own reality or the wider world, said, “healing of our family relationships, that our children would return to God, not to be old and growing confused but to be keep my mind and be normal.”  Some moms wanted time, time with their far-away children, some time alone, some would like a zoom family meeting, some a face-to-face meeting once again. Peace in the home, lack of violence for all mothers and children and gratitude to God for the gift of motherhood in the world.  Some just wanted a lie-in and breakfast in bed.

Filicia thought to herself, “The word mother must be one of the most loaded words in the world and even its various forms have different connotations: Mother, Mom, Mommy, Mum, Muti, Mamma, Ma, Mammy. It isn’t just the word but what it means. Every human being will have some understanding of a mother, maybe even more so than a father.  For every non-human creature too mothers have an important role, but what would they understand?  

The essence of motherhood is bearing a child, a rather clinical term. There is a host of related ideas combining the word with another. Surrogate motherhood is when a woman carries a child of another mother that is implanted into her womb. I can refer to a biological mother, birth mother, adoptive or foster mother, also a spiritual mother.  In that sense, these are states of being a mother in a formal sense.   

Mothering is special, referring specifically to a personal, intimate relationship, and it can be but doesn’t have to be one’s real mother. In extended families aunts, or a child-headed family an older sister can play a mothering role, or a caring friend or teacher could form a mothering relationship with a child.

Filicia thought, “My image of a mother’s love is warm, tender, accepting, unconditional, committed, sometimes serious and strict. That is how Pope Francis portrays her in Amoris Laetitia.”  “Each woman shares in the mystery of creation which is renewed with each birth.  You knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Ps 139.) AL168. A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience the world as a good and welcoming place.  Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism. A society without mothers would be dehumanized for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength. AL 174 -5

Noting all this highlights the fact that motherhood and mothering are unique with particular qualities. Today there is some resistance to noting gender differences but even though there are lone fathers caring for quite young children they cannot be mothers to them.  

Some of the images may be very idealistic, as typically used on most Mothers’ Day cards.  The reality of mother-child relationships is much more complex and fortunately can and does change over time.  A pregnant teenager may hate the thought of being a mother, – not becoming a mother – as she already is a mother.  With positive support and prayer it is to be hoped that she will learn to love her baby.   Crying infants can and have driven mothers to murder or suicide, and toddlers stretch anyone’s patience to the limits.  But infancy and early childhood are often precious times of wonder as each little growth point and milestone is reached. It is a sad reality that because very many mothers are not able to spend those early months and years with their child, a carer or creche become a substitute mother, but inevitably one not nearly as committed or loving. Mom may just be on hand when it is time for prizegiving, achievement or behavioural problems.

There are particularly difficult times in the lives of mothers and their children. Teenage years are probably the most difficult.  Boys and girls have to grow to develop their own identity, personality, habits, interests, orientation while mothers are obliged to sit on the sidelines and offer what support they can.  

Motherhood includes remaining close to grown-up children too as they set out on their own journeys of life, choosing to be mothers, or maybe not.   There comes a time when ageing parents require mothering and, who but their own children, are best suited to that new role and relationship.  

Filicia smiled as she considered how moms differ in shape and size, they grow and change, they give and give until it hurts and may or may not expect anything in return.  A mother’s best place is alongside a father if possible and it is also said that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  That is a unique and special threesome, for the good of each of the three.

Can all of this be applied to nature, to other elements of creation. Trees and plants do have offspring but the relational aspect is not quite within their capacity. Animals, wild and domestic, can and do have strong family bonds, and pets even with their human mothers.  In many species a father will remain with the mother of their offspring but certainly a mother will almost never abandon her babies and even give her life for them, at least until they are able to fend for themselves.    

Spiritually we recognize God as a community of love, or a family, but because God is spirit there is no gender aspect. However mothering qualities such as the tenderness of the Father’s love are noted in the Bible.  For Jesus, to become human a mother was chosen for him. In our Catholic tradition Mary has become the mother of all people, the Queen of Creation, still a mother to her Son who is also our brother.  The Holy Family of Mary and Joseph and Jesus are often presented to us as a perfect family but maybe there were some of these elements present there too.

“I hate housework,” Mary muttered under her breath.
“Joseph comes in with his dirty feet,
all the neighbourhood kids and dogs seem to think this is just anyone’s home
and food and drinks are always on offer.
I hate cleaning up and washing interminable pairs of dirty jeans,
or the latest fashion clothes that won’t even drip dry.
I’d much rather sit quietly and meditate and spend time getting to know God better
and I’d really like to do that course in self-development I saw advertised.”

“I wish my father could have sent me to be educated, ” Joseph sighed.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and spread the word, but there wasn’t money for that
and I had to carry on the family business.
Mind you, earning your living with your hands isn’t so bad.
Feeling the sheen of the wood under your hands
and being able to create this furniture that is functional
and – though I say it myself – also beautiful
does give me a really good feeling. “

Sitting back comfortably after dinner and the usual bed-time story,
when he leaned over and kissed her on the nose and said,
“Honey, that was really nice. I’m so happy.
I just feel so much at home here with you and our family, in our own little nest, “
they knew that the rewards weren’t only going to be out of this world,
and that God was happy too.