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Every Rose has its Thorn

May 13, 2007

By Sumer 

One Mother’s Day when we were living abroad, a couple of men from Elders’ Quorum were asked to distribute flowers to all of the women in the congregation after sacrament meeting.  They were beautiful long-stemmed roses.  As everyone left the chapel, they stood at the exit and snapped the heads off each of the roses and handed each woman a tiny bud.  The Americans (including myself) were horrified.  Why ruin such a lovely flower?  And what are you going to do with only the head of a rose?

Well, that was me.  Half a rose.  For over ten years I was a childless married woman, and if anyplace could make you feel like half a rose on Mother’s day, it’s at Church.

Now look, I know this is nobody’s fault.  I’ve only once been in a ward where the Mother’s Day celebration or gift did not include all women (and not just mothers).  The sacrament speakers are usually kind enough to talk around “all kinds of mothers.”  But let’s face it, you’re either a mother or you’re not.  Close does not count.  And Church — well, that’s exactly the place where every Sunday a childless woman can be reminded that she’s missing out on the one of the key purposes and main joys of our existence, our progeny.

At first I tolerated the holiday. I nicely smiled at the primary kids signing “Mother I Love You” in sacrament meeting.  After a while, it became a Sunday when I would be conveniently absent.  The whole month was full of dread for me — all of the prep, the anticipation.  Heck, I should have taken the whole month off.

So now, I’m a mother.  I’m ecstatic, really I am.  Finally inducted into the club.  I should get it now…  but I don’t.  I still have this lingering feeling of dread, like someone is going to finger me as an impostor.  It’s not that I don’t consider myself a mother, I just don’t count myself as one of them yet.  I don’t relate.  Maybe my struggle was so long, I’m forever doomed to hate the holiday.  Maybe I’m not giving into my joy.  Maybe I developed some wariness that will never go away. 

Whatever it is, this half a rose is skipping church this Sunday.

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17 comments

  1. I think you should go. It’s not just for you, it’s a chance for your kids and your husband to honor you as a mother, the mother of their family, and to do so publicly. Go and enjoy it.


  2. How old is your kid?

    My wife says she felt pretty disconnected from the other mothers when our first was still an infant. It didn’t quite feel like “mothering” to her either.

    Some of her friends report similar feelings as “young mothers.” Maybe that has something to do with it.

    Either way, I don’t begrudge you and peaceful Sabbath day at home.


  3. I have 5 children and still don’t relate to Mother’s Day at church. The talks generally dance around the subject of mothers – “they’re important and wonderful, we should appreciate them, all women can be mother figures” – and sound the same from year to year. I don’t really get anything out of it. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t come away from church feeling any different than any other Sunday.


  4. Sumer:

    I spent most of church helping a friend wrangle her 10-month-old twins — hard-won children after five years of fertility treatment. She knows I’d like prefer to be wrangling my own. At one point she hugged me and said, “I thought I’d love today, but Mother’s Day still sucks.” She spent so many years in my shoes; her empathy for those of us who feel awkward rising-for-flowers-at- the-end-of-sacrament made her eyes glitter with protective zeal. And that snarky-not-pitying empathy made my Sunday service oh-so-much more enjoyable.


  5. No doubt about it–Mother’s Day is an equal opportunity shitty day. If you’re not a mom, you wish you were; if you are, you wish you were a better one; if you loved your mom, you miss her; if you don’t get along with your mom, you feel terrible and ungrateful.

    I remember sitting and listening to Elder Holland’s talk “Because She is a Mother” when I had three kids under four–I was exactly the woman he was describing and lauding, and I still felt awful about it. Something about having someone else try to define your experience and tell you how you should feel about it, maybe? Anyway, I’m always glad when Mother’s Day ends!


  6. I’ve had my share of infertile-are-you-ever-going-to-have-a-baby years (and years), and yes standing up for that silly rose at the end of the meeting was embarrassing. And rather inconvenient. Who can keep a rose looking nice for three hours, even without kids trying to tear it apart? I hope they aren’t using tithing money to buy them…

    But the thing that gets under my skin about Mother’s Day is that they usually have MEN speaking about it! I agree with Kristine–it is difficult for someone else to put your experience into words. But it is especially difficult for a MAN to do it. No offense men, but you’ll never understand the nuances of womanhood. And the talks that jab described are pretty stale.

    What would be really great, for me at least, would be for women (moms and not moms) to get up and share their love for being a woman. Of course, many would talk about mothering–birthing, breastfeeding (uh oh…don’t say those two words in church though) and nurturing children.

    But what defines a mother is her womanhood. Her endless compassion. Her tolerance for unmet expectations. Her enthusiasm for life. Her ability to make a room glow simply by her presence. Her desire to forgive her husband (or mother-in-law or friend or whoever) even when she is really deep-down-inside-hurt, just for the sake of the relationship. The time a woman spends worrying and thinking about how she can help her friend or spouse, her parents, sister, or even her dog.

    You certainly don’t have to be a mother to see the power and influence of a woman. If women talked more about womenhood on Mother’s day, maybe those of us without children (or without enough children close enough together) would come away feeling more empowered.


  7. Singles’ wards Mother’s day programs are equally funny and horrifying. This may be surprising coming from me, but I say relish the day some other place than Church if you don’t like it.
    I have no idea what the motherhood feeling is (who knows if I’ll ever feel it either) but if it never comes, there’s no doubt that you love your little ones and that they’re turn out to be like you. And they’ll someday make you cute little cards out of construction paper and you’ll secretly like the holiday, though hopefully you’ll still skip church.


  8. “What would be really great, for me at least, would be for women (moms and not moms) to get up and share their love for being a woman. Of course, many would talk about mothering–birthing, breastfeeding (uh oh…don’t say those two words in church though) and nurturing children.

    But what defines a mother is her womanhood. Her endless compassion. Her tolerance for unmet expectations. Her enthusiasm for life. Her ability to make a room glow simply by her presence. Her desire to forgive her husband (or mother-in-law or friend or whoever) even when she is really deep-down-inside-hurt, just for the sake of the relationship. The time a woman spends worrying and thinking about how she can help her friend or spouse, her parents, sister, or even her dog.”

    We had exactly that kind of SM today. The wives of the bishopric spoke about being a woman and being a mother, all the frustrations and imperfections–one spoke about throwing her children’s plates from the table into the sink like frisbees when her children complained about what she was serving. One spoke of being thankful for a heavenly mother. It was touching and beautiful. Maybe if you spoke to your bishopric about it you could get more of what you want. I certainly don’t pretend to know what a woman wants on mother’s day, but I’m grateful for the chance to honor mothers and was grateful to hear today from three that I admire.


  9. [...] “Mother’s Day is an equal opportunity sh**ty day,” writes Kristine at VSOM. “If you’re not a mom, you wish you were; if you are, you wish you were a better one; if you loved your mom, you miss her; if you don’t get along with your mom, you feel terrible and ungrateful.” [...]


  10. I have to agree. I would’ve skipped it yesterday, except I teach a SS class and both kids had talks in primary. I made a joke in my Gospel Principles class that if the church really wanted to honor mothers, they would make a proclamation that made church optional for all women on mother’s day and let us stay in bed. This did not go over well with the new older missionary couple who was attending class. They pretty much jumped all over me.

    When I had been married for 10 years before my first child, I found it slightly humiliating to be forced to stand up and receive a flower. I often refused, and then someone would force me to my feet. I hated that.


  11. We did Testimony meeting for Mother’s Day in our ward and it beat the heck out of the usual talks. We heard from mothers both happy and unhappy, children, women who have dealt with infertility, adoptive mothers, mothers to be, women who shared things about their own mothers, women who talked about women in church history, women who shared thoughts and struggles about Mother in Heaven. It was the most honest and spiritual Mother’s Day meeting I’ve been to.

    After the three hour clock, they handed out booklets of President Hinckley’s talk from Women’s Conference instead of flowers.


  12. This year I got out of the obligatory standing by running off to the restroom. My parents would have made me stand. They’re damned if they make you stand and damned if they don’t…same goes for the in-laws the siblings the young women in your class etc. They all want you to stand. It’s not a big deal that I’m not a mom yet. I don’t want to stand because I’m not a mom. But thankfully, my mom made the poor deacon give her an extra box of chocolate so that I’d have one when I got back to my seat. Not because she wanted me to feel included, but because she wanted me to have chocolate. THAT I appreciate.


  13. This was the first time I attended in many years. Usually I skip it as a gift to myself. We have been known to go on a rommantic picnic instead. I went this year to take care of some logistical business and to see if this new ward would be any better. (We have a great, sensitive Bishop and he lived up to his reputation, planning a fairly resepctful sacrament meeting while giving us each a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream, flavor of our choice, and Sunday School to socialize.)

    I am actually newly pregnant (after nearly 10 years of unwillingly being in the over 18 woman without chidlren category) this year, yet it was still a difficult day. I empathize with those who can’t have children. I miss my grandmother (who was as influential if not more so than my mother) more than I can say. I feel guilty for not having a more honest, open relationship with my own mother.

    I think, however, the thing that bugs me most is the emphasis on woman as nurturer. In my infertility journey, I’ve had to redefine myself as woman of strength and intellect to ballance out the nurturing and compasionate part. I’ve finally found the whole me, with or without children. Yet to go to church and have it explictly reinforced (rather than the constant implicit reinforcement of most weeks) that nuturer is number one female characteristic will probably always rub me the wrong way.

    Next year, I don’t know what I’ll do. A pint of ice cream might get me to church. However, if I move, I won’t even bother to show up.


  14. [...] to be lazy and skip writing this post, but since Kaimi has called me out on my (rare, honest!) use of non-biblical profanity, I may as well explain [...]


  15. [...] Every Rose has its Thorn By Sumer  One Mother’s Day when we were living abroad, a couple of men from Elders’ Quorum were asked to […] [...]


  16. A couple of years ago I wrote to my then-bishop and told him I thought it was kind of lame that on Mother’s Day we always have men talking about the role and value of women, and that it might be nice to have some women do the talking.

    The only speakers were women. They were great.

    Bishop Bruce was the bomb.


  17. Sorry everyone, I’ve been out of town and couldn’t respond to comments. Here’s my update on how the day went down…

    I did not go to church. I went to the mall (gasp) to look for a formal dress for a work event in a few weeks. The sales lady asked me if I was shopping for Prom. –Now that was the best Mother’s Day gift ever!



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