Four things to consider as you approach Mother’s Day

How can we navigate this brilliant, complex, difficult, wonderful day well for those who are care-experienced and their families?

Every year in the UK, as the days start to get lighter and there are more signs of Spring, we also mark Mother’s Day, or as some know it, Mothering Sunday. It’s a day set aside to celebrate and honour Mums for all they do, who they are and what they mean to us. Although this probably shouldn’t be ‘just’ an annual thing, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the mother figures in our lives.

In nursery and school, the build-up to Mother’s Day often includes the creation of arts and crafts, gifts and cards, for children and young people to give to their ‘Mum’.

For advertisers, it’s an opportunity to sell their products by depicting ‘perfect’ Mother’s Day products and experiences as they paint a seemingly unobtainable (often glamorous) picture of what this day ‘should’ look and feel like.

Social media will be full of people celebrating and honouring their Mums and sharing favourite stories and memories and messages of love and thanks.

For many it’s a day that’s full of complex, sometimes contradictory, emotions. As a daughter, I enjoy choosing a present for my Mum and reflecting on the gift that her presence in my life is. As an adoptive Mum, it’s a day that I love to celebrate the gift that it is to be a Mum to my children (and I’m a sucker for the homemade cards!). I’m also mindful that I’m not the only ‘Mum’ that some of my children have.

For care-experienced children, it can be an incredibly challenging day. Some will want to celebrate their adoptive or foster parent, but many will hold this in balance with acknowledging of the absence of their birth parent. For others, spending Mother’s Day away from their birth family may make them feel anger, grief or confusion, and the manifestation of those emotions may be directed at those who care for them. For many, the day can act as a reminder of the separation and loss children and young people have experienced. Some may not want to celebrate either or acknowledge the day at all.

Our churches rightly celebrate Mother's Day. Some create little bouquets of flowers for the children to distribute to their parents. Others share cute videos of children talking about why their Mum is great. Children's workers go all-out to produce amazing craft activities that children proudly walk out of their group with.

Church can be one of many places where navigating the challenges associated with Mother’s Day feels impossible. Some families may choose to avoid church on Mother's Day because it feels too difficult.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that marking Mother’s Day in any of these ways is wrong. We want our churches to be places of honour and celebration. Many churches will acknowledge the complexity that exists on Mother’s Day for those waiting to become parents or grieving their loss.

So how can we navigate this brilliant, complex, difficult, wonderful day well for those who are care-experienced and their families?


1. SAY IT FROM THE FRONT!

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Church is described as the body of Christ. It’s a picture of the interconnectedness of our lives as Christians. Verse 26 tells us that ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it’.

This culture is set, in part, by what is said from the front

As we prepare to celebrate this day in church (and we should!), let’s think carefully about the words we use. Let’s acknowledge the complexity of the day and the variety of emotions. Doing so validates what some will be feeling while also helping others begin to understand why it can be a tricky day and gives them permission to express and explore their response alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ.

One church I attended on Mother’s Day invited all of the children to come and collect a little bunch of flowers from the front and then distribute them to ALL of the women in church that day. The person leading spoke about celebrating women and the many different ways there are to be mother figures. It was a beautiful, sensitive and inclusive way to celebrate Mother’s Day as a church community.

This isn’t something that has a ‘one size fits all’ solution; each church expression is different. But however you choose to explore this, know and be encouraged that in prioritising sensitivity and inclusivity, we don’t diminish anyone’s experience of mothering or being a Mum. Instead we acknowledge and honour the myriad of ways this can happen.


2. IN OUR CHILDREN’S GROUPS

I love receiving handmade items from my children – it's guaranteed to make me teary-eyed, whatever the quality of workmanship! On Mother’s Day, we have a great opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate with the children in our churches the many different ways that families are put together and explore it sensitively with them.

Could you use this day as an opportunity to think about mother figures in our lives as well as those in our family? One children's group that we heard of created a ‘remembering wall’ where they invited the children to draw or write a memory that they have with a mother figure in their lives. All of the children, including those who lived away from their birth family, were able to choose what memory, and with whom, they wanted and were comfortable to share. The leader spoke to the children about the importance of remembering, and that memories could be happy or sad and sometimes a mixture of both, and all of that was OK. Their takeaway point on that day was that God was ALWAYS with them, whatever they felt.


3, ASK

If you have care-experienced children and families in your church, then ask them about Mother’s Day. It’s so easy to make assumptions about what individuals or families are or are not feeling. Sometimes we think that by asking we will in some way upset people who might not have otherwise thought about the possible pain connected with Mother’s Day. The reality is that care-experienced children and their families will be all-too-aware of the approaching day and by asking about it, you give them permission to share this rather than keep it hidden.

Why not ask them how the day is in their family (if they know what to expect, they may not!), what the potential challenges are for them and what you and your church family can do to journey with them in the build up and on the day itself.

By asking them, you demonstrate your understanding that this day may be different for them and your heart to support them. For those raising care-experienced children, the journey can sometimes feel lonely. The simple act of asking shows them that you’re with them. This will give them encouragement as they rightly prioritise the needs and feelings of the children in their care and permission to offer specific suggestions for things that would help them.


4. GRACE ON GRACE

There’s a lot of layers to how many care-experienced children and their families will be feeling as we approach and celebrate Mother’s Day. This can be hard to understand and even harder to articulate. We know that all behaviour is communication and Mother’s Day may be a time where there is particularly challenging, new or unusual behaviour. Let’s be those who respond from a place of grace, whether that’s with the children or the wider family.

Author:
Claire at Home for Good


Date published:
March 2022


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