I was really impressed with how my church handled Mother's Day this year - it's easy for the women in a congregation to be divided into mothers and non-mothers, but this can be really hurtful to women who may be struggling with infertility or who have lost pregnancies, those who deeply desire to be mothers but aren't yet, and those who are mothers unbeknownst to others and therefore go uncelebrated. It can also be awkward as a woman of child-bearing age if the ushers aren't sure whether they should offer you a flower (or whatever the token is) or not. And if there is pain under the surface, this confusion can bring it right out in the open.
The flip side of this recognition of mothers only, is the celebrate-all-women approach, which focuses on the mothering influence that many women have and the fact that emotional and spiritual nurturing are just as valuable as breastfeeding and diaper changing and homework nagging (I mean helping...). No woman is left out or left behind, but I always feel a bit awkward being included in whatever gesture is made because being a mom is a big deal, and I haven't done anything to be celebrated as one.
Today I experienced a beautiful middle ground: flowers for all the women, to celebrate the mothers, the priest explained, "and if you aren't a mother, you had a mother, so take a flower in her honour."
I realize that if Mother's Day is a difficult holiday, there is no perfect phrase or gift or gesture that will make the pain go away, but I was touched by the simplicity and sincerity of this approach. I don't feel weird about having taken a flower even though I am not a mother, and as this day passes with my own mom thousands of miles away, I can enjoy this sweet reminder of the beauty and love she has allowed me to take for granted in this life. I love you Mom! Happy Mother's Day :)