Breakfast in bed; gifts made with crayon, construction paper, popsicle sticks, and Elmer’s glue; songs sung enthusiastically off-key by the Primary during sacrament meeting; and flowers passed out after the service.
These are the sorts of things we associate with Mother’s Day in the Utah Mormon culture in which I grew up. I was fascinated a few years ago when I learned that originally Mothers Day represented so much more. Mothers and activists such as Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” promoted Mother’s Day as a day to rally Mothers to social activism. They recognized that while husbands and sons traditionally go off to fight and kill for glory, prosperity, or some ostensibly noble cause, it is the mothers (and wives, and daughters) who are left to pick up the pieces after the destruction: holding broken families together, mourning the lost, caring for those injured in body or mind, and carrying on after the smoke clears. They understood that it is the mothers who traditionally share the sorrow for the downtrodden of society as they are used and abused by the powerful elements of society, mothers who seek to support and heal. And they saw that the very essence motherhood, the formation of a human body within their wombs, is a creative, life-giving and -affirming role. Those pioneering mothers of Mother’s Day advocated a day to celebrate and harness the stereotypically maternal values: nurturing, healing, peace, conciliation, cooperation, empathy, humility.
How much better would the world be if we, led by the mothers who have exemplified those values in our lives, were to promote those values more boldly in our communities and nations? What better way to honor motherhood than to organize as activists to implement actions more consistent with those values? I believe that the more we appreciate and honor the traditionally maternal values in our social mores and the deeds of our governments, the world would be far advanced from what it is now, dominated as it is by the masculine values of aggression, competition, and ambition.
I was encouraged to read the words of a prominent woman and mother, Queen Noon of Jordan, calling for mothers—and all those who honor motherhood—to become active in promoting peace and charity once again (Thanks to Steve Olsen of The Utah Amicus). Its worth a read. And while you’re at it, see what Rediscovering Mothers Day is doing take up the banner of maternal values in the world.
It is interesting that there was recently a discussion in the comments of one of my posts on the capability of women to act as leaders of nations. While it was shown that there have been some large few women who have succeeded in that role, all have done so in patriarchal societies, and have had to prove themselves by proving themselves in masculine values. How different might things be if women who stood for the maternal values held the reigns?
I tend to think that the Lord gave men the role of leader within the Church not because men are more suited to the role, but in order that the men, through the responsibilities which the Lord gives his leaders and the Lord’s guidance which he gives them as they seek to fulfill their role as servant-leader in the mold of Christ, might develop those humble, nurturant, supposedly feminine traits which typically come so naturally to our mothers.
It is our mothers—their spirits, values, love, and dedication—that sow the seeds of hope from which decent people, communities, and the Church itself can grow. For all you mothers out there: Happy Mother’s Day!