Several years ago, I started speaking up for non-moms. I wanted to sound the gong on an issue that many are either blissfully unaware of or choose to ignore. Though I’ve never been one to shrink from controversy, I soon tired of the apathy I confronted, apathy which echoed the sentiment that something must be wrong with a woman who doesn’t become a mother.
Lately an open letter to pastors about this very issue has been circulating in cyberspace and it has emboldened me to broach this delicate subject once more.
Because I’m not a mother, other non-moms confide in me. And most of them have done so through their tears. After hearing the same issue repeated time and time again, I’m convinced it’s a blind spot for most churches and pastors.
Some defiantly stay away. Others mysteriously get sick every second Sunday in May. Some buck themselves up and go, only to wish they hadn’t and vow never to do it again.
One blogger, Amy Young, wrote about the common practice in churches of having all mothers stand. She sat. “I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.”
What are women supposed to do who:
- Have had a miscarriage
- Are struggling with infertility
- Have waited a long time to adopt
- Have adopted and then had the child taken from them
- Have a critically ill child
- Have buried a child
- Have children who want nothing to do with them
- Have heartache because of prodigal children
- Have been a bad mother and have regrets
- Have had an abusive mother
- Have lost their mother
- Are waiting for a godly husband, meanwhile made to feel inferior by those who have a husband (whether he’s godly or not)
- Have divorced and see the effects on their children
- Had a child as a teenager and loved the baby enough to place it for adoption
- Had a child outside of marriage and feel guilty
- Aborted a baby and feel forgiveness is not possible
I’m not at all trying to downplay the significant and often unappreciated role mothers fill; just to point out that mothering comes in many different forms besides biological. Foster moms, adoptive moms, stepmoms, spiritual moms, grandmothers, mentor moms, big sisters, and awesome aunts are all important and all vital. A woman’s value is not tied to her reproductive (or marital) status. Her value is in Christ alone.
On Mother’s Day, most preachers blather praise for “the hardest and most important job you’ll ever have.” That doesn’t help the have-nots. And, frankly, the contrast is startling between the saccharine-sweet adoration heaped on mothers and the ho-hum accolades for fathers a month later.
In all my years, I’ve only liked one Mother’s Day sermon. It was about Three Women who Mothered Moses. Moses had a biological mother who gave him life, a sister who watched over him in his floating basket, and Pharaoh’s daughter who raised him. God used them all in his life.
Maybe this issue is more noticeable to me because I’m not a mom. Not a biological mom, I should say. But because I’m a non-mom, people discount what I have to say. Oh, she’s just bitter, they may (wrongly) think.
Pastors, who are usually married to a mom, are caught between wanting their wife to feel appreciated and their flock shepherded. They don’t want to upset the status quo.
But if they dare, mothers can be the most effective spokespersons for non-moms who hurt too much to step foot in church on Mother’s Day.
Together, let’s search for a solution to honor mothers without alienating everyone else. I offer several practical ideas (and some surprising statistics) in an article published in my local paper a couple years ago.