On Motherhood and Loving Unconditionally

By Ellen Romer

Today is my least favorite day of the year to go to Mass. And yes, it’s because it is Mother’s Day.

I am not a fan of sitting in a pew dreading a homily that quite often focuses on a very gendered view of mothers. I particularly cringe as the pressure is put on to be like Mary, the only woman who ever managed to be a mother and a virgin. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe I will manage to achieve that myself.To be clear, I think Mary is pretty fantastic. I just always sit there as I hear “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” and think to myself that someone ought write a song titled, “Hail Mary, She Who Was Tough as Nails.”

I don’t care to be told, again, that just because I am not a mother I can strive to be a spiritual mother. It is somewhat absurd how many times I have been told that and I still have no idea what that means. I am not supposed to be nurturing and caring because I am a woman but because I am a human being who cares about other human beings. God calls everyone to care for those around them. Caring and nurturing aren’t a feminine thing they are a people thing that everyone should strive to be in their own way that makes them and the people around them more authentically who they are. Many mothers do an incredible job of that. So do a lot of other people.

I was grateful to read Anne Lamott’s piece on why she hates Mother’s Day. I know today is hard for many people, whether they still mourn the loss of their own mother, or like so many women I know, have suffered pregnancy loss or have not been able to become a mother in the way they had hoped. It was a helpful reminder to me to think of the many mothers and not-mothers along the way who have made me into who I am and that I am grateful for every single one of them. All of these women (and men) deserve prayers and gratitude.

I will still spend today being grateful for my mother and the overwhelming blessing of the two mothers I gain from my upcoming marriage. How blessed am I to have these three women of particular closeness to me who have been incredible examples of strong women who have been mothers to so many. These three women are not at all perfect, but they love so many with an incredible fierceness. The description of ‘gentle woman’ doesn’t fit any of them and I thank God for that. They are a beautiful reminder that being imperfect doesn’t keep you from  being a remarkable and strong woman who can deal with all sorts of challenges that show up in life, who can love her children and so many others without condition. Hail to my mothers, who be tough as nails.

The last thought I will carry with me today from Anne Lamott is her comment on loving unconditionally, that some claim “non-parents cannot possibly know what it is to love unconditionally, to be selfless, to put yourself at risk for the gravest loss.” Today I will be grateful that such love was modeled for me first and foremost by my incredible mother and my incredible father. I will also try to be conscious of how I can push myself to love more people with less condition. Not because I am supposed to be a spiritual mother and then a physical one. But because that’s simply what God is calling me to do.