This Sunday is Mother’s Day, the day we take extra time or effort to honor the mothers in our lives. In the U.K. and Ireland, Mother’s Day is called “Mothering Sunday”. I love this because there are so many different ways to “mother” someone that are inclusive of more than just biological mothers. We can be mothered by many different women at different points in our lives. If your relationship with the mother who birthed you is rocky or non-existent, you can still find reasons to celebrate Mothering Sunday. 

Being mothered by someone is one of life’s most extravagant gifts. To be mothered by someone is to be seen, held, heard, and protected. To be mothered might mean cooked lasagna for dinner and pancakes for breakfast. It might mean school drop-offs and packed lunches. To be mothered might mean being tucked into bed every night or held on the couch each morning while a hot cup of coffee teeters on her lap. The woman who mothered you might be silly or serious, tidy or messy. She might prefer loose schedules and spontaneous plans, or maybe she has everything planned out and keeps a detailed calendar on the refrigerator. 

The woman who mothered you might not have gotten it all right. In fact, I know she didn’t. Maybe she was tired or bored. Maybe she had mental health issues or commitment fears. Maybe she didn’t know how to mother well because she herself was never mothered. Years ago I read something by Elizabeth Gilbert that has stayed with me: “Can we take a break – just for one day – and show some mercy to the mothers? Because being a mother is impossible. I don’t mean that it’s difficult. I mean: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. What we, as a culture, expect from our mothers is merely that they not be human…It’s a merciless standard of perfection. God help your mother if she ever fell short. God help your mother, if she was exhausted and overwhelmed. God help her if she didn’t understand her kids. God help her if she had no gift for raising children. God help her if she had desires and longings. God help her if she was ever terrified, suicidal, hopeless, bored, confused, furious. God help her if life disappointed her….God help her, because if she [messed] up in any way, she will be forever branded: BAD MOTHER. And we will never forgive her for this.”

May this Sunday be a day that we have mercy on the mothers. May we remember them for the mothering they did well, and let the rest go, just for one day. May we honor the time they gave up, the times they held us when they didn’t want to, the times they cooked when they wanted to throw the pan out the window. May we honor the times they cared for our needs in a million different ways. May we honor that their pain was real too, and that it may have prevented them from being the mother we might have wanted. 

And if you are a mother yourself, may you also have mercy on yourself. May you end the day, gently holding the things you did right, the things you did wrong, the interactions you wished had gone differently, and knowing you did the best you could. 

For all those who mother, may you feel loved and held this Mothering Sunday.