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This weekend is Mother’s Day in the U.S., and here’s what’s going to happen. There are going to be social media posts about wonderful family gatherings, fabulous breakfasts in bed, gifts galore, and kids who adore their moms. And some of you will feel sorrow, despair, and envy.
I often make abbreviated notes and lists. Just this week I caught myself writing “Moth. Day” and had to laugh, knowing some women would rather celebrate moths than mothers. It is not a small percentage.
Some even avoid Sacrament meeting on this day, dreading the feelings of inadequacy they’ll feel if someone gives a talk about a perfect mother. Some despair that they’ve never become mothers. Others anguish over the heartbreak of a strained relationship with their grown children who fail to honor them on this special day. Some feel equally dismal as they wonder why they missed out on having a great mom, themselves. When someone expresses grief at the loss of their mother these women think, At least you had a loving mother.
So here’s how to cope with the negative emotions that surface at this tricky time of year:
- Let others rejoice. This goes for all the glowing posts you see on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is the time of year when people share pictures of graduations, weddings, vacations, all the happy exclamation marks of life. Nobody posts pictures of themselves crying with grief, losing a job, praying for their wayward children to come back. Those are exclamation marks, too, but we tend to suffer in silence and celebrate with trumpets triumphal. So be happy for your friends. Be happy you have friends. Let them shout for joy, just as you like to share good news.
- Remember the pendulum is always swinging. Picture each of us hanging onto a clock’s pendulum. Nobody gets through life without trials, and the Sacrament speakers who extol a woman’s virtues, those who post what seems to be evidence of perfect parenting, those who smile in temple wedding pictures, couples who have one child after another as you struggle with infertility, the lucky people whose lives seem to be falling into place when yours is not—will have adversity as well. They may even have it right now. In fact, it may be the reason they’re so excited to share the fact that—FINALLY!—something wonderful happened. So stop comparing your downswing with someone else’s upswing.
- Look to the Savior. Speaking of perfect, here’s the perfect way to see Mother’s Day. Look at all the times Christ compared himself to a mother, throughout scripture. He spoke about laboring as mother in childbirth, he spoke of gathering us as a hen would gather her chicks, he talked of comforting us the way a mother comforts her child, and even compared himself to a nursing mother. Now think of his infinite atonement, an atonement that isn’t just for that moment when we face the bar of judgment, but is for right now, as we suffer and groan with the anguish of life’s blows. He knows every tender feeling of our hearts, every tear we have shed. Only He can truly understand those who feel hurt on this special day. As you imagine him enduring the pains and the weight of this unimaginable suffering, ask yourself: Did he ever once compare his agony to the easy life of someone else? Did he mutter that it’s just not fair? Or did he feel joy for the success of others and compassion when they struggled? His love overcame all.
- Refuse the poison. Never forget that Satan is eager to exploit any bit of discouragement, envy, or self-pity that you’re willing to swallow. But these are poisons that grow when we accept them. They compound, they grip our hearts and lungs (especially at night, have you noticed?) and the adversary happily pulls us into a state of utter despondency. He’s really a jerk. Refuse what he’s offering.
- Turn things around. Instead of making Mother’s Day about you, why not focus on an overlooked woman in your life who might love the surprise of a card, a treat, or some small gesture that lets her know you care? Do you really not know a single lonely person? Nobody posts “I’m lonely!” or “My kids have forgotten me!” or “I have no children to honor me!” on Facebook or Instagram. Yet such women are all around us. So instead of wallowing in our own sad collection of injuries on this day, let’s turn outward and be useful. Another way I like to cope is to use humor. I’ve mentioned it before, but will gladly share one strategy we used when my unbending, hyper-critical mom would come over: After she left, we would give five dollars to whichever child, or adult, got the worst insult (usually me). It completely flipped the event upside down. We stopped feeling sorry for ourselves, made it a game, took away her power, and even began looking forward to her visits!
Mother’s Day can be a dreaded downer or you can delight in the very fact that motherhood exists, that the world seems to realize its importance, and that Christ himself kept using it as an example of his own caring for us. Those who are not mothers here have the promise of this blessing in the next life. Children who are unappreciative today will change their hearts and ask forgiveness in the future. Leaders have begged women who are trying, yet who feel like failures, not to be so hard on themselves and to realize that Heavenly Father celebrates them and applauds them. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, ‘Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.’”
Please. Be happy on this Mother’s Day. Hang onto the love of the Savior and your faith in the future. Everything else is just an exterior distraction from what’s actually a sacred covenant between you and the Lord, one which will bring you untold joy in the next life, and even in this life if you keep your focus and remember how much God loves you and knows the efforts and intent of your heart. That’s what makes you a mom: Your heart.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.