Latter-day Saint Life

An open letter to 5 types of mothers

mum piggy backing toddler
Tara Moore/Getty Images

When most people think of Mother’s Day, they think of cards and flowers and declarations of gratitude. But, for a large population of women, Mother’s Day can be a day of discouragement.

On Mother’s Day, we use superlatives a lot. “Best Mom Ever!” “My Angel Mother!” “My mother is perfection personified!” I have yet to find a mother who feels like they are the best mom ever. Short tempers, endless messes, unfinished homework, fatigue, and the struggle to find this mythical creature called “balance” often inflicts a disease I like to call mom guilt. For some moms, hearing on Mother’s Day about the perfect mom and comparing themselves to that perfect image can be discouraging.

But is motherhood really just about how many children you have and how you wrangle them? I propose that real motherhood actually has nothing to do with that—it is so much more. Consider these powerful words from Sister Patricia Holland:

In a poignant exchange with God, Adam states that he will call the woman Eve. And why does he call her Eve? ‘Because she [is] the mother of all living’ (Genesis 3:20; Moses 4:26). …Eve was given the identity of ‘the mother of all living’ –years, decades, perhaps centuries before she ever bore a child.

It would appear that her motherhood preceded her maternity.

Just as surely as the perfection of the Garden preceded the struggles of mortality. I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words–with meaning after meaning after meaning. We must not, at all costs, let that word divide us.

I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children.

In light of Sister Holland’s words, I’d like to take a moment to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all types of mothers.

The imperfect mother.

I know you. You’re the mom that hasn’t showered. You’re the mom who is beating herself up about getting impatient with your son about those missing shoes this morning. You have bags under your eyes from comforting your sick daughter all night long. You’re the mom who escapes to the bathroom for a quiet minute to scroll through her Facebook feed. You’re the mom who is counting down the minutes until sacrament meeting is over. You’re the mom who feels inadequate to raise the next generation of leaders. You’re the mom who is doing the very best she can and counting on the Atonement to make up the difference. I know you because I am you. Happy Mother’s Day to you. May you feel the encouragement of loving Heavenly Parents who are whispering, “You’ve got this. You are changing the world.”

The childless mother. 

Whether you are childless by choice or have not yet started your family, I want to wish you a happy Mother’s Day! You were the mothers who helped raise me. You were the ones I turned to in my teenage years. Your example had a powerful influence on my testimony, my desire to want to choose the right, and my understanding of what it meant to be a woman of Christ. Thank you for your example, and thank you for taking the time to love me. I know you had a lot going on in your own life, but thank you for taking the time to mother me and teach me how nurture my testimony. In fact, more than 20 years later, I am still reaching out to you for advice and encouragement. I thank you. My mother thanks you. My children thank you. May you feel empowered by knowing that your motherly love has influenced generations.

The mother battling infertility. 

I see you. You may be under the covers in your bed instead of braving church on Mother’s Day, but I still see you. I am also you. Even though I now have four children we adopted and the wounds of infertility are no longer bleeding, the scars are always there. I see you in the back of the congregation fighting back tears or with a chip on your shoulder. I hurt with you when someone in the ward asks you when you’re going to have kids or tells you that you’d get pregnant if you had more faith. I am anxious with you as you silently plead with heaven during Mother’s Day talks, thinking that no doctrine says that bearing children is our divine heritage. Please know that you are so much more than your infertility. Happy Mother’s Day to you. May your heart be calmed by knowing that all that is unfair in life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

The mother who placed her child for adoption.

Celebrating you is the delight of my Mother’s Day! If you could peek into my adoptive mama heart on this day, you would see an ocean of unconditional love and gratitude that is so hard to verbalize. Your sacrifice has changed my life. You made me a mother. You chose me to join you in your motherhood. Your courage inspires me. Your trust in me ignites a desire to want to be better. On this Mother’s Day, I want to tell you that you are loved. You are prayed for. You are thought of. You are spoken of with love and light. You are part of our family. May you know that your motherhood is celebrated in this home and may you feel your Heavenly Father’s arms tightly around you.

The mother waiting to reunite with her children in heaven.

There are no words that can comfort you, but please know that I have a tender heart full of love for you on this day. I have many friends and family members who love children on the other side of the veil. For some of you, if you’re at church on Mother’s Day, you are hoping they don’t ask only the mothers to stand. You are praying you aren’t asked how many children you have. Sometimes the answer can just be too complex. I want you to know that I understand that there are days when you want to talk about it and that there are times when you are keeping those feelings close. I will follow your lead. Happy Mother’s Day to you even if you just ponder it in your heart. May you find and enjoy the avenue that brings you the most peace and the ability to feel the Savior’s infinite love for you.

My Mother’s Day wish is that these words will help us understand each other rather than divide us. Together we are motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day to all types of mothers! 

Lindsey Redfern is an infertility survivor and the mom of four adorable children who were adopted. Lindsey is a blogger at The R House.

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