I am about to commit a Mother’s Day heresy. My mother was not perfect, my grandmother was not perfect – and your mother is not perfect either. I need to say this as truth telling to get beyond the extreme sweet and flowery sentiment of Mother’s Day. Reading the text of the cards in the store they all tend say “my Mother is the perfect person”. I mean no disrespect to my mother or to yours. But the unvarnished truth is that every human being is flawed and imperfect. It’s just how it is.
From my parish work I know that for a number of people Mother’s Day is depressing because their mother was neglectful, or violent, or hurtful; an abuser of substances or even of them. One friend did not come to church on Mother’s Day because of all the fuss & furor, and the innocent exaggerations of maternal qualities sermons, prayers and people spouted. Her mother was her abuser and she could not handle the disconnect between the societal ideal and her experience.
Another friend, a psychotherapist, talked about starting the “Speaking the truth in love” greeting card company to print cards that recognized realities that our parent were not perfect and our parenting of our children will not be perfect either. It is not about being perfect – it is about being open, honest, and living with an integrity that can acknowledge my own imperfections so I can deal with another’s imperfections with grace.
My mother did not claim perfection, that expectation was thrust upon her by society. She dealt with all of the anxiety of being a working mom in an era where stay at home moms were the norm. She did not join the PTA (besides working, she had a sick husband and limited finances for several years), nor attend my grammar school plays. She and I did not always see eye to eye about church, social issues or life views. I also was not the practical one. I was an optimist when her world had given her several blows that had shattered her optimism. But I knew I was loved, I knew I could call on her if I needed help. I also knew her advice might not be what I wanted to hear or to follow. But it was offered out of love and concern. And she always come through.
I will take the reality of who my mother really was over all the sentiment that wanted to make her (and all mothers) into 2 dimensional people they were not. I am still looking for that Mothers Day card that says “We didn’t always agree. Neither of us was always right. But I knew you loved me.” I actually think she would have liked that reality better than the deception of perfection.