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Monica Doumit: I’m a girl boss, not a spiritual mother

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A mother and child are seen enjoying time together in a park in Indianapolis. All mothers are honored in special ways on Mother’s Day, which is May 10 this year. (CNS photo/Mary Ann Wyand, The Criterion)

“Happy Aunties’ Day.” “Happy Godmothers’ Day.” “Happy Spiritual Mothers’ Day.” Over the years, I’ve received each of these greetings and variations to them on the second Sunday of May, the day we traditionally celebrate Mothers’ Day.

While I appreciate the sentiment and the sincerity of those offering the greeting, I confess that I find it more than a little cringeworthy and uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to celebrating Mothers’ Day and getting together with scores of my rellos for a big, Lebanese feast.

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I love my nieces and nephews and godchildren and all those in my life who give me the opportunity to live out my maternal instincts with all my heart.

I am grateful beyond words for sisters and friends who make me part of their lives and generously allow me to share in their motherhood.

But today, I want to celebrate them as mothers and not try to make the one day each year that we stop to acknowledge and appreciate the great gift of motherhood about me.

I understand why this happens. As Catholics, we know motherhood to be a participation in the creative action of God and a cooperation with his love.

Fertility has been seen throughout history as a blessing and a sign of God’s favour and in modern times, openness to life an increasingly “Catholic thing.”

By contrast childlessness, except for those in religious or consecrated life, is often not chosen. It is instead a cross that needs to be carried by either those who are single by circumstance or by those who have tried but have been unable to conceive.

But can’t we accept this to be the case without trying to alter the definition of motherhood in such a way that it loses some of its meaning?

On the one hand, we lament the increasing push to make inclusivity the means and end of everything society does: advocates for “equality” extended the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples; gender ideology tries to include anyone who identifies as such within the definition of “woman” to such an extent that “what is a woman?” has become a political statement rather than a biological question.

Quota systems for various attributes are enforced to construct the image of diversity and inclusivity; every child gets a participation trophy; even pass-the-parcel isn’t immune, with modern versions of the party game having a present included in each layer of wrapping.

On the other hand, we fall into the trap of trying to extend the definition of “mother” to include those, like me, who have no children.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I’d prefer to save Mother’s Day for the mums. Photo:
I appreciate the sentiment, but I’d prefer to save Mother’s Day for the mums. Photo:

Keeping the celebration of Mothers’ Day to those who have kids is one way we can reject the notion that broad inclusivity is somehow the same thing as love.

That’s not the only reason. There’s also a much more sensitive aim to resisting the offer of greetings to the childless among us on Mothers’ Day.

Intentionally or not, framing the contribution of childless women in terms of motherhood contains an implication that the only way a woman can contribute to the world or the Church is being a mother.

“You don’t have kids? It’s okay, you’re still a mother.” No, I’m not.

I try my best to be a good daughter and sister and auntie and friend but I’m not a mother. I try to be a faithful daughter of the Church live out all aspects of the feminine genius, including maternity, but that still doesn’t make me a mother.

I want to embrace and live out every part of my femininity and womanhood in whatever way I can but again, that doesn’t make me a mother and it certainly doesn’t qualify me for Mothers’ Day greetings.

And you know what? I’m okay with that.

I love my mum and my sisters and my deceased grandmothers and I am happy to celebrate and pray for them today.

I am happy for motherhood to be highlighted as a personal and societal and ecclesial good today. Honouring mothers takes nothing away from me but trying to define me as a mother does.

This isn’t just about us single folk, either. I know many wonderful couples who have struggled with infertility for years and who pray that each Mothers’ Day will be their last without children.

The cross these women have to carry is not made any lighter by reminding them of it on Mothers’ Day or by labelling them “mothers by desire” or assuring them that they will be mothers one day too.

Instead of trying to make us all feel included in today’s festivities, maybe just honour those who are celebrated on Mothers’ Day and say a quiet prayer for those who aren’t. And don’t worry, I’ll get my party when they finally have an International Girl-Boss Day.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all our wonderful mums xx

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