Mother’s Day is the day that we honor our mother and other mother-figures in our lives, such as mother-in-law, stepmother, and grandmother. It is also a day when we honor motherhood, maternity, and the influence of mothers in our society. Mother’s Day is celebrated in many parts of the world on various days, most commonly in March or May.
Mother’s Day is a modern holiday was first celebrated in 1907 in the United States when Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day service of worship and celebration at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarvis started her campaign to create a day to honor mothers in 1905, the year that her mother died. She wanted a day set apart to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday. However, all U.S. states observed the holiday by 1911 with some states declaring it a local holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation stating that Mother’s Day would be the second Sunday in May and that it was a national holiday to honor mothers.
Mother’s Day is a day that brings many different feelings to women. It is a day of rejoicing for most mothers, but it is a day of heart break for women who desire to have children but have none, for mothers who have lost children – either before birth or after, and for mothers who feel that they have failed as mothers.
Religious and other leaders have discussed mothers and Mother’s Day. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often speaks about mothering. This is one such statement: “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.”
Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the mothers in his family. He spoke of learning to appreciate the mothering struggles of his wife and of watching with awe as his daughters and granddaughters teach and guide their children. Then he made this statement:
There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.
I, too, watch with awe as my daughters by blood and marriage teach and guide their children through the busyness and stresses of this world. They are much better mothers than I was, which proves a favorite saying of my father. He said that each generation should be better people than the previous generation because we should learn from our parents what works and what does not work. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I was a better mother than my own mother; I can just say that I was a different type of mother.
Sister Sheri Dew, former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, taught that motherhood is a doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that this is the reason why the Brethren speak about it so often and so powerfully. In speaking of mothers and motherhood, Sister Dew made the following powerful statement.
When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” [Moses 4:26] —and they did so before she ever bore a child.
Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality [Alma 13:2-4, 7-8], righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. [See Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102.] Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.
According to Sister Dew, all women and girls are mothers and have been from our premortal lives. As women, we mother all sorts of people who are not our children biologically or by adoption. We mother students, we mother the friends of our children and our friends’ children, and we mother the children of the neighborhood. I am grateful for all the women who mothered my children and helped them to develop into the men and women they are.
Like most mothers, I have negative feelings about my abilities as a mother, but mostly I feel great gratitude. I am grateful for my own mother and for my husband’s mother. I feel unspeakable gratitude for the blessing of being a mother. My husband and I were unable to have children for several years before a doctor discovered my problem. Once the problem was fixed, we had no further difficulties and were blessed with six children – the first three within three years. I am grateful that those children were born with healthy bodies, bright minds, and sweet spirits. I am grateful that they grew up to be responsible members of society and good parents of their own children. I have learned much from my children.
In my studies about marriage and parenting, I came across a statement that should be of value to all parents. I could not find the statement to quote it exactly, but it was by an expert in the field and went something like this: Parents drive themselves crazy trying to parent perfectly. It is impossible to be perfect parents. Parents just need to be good-enough parents. The words “good enough parents” gave me great comfort. The Brethren tell us that we have not failed as long as we continue to love and to teach our children.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers – those with children and those without children. As women, let us use our natural mothering skills and feeling to make the world a better place for all people, but particularly for those who desperately need our mothering influence[DD1] .