The Experience of Mother’s Day without Children

mothers day childless

As I look at my May calendar, I wonder what type of gift I should get my mom for Mother’s Day. Maybe a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble or a Bible study guide. Then again, I know she always loves a fresh bouquet of flowers! I spend some time wondering how my family will gather and celebrate the moms in our lives.

The Sting of Mother’s Day

But for many single women like myself and married women who cannot have or lost children, this yearly day to honor Moms can be sensitive, painful, and sad. It is not a day always filled with joy and happy memories, but can be a day that is triggering, perhaps reminding one of a loss or something they have never experienced.

I know I feel that way sometimes about Mother’s Day. My life has gone a much different way than I imagined.

I have been married, divorced, and went through the annulment process three years ago. At almost 34 years old, I am still single. While I celebrate and cherish my friends who are moms, there is a little ache in my heart that those things have not been a part of my story yet.

Sometimes, as a woman without children, my heart hurts—stings a bit—when the priest makes the announcements for all moms to stand and receive a blessing during Mass on Mother’s Day. It is difficult when everyone around you is standing.

The Importance of Spiritual Motherhood

I believe the call of physical motherhood is beautiful, special, and important. I am so grateful for the radiant, various examples of women I know or follow on social media who do physical motherhood in all kinds of ways. You all my heroes! You are in the trenches of the domestic church and raising up a family of saints.

But I do believe sometimes we underestimate the importance of spiritual motherhood. There is no “one way” to be a mother. A mother is anyone who nurtures and brings forth new life. This can be through physically welcoming a child in one’s body or being the best godmother you can be. It can look like bearing life in the Church through new creative pursuits or dreams for the good of God’s people. It can look like mentoring the young women in your youth ministry program or being the best ballet teacher you can be.

The Church needs both the witness of physical and spiritual mothers at work, and so I think it is important both be recognized.

This Mother’s Day, let us remember and be aware of those for whom this day is difficult and painful.

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Ways to Beautifully Experience Mother’s Day without Children

Here are some suggestions for women for whom the celebration of Mother’s Day is a tricky one to maneuver.

Single Women

Reflect on the ways you bring forth life and nurture the lives of people around you. Keep a running list of the names, situations, and experiences. Thank God for these people and blessings.

Write a note and drop it in the mail to some of your married friends. Let her know why you cherish your friendship, how she inspires you, and encourage her in her role of physical motherhood.

Do you have a group of close, single gal pals? Maybe the day before Mother’s Day take time to celebrate and honor the ways each of you are spiritual mothers. Go to morning Mass followed with brunch (don’t forget the mimosas!). Pray with each other for the desires of your hearts, and take time to affirm the ways you see the other bring forth life in unique ways.

Do you have a woman who is married and perhaps struggles or is unable to have children of her own? In a special way, reach out to her on Mother’s Day. Maybe send flowers or a note in the mail. You both share an unmet desire of the heart, be a comfort to each other.

Married Women

Do you have any close female friends that are single, but desire for a life with marriage and family? Reach out to her this weekend. Maybe send her a little love note in the mail or surprise her with flowers at her apartment. Just let her know you love her and are praying for her.

Sometimes dioceses have special Masses for couples that struggle with infertility or loss of a child. There is a historic church in my diocese that offers a Mass for women for whom Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what they do not have. Contact your diocesan Family Life office to see if they offer anything like that.

Supporting One Another in Our Motherhood

One of the beautiful things I love about Blessed is She is we are community for all women in all types of life stages, vocations, and ages. What if in a special, intentional way this year we really supported each other in an intentional way?

All you single ladies, would you offer a prayer or sacrifice for our married sisters who have lost a child or struggle with infertility this Mother’s Day?

Married women with children, would offer a prayer or sacrifice for our single gals who have the deep desires in their hearts to be a wife and mother someday?

As a community, as a sisterhood, let’s love and support each other on this day that can be filled with a variety of feelings and emotions for many of us.

What would it look like if we honored and celebrated all women, in all the different ways they are a life-giving presence to the world and the Church around them?

How can you better support the single women in your life? How can you better encourage the married women in your life?

Whether you hold a baby in your arms or ache for that day to come, know you have a role to play in the Church, your community, and in our Blessed is She sisterhood.

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Patty Breen is a regular contributor to the BIS blog and a devotion writer. She is a full-time lay minister who finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, and all things Ignatian spirituality. A Midwestern gal from the mitten state, she is constantly learning to find grace in all things. She is passionate about ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find out more about her here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    July 22, 2019 at 2:06 am

    Thanking God for people
    doesnt take the ache out of my heart for the babies that I always yearned for. Nobody cant ever take the place or fulfill the void in my heart. If it didnt take that out of God’s heart then why would it take it out of mine?

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