As Unitarian Universalist parents, we celebrate diversity, and while we feel it is important for mothers to be honored for all that they do, we also recognize that in celebrating this holiday, we can possibly marginalize others. That gives us the awesome responsibility of helping the next generation understand that in celebrating motherhood, all who “mother” deserve to be celebrated.
Once again this year the Unitarian Universalist Association is partnering with The Strong Families Initiative offering liturgical resources such as prayers, meditations and readings for Mother’s Day to supplement the images and issues of what constitutes motherhood today—with all of its challenges, triumphs, and conflicts. It also stretches our thinking of motherhood in all of its forms, reminding us that not only are women who have adopted children mothers, so are women of all colors and ethnic backgrounds, women trapped by systemic poverty, and women who are legally separated from their children or incarcerated. Likewise, many of those who identify as transgender, gender-queer, or lesbian are also mothers.
As Jessica Halperin, the Women’s Issues Program Associate and Clara Barton Intern with the UUA explains, this is a natural and helpful framework for Unitarian Universalists to celebrate Mothers’ Day and at the same time bring awareness to the oppression experienced by families in marginalized communities. This is especially the case for children in immigrant families who live in fear of their parents being deported or are suffering under a five year ban on health care access.
Depending upon the age of your child, there are different ways you can do this, but they all involve exploring the true meaning of the holiday and what it means to “mother” someone. Even young children can talk about what mothers do, and what it means to be a mother—and then stretch their idea of what a mother is and looks like through conversation and by seeing some pictures of people who are mothers but don’t fit the stereotypical image of one.
You can read children’s books like Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, which tells the story not only of the hopeful adoptive parents who eagerly await their new baby, but also of the loving mother who is giving away her biological child to give them a better life. Older children and youth over age 13 can learn a lot from the free online game, ICED (I Can End Deportation), which explores the troubles experienced by immigrant children and their families.
And in addition to making hand-drawn and decorated cards for their own mothers, grandmothers, or other mother-figures in their lives, you could arrange (perhaps with some other parents at your congregation) for your children to go to a homeless or domestic violence shelter. Bring along some fancy cardstock, glue, glitter, and some other creative materials and make those cards alongside the children who are in the shelter. Or help your children pick out some of the beautiful online Mamas Day cards through the website mamasday.org/with the diverse images of motherhood to send to family members or friends.
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Michelle Richards is the author of Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner House, 2010).