This is the text from an address I gave at St Martin’s in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London on Mothering Sunday, 2016. I was so very moved to be asked to contribute OUR voice to this service, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 4. This is very tender day for so many of us who mourn the children we’ll never know, and have maybe lost our own mothers too. Be gentle with yourself today. And maybe buy YOURSELF the flowers – you deserve them too! Love, Jody x
Mother’s in our Hearts
Besides Christmas, Mother’s Day (what is called ‘Mothering Sunday’ in the UK) can be the most difficult day in the calendar for women who aren’t mothers, or aren’t yet mothers and doubt that they ever will be. Whether you are a couple struggling with infertility, or one of the many women who have been unable to find a suitable partner before your childbearing years draw to a close, or if you haven’t had children for one of many other reasons, Mother’s Day can be very raw indeed.
Perhaps it would help if we could extend the idea of ‘mothering’ to include all those women who are mothers in their hearts, but aren’t biological mothers. To think of ‘Mother’ as a verb, not a noun, as something you do rather than something that you are.
Women without children are twenty percent of the female population aged 45 and over, but our stories aren’t often told, our experience isn’t honoured and our contribution to the lives of others is often under-appreciated. We listen patiently to mothers’ delighted talk of their children, and grieve privately that we will never know that joy: first days at school, graduation, perhaps marriage and even grandchildren; a lifetime of photos we will never add to our albums. And yet so often our stoicism in the face of grief is misinterpreted as not really ‘minding’ or perhaps even interpreted as ‘not liking children’.
We non-mothers hide in plain sight, often hungry for empathy, fielding questions of the most intimate and personal nature which seem to come from all angles. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that we are those good women around you who make up that ‘village’ it takes to raise a child, to create a community, to sustain a safe and civil society for other people’s children to inhabit. And we do so gladly, willingly.
So, perhaps next time you meet a couple without children, hold back your natural curiosity about when they’re going to start a family. Or when meeting a single, middle-aged woman who, for whatever reason, doesn’t have children herself, try to see past the social caricatures and instead see the individual woman in front of you, one doing her best to live a life she, perhaps, didn’t expect, and doing so with dignity. If she has a cat, so what? Plenty of mothers do too…!
This Mothering Sunday, let compassion open your heart just a little wider to include all of those who long or longed for motherhood. Although we grieve in private, we are all around you.