The Feminine Genius of the Mother's Day Backlash

In the last few years, something strange has begun to happen on and before the second Sunday of May. In blog posts and status updates, conversations and commercials, we're suddenly seeing a whole lot of light shed on the hidden and hard side of Mother's Day. There has been a steadily growing and unprecedented response of compassion to those for whom Mother's Day is nothing but a sharp reminder of loss. 

And it is absolutely beautiful.

Women are amazing. On this day that is meant to be a joyful honoring of such a critical role, a day when we could simply accept the praise and bask in the recognition or demand dinners and cards and flowers and well-deserved time off from the dishes, we instead look over and see the one with tears in her eyes or the one too broken to speak and we ask, "but what about her?

As women we are designed to be more in tune with the other. We are on the whole softer, more intuitive, and more responsive to suffering. We can see another's pain and we long to ease it or even share it. We have what the Church calls a "feminine genius" written into each one of us that longs to love and we can see the world and others in a unique way. (For evidence of our difference, just consider how there is nothing remotely on par with this new response surrounding Father's Day.) In his Letter to Women, Pope John Paul II said, "Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts." (He said a lot of other wonderful things about women that you should read, too.) This feminine genius is so remarkably present in this new response to Mother's Day.

See, we know at the core of our being that motherhood is important. We know that it's a beautiful gift and we acknowledge that it's worthy to celebrate our physical mothers. Even a world that in many ways devalues femininity both in body and soul and often undermines or even laughs at motherhood can't erase that fundamental calling in our hearts and the interior human knowledge that motherhood is vital to who we are as human beings. We know deep in our souls that there are few things more intimate or beautiful than a right relationship between mother and child.

That relationship is intrinsic to humanity. We as women are ordered toward it. This is precisely why the loss of it...either through infertility or death or family wounds or divorce or rejection or for whatever reason...cuts us right to the soul and the reminder stings so sharply. The ache in its absence shows us just how fundamental it truly is. We know it is beautiful and worthy of praise.

And yet.

Yet so many of us would rather choose to not be recognized at all if it becomes the cause of another's pain. Our feminine souls ache with another and many of us would rather forget the day altogether than have it sting the hearts of our sisters once again.

And that right there is the heart of a mother, isn't it? Choosing to sacrifice our immediate recognition, desires, and comfort - even if it is well deserved - for the sake of another. Stepping off our albeit fleeting and perhaps macaroni-glued pedestal and allowing another's hurt to become our own. That is the feminine genius. That is womanhood. To give, to love, to suffer with, to look outside of ourselves and see the other.  

We should still celebrate Mother's Day. We can celebrate the beauty of motherhood in all its joy, suffering, purpose, and sacrifice. It's good for us to honor the act of bearing and nurturing life the way that only a mother can. It's good to celebrate the vocation to physical, visible motherhood. The world needs it. But it's also stunningly beautiful when those being honored see their suffering sisters, reach out and pull them up, too. It's breathtaking when women can support each other in our unique vocations and crosses, making a point to call out and show the world the beauty and motherhood of those who are hurting. How selfless and necessary it is to remind the world that even those who have never borne a physical child are still called and able to bring new life into the world and those whose arms ache to hold their lost babies are still forever mothers. Through the offering of ourselves, physically and spiritually we can all be mothers the world desperately needs. 

Seeing - truly seeing - the other in her pain, her glory, her gifts, her beauty, and in her own unique calling to motherhood is part of the gift of womanhood. It is this feminine genius that can make the world more beautiful not only on Mother's Day but every single day after.

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