Mothers’ Day, Mothering Sunday, who do we include?

Anyone who’s read my books, Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year
Available from the Hodge website ( (or Amazon ...)
Available from the Hodge website ( (or Amazon …)

will know they feature families and several different kinds of mothers. Professional women struggling to juggle the work and the family; a pastor’s wife expected to mother the congregation as well as her five growing children; a mother who has escaped a violent teenage marriage, been forced to abandon her child,  and worked in a women’s refuge … Though all are western mothers, and only one has suffered the trauma of the stillbirth of a malformed baby.

This Sunday is Mothers’ Day

or as it used to be known, Mothering Sunday. The middle Sunday in Lent, when (as you may already know), domestic servants had a day off to go and visit Mother.

Hedgerow spring flowers
Hedgerow spring flowers

Many of them would be just kids, really: girls the age we now count legally as children, girls who’d now be in school, girls too young to marry, and who we count as being too young to be seduced into sex. Sent out to earn a living as young teens, some as young as twelve, living in a servants’ attic, eating in the servants’ kitchen surrounded by adults. A visit home to Mother and the sisters and brothers was a real treat. They might take Mother a bunch of flowers, picked from a hedgerow along the way …

In fact, it’s a day about showing love.

So, here we are on Mothers’ Day
Me and my daughter, summer 1981

with cards, shop windows and catalogues of possible gifts, and for churchgoers a service where little  bunches of flowers are given out to the mums.

The churches have also, so as not to leave out the childless, so as to be inclusive, led the way to this becoming an all-women’s day.

It’s a good intention: but is there actually a reasonable argument for keeping this day to specially celebrate and be thankful for mothers? For what they do, for what they go through to produce, nurture, and protect, children? Hoping not to hurt anyone’s feelings, I think there is.

Every-Mothers’ Day

We might up-date celebrating mothers by being aware of mothers world-wide.

Well off, well educated, mothers in Western countries, aren’t in the majority of women on the planet. And we have health care to ensure that (usually) pregnancy, birth, and the post-natal days are safer than ever before. Clean water, a warm home, an income, maternity leave, all work towards happy motherhood. Postnatal depression can be treated.   

Most young girls here have not gone through FGM, with all that does to intercourse and giving birth. 

Most have not, at puberty, had an arranged marriage, which nicely puts an end to education, can lead to pregnancy  before they are fully grown and developed, can lead to dangerous childbirth, or at worst to death.

Most western women do not develop a fistula from going through complicated, protracted labour and delivery in a poverty stricken area without enough doctors, nurses, or trained midwives: for us, the minority, there are maternity units with skilled staff who can perform a safe caesarean.

But all these events give a very realistic picture of being a mother in, say, somewhere like Afghanistan, or many African countries..

Mums in the refugee camps in Europe
Remember this? But most are in camps under makeshift shelters
Remember this? But most are in camps under makeshift shelters

Having fled war, mothers living in makeshift shelters are having keep an eye on their young girls. Living in a tent, or substandard group housing, girls are vulnerable to abduction, presumably to be used for sex. It isn’t nice: it’s a terrible worry for parents. Especially for mothers, who know what sex with an older, maybe roughly forceful, man would be like for their young girls.

So, it’s a day about love?

I would really love to see Mothers’ Day become a day when we think about the reality of being  mothers. While being thankful to our mothers, and for our own safe birth, let’s do more than that. 

That’s not to say we need to deny ourselves giving and receiving flowers, chocs and hugs … But whether or not we are mothers, inclusivity might mean showing empathy to mothers less fortunate: giving to an organisation which cares for women as mothers.Let’s make Mothers Day about love and generous inclusivity 

Find out about fistula, FGM, and other related topics:

Information on FGM, and other related topics

What is a fistula, how are they caused, why are they so dangerous and excluding? 


Celebrate books and reading:

It will soon be time for the second 

 Hawkesbury LitFest … Saturday 23rd April, all day

at Hawkesbury Upton … author readings,

talks, poetry, children’s activities … in a Cotswold

Village setting 

9 thoughts on “Mothers’ Day, Mothering Sunday, who do we include?

  1. Sandy March 6, 2016 / 3:37 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Mothering Sunday. For us in North America we celebrate Mother’s Day on the 2nd Sunday of May. Of course when I was living in Oxford I had trouble finding a card to send my mother in May. I appreciate your suggestion to support mothers in less fortunate circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MariHoward March 6, 2016 / 8:30 am

      Thank you, Sandy. I wonder if you then managed to buy a card on our Mother’s Day weekend to send off later, for yours in Canada, to your mother? It’s a problematic celebration here, as now it’s so obviously commercialised women without children get upset … I began to feel that if we focussed on the needs caused by becoming a mother that might counteract the flowers and pretty gift things side of being a mum…


    • carolcooper March 6, 2016 / 8:35 am

      I used to buy two Mother’s Day cards for my mother when she lived abroad, one to send at the time and the other to send in May. Somehow my mum liked celebrating twice…


  2. lynnepardoe March 6, 2016 / 6:00 pm

    Well said Mairi, we should remember mothers who don’t have it so easy. In future I’ll ask for a donation to an appropriate charity in lieu of flowers. I’m quite happy with a bundle of catkins from the hedgerow.


  3. Holistic Wayfarer April 4, 2016 / 3:59 am

    Wonderful passionate post. Mothering is hard enough even with all the comforts. I can’t imagine having to worry about the basics like shelter. And on a broader scale, yes, it’s amazing what women (and girls) the world over have endured, have had foisted on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MariHoward April 4, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    Absolutely … and for so long, it wasn’t much revealed. Now media so easy we hear … and see …


  5. dunelight April 20, 2016 / 10:05 pm

    FGM is a travesty. I’m tired of entitled males here in the U.S. likening it to circumcision. No, it is more like cutting off the entire head of a penis. There are horrific things happening to little girls of the the third world.


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