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 

Mothers’ day or others’ day?

Me and my daughter, June 1981



A very quick post at the end of reading Facebook tributes to lovely Mums … and sad posts from people who have reasons to be sad today.


Mothers are universal: everyone has a mother, whether she is/was good of horribly bad at mothering. Like Russian dolls, we al come here from our mother. And they say that mothers retain cells from the babies they carried, circulating forever in their bloodstream, settling even in their brains.

Mothering is hard: pregnancy take sit out of you (not just the loss of a slim figure, but the physical strain pregnancy and giving birth, and yes, if you breastfeed, feeding, puts on every part of mothers).

Mothers have a lot expected of them: and they can get a lot of flack for doing their best.

Mothers need the encouragement of their ‘Day’.

But …

Mariella Sakilariou Wheeler & Ephrosyne: Mariella was a lady’s maid before she was a mum

I wrestle with this problem: years ago, Mothering Sunday (a Sunday in the middle of the 40-day-long season of Lent) was the day when young people in domestic service were given a day off to visit Mum back home. Mum was probably the mother of a host of children, and lived a life of hard work and many pregnancies. It must’ve been special for her and for her probably teenage children to be back home on a visit, but it also probably had no commercial value.

Alice and Mary: Alice worked as a housekeeper before she was a mum
Alice and Mary: Alice worked as a housekeeper before she was a mum

Possibly few people would regret they were not mothers back then, before birth control, before giving birth was relatively safe, when keeping house and caring for a family involved manual labour…when women didn’t have the vote, the chances of education to chose a life of independence, travel, home ownership, and generally of choice. In many places, mothers lives are much the same: work, pregnancy, and being a second-class person.

So, I suspect that my ideal for Mothering Sunday/Mothers Day would be not that we try, somehow, to include all the people who aren’t mothers, for whatever reason (even that physically they are men). Instead of that, I’d like us to celebrate mothers world-wide, and count it as special day for women who are mothers everywhere, to remember the amazing job they do, and to think what we can do to support (even if only by giving) organisations which work to make women’s lives  better: to stop FGM, to see that women in places like Africa and India can obtain sanitary protection, decent toilets, antenatal care, safe births, and safety from sexual harassment and attacks.

Or is that too much to ask?

(Photos copyright, all from the family albums…)