For all you great mothers out there, congratulations, you’re doing an amazing job!
We all celebrate Mothering Sunday in our own way. I’m not into cards, etc., but take a moment to think about my own late mother and all her challenges, but also to think how marvellously fortunate I am to have my wonderful five children. They are scattered around the UK, and abroad, but I think of them no less; indeed, I marvel at how these children grew up to be independent beings, perhaps because of me, or perhaps at times, despite me. So, I give thanks for being a mother, not an easy role, and one at times I struggled with, but one which I can now look back on with gratitude. Having my children was surely my most productive and best life decision. That’s what Mothering Sunday is to me, an opportunity to think how lucky I’ve been. So, I rather invert Mothering Sunday, making me the one who is grateful. My children owe me nothing but I owe them everything.
Curiously, when it started, Mothering Sunday had no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”. Traditionally, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. The more I looked into it, the more complicated the origins became. Mother’s Day is actually an Americanism. If you’re into Simnel Cake, then Robbert Herrick (17th-century poet) had words for you:
“I’ll to thee a Simnel bring, / Gainst thou go’st a Mothering”
In America, Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May, as proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, after a campaign by Philadelphian, Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), whose own mother died on May 9.
Here, High Anglican, Constance Smith (1878-1938) is responsible. She was inspired in 1913 by reading a newspaper report of Anna Jarvis’s campaign in America and was taken by the idea of a day celebrating the mother church, and mothers, not to have a secular holiday as Jarvis wanted, but to revive an old religious tradition, reintroducing and explaining Simnel Cake, etc.
Now it is more about showing appreciation of your mother, usually through cards and gifts, though time is also an important part.
Commercial pressures to give cards, flowers, and bought gifts (rather than traditional foods) has firmly established today as ‘Mother’s Day’, though in Britain its annual timing continues to be determined by the Christian calendar.
Interestingly, neither Constance Smith nor Anna Jarvis were married or had children. Anna Jarvis regretted the growing commercialisation of the day in America, even disapproving of pre-printed Mother’s Day cards.
“A printed card means nothing,” she said, “except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
We are all individuals. Self-employed, I’ll be working, but however you choose to celebrate Mothering Sunday, have a lovely time.