This post is for childless women, so that we may vent. Women with children may want to give it and the comments (especially the comments) a miss. Mothers' Day is perhaps the most difficult day of the year for women who are childless-not-by-choice. Naturally, it is also difficult for mothers with nogoodnik children who never call or send flowers (or, more sadly, have died), but the mommy bloggers will probably have something helpful to say about that.
Tomorrow is dear Mothers' fine Day all in the morning betime
And I a maid at your window to be your valentine....
Er, no. But it is Mothers' Day in some countries in the world tomorrow, including Canada and the USA, and so there may be liturgical shenanigans at Mass. I have tried to spark a worldwide movement of childless women over 25 sobbing aloud and rending our garments when priests direct our more fortunate sisters to stand and receive our applause, but as far as I know, this has not stopped the priestly practice.
However, I am hearing more and more about priests' acknowledgement of childless women as spiritual mothers, and my mother contacted me on Skype to read me such a pastorally sensitive paragraph in her parish bulletin. Sadly, there was a terrible blooper about our dead mothers and grandmothers living forever in our memories, but I don't think this is necessarily a violation of the Nicene Creed, do you?
Anyhow, I forgot all about Mothers' Day because in the UK it was weeks ago, and it was both a shock and a relief when ye olde neighbourhoode flowershoppe in Toronto sent me an email saying my order had been completed. I had totally forgotten about it, so it's a good thing I ordered in advance.
You, however, if living in a country featuring Mother's Day tomorrow, may not have this luxury of forgetting, so this is my annual post to agree that being childless-not-by-choice sucks. Being overcome with terror that you may never have children also sucks. Being told (over the phone) that you will never become a physical mother is really, really terrible. However, here I am still alive and counting my blessings. I have married-mothers-of-children friends who worry so much about what Modern Society will do to their children that they go grey or wrinkle before my very eyes. Let's face it: when it comes to crosses, being childless at in your mid-forties in a western country is not the worst one.
Mothers are important to society, and heaven knows how many times I have said "Whoever has the most children wins". Seriously, I almost had a meltdown last night every time this season's winner of Masterchef put herself down for being a stay-at-home mother of four. She said winning Masterchef was the most important thing she has ever done, and I almost rolled about the floor, frothing at the mouth. Every one of those four children is (or will be) a British voter, the inheritor and potential traditor (i.e. hander-oner) of the great English history, heritage and language.
So mothers--super-important if not as important as contemplative nuns, whose prayers have kept total nuclear annihilation at bay. (That's my explanation for our mysterious continued survival despite the collective evil and stupidity of countless politicians.) Contemplative nuns are a kind of spiritual mother, but so are all women, really. There are physical mothers who are quite obviously spiritual mothers to girls and boys who are not their own children.
Also, there are aunts.
Being an aunt, I am very pro-aunt. However, I am not merely an aunt to my siblings' children; I am an AUNTIE. An auntie is a woman who is a child's parents' (especially his/her mother's) friend. They say you cannot choose your relations, and this is true. However, you can choose your friends and that includes your friends' children. Nobody expects (or should expect) you to give gifts to children not-your-flesh-and-blood, but you can if you want to (and the parents don't mind), and occasionally I do. Whereas I always hope the child enjoys the gift, thinking it out, buying it and wrapping it up always give great pleasure to me.
This is one of the bright spots in childlessness. When you have no children of your own, you have more energy for the children of your friends and relations, who, if they like or love you, will be delighted that you share their interest in and good opinion of their progeny. Obviously you do not sulk if you don't get a thank-you note because almost nobody writes thank-you notes, except perhaps on Facebook. Needless to say, the thank-you not is not the point. You get your reward in advance through the high of hearing the cash-register go cash-ing! or through the fun you had making the present or imaging the child's joy.
Of course, I am lucky that I live far away, so I am never disappointed by a child's reaction, should it not be joy. Children can be brutal. When I was 14 or so, I was summoned to babysit a little girl, and her face fell when she saw me. "I thought you would look like a fairy princess," she said. Notice how that stuck in my memory. (As a matter of record, I did look like a fairy princess when I was about 10, so there.)
Besides children-children, there are teenagers to talk to, or influence, or mentor, or also to give presents, if their parents are okay with that. Teenagers are very interesting, and often very interested, and enjoy testing you and your ideas. I do not know many teenagers currently, but no doubt I will know more if I become a Girl Guide Captain, as is being plotted by women more strong-minded than me. Then there are university-age women, who should be introduced to other people (boys) their age and invited to parties with other people (boys) their age, and young brides, to whom can give tea, cake and a shoulder to weep on when aspects of their new life overwhelm them. University-age men are easy to spiritually mother--you just feed them and house them when their roommates kick them out, etc. It's probably best to house them only if you already have a man in the house, however, and they must never be given their own key.
Well, those are my thoughts on childlessness. If you have any, feel free to emote in the combox, but remember that long-time readers who are mothers are probably going to ignore my advice and read this post anyway. That reminds me: thanks again to Julia and others who have sent me Mothers' Day presents in the past. This is not a cadge for more presents (Amazon), but a reflection of how very touched I am when readers do things like that.