Mothering Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to value mothers, but it can also be a very painful day for some. A friend of mine confided in me only this week that she dreads this weekend because it brings to mind the years of IVF, the longing for a child, the disappointment which slowly turned to grief, the feelings of failure, the memories of the way it has affected her relationship with her husband, the way it has made it hard for her to be natural and happy for fertile friends and family members. She tries to be cheerful, she visits her own mum and gives her flowers and cards then goes home to her own childless house and can't block out the pain.
There are other people for whom Mother's day can be painful, those who have lost children, or whose relationship with them is broken. Having children can make you very vulnerable - bearing their pain and coping with their problems often brings greater anguish than bearing your own! Then there are those who feel let down by their mothers, or whose childhood or upbringing has not been particularly happy or healthy. Finally some of us may feel rather rather ambivalent about Mother's Day and the way motherhood is idealised on mothering Day cards can irritate us or perhaps just make us feel we don't quite match up to that perfect ideal!
I am not suggesting that we replace "Mothering Sunday" with some politically correct monstrosity such as "Carers Day", but I do think the focus could be more on the fact that we can all "mother" and that we have all been "mothered" by those who care for us, encourage us, teach us and help us to be strong - at any stage in our life. St Augustine wrote of the God who is mother as well as father to us, and of course other Christians are brothers and sisters. Churches can be like families as well, sometimes they extend a welcome to all and live with each others faults, and sometimes something very different happens and churches can be places where we are broken down, controlled or even abused, not respected or valued or built up.
This Mothering Sunday I pray that our individual churches, and our Anglican Communion can operate like a good family, where we may not be able to agree on everything, but where we still manage to assure all that they are loved and welcomed.