Wednesday, May 16, 2012

But I'm Not a Mother...

While the church never seeks to do harm, I see the church sometimes adding salt to the wound. We ask first-time visitors to stand and introduce themselves even though some of them have gotten enough courage to finally set foot in a church for the first time in more than a decade. We create divisions with words from the pulpit, letting folks know who is worthy and who is not. And, we celebrate in grand style holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day.

I was taught in seminary that one of the problems with the church in the United States is that more people go to church on Mother's Day than on Good Friday. Our church learned early on that I don't take note of all holidays in the context of worship since my first Sunday happened to be the 4th of July. I came well prepared with an idealistic Hauerwas theology about what could and could not happen in the sanctuary. But it was a member of the church who has showed me how hurtful the church can be when it comes to the ways we celebrate mothers and fathers. I've learned to weep with her when we casually say things about our children in such a way that enables those who don't have children to be hurt. While I'll thank God for being like our mother and our father, I've learned to chose my words carefully on these set-aside days.

And still, I cannot tell you how many times the words, "But I'm not a mother," came out of my mouth on Sunday. The words were spoken to people who are part of our church family and strangers in a restaurant. "Happy Mother's Day" are the words repeated by individuals who know me and know that I have no children and people who have no idea who I am.

How did we get to be so insensitive?

How have we gotten to the place where we believe every woman approaching the age of 40 has a child?

I thought I would have a child by now. Having been married "officially" in the Catholic Church, I was sincere when I told the priest that I would accept children as a gift from God. We have had names picked out for our children since we were dating: Joseph Donald and Grace Ivy. But Joseph and Grace have not arrived. Not all of our earlier dreams for marriage have come to fruition.

Conceiving a child is far more complicated than the sex-ed teacher made it out to be when she warned us how easy it is to get pregnant.

Craig and I have learned to love our life - the time we have together, the flexibility we have when it comes to spending money or working late or going on vacation. We honestly have a hard time imagining what life would be like if Joseph and Grace were in the house - especially in our one-bedroom home. We are content. Nothing is missing in our lives. We have grown to see our freedom and flexibility as a gift. And, I have grown to love the children in our church, realizing that they are part of my family through baptism.

Nothing is missing. Nothing is missing until people look me in the eye and say, "Happy Mother's Day."

You see, I'm not a mother. Many of the women around you are not mothers either. Some of us have made this decision. We have no desire to be mothers. Others of us have accepted our situation and do not wish to take any extra steps to make it happen. Still others go to bed each night begging God for a child. While we think your children are beautiful we may not always want to hold them. Though we admire you for being able to balance work and family, we have gotten to the place where our plates are full enough with just work. And while you may have been able to conceive easily and within a few months, some of us have been trying for years.

Please don't assume I have children. Please don't wish me a Happy Mother's Day. You see, I'm not a mother.

I am a pastor.

I am a wife.

I am a friend.

I am a child of God.

And I am whole - just as I am.


Maggie Silton said...

Beautiful, Donna. Also there are women like my sister Nora who have no living child, but have angels--in her case miscarried twins--in heaven. She never goes to her church (RC) on Mother's Day because it's too painful.

David Haas said...

I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

Donna Claycomb Sokol said...

David, please email me at the church. You can find the address at

Susann said...


Just that.

I'm glad to know you.