Love and lament: Reflections on Mother's Day from the Eternity team

Happy Mothers’ Day!

As the Eternity team reflected on how best to acknowledge this annual event, a day which can generate a range of emotions for people, due to their own particular circumstances, we decided that perhaps we could write about our own mothers or being mothers. And so we have. Each writer brings their own personality, experience and perspective to this simple, but deeply personal task. For some, it has taken them down small rabbit holes they had not intended. For others, it has conjured up memories long buried. And perhaps that is what is most important about commemorative days such as this. We pause to reflect. We tell stories about each other. We laugh and tease, eulogise and shed a tear or two. Florists earn half a year’s rent in a weekend! Restaurants do a roaring Sunday lunch trade. Perhaps most of all, there is that moment when we are grateful. Grateful to God for the mother (stepmother, adoptive mother, grandmother, auntie, foster mother) that helped form us. Grateful for the noisy tribe that surrounds us. Grateful for families who love us. And in that moment, let us give thanks to God that we are formed in his image and loved unconditionally by the Creator of the Universe.

Unravelling Mum by Bec Abbott

Rebecca and her Mum (in the 70s obviously!)

I remember the day my mum returned to work. After many years solely committed to raising her two small daughters, she donned a pressed white uniform and sensible shoes. A silver watch pinned to her chest completed the look of nursing efficiency. This woman who baked Madeira cakes with white icing for family picnics, who lulled me to sleep with the dulcet tones of ‘Kum Ba Yah’, who was always there – when I woke, when I got home from school, when I played, when I cried – was going out into the world, without me. That left Dad to do my hair, and he couldn’t even do plaits!

This was the first time I saw my mum as a person, independent of the apron strings that had, until now, bound her so tightly to our home. Over the years, many more scraps of Mum’s identity unravelled: she giggled with her nursing-student friends behind the back of the domineering matron; Italian men pinched her bottom on a European adventure with her only sister; she turned down my dad the first time he asked her out for dinner – to the pub (in his defence, the only option at that time in a small town).

When I became an adult, the threads of my mum became more tightly woven for me. I realised that she is smart, opinionated, fiercely independent, a leftie and a feminist, who still happily serves my dad dinner every night. She is a fabulous cook, but notorious for the kitchen chaos she leaves in her wake. She is a great writer, an artistic flower arranger and yet is immensely practical and unsentimental. She’s a doer, not a ‘let’s have coffee’ talker.

Recent years have revealed yet another piece of her tapestry. She’s an only child now, since her sister passed away in 2020. She doesn’t get up on ladders or chairs anymore, since she broke her rib and was banned from this activity. Currently, she’s a carer for my dad who is nursing injuries after two falls. And yet, she still drops a meal in our fridge every Tuesday. She still makes time to drill times tables into her grandchildren. She minds our dog and patiently mends the holes in our clothes. But now, as a mum with three daughters of my own, I see the woman behind the selfless deeds. I see all of her remarkable, giving, accomplished self, and I realise how immensely blessed I am to call her Mum.

The love that raised me by Madisson Garrett

Learning to love the ways in which my mum loves me changed our relationship for all the right reasons. I’m not here to gloss over rough edges, I don’t have a ‘perfect’ relationship with my mum, but one thing that has made a huge difference is releasing the expectation of perfection.

Madie and her Mum

It’s allowed us to be real. It’s allowed me to realise that my mum is not superhuman. She experiences the same exhaustions and excitements and frustrations that I do – and she’s learning how to be my mother at the same rate that I’m learning to be her daughter (yes, we are still learning after 18 years).

My mum is also a friend, colleague, daughter and sister, just as I am a friend, colleague, daughter and sister. And yet amidst the pressing tides in her own life, she chooses a love so complete and thoughtful for her children.

And it’s her love full of encouragement and patience and memorised details like how I have my tea that leave me in awe of my mum’s take on Motherhood.

Our relationship is not perfect, but her love has raised a daughter who encourages often, listens closely and cares deeply. What a great role model I have.

For Mary by John Sandeman

In the garden in Findon Village. Mum knitted this jumper with the red stripe to help people know it was me – and not twin Peter who had a green stripe.

The family story goes that my sister was born at the height of the London Blitz, with my mother giving birth on the top floor of the hospital and the staff sheltering in the basement.

If tough times produce resilient, gritty people, I guess Ethel Mary Sandeman is a good example. Her generation did it tough.

My father Colin and she had saved for their wedding in the Depression years and spent the money rescuing an uncle from the South Australian depression.

Then came World War II, and Mary and Colin did not see each other for five years. Mary cared for two boys during the evacuation of kids from London, telling me stories of how Spitfires would fly a rooftop level between houses on the South Coast where she lived. Re-united, Mary and Colin went on to adopt four boys, of which I am the youngest.

Here is a story that explains how, mentally, she never left inner London.

Retired in the Adelaide Hills town of Nairne, she has to be persuaded by my twin to put her full name on my father’s death notice. No one in the town had known her Christian name until then.

When she was greeted as “Mary” in the street the next day, she was outraged but probably too polite to let it show.

On the mantelpiece of my twin’s house is the commendation she received from King George VI for caring for evacuees. She went on to adopt me and the others at a time when there was a vast surplus of kids. It was tough bringing up kids in a blended family.

I never made her a card, like the King did, to say thank you. I should have.

The extraordinary/ordinary role of motherhood by Penny Mulvey

Penny and Pam enjoying an early 2022 Mothers’ Day celebration Penny Mulvey

Becoming a mother tends to change one’s view of one’s own mother. I mean, motherhood (and I might add, parenting, as a birth parent, stepparent, grandparent, adoptive parent, foster parent, sibling, aunt/uncle/friend, etc) is tough!

It’s also miraculous, wonderful, heartbreaking, tedious, worriesome. You are a taxi driver. Nurse. Chef. Cleaner. Counsellor. Washerwoman. Hairstylist (not in my case). ATM machine. Magician. Role model. Storyteller. On-call 24/7.

But none of those words capture the depth of love that is awakened when one becomes a parent. And somehow that love keeps on stretching no matter whether there is one child in the family or ten.

I remember when my eldest came into the world, as I looked at this perfect little creature that had come out of my body I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of it. I wondered why all people didn’t instantly acknowledge there was a God, because how else can we explain the miracle of birth.

That ‘miracle’ grew up, and there were many times when I didn’t feel that way at all. Our children push our buttons. They can drive us crazy and overwhelm us with love.

I do think that the love we have for our offspring is perhaps the closest we come to understanding the unconditional love God offers us, his children. And while I will definitely send Mothers’ Day greetings to my mum, I’m not too fussed if my three adult children remember or not, because they show their love in their own different ways, and I don’t need a special day to appreciate that.

My mum is now in her 90s and has broken both hips over the past 12 months. She has outlived two husbands. And while her feistiness has dimmed, she is still delighted to see me when I am in Sydney. And she is still as proud of me now as she was when I was a teenager.

I wrote her memoirs during COVID, and had them properly published with a dust jacket on the book. It was the best present I could ever have given her. I love you, Mum.

A blessing, for those whose hearts ache on Mothers’ Day by Kylie Beach

I am always hesitant when writing about Mothers’ Day. Not because I don’t love being a mum – I really do! – and not because my own mum isn’t wonderful – she really is!

It is precisely because I have been so undeservedly fortunate as a mother and a daughter that I hesitate. I just don’t want my good fortune to exacerbate the pain of someone whose experience is different to mine.

Greylag chicks gather in their mother’s plumage. Image: Pixabay

Even writing this down makes me nervous. I have steered clear of using the word “blessed” so as not to suggest God has chosen me to be good to, rather than someone else. That’s not the God I know!

But using the word “fortunate” makes it sound like I believe in fate or luck. And, ironically, I hear my mum’s voice correcting me in my head: “We don’t believe in luck, we’re Christians!”

I have friends who have lost children, whose dreams of being a mother haven’t played out the way they hoped, whose mum is no longer earth side, who wait in that limbo space of hope, and whose own mothers fell far short of the greeting-card descriptions being given today.

I know God loves each and every one of these people desperately and I have no explanation for why our experiences differ so greatly when it comes to mothers.

So I know Mother’s Day will hold real pain for some who are reading this. And if that is you, I am sorry. I am holding you in my heart and praying for your as I type this.

I also want to tell you that I believe in a God who is a mother to the motherless. Who tucks us under her wings like a mother bird. Who is as intimate and nurturing as a woman breastfeeding a baby. Who holds us close and calms us like a child who has recently been weaned.

May that God, our Mother God, be your portion today, friends.