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This Mother’s Day Honor Mothers For All They Are

I’m at the age in life where a lot of my friends are pregnant or young mothers. They are all very happy with their choices and excited to watch their children grow up. But I’ve also seen some of them struggle with something therapist Julie Hanks calls, “aspirational shame.”

Parenthood has long been a messy topic. Motherhood in the news today is sometimes demonized and used to demonstrate the devaluing of women.

In Latter-day Saint and other Christian cultures, though, the critiques swing the opposite direction. Women who have aspirations, career or personal, with their lives besides motherhood are subtly told they’re not good enough, or they aren’t living their religious principles.

So what happens to those of us women who aspire to be mothers and successful professionals and individuals (which is many I might add)? The result is we don’t fit into either world.

But despite the contradictory feel of these two narratives, I think Mother’s Day really celebrates women who manage to do both.

The Origin of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was originally created in 1908 by a woman named Anna Jarvis. She was not a mother herself, but she wanted to honor her own mother, who had worked tirelessly to educate women to lower infant mortality rates. Her mother was the founder of Mother’s Day Work Clubs and maintained neutrality to be able to heal all soldiers during the American Civil War.

In other words, Jarvis wanted to honor her mother — for being a mother, yes — but also for her accomplishments in life that complemented her motherhood.

Mothers like Jarvis’ have accomplished amazing things throughout history. And many have done it all while also raising successful children. They shouldn’t be guilted for that. We should honor mothers for all they are while being mothers.

Mothers Who Balance Both Roles

Sadly this guilt is a common thing. Julie Hanks told Brigham Young University’s Daily Universe it’s something she calls, “aspirational shame.”

“When there’s this role presented, like ‘This is your job in this life,’ … it’s like, well if I want something beyond that that means I’m a bad person, because my church is telling me that this is what I should do and want,” she said. “That has been a huge barrier for me.”

But being a good mother while working outside the home is possible, and additionally fulfilling. And mothers are beginning to show it every day.

“You can do it,” one working mother told Universe. “It takes planning, it takes thought, it takes working with your spouse, but it’s possible and it’s really fulfilling and it’s great.”

LDS Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson raised her family while working outside the home. She recently shared how she balanced these roles her own life on her Instagram account: 

“Women often ask about my experience. The answer is in this scripture I came across in my study this week. My family is my treasure, and my heart was always there,” she wrote.

To avoid “aspirational shame” Hanks now views motherhood as a relationship rather than a checklist of responsibilities.

“As I’ve gotten older I kind of measure my motherhood less on behaviors and more on connections,” she told the Universe. “Do my kids feel self? Do they know I get them? Do they know I am there for them? … That doesn’t mean I’m with them 24 hours a day, but I’m emotionally available. That’s the thing that creates healthy human beings.”

This Mother’s Day

So this Mother’s Day, I hope you celebrate your mom, for all that she is.

She is the woman who raised you, yes, but she is also the woman with hobbies, aspirations, devotion to her husband and family, ideas, projects and intellect. Honor her for doing all that and also treasuring you for who you are.

So who is your mom really? Celebrate all of that.

by Abbie Call

Courtesy Claire Mitchell, Escalante Elementary.

Portrait of Abbie Call

Abbie Call – Cannonville/Kirksville, Missouri

Abbie Call is a journalist and editor at The Byway. She graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in editing and publishing from Brigham Young University. Her favorite topics to write about include anything local, Utah’s megadrought, and mental health and meaning in life. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with family, quilting and hiking.

Find Abbie on Threads @abbieb.call or contact her at [email protected].