Mother’s Day is a big event in some families, and one can dispute its origins: a clever marketing exercise to sell stuff, or a new version of Mothering Sunday, a church tradition. It used to be held on the fourth week of Lent, which is just before easter.
“Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family,” the BBC reports. Today the idea is that mothers are honoured with gifts, flowers or a special meal.
This can quickly get into a discussion about parenting roles and who keeps the house. But it is worth examining the present, as well as what the future should be.
A press release by a new conservative Christian Lobby group, Christian Voice Australia, (CVA) led by Greg Bondar who has had a long career in conservative politics and Christian groups, draws our attention to research around Christian mothers. CVA states that “Mothers are the cornerstone foundation of the family,” and “The family is the fundamental building block of our society.” They rightly want to honour mothers.
Lets’ look at the background research they point to and ask does it establish these “motherhood” statements.
CVA usefully footnoted their press release and it points to a survey by the Barna group, a reputable research organisation based in the US. So the figures cited by Barna are for the US, and for practising Christians, much of it from a big project called Households of faith. But the aspects of conservative church culture they deal with likely won’t be different in Australia.
An impressive statistic is that Christian teens are most likely to first turn to their mother (62 per cent), father (40 per cent) or a sibling (20 per cent) to ask about faith. Asking about the Bible has a similar pattern: Mothers (61 per cent,) fathers (42 per cent), siblings (28 per cent.)
Barna concludes that mothers are disciple makers. As far as faith is conserned this research establishes mothers as the cornerstone of the family, and arguably of the church community as well. Mothers are also the most likely person to encourage a teenager to go to church (80 per cent).
In the Barna survey most pastors agree they do not serve mothers as well as they should.
Christian mothers share some distressing stats with mothers in the wider community. Christian mothers (34 per cent) and non Christian mothers (35 per cent) say their community supports them as mothers.
Asked whther they agree with the statement “I am able to meaningfully contribute to the world aon a regular basis ” only 25 per cent of self identified christian mothers and 14 per cent of non christian mothers can agree. this is a disturbing stat, that indicates mothers feel pushed down by their role.
Christian mothers report that they have become less involved in church since they became a mother.
Beyond the gifts, meals and flowers Mothers Day could be a good time for churches to provide mothers with more support, opportunity for service and growth.