As today is Mother’s Day, I wanted to write something that has been on my mind for a few weeks now and is also relevant to the holiday. Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of doing ministry at my church with women who, by and large, are young moms. During that time I have also noticed a trend that is worrying to me. Whenever one of these young mothers attended a meeting or event in which she simply could not find childcare for her little one(s), she felt the need to apologize…profusely.
I know this seems like a strange thing to worry about, and it has nothing to do with the mothers themselves but everything to do with a culture that compels mothers to feel they need to apologize for the presence of their children. But first, let me back up to where this is all coming from.
When I was in seminary I had a professor that completely changed my thinking on the presence of children in public settings. Before taking her class I was easily irritated by the sound of a child making noise during worship. However, my seminary prof had a totally different perspective. She was very pro-family and warned against the workplace’s unfriendly stance towards children and mothers. In an effort to resist this cultural trend, she informed her students that if any of them had trouble finding childcare, their children were more than welcome in class. She would not be bothered by the sounds of children as she taught.
(During that same period I was also fortunate to have a prof who would sometimes bring his infant to class and sit her on the table in front of him as he taught. We loved it!)
These experiences in seminary changed my entire perspective on children, specifically in the realm of hospitality. They also compelled me to look more critically at our society’s view towards children. We are a production-driven culture that often measures the value of a child’s presence upon whether they can contribute to or hinder our work. And this mindset has certainly infiltrated the church! I once heard about a woman who had to bring her twin babies to small group because she couldn’t find childcare. After the meeting, another member took the woman aside and informed her that it was inappropriate to bring them. The young mother never came back.
So while it is by no means wrong for parents to have time apart from their children to focus or relax, nor should we eliminate children’s worship services so that we can all worship together, I can’t help but wonder if parents should feel pressured to cordon off their kids, especially by Christians. Our approach to children often looks more like that of the disciples in Matthew 19 who treated the children as unwelcome, in contrast with the loving hospitality of Christ.
So to all the young mothers out there, if you’ve ever been made to feel unwelcome or out of place in the church because of your children, it is the church’s treatment of you that is misplaced, not your children. Your children are unconditionally precious gifts, whether they’re at home with a babysitter or sitting on your lap during worship. You don’t need to apologize.
And for those of you who work or serve with young mothers, let us distinguish ourselves from the culture in how we welcome them! Yes, it’s important to hear the pastor preach without being drowned out by a shrieking child, but also check your spirit when thinking inhospitable thoughts towards them. For one thing, you don’t know the woman’s situation–she could be a single mom, or perhaps her child is recovering from a cold and can’t be in childcare. But wouldn’t we much rather that she and her child worship God or attend small group together, than not come at all?
Let us be a community that appreciates mothers and their children! Let us treat children with hospitality! Not just when they’re ours, and not just in the “appropriate” settings, but unconditionally.
And to every mother out there, young and slightly less young, 🙂
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!!!!!!!