Long Distance Mothers Day
My mum loves to sing in her 94 year old warbly voice “ You say potayto, I say potahto, you say tomayto and I say tomahto”*…. Call it ‘Mothers Day’ or call it ‘Mothering Sunday’- either way, it’s going to be different this year. No happy reunions between far away mothers and their children. Those with small children have done enough craft this past year to never look at blunt ended scissors and Prit stick ever again…and the somewhat mixed joy of dragging teens on family walks and picnics has now evaporated completely. Purchasing a pastel coloured supermarket bouquet involves masking and gelling and a grim silent trip to the till rather than a joyful jaunt with the kids.
I took my mum round Bath botanical gardens in the first blast of unlikely February sunshine. Passers-by beamed and greeted her, perhaps reminded of their own grannies, whom they haven’t seen for months. For many, Mothers Day this year is a poignant non-celebration of waving and blowing zoom kisses at their pixelated elderly mothers or grown-up babies.
For others, Mother’s day is always painful - and this year even more so. For those who have lost or never had, Mothers Day is a knife.
However we celebrate or just try to get through it, Mothering Sunday will be different this year. We have become more local, and more global in our outlook; homebound, yet gawping at the pandemic taking its effect around the world. This Mother’s Day is an opportunity to look beyond our own local lockdown limits and engage with a different local community to help change the world for mothers and their children.
Put on your factor 50 and come with me for a moment to Tanzania. Upendo Wa Mama (Mother’s Love) began with help from our own Rachel Monger (part of Holy Trinity, recently moved to Monkton) as a support group based in Mwanza, Tanzania for women who have albinism or who have children with albinism. A person with this genetic skin condition themselves, or with a child who has been born with it, is often seen as a curse, an outcast, just because they look so different. Often rejected by their husband or community, many have lived in fear of their very lives due to the myths that surround the condition. Upendo wa Mama supports women as they nurture their children with that fierce love of a mother for her child that doesn’t see the child the way society sees them. Until she moved to the UK last year, Rachel was meeting with the group in Mwanza as they supported and encouraged one another, and developed income generating projects including beekeeping, selling honey and other gorgeous products made from the wax. They recently launched their own centre and shop, THE HIVE. Check it out here: www.facebook.com/upendowamama.tz, to watch a powerful video clip and to donate: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/HelpTheHive, and for more info: www.themongers.blogspot.com. The women are now able to save and provide for their children as well as to hold their heads high as they serve the community in Mwanza. They have learned new skills including English, IT skills and sewing… and now share these skills with others. It’s a wonderful story of mother and child centred community transformation!
17 years or so ago, I met a group of women who formed part of the Mothers Union in Bukavu, Eastern DR Congo. They were women of great compassion who with precious few resources were having a phenomenal impact on a traumatised community, offering trauma counselling for survivors of sexual violence, as well as skills training and rehabilitation. A small table cloth embroidered by the women remains one of my treasured possessions. For me it’s a sign of hope out of brokenness, of transformation from tragedy.
Started by a rector’s wife 120 years before Upendo wa Mama, the Mothers Union began with the same principles of helping group members work together to solve challenges in their communities, and is now an active women’s movement in 84 countries. Like Upendo wa Mama, members work together to solve challenges in their local communities. By helping to restore and strengthen relationships in families and communities, the movement gives a sense of belonging and acceptance to the stigmatised and vulnerable. Check out the ethical parenting-related gifts to support the work of Mothers Union here:Make A Mothers Day
Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday – however you call it, let’s not “call the whole thing off” as Fred Astaire and lockdown suggest, and instead let’s celebrate with a virtual but transformational trip - to Tanzania or elsewhere- and make a difference for mothers and their children.
*Mum’s version of the 1937 George Gershwin song “Lets call the whole thing off”