Celebrating mothers with care

A children’s song about Mother’s Day used in some schools has sparked controversy because it depicts women mainly as carers, cleaners and cooks.

The song contains lines such as ‘she may not have a degree but helps me with my homework and that’s all that matters to me’ and ‘she’s great at caring for me, she does the cleaning and shopping and makes a wonderful tea’.

Many social media users were furious with those lyrics, arguing they perpetuated sexist stereotypes and an outdated view on gender roles taking us back to the 1950's.

It is Mother’s Day this Sunday and although personally, I am not a great fan of these made up festivals I can see the value in celebrating mothers as a great gift from God. But does this song help us do that?

I think as Christians, we have to agree that there is a danger of going further than the Bible in a narrowly defined role for women in general and mothers in particular. Some have degrees and not all mothers help with homework. Some cook and some just don’t. So whilst supporting biblical descriptions of male and female roles in the family and the church, as Christians we need to make sure we are not condoning extra-biblical gender stereotypes. We find nothing in the Bible to discourage women from becoming engineers or men to become preschool teachers. God does not frown at boys playing with dolls or girls using power tools (under supervision of course). There are exemplary women and mothers in the Bible doing business, influencing governments or working out in the fields all day. In fact, God gives us great liberty within the framework of his word to use the gifts he has given us to work for his glory and for the good of the community. So as we celebrate mothers we want to celebrate all mothers not just a Victorian stereotype of motherhood that was more cultural than biblical.

But neither should we ignore the different roles God has given mothers and fathers in the family which will at times influence the our decisions and priorities. The roles of mother and father are not entirely ‘gender-neutral’. We want to embrace and celebrate the God given differences for fathers and mothers. And it follows that generally speaking, what God has called men and women to do in terms of their roles tends to be reflected in their bodies and characteristics. For example, I think it is dishonest and damaging to dismiss any discussion about whether women by character and disposition might be better at nurturing young children. Even though there is equal freedom for men and women to work, women are still the primary caregivers for children (and indeed for Elderly people) – women are 4 times more likely than men to be a stay at home parent. Is this simply a cultural hangover from the past or is there something deeper about the way we are made and called?

Even if you agree that the song is rather narrowly focussed and could offend, I am concerned at the way we are so sensitive and seemingly insecure that even the slightest deviation from the accepted narrative, however well intentioned, is pounced upon and apologies swiftly issued. We seem to have lost any sense of proportion and ability to forgive.

So let's celebrate mothers, giving thanks to God for them and embrace their unique role expressed in diverse ways which recognises the glorious variety of God’s creation.

 


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