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Finding a holiness in our maternal relationships this Mother's Day

By James Puglisi
Special to the American-Statesman
James Puglisi is a professional with 25-plus years in the field of training, committed to building equity, diversity, and inclusion, through fostering dialogue and community building.

Motherhood is a popular theme this time of year.

The recent Earth Day festivities sparked thoughts of motherhood, in this case of Mother Earth. The creation, as many traditions refer to it, including my own Roman Catholic heritage, is amazing in the complexity of its design while often reliant upon the simplest relationships of its inhabitants.

Despite the damaging impact of human and natural forces, there is a unique restorative and adaptive power at work. Mother Earth keeps fighting and renewing.

The nature of human relationships, such as that between mother and child, and other forms of familial relationships, reflects a similar dynamic to that of Mother Earth. We are complex in our interactions, possessing remarkable potential and orientation toward resilience and restorative possibilities, despite the dysfunction that often accompanies human and social relationships.

Mother’s Day is also upon us. Many religions have a special reverence for mothers. Branches of Christianity associate motherhood with the Virgin Mary. Many Hindus celebrate Mata Tirtha Aunsi, or “Mother Pilgrimage Fortnight.” Islam gives priority in the Quran to loving one’s mother. And many Buddhists celebrate Ullambana, based on the story of Maudgalyayana and his mother.

Many will joyfully and finally celebrate in-person this year. And others, like myself, will be “zooming” as my mom lives in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, she is savvy with social media due to her great-granddaughter. Kids seem born with a technology gene.

In between COVID-19 surges at my nephew’s wedding, we even got a photo of all four generations with my mom, sister, niece, and great-niece. That was a lot of motherhood in one photo.

The past two years have been catastrophically hard on many families, separated and unable to be with their moms and extended families. Many have dealt with the passing of their mom and loved ones, while isolated due to the pandemic and lacking the ability to mourn in more typical. Mourning is difficult enough without the conditions COVID-19 has subjected people to.

My understanding of Mother’s Day has changed. The traditional ideal of the “nuclear family” and the role of motherhood, does not represent everyone’s family experience.

It is not the norm for everyone and is a situation often out of people’s control. Many are physically unable to have children. Many deal with issues of abuse, neglect or addiction, which impact family dynamics and relationships.

Families get separated and displaced due to war, natural disasters and violence in their communities as we have seen with our southern border, wars in Syria and the Ukraine, and tornadoes in north Austin.

Many like my mother, lost their mother at a young age, having little to no memory of them. Others are even restricted from experiencing motherhood by social and religious conventions. Society is complex and traditional norms perhaps aren’t as traditional as we believe them to be. The role of Mother is more complex than what I saw as a child.

I am grateful that my mother and I have grown to a place where we have begun to explore the depth of our relationship — an experience denied her with her own mom. She and I seem to grow more vulnerable as we grow older, willing to name our faults with each other, to express remorse, even learning to verbally express our emotions of love and even anger with each other, something that didn’t always come easy. We keep growing together. I am grateful to have her in my life in ways denied her.

As we embrace Mother’s Day, I pray we all tap into what gives up meaning, embracing those relationships that have given birth to and nurtured the substance of who we are.

James Puglisi is a local educator and interfaith leader and is the owner and Principal Consultant of Puglisi Consulting LLC. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org