Through the Prism of Mother’s Day


When I went back to university a couple years ago to finish my degree, I took Physics 206: “Waves and Optics”. We learned a lot about light, to say the least. One of the most basic concepts is that the light around us, white light, is a combination of all the visible wavelengths of colored light. Red light has the longest wavelength of visible light and violet has the shortest, with orange, yellow, green, and blue in the middle. When a ray of white light enters a prism, it refracts, or bends. Different wavelengths refract at different angles, so by the time the light leaves the prism, it is no longer travelling as a single ray. The white light has been dispersed into a series of colors called the visible spectrum.


In nature when sunlight (white light) shines through a raindrop (a prism) it produces a rainbow (the color spectrum), as aptly illustrated here, in the backyard of one of the homes we lived in on the side of Poas volcano, in Costa Rica.  A picture doesn’t even touch the spectacular beauty of the real thing.


Just as refracting white light through a prism is only one of many ways we can manipulate how we see light, childless women are only one category of women in general. As childless women, we are united in that aspect of our lives, a beam of white light as we all travel together, so to speak. And then we hit the prism of Mother’s Day (there are others, of course, but it’s May so this is the one we’re running with today). The specific wavelength we’re travelling on determines the angles at which we are capable of bending, and where we will be when we come through on the other side. We will not all be sobbing wrecks (although some will be). We will not all be doing mental gymnastics with the definition of motherhood to make it apply to us (although some will more than others). We will not all skip church that day (although there is NO way to give out flowers that is not awkward). I know from my own experiences, and the stories of women on this website and in the group, that the prism of Mother’s Day disperses individuals from the common white light of childlessness throughout an array of different colored emotions and circumstances.

I dare say every childless woman has come through the prism of Mother’s Day as red, at some point in her experience. She is devastated. Her heart feels as if it has burst and she can barely breathe through the agony of it. She may not be in church on Mother’s Day, in an effort to preserve some semblance of sanity and because it is impossible for her to hide her tears. Drop her a note of love and tell her you remembered her. If you are particularly close to her, go and find her. Let your embrace be a safe place for her to cry and rage, without any judgement. There are no words that make it any better, but as you mourn with her, you will ease the burden of her grief. She will be able to breathe a bit easier, and that will be enough.

A woman who comes through the prism as orange is particularly vulnerable to the Mother’s Day sentiments that bearing and raising children is the most noble calling that God has given to women, and the only way to truly fulfill our purpose on earth and have joy. In addition to working through the grief of burying every dream for every child she ever imagined, her sense of worth to self and society is trampled into the ground. Her husband has probably figured out by now that it’s wiser to go away for a mini-vacay on Mother’s Day weekend than deal with the fallout. When she gets back, tell her she is a daughter of God who loves her, and that you do too. Tell her that anyone who says there is only one way for her to live up to the Lord’s expectations of her is full of it. She will gain some glimpse of her potential, and that will be enough.

A woman who exits the prism as yellow may finally have a sense of optimism for what the future holds. She can feel the sunshine (likely while on that mini-vacay) as she moves toward the outer edge of the dark void. Share your stories of joy and fulfillment in your childless life. Be her example of strength and source of hope for good things to come. Offer your love and encouragement, and that will be enough.

A woman who comes through the Mother’s Day prism as green is moving forward in learning the lessons that are inherent to motherhood, from other sources. She will come to love unconditionally and serve when it isn’t convenient. She will give of her time, talents, and resources wherever and whenever the Lord has need of them. She may still struggle with feeling everything she does is second best. Thank her sincerely for all of her efforts. Let her know how she has made a difference in the lives of others, and that will be enough.

A woman who comes through the prism as blue has found her place in the world. She is confident in her sense of self. She does not struggle to live a life that is not hers but is willing to let go and move on, trusting that the Lord knows what he’s doing. She may not look heartbroken on Mother’s Day, but it’s not because she must not have really wanted kids badly enough. Don’t question her motives and second guess her decisions. She will know she has support in this next phase of her life, and that will be enough.

A woman who comes through the prism as violet may seem cold, or even cynical about Mother’s Day. She may not feel that it has anything to do with her. She may have cried all her tears. She may have simply had enough. Tell her you appreciate her for who she is and what she does. Give her a hug. She will feel your warmth, and that will be enough.

Sometimes it is difficult for a childless woman herself to know where she will come out on the color spectrum after being refracted through the prism of Mother’s Day. She doesn’t always have much say in the matter either. But just as Newton found it was possible to refract the dispersed colors of the rainbow back into a single ray of white light, we childless sisters, with the help of empathetic others, can be gathered in from wherever we are in the vast array of colors to provide a cohesive illumination and warmth to each other, and the world around us.

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life." Robert Louis Stevenson


  1. Desi
    May 6, 2014 at 12:20 am

    Lovely post Janell! I loved how you expressed how we may all have our different light that we reflect and the broadness of the experiences we may be having.

  2. May 6, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Well done Janelle. It is not only childless sisters who are uncomfortable with Mothers’ Day. I dislike the obligatory nature of this sham of a festivity. I object to the motherhood & apple pie mentality of so many LDS. I am a child of God TRUE & he has sent me here TRUE Has given me an earthly home TRUE With parents kind & dear VERY OFTEN NOT TRUE!

  3. May 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Perhaps I am Indigo…. I’m really surprised that each of these colors has a current or previous negative emotion attached to it. (even yellow… “as she moves toward the outer edge of the dark void…”) I don’t have kids yet and I’m not upset about it and I enjoy getting that flower from the cute kids at church.

    I do however relate more to what Karen pointed out in regards to celebrating my own mother, ha.

    • Janell
      May 8, 2014 at 1:34 am

      Hi Catherine,

      Indigo isn’t on the color spectrum as far as physics is concerned 😉 The key word in your comment is “yet”. You don’t have kids yet, which I would assume means you are planning on them being a part of your life. “Childless” anywhere on this blog doesn’t refer to women who have not pursued having children yet, so it is understandable that you do not relate to Mother’s Day as discussed here. It is not part of your life experience. “Childless” in our discussions is a permanent state, after any number of life circumstances have dictated that desired children will not be had in this lifetime. When you decide to pursue your family, if, God forbid, it doesn’t come to pass in the time frame you have planned, give it another 3, 5, 8 or 12 years of frustration, stress, physical pain, emotional agony, financial hardship, uncertainty, and grief, and I guarantee you will understand the emotions behind every one of these colors. And we will be here for you :)

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