Mother’s Day 2018: What Does it Mean to be a Mother?

Today is, of course, “Mother’s Day” in Australia. It’s defined as “a day reserved for celebrating and honouring the mother of the family, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society”.

It’s worthwhile considering the ideas that surround motherhood and maternal bonds, as these bonds and positive influences are incredibly important to a healthy and well-functioning society. Removing the influence of mothers in society can and does have devastating consequences for communities.

What Issues Can Children Face Growing Up?

Children can be affected by many things growing up, such as poverty, illness or neglect. However, one of the biggest issues that will affect a child is to grow up without a mother.

Abandonment can occur when a mother physically, emotionally or psychologically removes herself from her children. She does this by ending or ignoring her responsibility to parent her children, or ending her relationship with her children.

However, sometimes a child is “abandoned” by a mother through no fault of the mother, such as in the case of death or serious disability. Such loss is often unpredictable and unpreventable, but the feelings of abandonment by the child can still be the same.

The Loss Of A Mother Is Profound

Studies suggest that growing up without a father will often result in difficulties with male figures later in life. However, children who grow up motherless will have trouble establishing normal relationships with both male and female peers. In many instances, a child who has lost their mother, even through death or absence will display anger, mood swings and physical aggression. Research seems to suggest that the absence of a mother has a far more profound effect on a child’s relationships as an adult, than the absence of a father.

The loss or lack of a mother plays deeply into the psychology of an individual and the effects can be often deep rooted and life-long.

Studies have concluded that the lack of a secure attachment relationship in the early years has detrimental consequences for both physical and mental health later in life, with long-lasting effects that vary by sex. The persistence of these effects after the end of treatment emphasises the need to intervene early in life to prevent long-term damage.

Another scientific paper published argues that investing in early childhood education provides a greater return for society than virtually any other type of spending, not only because of increased educational success and productivity, but also because of reduced crime, addiction, distress and disorder.

“This study shows that early life conditions critically affect adult health. Maternal attachment plays a fundamental role in shaping who we are; remove it and the harm is great.” – James Heckman, Nobel-prize-winning economist

Maternal Influence Is Fundamental In Shaping Who We Are

While the influence of women has grown in our modern times, giving rise to the feminist movement and bringing with it more equitable situations for many women, the important of the influence of mothers is sometimes overlooked or downplayed.

Women are encouraged and told to find fulfilment in a career, not in raising children. Children are increasingly being cared for by strangers ,while many women hold down full time employment or pursue opportunities. There are, of course, many reasons why women need or choose to work, and this article isn’t designed to analyse or criticise those choices.

It is, however, designed to invite consideration of the value that ‘mothering’ provides to an individual and how important, and in fact fundemental, the influence of mothers are in society.

Motherhood could be called the most difficult endeavour or even profession on earth but one whose value is simply incalculable.

Raising a child isn’t secondary to a successful career or your spiritual work in your church or community – it is a vastly important primary work. You are significantly involved in shaping the character and development of a child, both emotionally and spiritually – who they are and who they will become. This is both a huge responsibility and an amazing privilege.

A mother is one of the most important and significant figures in a child’s life. Their role, as guide, support and educator is one of the most critical roles a woman will ever undertake.

Biblical Examples Of Great Mothers

One of life’s greatest blessings is to have the unwavering love and care of a mother. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts a woman can give to a child is to be that mother (or mother-figure in a child’s life).

Proverbs 31:1-9 are words of advice given to King Lemuel by his mother (not his father, presumably the king) on how to be a good king and what kind of mother to choose for his own children.

Timothy, a young man for whom Paul the Apostle had great fondness, is described as having a “rich faith, handed down from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.”(2 Tim 1:5-7). Not only that, these women took proactive steps to teach Timothy the words of scripture, giving him both written proof and living example of a life lived with God.

And Jesus, saviour of the world, was born to Mary, who was specifically chosen for the responsibility of mothering God’s only son! Luke 1:26-26 tells us that the angel greeted her as one who was “highly favoured by God”. Her character and disposition would clearly have been an important factor in the influence of the young Jesus’ life and we can be certain that God would have taken no chances that His son would be raised by a “bad mother”. Mary, the mother of God’s son, was an insignificant young woman from a small family, who grew up in Nazareth – all but unknown to the outside world. Yet her character and who she could be was what God clearly saw and what He wanted to work with.

There are many examples of mothers who inspired others and were faithful examples, from Naomi and Ruth, to Jochabed, the mother of Moses and Hannah, the mother of Samuel. These were women who exhibited great faith, enduring courage and took significant risks for the sake of their families. In fact, the influence of some of these women changed the course of history – and that’s no small thing!

The influence of sincere and genuine faith in a mother can clearly be seen by a child and gives valuable weight to the foundations upon which life is built.

A ‘Mother’ Isn’t Just Biological

Of course, a ‘mother’ isn’t always necessarily the parent of a child. ‘Mothers’ can be all kinds of maternal influences in a child’s life, from step-mother or older sister, foster or adopted mother and even close family friend.

Being able to become a mother to your own child is perhaps one of life’s greatest joys. However, it’s not always possible for many women. But just as Abraham was a father to many more children than just the two literal sons he had, a woman can also be a spiritual mother – mentor and maternal influence in both physical and spiritual ways to children not her own.

Today is about celebrating and honouring the special maternal influence that women bring to a child’s life and how critically important and valuable that influence is.

Practical Advice For All Mothers

How do women ensure that they are being positive ‘mothers’ in the lives of those children with whom they have influence? And how does a community support women in this noble endeavour?

  • A mother must grow herself.
    You cannot impart what you do not possess. If children don’t see you changing through your growing understanding of and obedience to God’s Word and seeing that put into real living, they won’t be motivated to choose that for themselves. A mother must show how to be, not by doing but by being themselves. You can’t expect a child to show patience, forgiveness or humbleness if you don’t display it yourself. Be the example rather than telling a child how to behave.
  • A mother must value herself and her role
    Develop and foster a true sense of the worth of your work as a mother – it is no small task with insignificant value but hugely important and precious. If you don’t find it valuable and constantly relegate it to an inferior position, your children will learn to do the same.
  • A mother must be proactive
    Be proactive in your choices for your children, ensuring they are equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities to make it as a competent human being. In turn, they also learn to be proactive as adults and pass this onto their children.
  • A community must subscribe to the value that mothers provide to society.
    If we want children to learn about the value of mothers, then we need to consider the example we set and the opportunities that we provide for such learning to occur. Highlighting the importance and value of mothers, encouraging and supporting them and showing respect for their role in a visible way for children is an important way to do this.

Eve – The First Of All Mothers

Eve, the first woman created was named “Eve” meaning “living” or “to give life”. She was not named and defined for posterity by her femininity, but rather the fact of her being “the mother of all living’. A woman’s most powerful and influential role is to be a mother – to either her own children, if she’s blessed with them, or to other children whom she has a relationship with.

In the same way that Eve became the mother to all living, a woman can become a mother to many and be a positive, influencing force in a child’s life.

God Is Full Of Motherly Love and Compassion

A mother’s maternal influence and nature come from God himself! While we often think of God in mostly masculine language, here are some instances where the Bible describes God in terms more recognisable as ‘maternal’:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge …” (Psalm 91:4)

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I [God] will not forget you!” (Isaiah. 49:15)

“Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open.” (Hosea 13:8)

The Old Testament consistently merges the images and metaphors of the fatherly God with motherly compassion and love. We realise that the dual aspects of paternal strength and maternal compassion found in men and women come from God. All are contained within His incredible person, and seen in the unique roles men and women, and by extension, fathers and mothers have within society.

The Ideal Woman And Mother

The advice given to the King by his mother in Proverbs 31 concludes by listing the ‘ideal woman’ or wife. At first glance, the list of all the amazing attributes of this woman seem daunting and unachievable. Yet, on closer examination, this chapter isn’t simply listing off all this woman’s achievements but rather showing examples of her attitude and state of mind in practical use.

Proverbs 31 suddenly becomes hugely inspirational to all women as something very achievable and possible to aim for, both as a woman and as a mother.

“She laughs at the days to come, her children arise and called her blessed, she is clothed with strength and dignity” Proverbs 31

So, on this Mothers Day 2018, let’s celebrate mothers, or, more accurately, the maternal influence that women have on humanity, and recognise it as a gift that comes to us from God. In a mother’s love for their child, we see something of the amazing goodness and love of God for His children.

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