While Mothers’ Day has been highly commercialised, in many ways, the focus on mothers in a spirit of love and gratitude is appropriate.
Perhaps the day may be marked by quiet reflection on the life and contribution of a mother now passed – her sayings, particular talents now evident in later generations, or stories of remarkable events that stand out in our memories.
Others new or old to mothering have much to contend with in the changing hormones and physical shape that marks the passage to motherhood. Then there is the uncertainty of raising children in an era of rapidly changing social values and loss of leadership. In confusion we might ask what is the right thing to do in any particular situation. Decisions and action taken depends on context and capability. Being imperfect means that not every decision we make will hit the spot and we must learn to be comfortable with our limitations while constantly striving to do our best.
Guilt is the gift that goes on giving. Guilt can end up being the constant companion of mothers who have not been able to come to terms with their own or their children’s limitations, or who have lost confidence in themselves under the weight of criticism from partner, complaints from children or damaging asides from peers and experts who may never have done the 24/7 schedule of parenting.
For Mothers’ Day, I suggest all mothers give themselves a break from guilt. If you have been remiss in some way (not just someone else telling you where you have failed), by all means take appropriate measure to make amends. However, nobody is perfect. People with the best intentions and the most love can still make mistakes. On our special day, put aside the guilt and take time to reflect on just where we have tried and been successful, or not. Mothers’ Day is a time to love ourselves, as much as we have loved others. Jesus and Jordan Peterson said so. On this day, others who have been much loved are stirred to remember those who have gifted them with life and love.
The Maturity Model for decision making, outlined in my book Becoming: the ordinary person’s road map to life’s big decisions, can help mothers (and others) struggling with responsibility and guilt to assume only that for which they are responsible. In doing, so we build more sustainable families and more harmonious relationships as others are challenged to ‘pick up their own bed and walk’.
Saccharin, joyous pictures of mothers, children and families of the advertising world are true, though not an entire truth. As mothers we must be ever ready and predisposed to relish the small gains, the joy in our children’s efforts and achievements, the quiet contentment shared, experiences together. Joy in such outcomes become memories to be dusted off in less favourable times. Often, much work and planning has gone into deriving the results, yet it is the pleasure in the outcomes that linger.
Just as important is for mothers to be willing and gracious receivers of love, thoughtful gifts and service that are returned to us as our children and grandchildren grow up and wish to reciprocate in their own special way. A hand-made card with a thoughtful message, a bunch of flowers, interest in a story or message, the grace of listening are experiences for a mother to treasure.
What is your love language
In his book, The 5 love languages, Gary Chapman asks the reader to explore the love language they find most appealing, as a way of understanding what love means to ourselves and others. Chapman’s premise is that when we ‘gift’ others with love in the language that most appeals to the recipient, relationships are enhanced.
Expressions of love fit into one of the following categories:
- Words of affirmation
- Gift giving
- Acts of service
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Sharing your preferred love language with others may help to ensure you receive the gifts most likely to please. For someone who has experienced many negative experiences, genuine words of affirmation are music to my ears, lifting spirits and hope. Quality time is highly valued by those who live alone and whose families are ever busy. Being truly present to someone (not constantly checking the smart phone) can enrich and deepen our human capacity to know, love and understand those of a different era and values who may have contributed significantly, and at great cost, to our wellbeing.
Celebrating ourselves is important. Pain, suffering and enduring are certainly part of the story of life to which we are inured and integral to being a mother. All too infrequently do we remember that resurrection is also part of the same story. Life is uplifted as difficulties are overcome, children grow up (we live in hope), relationships and prospects improve, giving us cause to celebrate.
Whether or not reward is commensurate with effort, whether or not our young or adult children appreciate what we have done, whether or not we enjoy respect, acceptance and tolerance from them, we can celebrate our perseverance and survival as mothers. We can rejoice in children and grandchildren who confirm the value of our life, whether or not we have access to their companionship.
Because it is so important to celebrate, on Mothers’ Day a group of young and older mothers of various standing gather over lunch and champagne to share our stories, joys and hopes. We celebrate what we have achieved; honour each other with true presence as we bless each other on Mothers’ Day.
May all mothers enjoy the love and respect of family and be likewise honoured for their contribution to life.