This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, a century-old tradition of taking time to thank and honour our amazing mums. Mums are special people we owe so much to – in addition to our very existence! Most mums are faithful, loyal, hard-working, loving and caring people. We honour and applaud them today. Of course, Mother’s Day brings a variety of emotion with it – gratitude, if you had a great mum, some sadness and pain if you had a difficult or absent mum, and grief if you wanted to be a mum but haven’t yet been able to have children.
My mother was Muriel Joyce Conner (nee Douglas). She was born in Bendigo and grew up there on a sheep farm before meeting my dad and moving to Melbourne. She was a very warm and caring person. I am so thankful for her love and the constant encouragement she gave me as a boy growing up. I miss her hugs and our many conversations together. She passed away suddenly in October, 1990 (see “My Encounter with Grief“).
What was your mother like? Mothers are highly influential people but no mother is perfect. Ideally, they provide care, love, nurture and protection for their children, but that isn’t always the case. In their recent book, Our Mothers, Ourselves: How Understanding Your Mother’s Influence Can Set You on a Path of a Better Life, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (best-selling authors of Boundaries) unpack how our mothers shape us – for better or worse, including describing different types of mothers and styles of mothering. These include the Phantom Mum, the China Doll Mum, the Controlling Mother, the Trophy Mum, the Still-the-Boss Mum, and the American Express Mum. It is easy to dismiss the past, but even as adults we need to understand our mother’s pervasive influence on our life.
No matter what our mother was like, we need to give them love and respect, gratitude, and forgiveness. In addition, we need to “leave” appropriately and be who we are, severing that umbilical cord of dependence, as it were. Then we return, hopefully as friends.
The Art of Mothering
All mothers should seek to be the best mothers that they can be. This includes making a choice to:
- Love unconditionally. True love is not just an emotion but is an act of will to do what is best for another person, regardless of what they are like. Kids aren’t perfect yet they need to know they are loved … no matter what.
- Affirm frequently. Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21). Use them for good – to build up your children (Ephesians 4:29). Children thrive under encouragement, affirmation and praise.
- Instruct clearly. Establish clear expectations and consequences, then follow through consistently. Teach desired behaviour (what) and the values behind it (why). Example is essential (kids do what they see), as is a loving relationship.
- Discipline lovingly. Loving discipline is about giving appropriate consequences for disobedience, not abuse or harsh, angry punishment.
- Empower fully. As children grow and mature, empower them more to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own lives. Our kids are really not ours. We don’t own or possess them. They are gifts …. loaned for a time. Help them become who they were designed to be. Don’t project your own wishes on them. Then trust God and let go of any unnecessary guilt or condemnation for the choices they may choose to make.
God as Mother?
Sometimes mums can find it difficult to see themselves as a reflection of the image of God. This may be because of the number of male references to God in the Bible, such as ‘king’ or ‘Father’. But God is not male! God created women so if he was a man this would be impossible because we all know that men know nothing about women!
God is Spirit. He transcends gender yet includes what we know as male and female. Men and women were both created in God’s image. God has both masculine and feminine qualities, including motherly traits of caretaker, comforter and nurturer (see Isaiah 42:14; 49:14-16; 66:13. Hosea 13:8. Matthew 23:37). That’s why it takes both men and women to reflect God accurately.
Mums – like all women, you are made in the image of God. You reflect his nature and his characteristics … even in the mothering of your children. Walk with a sense of dignity and honour. You matter … just because of who you are.
- What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
- Think about your own mother. What are you thankful for? What was difficult?
- Reflect on the “art of mothering”. Reflect on how God is the model of the perfect parent.
- Consider the feminine aspects of God’s nature – love, care and nurture. Why do we struggle with seeing God this way? What do we miss out by thinking of God only in male images?
- Reflect on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. What can we learn from her? A few years back, I shared a message on “Jesus and His Mother“. You can listen to the message on my podcast (also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify) or watch the message.
- Finish by saying a prayer for all of our family relationships.