On Sunday, May 13, 2018, many people will pay homage to their mothers. No matter the distance, flowers will be sent and phones will be ringing as sons and daughters take a few moments to honor the woman who nurtured and cared for them, who was the source and sustenance of life, and to acknowledge her sacrifices. On this day, once a year, we recognize the value of a mother.
But there is, for many, a contradiction that belies our actions. While we rightly honor our mothers on Mother’s Day, at the same time we devalue their role. For example, the recognition and awareness of the crucial role of mothering in a child’s healthy development, and consequently, to future generations, is gradually being eroded. It is often seen as a secondary role in the scheme of our busy lives.
In fact, psychologist and author, Penelope Leach says in her book, “Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone,” (2009), “unlike all other mammals, most of the growth of the human brain is postnatal, and continues for several years.”1 Social and economic pressures continue to present conflicts for mothers in terms of child care at the same time attachment theory emphasizes the importance of mothering in the early years.
Perhaps we can best assess the value of a mother in the event of her absence. Her loss may be because of an untimely death, or she may be present physically but absent emotionally or psychologically through mental illness or other debilitating disorders.
Not until we experience a pain in our inconspicuous little toe or in our unobtrusive thumb, are we even aware of their presence or value to us in our daily lives.
But mothers don’t have to be perfect. She, too, was once a child with her own vicissitudes of life. And, like you, she also has her needs and cares as an adult. Yet, she performs a multitude of tasks in ensuring her child’s needs are met that is a greater challenge and more important than any other undertaking. We can attempt to delineate her role in three areas: providing the basic needs physically, emotionally and psychologically; protecting from harm, along with safety, security and stability; being a role model that offers guidance as we make our way in the world.
In what way can we define her worth? Do we put a monetary value on it? That is impossible because it is priceless.
Importance of Mother
To this point, I have only described the practical responsibilities that mothers do. What cannot be seen, but only felt, is the unconditional love that permeates her actions, which envelops her child like a warm blanket. And much like Linus, a character in the Peanuts comic strip, he clings to that security blanket like a lifeline (Charles Schulz, 1952).2
Perhaps the importance of mothers can best be expressed in the words of the child in each of us.
She gives me a hug when I am sad
And holds me close when I am mad.
She cools my brow when I am sick.
And puts my art work on the fridge.
She makes me wear mittens, and a toque, and a scarf, and boots when it’s cold outside, even if I don’t want to.
She holds me when I have bad dreams, when I am afraid of the dark, or when lightning and thunder scare me.
She kisses me for no reason.
She loves me just because I’m me.
These needs are not just for children. They remain with us all our lives. We learn how to satisfy them better as we ‘mature’, but when life overwhelms us, or we feel sad or lonely or frightened, we all hunger for a mother’s touch, for a mother’s hug, for a mother’s love.
As Barbra Streisand sings in the song, ‘People’, “we are …letting our grown-up pride hide all the need inside… ”3
Loss of Love
That is why the most fundamental loss of a mother is the loss of love. A child may recognize who he or she has lost but not what they have lost. Only in her absence does the impact of the loss become clearer over time. Only in her absence does her value become perceptible. Only when it disappears is the value of a mother deeply felt. And, it is irreplaceable.
Doris Lessing, a Nobel Prize-winning author and lecturer at the CBC Massey Lectures in an essay entitled, ‘Prisons We Choose to Live Inside,’ shared a deep insight when she said that “…what we have we take for granted. What we are used to, we cease to value.”4
To those who are fortunate to still have mothers in their lives, be thankful, and let her know how much she is cherished. For those who don’t, treasure the memories that have become even more precious. And for those who are themselves mothers, you have undertaken the most difficult but important task of life with all its pleasures and perils. You have taken on the most valuable contribution to society and its future. So, to mothers and to those who ‘mother,’ we honor you, today and everyday.
- Leach, Penelope, “Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone,” Alfred A. Knopf, N.Y., 2009,
- Lessing, Doris, “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside,” First published by CBC Enterprises in 1986. Published also by House of Anansi Press Ltd. (1991) (74).