Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. It is a day often fraught with emotion – hope and disappointment, joy and sadness, pride, anger, guilt, gratitude are among the feelings that this annual ritual evokes. Why is this day so loaded with feelings?
Sheer numbers are part of the reason. According to the census bureau, 80.5 million women in the U.S. are mothers, and every one of us has a mother, at least by biology.
Ever since Eve was declared “the mother of all living,” women have been blamed for their children’s problems and lauded for their successes. And as mothers, we buy into it. We glow with pride as family and friends ooh and aah over our newborn babies. We cheer when the baby walks across the kitchen floor for the first time, and when he or she walks across the stage to collect a reward or diploma. When our children score the winning touch down or bring home the gold our jubilation knows no bounds. Their success in the adult world is in some measure ours as well.
As are their failures. If their development is delayed, they struggle with academics or win the prize for the most suspensions in one year; the failure is ours as well as theirs. If their life choices take them in directions that society, or we ourselves, do not approve we feel the disappointment and share the blame.
Public figures often credit their mother’s dedication, devotion or determination with their success, and criminals are likely to use a dysfunctional family as a defense for all manner of evil deeds.
As a matter of fact, the quality of parenting we receive does have a huge effect on our lives. However, Mom does not carry the entire responsibility, even if she is the only parent in a child’s life.
Studies of identical twins separated at birth indicate that genetics accounts for about 60 percent of who we are in terms of personality, intelligence and innate giftedness, as well as physical characteristics. The other 40 percent comes from all other factors including family, peers, school, life experiences, and opportunity.
As mothers we are responsible to our children to provide an environment in which they can grow and flourish. Being only human, we will make mistakes large and small. We can only do the best that we can do.
However, we are not responsible for our children’s happiness, their choices, their success or their failures. The whole point of parenting is preparing a child to be an independent, responsible adult. That means, stepping back, letting go and allowing them to make age-appropriate choices—even when it’s not what we would choose for them.
If all goes well, they will land on careers, lifestyles, and partners that bring them happiness and make us proud. And they will enrich our lives still more by giving us grandchildren to dote on.
However, all does not always go well. Children may be lost to us through estrangement or premature death. Some children have disabilities that render them unable to live independently. Others are irresponsible or make heartbreaking choices.
Even so, the place a child holds in our mother-hearts will never be filled by anyone or anything else. Small wonder Mother’s Day is so emotional. Children steal our hearts before they are born, and never give them back.
Also published on Medium.
I am a North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor with 20 years experience in the field and many more years of life experience. I entered the counseling profession in mid-life after putting in time as a stay-at-home mom, a freelance writer, a journalist, and a United States-based missionary. I love walking alongside those who are seeking to find themselves, heal a relationship, or recover from trauma. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, and hanging out with my grandsons.