I was a mother a few weeks before our first wedding anniversary.
What did I have to offer this sweet, demanding infant who awakened in me strange stirrings of emotion and resolution? I had my own genetic makeup and some babysitting experiences. I don’t remember, now, but I imagine I read books full of advice. And, without being conscious of it, I took from the four most important women in my early years – my four ‘mothers,’ as it were – the approach to mothering that I made my own.
These four women are a study in contrasts. My birth mother cared for me until I was eight when she and my father divorced. She was an impractical dreamer with aspirations to become known for her writing, not her children. When she and my father disappeared from my life, Aunt Helen took over with Grandmother Harriet keeping tabs as best as she could.
Auntie was musical and temperamental. An alcoholic, she lacked supervisory skills. She probably did love me and my sister though it was difficult for her to express it – or for me to appreciate it. My grandmother, on the other hand, was an outspoken Christian with an unpredictable lifestyle full of eclectic preferences. I both loved and feared her.
By my fifteenth birthday, my father had established a home with a Norwegian young woman he had married at the end of World War II. Quiet, even an introvert, she was just eleven years older than me. I don’t remember that she attempted to be my mother emotionally, but she was sweet, domestically skilled and steady. Many years later, I think of her as the one true mother that God provided for me. She was pregnant with her third and last child when I was pregnant with my first. She died of cancer when that last child was in kindergarten and I was in Africa.
So what is the purpose for this ‘parade’ of mothers besides to confess to the topsy-turvy upbringing that impacted the way I established my own mother role? Perhaps these musings help me be gentler on myself as I struggle with memories of the ways I went wrong, and the knowledge that I don’t remember them all. And – to pass on to you some conclusions I’ve come to about motherhood:
- God places in every woman a mothering instinct. It’s part of her DNA.
- God provides for each girl a unique set of circumstances as she grows up that impacts the way she will mother her own when the time comes.
- Sin twists God’s design as it has from Eve, humanity’s first mother, to today. The outcome for each woman is a mixture of pain and joy.
- Women who are blessed to have daughters do well to give thought and prayer to the ways they are developing the next generation of mothers. James 1:5 comes to mind here…if anyone lacks wisdom…
- The characteristics we associate with mothers – nourishing and protecting their young – are a reflection of God’s character.
God speaking: As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13