May brings a time when we think about Mother’s Day. Some of us have warm memories of a mother who nurtured us from newborn to adulthood. She loved unconditionally, disciplined firmly and taught valuable life lessons from how to do laundry to how to love. The older we get, the wiser she’s become, and we are so grateful for the role model she was.
For others, Mother’s Day is tough. There are “unmothered daughters,” raised by mothers who were absent, abusive, or narcissistic. There are women who’ve battled infertility or miscarriage, and some have longed to be a mother but have yet to find the right husband. There are women who’ve become content as doting aunts and others who’ve poured out their motherly love through volunteering.
I was an unmothered daughter, raised by adoptive parents who were much older than the parents of all my friends. As I reflect I realize my mother didn’t have the natural gifts or learned skills for motherhood, because she didn’t have a role model who prepared her for that role. For years I compared her to my “real mother,” who I imagined was vibrant, loving and fun. Instead of experiencing a healthy, nurturing mother/daughter relationship, my adoptive mother and I fought like cats. Unfortunately neither of us leaned on the Lord during those years, and by the time my faith led me to understanding and forgiveness, it was too late.
My daughter once asked how I’d become the mother I am with the relationship I had with my mother. I told her it’s by God’s grace and because I’ve been influenced by other women. My first mentor was a high school teacher who’s still a good friend. My pastor told a story about his wife, who would lie across the bed in their daughter’s room and talk with them for hours. That one small story gave me a vision of what I wanted my life to be. I watched the moms of friends when I was young and relished in the friendships I had as a young adult with godly women. The older I got the more I treasured the women who guided and shaped me—sometimes unknowingly—as I became the mother I wanted to be.
All of us need women in our lives; women who “mother us” as they share their wisdom and encouragement, while loving us unconditionally in our imperfection. We need women to laugh and cry with, giving us the freedom to be real. We need teachers, motivators and accountability partners, and we must have women in our lives who pick us up when we’re down. Life is a team sport, and we cannot do it alone.
Likewise we need to “mother others,” nurturing our children, sisters, nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers through our words and actions. No matter how young or old we are, no matter what our status in life, we have so much to give. We are role models in our everyday lives. Someone is always watching.
Think of the women who’ve influenced your life. Has your mother shaped you in a positive way? Are there other women who’ve had a part in who you are today? This month write a note of thanks to each one. Even better, make some phone calls. For those who may not be alive, tell their children how special they were.
In the same spirit of gratitude, consider how you can influence others. Is there someone in your life who needs encouragement? Do you know someone who’s struggling with life in general? Be on the lookout for someone who needs your wise guidance at work or in her personal life or who’s feeling isolated and just needs a friend. You might make a profound difference in her life, just by opening up and being you.