I believe that women are born with a God-given instinct to mother. They have an internal desire to nurture and care for others. Those on the receiving end of a mother’s love clearly understand and deeply value its importance. Yet, like most instincts, there are potential risks involved in the desire to mother.
The need to be needed is so strong for some women that they become vulnerable to relationships where they are taken advantage of by irresponsible or abusive users.
Women who suffer from the absence of healthy father-daughter relationships and low self-esteem often end up in these kinds of relationships. They feel a significant void and sometimes try to fill it by nurturing needy people around them.
In meeting their need to be needed, these women often hurt themselves and those they’re mothering.
I caution single women not to allow a desire to mother influence their decision for marriage. I assure them that if they marry and have children, they don’t want their husband to be one of them. Sadly, many women find themselves working through the challenges of being married to big irresponsible kids.
Some mothers do not know when to stop mothering and become either enablers or controllers. They fail to see mothering as a task with the goal of nurturing those under their care to places of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. These women allow fear of not being needed to control them and risk creating relationships of unhealthy dependency or suffocating those they perceive to be under their care.
Freedom from these tendencies requires honesty about one’s motives in “mothering.” By asking themselves hard questions, they can avoid the dangers associated with mothering. “Is my role as a mother more about my need to be needed than raising children to maturity and independence?” “Do I fear not being needed by those under my care?” “Am I using my role as a mother to fill voids left by past hurts?”
Another pattern I’ve observed is women who throw themselves deeply into mothering as an escape from a troubled marriage. If you feel you’re doing this, please realize that it’s not best for you or your children. Insist on getting help for your marriage. If your mate is unwilling, seek counseling for yourself and never speak in disparaging ways about your mate to your children. Remember that you are the only person you can change.
Sometimes husbands and wives allow their relationships with their children to take priority over their marriage. This might sound like a loving and sacrificial choice, but it’s not.
“The relationship between husband and wife is the foundation on which kids build their sense of security, their identity and learn to relate to others” (Jay Kessler “Emotionally Healthy Teenagers”).
One of the best gifts you can give to your children is the priority you place on your mate. Of the three social relationships in a house: husband-wife; parent-child; sibling-sibling only one is meant to be permanent.
After children are raised, the husband-wife relationship continues (in your home). The parent-child relationship is temporary and provisional. Treating it this way is best for them and for husbands and wives.
Within the past year, our two married children bought houses. We love visiting their homes and seeing how their establishing their own lives. We raised them to release them into lives of their own.
We tried not to create unhealthy relationships of dependence. But our daughter surprised us last week when she called her mother and began to discuss their plans for how they will take care of us in our old age.
When my wife told me this , I said, “For crying out loud!” “I am only 50 years old and they already have us in an in-law quarters!” We actually found it heart-warming (and a little scary) that they were looking ahead for us.
Scripture speaks to this when it says, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (I Timothy 5:4).
There are no perfect parents and parenting is scary work. My wife and I certainly know of ways we could have done a better job in raising our children. But I wouldn’t want to think of where our children would be without their mom’s dedication to them.
Mother’s deserve more than one special day to be honored.
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick Street