What is a mother’s primary job? It’s not just cooking dinner, changing diapers or helping a preschooler glue colored macaroni on a coffee can as a Father’s Day gift.
The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children.
But what does that mean, exactly? Most of us have a vague notion about what being nurtured feels like, but here are a few specifics.
A nurturing mom goes beyond being the “maintenance person” in a child’s life. She doesn’t just keep a child clean, fed, warm, and dry. She also enables her children to develop fully by pouring life into them. She models joy and passion. Nurturing is filling your child up with alive-ness.
It’s not a joyless, self-sacrificing caricature of Betty Crocker. A nurturing mom takes time to play, read, and take pictures when the toddler’s spaghetti ends up on the head instead of in the mouth. She enters the child’s world to see things from his or her perspective, even if it means the carpets don’t get vacuumed for a while. She provides empathetic understanding from a position of strength and support. That’s true whether she’s dealing with a toddler or a teen — except for the part about spaghetti on the head.
Like dads, though, moms have a natural urge to protect their children.
This instinct can sometimes derail our goal of granting our child greater autonomy and encouraging them to be more independent. One mother of twins describes her ongoing battle with this issue:
- I remember when my boys were babies. I took them out for their first ride in the double stroller. Along the way, I saw a mean-looking dog running loose ahead of us. Instinctively, my brain went into overdrive, ready to save the lives of my children by throwing myself over their little bodies, to shield them from whatever injuries the dog’s sharp teeth might inflict. When the harmless dog trotted away without any attempt to attack us, I laughed at how readily my “mommy radar” had me prepared to die for my kids, without thinking twice.
- Many years later, this struggle continues. I want my 18-year-olds to drive so they can learn to be more mature by taking on the responsibilities that comes with handling a car. Yet I do what I can to keep them on a ‘leash’ by emphasising the consequences of dangerous driving so that they will not attempt any risky maneuvers behind the wheel. Finding balance means continually going back and forth between the healthy desire to give my kids freedom and my urge to keep them safe.
You can’t control the results, but you can stir in the right ingredients.
You can seek to know your children as individuals, different as they may be, and bring out the best in each. You can demonstrate by example how to explore life with zest and express the unique gifts you have.
Before you feel burdened with a mile-long list you can never follow through, let me be quick to say that nurturing is not about “doing it all” or doing it perfectly. It’s about doing the best you can for your children — and that includes taking care of your own needs . You won’t be able to nurture your children if you’re exhausted from burning the candle at both ends. You need aliveness in order to pass it on to your children.
No matter what role you see yourself taking on as a mother, you know it is an important one – one that shapes lives and touches hearts.
Happy Mother’s Day.
© 2012. Reprinted with permission from Focus on the Family, Singapore. For more parenting articles by Focus on on the Family, visit their website.