A Jewish proverb says, “God could not be everywhere, so he made mothers.” Parents turn the raw fruit of their wombs and loins into people. It is indeed creation. Done well, it is God-like. Done poorly, it is not pretty.
I have seen the full range of quality in mothers.
At one extreme are the heartbreaking depictions of parenting gone wrong, which I hear about in my practice. For example:
“Mother has always been beautiful and wealthy, but unforgiving, unrelentingly demanding, rejecting, consuming, smothering, and angry. She never once told me she loved me. Dad married her for her beauty and learned fast to keep his head down.”
“Mom was impossible. Incredibly selfish and mean, she abused us mentally and physically. She was secretive but expected us to read her mind. We often got the silent treatment, knowing she was unhappy with us but not knowing why or how to fix it. There were frequent spankings. She teased us and would humiliate us in front of others. She had no friends, but ruled our home totally.”
At the other extreme are the many wonderful mothers I have been blessed to observe in my own family and in my circle of friends. These women have been or still are beloved and respected both within and beyond their immediate families for their wisdom, kindness, stability, and hard work.
There is also a middle ground. Children do not need perfect parenting. They just need good-enough parenting. Given the basics, the sufficient minimum, a growing child can finish the job on their own, albeit often with the help of additional adults found along the way.
A 2009 post by Tim Sanford titled The Real Job of Moms on the website, focusonthefamily.com, describes this concept well. I paraphrase it here:
“What is a mom’s primary job? The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children. This means enabling them to develop fully by pouring life into them. She models joy and passion. Nurturing is filling your child up with aliveness.
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. She provides empathetic understanding from a position of strength and support. She finds balance between the healthy desire to give kids freedom and the God-given urge to keep them safe.
Nurturing is not about ‘doing it all’ or doing it perfectly. It’s about doing the best you can — without losing yourself or driving yourself crazy. 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 might be, and bring out the best in each.”