Mums are flawed creatures. We see the faults most clearly of those with whom we live most closely. Yet, we are encouraged by both Scripture and secular society to love and celebrate them, for they are marvellous.
Mums are flawed creatures. Yet, we are encouraged by both Scripture and secular society to love and celebrate them, for they are marvellous.
As a small child, it’s normal to think that your family is, well, normal. You love your family unit and your parents because you can’t help it—because (except for awful exceptions) they first loved you. Attachment leads to affection which leads to love. Mum is your superhero: she considers your artwork genius, knows just how you like your lunchbox, and is the perfect lap to cry on.
As your world grows to encompass school friends and neighbours, play-dates and sleepovers, you begin to realise that other households do things differently. Different numbers of siblings or parents, different behavioural expectations, different smells (yes, smells—do you remember houses having different smells? not bad, just different).
As we see different behaviour in other mums, we re-evaluate our own in light of that. Some things remain great. Some, while still normal for you, are less than ideal. It might be the way she folds t-shirts, or doesn’t enjoy cooking, or lets your little sister get away with murder. “If she changed the way she did those things, she’d be a better mum.” Perhaps her failings might be a tendency to criticise others, to gossip, to turn a blind eye when it shouldn’t be turned. The closer we get to other families—perhaps through a best friend or serious dating relationship—the more acute our observations and comparisons become.
The Bible abounds in examples of motherhood, both great and awful. The good ones we hear about often: Eve, Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Mary, Naomi. They are the women we name our daughters for. But what about Athaliah and Herodias (murderers), Jezebel and Maacah (idolaters), not to mention Lot’s salty wife, and his daughters who went on to become mothers by him through their own deception.
So we keep these examples of female behaviour in our minds, for when we require them. In ourselves, or in a spouse. We aim to replicate the good of our own examples and improve on the not so good.
What then do we do with this woman who was the epitome of childish perfection?
Where does this leave our own mum? What then do we do with this woman who was the epitome of childish perfection, and whom we still love? In fact, It’s not even her fault that she’s not the same as she once was. It’s we who have changed; who have stretched our boundaries of understanding; who have this burden of knowledge and opinion. Which leaves us a choice to make:
Forgive, or Resent.
For some, the decision is so easy they never even remember making it. She’s Mum. They pass through that invisible barrier from blind adoration to mature affection like snapping their fingers. Perhaps she quietly notices the change, perhaps not.
For others, there may be a period of evaluation: acknowledging the teaching of Scripture to “honour your father and mother” (Ex 20:12, Eph 6:2); wrestling with the hurts she has caused, intentional or not. Weeks, or even years of struggle may go by under the cover of a cordial, genial relationship. We might be such good actors that our mums don’t even know we’re wrestling. Maybe for some of us it will take having our own children—and the new perspective that brings—to change our attitude and bring resolution.
Then there are those who find they cannot, will not, forgive their mother for her imperfections or failings. The reasons for this are myriad, and may involve direct sinful behaviour on the mum’s part, or simply behaviour which the child considers so unacceptably bad the relationship cannot continue. That’s not an easy place to come to.
As adults, we know mums from different perspectives. If we haven’t become one ourselves, we might share a home with one—as a spouse. Mums are our peers and colleagues; sometimes our sisters in Christ. And so our understanding changes again. Now we see the tiredness that having small children brings—and perhaps face a new temptation to excuse sins that shouldn’t be excused.
In the end, mums, like all of us, need to be encouraged to love Jesus more than anything and anyone (including kids and husbands). That’s what will make them the best mothers they can be. But be wise in how you have those conversations with them, as is fitting to your relationship. Advice is not always taken in the spirit which it is given. We mums know we’re not perfect, though hearing it from someone else can be hard to swallow.
This Mothers’ Day …
- Thank God for your Mum. Whether she’s still around, or not.
- Pray for mums suffering broken relationships with their kids. No matter whose fault it was, their hearts hurt.
- Pray for mums who have little ones. They’re working hard to keep going.
- Pray for mums who have adult children: for mutual love and respect while allowing a difference of opinion.
- Pray for mums who have had to say farewells to children through death or surrender.
We could all do with God’s help to forgive and love our Mums more. The parent mum, the spouse mum, the friend mum. Love them by desiring their sanctification more than their mothering qualities. Both are good, but one is best.