The reason why moms are the most important people in the world
Updated: Mar 3
Mom’s get one day a year (well, two if you count Women’s Day) on which we celebrate them, appreciate them for their hard and thankless work, get them flowers and chocolates and massages, and on which we hopefully also spend some time introspecting about just how much they have done for us. There is, really, just one fundamental ‘thing’ that your mom has given you that you should be thanking her for over and above absolutely anything else, and it’s something that virtually no one else can give you in this world. Well, except for perhaps your therapist and/or coach. No really, it's true! But more on that later.
If you have seen the recently-released film “Tully” starring Charlize Theron (written by the incredibly talented Diablo Cody), then you have had the opportunity to see a very raw and real depiction of how mother-child bonding can get derailed. In the case of Theron’s character, it is serious mental health issues that are the culprit, but there are other factors, such as different forms of stress, poverty, physical and mental abuse as well as physical illness. The statistics are heart-braking and disturbing, and I am only sharing them here in this otherwise uplifting post so that we can find it in ourselves to feel compassion for and gratitude towards our moms, even if they didn’t do the greatest of jobs raising us:
· About 10-20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression
· 70% of women worldwide will experience physical/sexual abuse by their partner during their lifetime
· Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families
· 10,000,000 children are exposed do domestic violence annually
· Men who are exposed to domestic violence as children are 3 to 4 times more likely to be abusive themselves*
I invite you now to take a deep breath, and drop into profound gratitude if you are not the child of a mom who is part of these statistics. If she is, seek out compassion and understanding. These are the moms who had to go through an obstacle course in order to deliver you the greatest gift, that one ‘thing’ that only they can give you: unconditional love. If they were STILL able to provide you with it despite those obstacles, they truly are incredible humans worth celebrating.
Unconditional love is probably easier described than defined. If you imagine it as a feeling in your body, it is a felt sense that there is someone out there in the world who, in this very moment, no matter what you are doing, thinking or feeling, loves you with the same intensity as they would if you were about to walk on to a stage to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. It is the kind of love that is given to you no matter what, and there is nothing you can do to make it go away. It, of course, doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to hurt it, sadden, anger or disappoint it, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will condone your every behavior and decision. But the important life lesson that this teaches you is that you are valuable, you matter, and you are inherently worthy of being alive.
Why is this so important for each of us? Think about what every tiny human being who is new to this world needs to grow and develop healthily: a sense of safety and connection. Despite the fact that when you are a baby you are incredibly cute and the top of your head smells divine, you also cry a lot, you are smelly and you are demanding, and that in itself makes it a challenge for your *adult-in-charge to be present for you in the way that you need them to be, even without all of the obstacles I mentioned earlier getting in the way. This is where unconditional love is born, in that moment when you are smelly and loud and seemingly inconsolable, but mom picks you up anyway and by doing so communicates to you that she loves you and cares about you, and will soothe you and clean you and love you. Unconditional love enables mom to make your cute and smelly self feel safe and feel connected and feel that, even though you can be a pain in the b---, you matter, and she will do whatever it takes to keep you alive.
Much has been said about the way motherhood has been idealized in the media and the kinds of unrealistic expectations this has imposed on young women everywhere. And this is why I am so thankful for films such as "Tully." We all know that no one is perfect, and that we all lose our temper, say things we regret, get impatient, and sometimes hurt the people we love. Moms are human too, and so they should be allowed to make these same mistakes! What matters more in those times of alleged imperfection, is the ability to repair. That is perhaps the ultimate sign of love in general, not just the unconditional kind, the willingness and desire to re-connect, repair, and re-establish the relationship. It’s unconditional love that makes mom so much better at it than anyone else though- you know that you can always go back to her.
As I mentioned in the introduction, and only half-jokingly, good therapists and coaches are able to provide their clients with something very close to this, only in our profession we call it “unconditional positive regard.” The term was coined by the famous humanistic psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers, who developed a person-centered and incredibly respectful therapeutic approach. Unconditional positive regard means that, as a therapist, you accept and support your client as they are and where they are in life, without any judgement or any desire to change them in any way. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? For those individuals who were unfortunately not able to get unconditional love from their mother in their childhood, this can be a revelation. With the help of a properly trained professional, these individuals can experience what it feels like to be completely accepted by another human being, and through that relationship they can begin to slowly heal, repair and eventually see themselves as being inherently worthy.
So, as we move on from celebrating Mother’s Day, let’s commit to making a more conscious and deliberate effort to appreciate our moms for the specific reason of bestowing the treasure of unconditional love upon us. Let's take a moment to really snuggle up to that warm and fluffy feeling of being that loved by another human being. The best of moms may not have managed to make you feel that way all the time, or even most of the time, but try to connect to the times when she did. And see if you can find it in your heart to say thank you and to forgive her for the times when she didn't.
Happy Mother's (Every) Day!
*I use the term "adult" here because the face of parenting is changing and over the past several decades we have seen increasingly diverse couples (and singles) raising children. We need more research to understand how the typical mother/father roles fit (or don't) within modern families.