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3 Steps to Rediscover the Lost Art of Mothering

"The destiny of nations lies far more in the hands of women, the mothers, than in the possessors of power, or those of innovators who for the most part do not understand themselves." — Friedrich Froebel

by
Rhonda Robinson

Bio

May 11, 2013 - 1:00 pm

Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.

The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.

Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.

Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”

The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.

Where was her mother?

1. Envision Your Motherhood Impacting Generations.

The art of mothering must be passed down from generation to generation in order for families to flourish and strengthen.

Gazing into those beautiful need-you eyes for the first time, it’s easy to feel a little inept. Especially if your generational chain of mothering skills is broken. But you need to know that you’re not alone. The industrial revolution, coupled with the assault of radical feminism, has left most of us feeling like we have to start from scratch. As little girls we dreamed of becoming brides and mommies. We were told that we could be anything — a doctor, a lawyer, even a princess. But how many of us were encouraged let alone taught to become mothers by the women we admired?

So rather than looking to older mothers or grandmothers, another generation turns elsewhere — to mommy blogs and Dr. Talk Show. New theories and trends in parenting are just that — theories and trends. They have not yet been tested by time and circumstance. The common misconception is that we can only learn from new information. The best “new” information simply confirms what we already knew in our hearts.

The truth is we learn most from mistakes — our own and others’. Your mother didn’t have to be perfect for you to learn from her. You become a better mom than the generation before you by passing down the good and learning from the bad.

You are the next link of the generational chain, drawing or rejecting the lessons of past generations. At the same time, the very sound of your soothing voice, your mothering, is impacting future generations in a very real way.

Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley explain it this way in Ghosts From the Nursery,

When the baby is screaming, the nurturing mother provides soothing to lower the baby’s state of alarm. When the baby appears droopy or depressed, an attuned mother will attempt to raise her baby’s state to a more elevated mood. These maternal behaviors, besides providing a moderation of the baby’s mood, are also maintaining an even balance of neurochemicals in the baby’s brain, resulting in the contentment we observe and the baby’s experience of emotional modulation, which over time becomes the child’s internalized model for self-regulation of strong emotions. … If a baby is separated from the mother, he or she experiences the loss not only of the emotional but also of the physiological balance of basic systems that are maintained by the mother’s proximity.

A well-nurtured infant is not only content, but through attentive mothering, the mother creates within her child positive traits down to a cellular level. In other words, the art of your nurturing creates not only comfort, but also physiological resilience in your child, and these traits will actually be passed down to the next generation “instinctively.”

2. Grasp the Brevity of Childhood.

You are the center of his world — and time seems frozen in dirty socks.

The endless chores that accompany motherhood, compounded by the busyness of childhood, obstruct our view of the time we have together.  The brevity of childhood is hard to imagine when you are in your twenties. After all — your child’s adulthood is a lifetime away.

A friend relayed a profound thought her pastor once passed along at a baby christening. As the new parents began to walk away, he admonished them:

 ”You only have 18 summers” he warned, “now go and make the most of them.”

Only 18 summers?

Actually, I think there’s a dash of wishful thinking there. It’s more like 16 summers. Those last two or three usually get stolen by summer jobs, girlfriends or boyfriends. They are too busy testing their wings to notice mom, let alone spend much time at home. When you understand the brevity of childhood, it’s easier to “make the most of them.”

In order to become ever mindful of how fast childhood disappears, I want to invite you to play a game with me. I call it my “Three to Five Year Game.” I played it often when my children were growing up. Let me pass it on to you.

Ready? Okay, let’s play.

How old will your children be in three years? Now try five. It’s a sobering thought of reality. Especially when you think of just how fast the last three years of your own life sped by.

3. Seize the Day.

Toothless smiles and giggles of innocence fill a mother’s heart. It’s a delight that’s hard to describe. It almost goes without saying that these early years are foundational for love and building trust.

However, it all can seem almost too easy at times, while they are still small. When the smiling faces of childhood twinkle, mothering can fool you into thinking it’s all about the joy it brings. But those aren’t the only days that need to be seized.

The bonds will be tested — count on it. The core strength of your mothering surfaces when the toothless giggles grow into clenched teeth of defiance. On that day, you will have to decide whether to seize the day and use it to guide and teach — or buckle under the weight of the responsibility.

The art of mothering requires the skill of capturing moments of all kinds and braiding them into childhood memories that bind their souls and anchor their hearts. It’s the days and lessons and even the tears that step by step create a solid frame for them to climb into adulthood.

The art of mothering can’t be learned solely from a blog post, book, or conference. If you’re a mother, trust in the knowledge that you were designed for that purpose. No, it’s not the sum total of your worth or existence. But no matter how you happen upon it, it is one of the richest gifts from God you will receive. Mothering instincts only need to be cultivated; it’s an art that changes with the seasons of your life.

Mothering begins the moment that newborn is in your arms. It doesn’t end when they step on a school bus, or say “I do.” We just learn to nurture differently as we are made into mother-in-laws and then transform into grandmothers. Time may one day crown us great-grandmothers.

Seize each day — for whatever it brings. The time is short, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone — not even to moms.

****

Photo credits Studio 34. 

Rhonda Robinson writes on the social, political and parenting issues currently shaping the American family. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Middle Tennessee. www.amotherslife.me Follow on twitter @amotherslife

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I find this article to be precious, yet sadly out of date, even against "women's rights" (or today's ideology that uses such terminology), simply against the social tide. I would like to offer the author a compliment with the following thoughts. If I were once again a young man, looking for a mate, I would want to find a woman with the values manifest in Robinson's article. (Fortunately my wife, of blessed memory, did exemplify such values.) Indeed, I would not marry at all if such a woman could not be found. Why?

Is not marriage, as seemingly defined by the advocates of homosexual marriage (sic), but a function of two persons, same sex or other sex, who love each other, are sexually active and wish to live in union with the social prestige associated with marriage? The justification of homosexual marriage, if such union be accepted as marriage, excludes from its ESSENTIAL definition all the features Robinson has mentioned. Oh, they can be there, but only as accidental notes. Why have I wandered into such thoughts?

Motherhood as described in the article is in reality part of a man/woman relationship in which we men find our fatherhood-calling by aiding and furthering such motherly care for "our" children (and adding our own fatherly care to the maturing of the child). I as a man would not undertake this mission, often costly for career goals, to marry a woman unless motherhood was there to grant me fatherhood. Indeed, if friendship and sex (excluding motherhood and my fatherly carring) is what marriage is all about, then why marry, why not just sign a legal agreement for cohabiting (or "shacking up together" as we said in my youth)? Hook-up sex leads to shack-up sex relations which fade away as sexual interest shifts.

Motherly care presupposes a "mother". Being a "mother" presuposes a society in which such a fulfilment of womanhood is viewed as an essential part of being a woman. Emancipate this ideal, say for career purposes, from woman-being, and motherhood (not to mention derivately fatherhood) wanes with lethal consequences for society. Lethal??? Yes, let me explain.

I live in Germany (and am using Germany as a sign for all of Europe) in which the IDEAL for being a woman is that a woman develops her individual self via a career. This downgrading of motherhood from womanhood is becoming evidently more iimportant than the survival of the race. Does that sound odd? It is not, it is just math applied to demographics. Consult David Goldman's "Why Civilizations Die". Goldman describes the almost universal inablity of Western nations (and beyond) to reproduce themselves. Germany evinces some 1.34 children per woman and needs 2.1 children per woman to reproduce itself. In a couple of hundred years and the German DNA bearers will cease to be. German politicians know this, but the social goal is to emancipate women such that each woman's own personal and fully individual goals are supreme. Now "personal or individual goals" are admirable in themselves, although they can become LETHAL to the race if they displace the "relational goal" (and motherhood is structurally relational) as an essential value for society to realize. The downgrading of motherhood from a societally essential definition of womanhood (with the correlative downgrading of fatherhood from the essential definition of men) is leading Germany and Europe (other nations are doing the same) into demographic suicide!!! This conclusion is not a function of, say, Catholic moral values, just one of simple math. A society that does not reproduce itself, by the mathematical law of substraction, approaches 0.

I am so pleased with this article and offer profound thanks to the author(ess). She must be a wonderful mother.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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I get your point, but I got stuck on the story. Where was her mother? Where was the pediatrician? How about: Where was her own brain? Your newborn is losing weight and failing to thrive and you don't bring it to a doctor until it's too weak to suckle?

I don't know about other mothers, but I didn't need an extra day in the hospital and an extra meeting with the doctor to tell me that something is wrong. I don't care what support network one has in place this seems to me a case of it being her own responsibility. We can't blame her because she's so sad over it? Perhaps if she had had ANY other person, her own father, the father of her baby, a neighbor, a friend, who had said something this may have been averted (besides, who says there wasn't someone and she refused to listen?).

I agree that a disconnection between generations is a problem and there is a connection made when a mother is remade into a grandmother. But I am ultimately responsible for my children, and I have gotten way more good information from the internet and using my own sense than I have from my mother or mother in law. I get the most from other mothers with kids 3-8 years older than mine.

It isn't: Where was/were...? But why didn't she reach out and connect with someone? That's totally on her as the mother of the helpless baby. Even if she's a teenager and totally ignorant she should know how to ask for help. Walk into Babies r us and there would have been someone at customer service willing to talk.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, we're now on about the third or fourth generation of mothers who didn't much have their mother in their life once they went to college, began a career, or married and moved away from home. In the main, we've lost our ability to raise children. Most of the "motherly" contact most children have is in day care. There's still some day care by a woman in the neighborhood whose kids are in school and who takes in a few kids, but most is "industrial" day care with low-wage, low-skill care givers, often barely literate and often recent immigrants, maybe legal, maybe not. Whatever their background, they're not likely to do much towards inculcating middle-class American values in their charges.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's see, first off, thanks for writing this. It is so true.
I find myself being an advocate for motherhood often, which seems strange because motherhood should be the natural state of affairs for women. I find myself attempting to convince younger women that motherhood is the best goal. Do they really think that a job can come anywhere close to contributing as long-lasting benefits to society as motherhood? Most women will never have a job that can remotely compare. We pursue what might be good temporally and sacrifice the best, the eternal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Good Article! It was a very risky and bold move to simply say where was her mom at... Your leaving yourself wide open to be attacked with other causes and reasons and for that I admire it! Well done!!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great article - thank you for writing this. Truly inspired!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.

Where was her mother?"
Her daughter ,father starved had two children without a husband and the secret kept from the world another baby ready to be born in Dec.I lay the foundation a year before with gifts to her mother to help her bond with her daughter . Before this I lay the foundation with gifts to her brother to stop hating his sister and mother.
Without the mother and brother by now the three children would have been taken away from the young mother. What great sacrifice I made. But now looking into the eyes of these three young children every week ,the young mother smiling on her children ,her brother happy to be a young uncle and her Mother the Queen ho saved the new born baby from abortion and I so nervous holding the baby in my arms this gift from God, the Eternal Father.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I find this article to be precious, yet sadly out of date, even against "women's rights" (or today's ideology that uses such terminology), simply against the social tide. I would like to offer the author a compliment with the following thoughts. If I were once again a young man, looking for a mate, I would want to find a woman with the values manifest in Robinson's article. (Fortunately my wife, of blessed memory, did exemplify such values.) Indeed, I would not marry at all if such a woman could not be found. Why?

Is not marriage, as seemingly defined by the advocates of homosexual marriage (sic), but a function of two persons, same sex or other sex, who love each other, are sexually active and wish to live in union with the social prestige associated with marriage? The justification of homosexual marriage, if such union be accepted as marriage, excludes from its ESSENTIAL definition all the features Robinson has mentioned. Oh, they can be there, but only as accidental notes. Why have I wandered into such thoughts?

Motherhood as described in the article is in reality part of a man/woman relationship in which we men find our fatherhood-calling by aiding and furthering such motherly care for "our" children (and adding our own fatherly care to the maturing of the child). I as a man would not undertake this mission, often costly for career goals, to marry a woman unless motherhood was there to grant me fatherhood. Indeed, if friendship and sex (excluding motherhood and my fatherly carring) is what marriage is all about, then why marry, why not just sign a legal agreement for cohabiting (or "shacking up together" as we said in my youth)? Hook-up sex leads to shack-up sex relations which fade away as sexual interest shifts.

Motherly care presupposes a "mother". Being a "mother" presuposes a society in which such a fulfilment of womanhood is viewed as an essential part of being a woman. Emancipate this ideal, say for career purposes, from woman-being, and motherhood (not to mention derivately fatherhood) wanes with lethal consequences for society. Lethal??? Yes, let me explain.

I live in Germany (and am using Germany as a sign for all of Europe) in which the IDEAL for being a woman is that a woman develops her individual self via a career. This downgrading of motherhood from womanhood is becoming evidently more iimportant than the survival of the race. Does that sound odd? It is not, it is just math applied to demographics. Consult David Goldman's "Why Civilizations Die". Goldman describes the almost universal inablity of Western nations (and beyond) to reproduce themselves. Germany evinces some 1.34 children per woman and needs 2.1 children per woman to reproduce itself. In a couple of hundred years and the German DNA bearers will cease to be. German politicians know this, but the social goal is to emancipate women such that each woman's own personal and fully individual goals are supreme. Now "personal or individual goals" are admirable in themselves, although they can become LETHAL to the race if they displace the "relational goal" (and motherhood is structurally relational) as an essential value for society to realize. The downgrading of motherhood from a societally essential definition of womanhood (with the correlative downgrading of fatherhood from the essential definition of men) is leading Germany and Europe (other nations are doing the same) into demographic suicide!!! This conclusion is not a function of, say, Catholic moral values, just one of simple math. A society that does not reproduce itself, by the mathematical law of substraction, approaches 0.

I am so pleased with this article and offer profound thanks to the author(ess). She must be a wonderful mother.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful response. You have given me so much more to contemplate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Indeed. When a nation's women turn upon the nation, however, that nation is doomed. Let's hope that the women of European Christendom choose to rejoin the struggle for survival on this planet....lest the tribes die upon the ash heap of Darwinian failure.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Very nice article.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This was beautiful and absolutely true. Thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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