A Mother's Love is a Rare Bird

By Nancy Pollard, LCSW, LLC
Nancy Pollard

Happy Mother’s Day!

I know it’s a “Hallmark Holiday” but I’ve been a sucker for it most of my life.  When my sons were young, I told them it was the MOST important holiday EVER - they couldn’t skip it!  For me, the day I became a mother was the best day of my life…all three times.

Ironically and totally illogically, mothers claim to want nothing in return.  Moms don't need gifts or material things.  Just to be remembered is all that we humbly ask of our children.  But forget us and an unspeakable crime is committed.  Mom doesn't just feel bad if little Jackie doesn't remember her - she feels devastated, crushed, hurt beyond words.  Without that phone call or card from her 'precious little baby’, her heart feels stabbed by a very sharp sword.

Quite frankly, moms are a mess when it comes to loving their children.

Mother’s love has roots of codependency and the need to be needed.  And who is needier than a newborn?  One look at our baby and we are goners falling hard into an everlasting love that grabs us deep inside.  We love one-sided, too much, and we don't even care.  We have no choice.  The love is so strong we can lift cars, walk across fire, and become insanely protective.

Mother’s love knows no boundaries, no separation between a child's pain and her own. What hurts her child hurts her, too.  The child's problems are her problems to solve.  A child has no friends, the mother finds playmates.  The child has trouble with academics, mother finds extra help.  If the child is sick, mom has the chicken soup.  She has the cure for any and all ailments; physical, emotional, and intellectual.

In the beginning, it is our job to fix, solve, rescue, and protect.  And while the doctor physically cuts the umbilical cord at birth, it is quite possible that mothers never cut the cord psychologically or emotionally.  But cut the cord they must.  Mothers must give their love freely without indebting their children and/or becoming a martyr if expectations aren’t met.

Moms instinctively think that the child is always HER child and still needs her.  Many moms don't know when to quit solving problems or making their child’s pain their own.  "You will always be my little girl!" is a disservice to your grown daughter.  Moms forget that their job as a mother is to promote independence and decrease dependency.  The challenge is that mothers have a difficult time letting go of being needed.  Oh, sure we can let go of diapers, packing lunches, and tying shoes.  But we still cook, clean up, and remind teenagers to take a jacket if it is cold outside.  We still make certain our 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-year-olds are 'okay.'

Mothers carry their 'love' (i.e., job) into their child's adulthood.  An adult child's bankruptcy finds mother secretly writing checks; a pending divorce signals her to seek a lawyer; a diagnosis of a chronic disease sends mom researching specialists around the world.

While motherhood does not end when a child leaves home, a mothers' love must change.  Need must not be mistaken for love.  Not only does the child grow up but mom needs to grow up in her loving and mothering.  She must see her adult children as men and women, separate individuals.  She must be able to stand on the sidelines, be supportive but not interfering.

We could all learn from the animal kingdom and let go as animals do.  A mother lion does not insist that her cub stay a cub and continue to be dependent on her, or a mother bird insist that her babies stay in the nest and not learn to fly.  It is a fine line for a mother; loving your child and letting go of the need to be needed.

Yes, you can still lie down in front of a train to save your child's life.  But check your love for your children.  Check your expectations for Mother’s Day.

  • Is your love codependent and dysfunctional?
  • Have you heard your teenager say, ‘geez Mom, get a life!’
  • Do you have a life outside of theirs?
  • Do you meddle and call it love?  Is it too much?
  • Can you trust them to find their own answers to their problems? 
  • Are you able to let go and still love without being a complete mess?

Can you celebrate your day as a Mother in your own way, or is it your child’s day to remember and thank you for bringing them into this world?  Convoluted, isn’t it?  Just like a mother’s love, a rare bird indeed.

Just a little Mountain Therapy

Copyright © 2016 Nancy Pollard



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