May 8, 2011

Mothers, The Foundation of This Country

In his Mother’s Day 2011 Proclamation, President Barack Obama described mothers as:

“…the rocks of our families and a foundation in our communities. In gratitude for their generous love, patient counsel, and lifelong support, let us pay respect to the women who carry out the hard work of motherhood with skill and grace, and let us remember those mothers who, though no longer with us, inspire us still.”

His words are profoundly true. In many ways, sometimes not our favorite ways, our mothers are reflected in our lives on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s the shape of our eyes, our lips, our nose, our bone structure, height, eye or hair color, or a hand gesture, a phrase, or even the way we tilt our head that reminds those around us of our mother. Less visible and yet more deeply ingrained are the inherited morals, the sense of self worth, justice, honor, integrity, philanthropy and empathy.

Mothers are often referred to as the hub of the family wheel. I have seen first-hand how true that is in my own family. The rock of our family? Yes. When the matriarchs of my family died, two sisters who kept the family news flying across their hot phone wires on a daily basis, the sense of family unity began to wither. The extended family events, such as reunions, became sparsely attended until they looked more like an immediate family dinner with a few guests. They went from an annual event to a biennial event—and you know once that happens no one remembers if this is the year.

It’s been a great disappointment for me to see my own children grow up without truly knowing their cousins, without spending over the summer at each other’s homes and developing a sense of extended family unity. Meeting each other only at funerals, and less often at weddings, makes me sad and nostalgic. Sure, we baby boomers talk about back in the day and when we were kids, but what frightens me the most when I watch the news and talk to friends is the growing separation between children and their immediate families.

Yes, mother’s work these days, sometimes multiple jobs, but more and more it seems children are growing up into isolated adults with no sense of family. If they speak to their mothers, it’s on Mother’s Day. Even then it’s more a sense of duty than pleasure. They find fault with their mothers rather than the wisdom and council of years of experiences and, yes, mistakes. Mothering is often a thankless job, at least verbally. So why do we have children? We have them because they give us a sense of awe, of wonder, of quiet joyful memories even through moments of bitter disappointment.

Once someone asked me why something changed in my life, and I said simply, “I became a mother.” That brief statement spoke volumes and no further explanation was needed. I feel profoundly blessed to have mothered two beautiful, intelligent children who have grown into successful adults with stable, happy relationships. As a mother, I must have done something right. But I urge all the mothers out there to encourage their children to be active in their lives and in the lives of extended family members, when possible. Mothers are the foundation of the family; and, family is the foundation of this country.