“Motherhood” is so much more than “Parenthood”

Mother’s Day for me is always a mixed experience.

It’s a time of sadness as I reflect upon the loss of my own mother 23 years ago who died tragically in a car accident when I was 21 years of age. However, Mother’s Day is also a time of joy as I remember how much I received from her, and celebrate the gift of motherhood in my wife, mother in-law, sisters, sisters in-laws and step mother.

There is certainly nothing quite like suddenly losing your mother to focus your attention on the incredible role and impact they play in our lives.

After losing mum the grief for my family was devastating. One of my more painful memories at that time was when I was embracing and comforting my youngest brother who was aged eight at the time and he asked me the question: “So does this mean I have to live the rest of my life without a Mummy?”

His words have echoed back to me through the years since that tragic day, as a powerful reminder that our pain and grief was for the loss of a mother, not just the loss of a parent, and that there is a profound difference.

It’s distressing to me that the unique value of motherhood (and fatherhood) is increasingly becoming lost in our current community debate.

Something that is so obviously good and distinctive runs the risk of becoming discarded by our culture. Our society seems to have arrived at a destination where to positively affirm motherhood (or fatherhood) as a unique, distinctive and highly valuable influence on child development is against the rules for fear of offending.

At times I have even wondered about the possibility that at some stage in the future there will be a move to replace Mother’s / Father’s Day with “Parent’s Day”.

There are many studies, which have appeared over the past four to five decades showing that no other factor is more vital to the healthy development of children than having a mum and a dad. Sadly some families don’t have two parents because of circumstance, not by design. It’s such a profound reality to reflect upon that when a baby is born, all it knows is its mother. It has also been shown that when the father creates a bond with their child from the earliest days after birth this boosts the way their child’s brain develops.

For adults to deliberately choose to remove the mum or dad role from the life of a child seems to me to be such a reckless decision, even if it is being made with the very best of intentions.

In the context of our Christian faith, the motherhood role also has a special influence. Indeed studies by the National Church Life Survey show that half of Australia’s church-goers acknowlege their mother as a positive influence on their faith. While important, fathers are less influential in early faith development. Pope Francis affirmed this experience in his own life, when he described how his “sincere faith” came from the Holy Spirit “through his mother and grandmother” (Homily on 26 Jan 2015).

Perhaps this is the greatest gift that we receive through our mothers, the gift of faith!