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Much More Than Just Nurturing

A Mother's Work is Never Done

"Mother's, whether they are single, married, full-time, part-time or stay at home workers have a continual responsibility to protect, nurture, strengthen, and guide their children. It is our responsibility as mothers to provide these characteristics to all of our children."
Left:  E. Bellinger, with her two sons.

Motherhood, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Motherhood today is much different from the past when the traditional role of a mother was that of nurturer and housekeeper while the father was the breadwinner. Changes in the times for women and families include not only the the women's liberation movement and educational advances; but economics (competitive incomes) and high divorce rates have caused home stability issues where women can no longer afford to be in the primary role as the "stay at home mom." 

The single headed household has emerged with the rise in the divorce rate; so in many cases women have found themselves with no choice but to enter into the workforce. Additionally, as the median income increased and it became more expensive to live in cities and towns, married women who once stayed home, found themselves entering into the work force to help maintain household expenses.  Their salaries contributed to the well-being of the two-parent family. Today, most women in the United States  who had put their education on hold to have families or who had limited skills, have returned to schools to better their education for employment purposes. In many cases, entering into the work force meant that mom was no longer home to provide her children with all the nurturing they needed and many children were being left home to fend for themselves out of necessity. Child care is usually the focus of the issue because the cost is so high that working class people often have to decide between heat, food and childcare. To give you an idea of the scope of the problem: in the state of Massachusetts alone "latch-key" children make up 30% of all households while the State Department of Education estimates that from 600,000 to 800,000 children in California fit into the category we label as "latch key kids." The term "latch-key" means that these children let themselves in when they get home from school and typically the TV is their mother/nurturer.  Today, the role of nurturer and provider has become paramount.  

Compounding these issues include many circumstances where families with two incomes can barely make ends meet. There are many two income families who are barely making it and some thriving just above the federal poverty lines. These families along with single headed female households are literally living from paycheck to paycheck.  In 2003, with the cutbacks in federal and state services  such as food stamps and Medicaid, both single parent and working-class two parent families have had to work longer and harder to provide the basic necessities for everyday living. This means that children are being left alone for longer and longer periods of time.  

Parents in general have an awesome role, and mothers in particular are still expected to juggle the complexities of the nurturer, provider, spiritual leader, teacher, protector, coach, mediator, anticipator of harm, cheer leader, mentor and as mentioned above the wife or primary breadwinner, etc.  

I asked my twelve year old son to tell me what the most important role of a mother is. He responded by saying, " the most important role of a mother is to was to protect her children from all the things that could harm them". That's a profound statement when one ponders the thought. What are some of the things that can harm children?  I came up with my own list that I feel is worth mentioning such as, drugs, lack of education, abuse, neglect, self esteem issues, lack of morals and spirituality, lack of leadership, love, morals, in some cases the environment, and a  lack of communication skills and so on. In today's world, when you think about all of the things that have the potential of being harmful, both parents have a job is more complex than ever and more than 60% of women in the United States make this journey alone as single parents. 

Personally I feel that  my job as a mother is to nurture, strengthen, and provide for my family (children, husband and relatives) to the best of my ability.  That  includes making sure that I raise children who will grow up to be contributing adults to society.  
Because teaching children responsibility and integrity entails so many things, I have had to become very resourceful, after all, "how does one instill a strong sense of values and morals?"  Since I asked myself that question, I've learned that I am their teacher, in a way I feel my job and their school teachers jobs are 70/30 -  70% of course being me.  If I am doing my best to help educate my children then they will succeed.  It is my job to teach my children and prepare them for the teacher since teaching my children goes way beyond the classroom.  Teaching, in my perspective involves preparing my children for our surroundings and community  environment.  No one should know my children or their habits better than I do,  I should know the areas where they are strong and weak and be able to articulate and help them in both.  I have earned to speak up on behalf of my children to make sure they are getting the possible best at all times.  I've learned the value of parent participation in the school and attending parent- teacher conferences and having a presence at their school.  I have become their advocate just as I have  learned to express when they are right and when they are wrong.  I have often expressed to my children that I would plead their case before the supreme court if I felt that they were right.  I have earned that if I have a standard of values and morals then they too will have that standard.  It is also my place to demonstrate that we will not settle for less or deviate from that standard.  And I have also learned  to be totally honest with my children about everything good and bad that I have encountered in my life.  Sometimes they  ask very tough questions that we as would rather not answer.  "Did you ever do drugs mom?  Did you ever lie?, steal?, cheat?"   

Be that as it may, I find that honesty is the best policy.  It is that honesty that opens up communication that leads to healthy interactions with my kids.  Honest interaction allows my children to want to talk about these and other things openly.  I would rather that they felt secure in communicating with me than communicating with others who don't have their best interest at heart - that is not to say that I know it all.  There are  times when I cannot be available for them or have an answer for them right away but at least we can explore whenever it is necessary.

I have learned to trust in God. There's no sense in fooling myself by thinking that I've got it all under control at all times. God my father knows what's best for all of his children.  One of the reasons is that I truly believe that children are a gift and motherhood is also a gift from God; and because he is all knowing, all seeing ,and all powerful when I am overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a mother I give my concerns to him and he never fails to do the right thing. Lord I need this, Lord I need that, Lord help me to be a good mom, Lord open up the door, Lord we need a scholarship or vacation". He never fails to do what I can't and so much better.

I've also learned to set health boundaries that promote family well-being around the lives of my children.  No, you can not bring home a "D" and think that its acceptable.  No, you can not go out with people I don't' know.  No, you do not have a choice in this particular matter.  No, I'm sorry but I am committed.  No, you are not allowed. Yes, you will join the Chess Club, Math league, or Tennis Team. Yes, you will do your homework and get decent grades. Yes, you may do this as long as you do that. Yes, I will buy you  sneakers but not those.  

In addition, I have learned that I must be in control and once I have that control I can then invite alternatives, and planning with my children which will lead to many happy events.  In doing so, I have learned to set boundaries for myself, for instance, once I commit my children to a program such as baseball team, it is my responsibility to get them there, provide for their needs as part of the team and to not let them quit until the season is over. When they come home and say "mom can I learn to play the flute"  I have a responsibility to provide that flute for the school year and not to allow them to quit until after their recital.  This I have found prepares them to be responsible and teaches them the art and experience of commitment.