For years, I’ve dreaded Mother’s Day, not because I disdain mothers, and certainly not because I regret becoming one but, rather, because I sincerely believe the adulation to be superficial and misdirected.
Every year, mothers are the subjects of sermons and symphonies, the recipients of flowers, verses, vases and adoration.
As heartfelt as these gifts are, I wonder, “Did anyone ask mothers what they want?” Having spent the better part of my life experiencing the wonder of motherhood, were this question ever posed to me, I have my answer ready: “Help me with my work!”
Mothers’ work is the education and protection of families, the nurturing of children and sustenance life in all the quiet, unseen ways that keep this world turning. Mothers’ work demands continual attention, creativity and generosity. It is a work of love and a work of necessity, preparing the generation that will one day lead and care for us. Mothers, fathers and caregivers perform this work, often with minimal support.
If you value the contribution of mothers, help them with their work. Nothing speaks more profoundly to a mother’s heart as observing unsolicited kindness to, encouragement and mentoring of her child.
We needn’t look far for opportunities. According to Pew Research, a third of American children live in single-parent homes, where they are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty and instability than peers in two-parent households. An estimated 335,000 Utah children live in poverty, 60,000 of them living in intergenerational poverty, including 7,000 in Weber County.
Multiple studies have conclusively established the link between single-parent households and a child’s future competence in all areas of life, including family relationships, educational achievement, physical and psychological health, social maturation, emotional well-being and future earning power. Unaddressed, childhood poverty directly impacts all of us in the form of increased crime, substance abuse, societal and government costs.
Responding to this crisis, Utah created an intergenerational poverty initiative in 2012. As part of its own plan to end intergenerational poverty, Weber County placed mentors in schools in early 2018, to teach youth resilience to adverse experiences. Youth Impact pairs college students with teens in after-school programs designed to build relationships with positive role models. Many good people are doing much, but institutional outreach and government intervention are not enough. As Weber County Commissioner James Ebert expressed, Utah’s children in poverty need “swimming lessons,” not just a lifeguard.
Here’s how you can help:
(1) Respect. Children are not small adults, nor are they incomprehensible sub-humans, but co-significant beings in need of support as they try to understand and respond to the world we’ve given them. Acknowledge their preferences. Respect their boundaries.
(2) Listen. Understanding a child’s thoughts and feelings is critical to responding to their unique needs. Take time. Communicate on their level.
(3) Connect. Do something together. Converse. Play. Cook. Clean. What matters is not the activity, but the sharing that occurs while engaged together.
(4) Persist. Trust and confidence take time. Long term relationships are more likely to yield positive benefits for a child than sporadic interactions.
If motherhood is “the profession for which all others exist” (C.S. Lewis), then nurturing children should be our highest civic priority and Mothers’ Day should include the teachers, mentors, caregivers, grandparents and fathers who also nurture children. Each child is one caring adult away from a success story. Together we can be that difference!
Lorraine Brown is a family law attorney in Weber County, the mother of 11 children, and a Republican candidate for the Utah House of Representatives, District 10.