What I Really Want for Mother’s Day

As the stores at the mall start advertising Mother’s Day sales and my inbox becomes cluttered with Mother’s Day coupons, I find myself wondering what moms really want on this day that is supposed to be honoring them.

In the Baha’i Writings, mothers are referred to as the first educators of the children. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

If the mother is educated then her children will be well taught. When the mother is wise, then will the children be led into the path of wisdom. If the mother be religious she will show her children how they should love God. If the mother is moral she guides her little ones into the ways of uprightness. It is clear therefore that the future generation depends on the mothers of today. Is not this a vital responsibility for the woman? Does she not require every possible advantage to equip her for such a task? (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 161)

Considering the importance of mothers, I think Mother’s Day is as good of a day as any for husbands, kids, and relatives to thank mothers for all their hard work throughout the year. It is a great idea to show love and kindness to one who is so instrumental in the life of everyone in her family! However let us not think that the appreciation and support of mothers can end here.

The world has in many ways moved beyond the stereotypical roles for men and women leading to a blending of duties in the home and, sometimes, confusion and stress from the weight of the responsibilities that are not so obviously assigned any more. But whether she’s a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, every mother has a tremendous influence on her child’s life and future.

Abdu’l-Baha reminds us:

For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgement, the understanding and the faith of their little ones. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 126)

Besides structural changes within the family unit, there are many trends in current society that are affecting the inner workings of the home. More families are separated from extended relatives because they have moved across the state or to another country altogether. Neighbors do not even necessarily know each other by name. A majority of “friends” are media based and people are missing out on the value of face-to-face connection. Basically the family’s age-old support system – practically and even emotionally – has broken down.

As we build the New World Order, I personally suspect that old roles will not just be readjusted but totally recreated. Who said “work” has to be 8 hours on five days a week? Or that schools can’t be 5 hours a day and based in the neighborhood, so that families can spend the rest of the day living and serving the community together? What about communities sharing the work load so that childcare, farming, and neighborhood needs are woven into the structure of everyone’s daily routine? Will stay-at-home mothers eventually be paid by the government for their labor, similar to daycare workers?

But the future, whatever it may be, is still a long way off. For now, let us consider if we have truly broken free from the old mold where work at home is not valued and being a mother is not seen as a “real job.” Does the configuration of our current society allow everyone in the family to work together for the common good, regardless of title or the money they make? Do we, as a society at large, show respect for mothers as educators of their children, keepers of their homes, and valuable contributors to the progress of humanity?

Mothers everywhere are struggling with the repercussions of these questions, and are torn in a society that expects so much of them but does not give them the support they need to “do it all.” They are trying to balance their responsibilities at home with their passions outside the home, working to give their children a moral education in a world plagued with materialism, seeking to serve their communities in their limited “free” time, wondering if they are “wasting” their education by staying at home with their children, and the list goes on…

We need more than cards and chocolates to support mothers today. What I, and I suspect many mothers out there, really want for Mother’s Day is a change in mindset and to take steps forward to change the structure of the world.

We need a society where childrearing is deeply respected. We need a community where motherhood is treated as a “real job” and therefore education and training are provided to prepare us for the workload. We need creativity and flexibility with jobs and childcare so we do not have to choose between staying at home and going to work, allowing us to use our talents and education in both arenas. We need hands-on help from neighbors and the community around us, so we can be part of a village working together to raise our children. We need fair pay and access to healthcare, whether working inside or outside of the home. We need people who respect us for our choices, no matter what they are, and try to help out whenever they can.

Motherhood is a hard job. And so I ask you, on this Mother’s Day, to resolve yourselves in your work that is building a world that will truly support it:

Continue your children’s classes, your junior youth groups, your study circles and your devotional gatherings… they are all contributing to making a brighter future for mothers, fathers, and children everywhere. Through them, and service to our communities, we are learning about what it means to be global citizens, servants of humanity, and each day we are moving towards a New World Order.

Respect and support mothers in whatever ways you can, every day of the year. Truly they are doing a magnificent service to society, even if the world is not currently set up to recognize or support them in their role. We will get there eventually. For now we can take heart in this beautiful selection expressing admiration for the work of mothers everywhere:

O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 139)

About the Author

Chelsea is passionate about the advancement of women and promoting the nobility of motherhood, and believes supporting mothers practically and emotionally is crucial for community development. She lives in Australia with her husband and two young sons, and authors the website: www.enablemetogrow.com.

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Discussion 11 Comments

  1. What a lovely article 🙂 indeed it will be very interesting to see how the future world supports mothering. There are so many responsibilities that come along with being the main caretakers of your children. Honestly I find that on Mother’s Day all I want is a break from the more mundane jobs such as cooking, cleaning, etc.

  2. I really identified with this article, especially the paragraph about the need for society to respect childrearing. There once was a time when a mother’s role was revered! Wouldn’t it be great if there was more flexibility for us to raise our children and work/use our skills/education and devote time to our own hobbies without having to put our children into expensive care. I’ve been thinking that all I want for mother’s day is for more people to say you’re doing a great job and I ‘see’ all the things you do for your family, it’s like everyone thinks there’s no need to tell a Mum she’s doing a good job that it’s understood as a given or just expected of her and therefore unremarkable?

  3. Great article Chelsea. I think you rightly pointed out the false dichotomy of “working mother” vs. “stay-at-home mom.” Working mothers still tend to the needs of their children and families, and mothers who stay at home are still working, utilizing their education, and contributing to the advancement of civilization. The same goes for fathers of course, but I think this is a particularly challenging situation for many working women I know who have recently made the transition to motherhood and are unsure how to balance traditional notions of work and motherhood.

  4. First, i do appreciate all the careful thought that went into this article. I wonder if we often overlook the effort, the time, and the skills of the person who voluntarily develops a topic for this blog to bring attention to the perspective on social issues which we Bahais often take for granted. Thoughtful writers look for opportunities in the status quo celebrations of society to raise our voices. Howeer, Ithink it ALMOST goes without saying that we are indoviduals with a variety of experiences and views on any one subject, even on this topic regarding the underappreciated roles of women in modern society.

    I want to add that in seeking to get the word out about respect for women, in my opinion, limiting the message about “underappreciated condition of mothers”, perhaps limits the audience who will find this message particularly beneficial. I worry that the weight of this article is focused almost entirely on mothers. Why? Well, its because the opportunity to catch people’s attention is because of the socially approved one day of the year called “Mother’s Day”. right? The name of the day isn’t “Family’s Day”, much as we might wish it so. And it happens only once a year. So, I am not anti-mothers (I have one), but I am trying to be a thoughtful person who doesn’t want the role of 1 person in the family made to be the entire whole of the situation, the family. If anyone asked me what I think would improve this article (no one has) I would suggest that the emphais should be on “Families” rather than parceling out attention for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas/Children’s day.
    Regards from Japan (where we have both Children’s day(Boy’s day), Doll Festival day(Girl’s day), Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Respect for the Aged Day (Grandparent’s day) and last but not least, Christmas!

  5. Thanks everyone for the comments! I agree with all of you 🙂 In response to Thomas, yes I hope all readers would assume, with anything they read written by a Baha’i or not, that any short article will not exhaust the subject of motherhood, parenthood, issues surrounding families today, or even a Baha’i perspective on what motherhood is. It is one tiny, tiny perspective on the maze of life – and thus is rightfully labelled “Opinion.” For sure we need to improve, uplift, respect, and honor EVERY person in the world… and as we glean wisdom from the Writings and from our experiences while living in a learning mode, hopefully we are expanding our vision about how ALL roles can be improved in the new world we are building — and that is the basic message of what I was trying to convey in this piece. I hope we can all support each other… regardless of the hats we wear… as we are all uniquely crafted by our Creator and have a special role to play in the world. Fathers, women without children, and everyone else included. Mother’s Day is just a time everyone is talking about appreciating mothers, so why not chime in on the subject, as they do obviously play a very special role in life, it cannot be denied, even if they are just one part of the puzzle 🙂

  6. For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgement, the understanding and the faith of their little ones. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 126)
    I would really appreciate your views on this quote Chelsea. If mothers ‘determine’ the faith of their children, I think this poses a fine balance with the principle of the independent search for truth? It places so much responsibility on the mother: I have seen well meaning mothers, of all faiths, guilt their children into attending religious events, whether explicitly or subconsciously, for fear of having failed in their spiritual duty. I have met children who attend religious events because they love their parents, and fear hurting them and yet do not believe. A spiritually mature mother maybe grasps the challenge to transform herself spiritually in order to be an example to her children, whilst recognising that ultimately children will choose their own beliefs? Surely in an age of equality the father has equal responsibility for the spiritual well-being of a child? I understand a practical explanation that in some cases the mother spends more time with children, but in many instances both parents work. I would really appreciate your views around these issues. Loved your article on Mother’s day, thank you.

    1. Hi Ruth!

      I can’t speak for Chelsea, but as a mom this is a topic that I think about often and I just wanted to add my two cents’ worth because you’ve raised some excellent questions.

      I very much agree with you that a mature mother mentors the understanding and faith of her children by providing an example, and accepting that her children will ultimately choose their own beliefs as they mature. Have you read the book Baha’i Parenting Perspectives? I find it very helpful because it addresses questions similar to this and then has a variety of responses from Baha’i parents. It gives you a diversity of ways in which parents are practically applying spiritual principles in their parenting. That being said, one thing that I think is very important is praying for your children. Ultimately, they are on their own spiritual path and praying for God’s assistance, even from the very beginning, can only be helpful and can benefit you and them! 🙂

      As it relates to the role of fathers in the spiritual upbringing of children, I don’t think there can be any doubt that they play a very important part. I think the quote that you mentioned, as with others, highlights the special role of mothers but not necessarily at the expense of discounting fathers and their responsibilities. I love this quote from Abdu’l-Baha found in A Compilation on Baha’i Education: “The spiritual father is greater than the physical one, for the latter bestoweth but this world’s life, whereas the former endoweth his child with life everlasting.”

      I hope these provide food for thought!

  7. Hi Ruth! What a great conversation you started. There really is a lot to think about, ponder, and pray upon here. I don’t think it’s easy to sum up all of the Teachings in one selection, so perhaps taking it in context with other quotations on parenting can be helpful. The quotation you referred to definitely does place a lot of responsibility on the mother… and perhaps this is what I was getting at in my article, that society does not support women to fully live up to their potential because of the lack of support/understanding about the true role of motherhood. Maybe the other thing to consider is that “faith” doesn’t necessarily mean religious identity. Everything is on a spectrum… one can call themselves something, and act in accordance to the teachings (or not). Just a few thoughts. Thanks for bringing this up!

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