As a little girl, I always thought my mom was amazing. She, like Mary Poppins, was “practically perfect in every way.” She knew everything about anything and was always available to help her kids.
Now as a recently married wife, I realize I was wrong. My mom wasn’t just amazing. She was a superhero! She made healthy and delicious meals on a
budget day after day. She drove us to events, played the piano for my choir auditions, helped me with sewing projects, and tutored us all in math and science. She knew about gardening, dutch oven cooking, crafting, and so much more.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to live up to what a wonderful lady my mother is. And although I don’t know much about gardening and I can hardly sew a straight line, I’ve realized that those aren’t the things that made her such a great mom.
Contrary to my prior belief, moms aren’t great because they know everything. They aren’t even great because they do everything.
So what makes moms great? Why are they really superheroes?
1. Mothers love.
While I so appreciate that my mom sewed me a prom dress, cooked us dinner, and played the piano for my musical endeavors, these actions really just signified something even more important: love.
This isn’t just some gushy idea; in fact, research shows that a mother’s love can make all the difference for her child!
Psychologist John Bowlby, developer of the attachment theory, found that children need to be securely attached to one main care figure for the first two years of life. This happens when the caregiver (typically the mother) is responsive and engaged with her child, giving the love that every child needs.
If, on the other hand, a child is deprived of maternal love and this secure attachment, research shows that the result is behavioral issues, poor academic achievement, and mental health difficulties in the future.
2. Mothers create consistent and beneficial routines.
Especially during my teenage years, my mom was a rock of consistency. She always put dinner on the table every night. She always talked to me before I went to bed. She always reminded me to “put first things first,” helping me to get in a habit of doing chores and homework before play.
Research shows that these rituals and routines aren’t just nice ideas. In fact, they are a vital part of a child’s development. Having consistency provides both stability and learning opportunities. With each family dinner, I not only benefited from a predictable pattern, but I was also able to develop social skills from family conversation.
Mothers play a big part in establishing these daily patterns that really help their children thrive.
3. Mothers teach their kids how to deal with emotions
Perhaps one of the most influential aspects of my mother was her willingness to talk
with me. Whether I’d had a rough day at school or had concerns
about friends, she was willing to listen. My feelings were heard and valued; she was there to help me learn to deal with them.
Of course, not every woman will naturally be the perfect “emotion coach,” as Dr. Gottman puts it. However, when a mom is around, she will have opportunities to help her children understand and deal with emotions. If mom is home when kids get back from school, it’s likely that she will play a large part in how they learn to handle themselves.
When mothers observe their child’s emotions, listen, and acknowledge, the child will feel heard. Moms can help their kids label emotions and learn how to respond to these feelings of distress.
(All that said, my dad was also extremely influential. Dads can help in all these areas too! Check out Dr. Tim’s article for more on the importance of dads.)
So even if I never can cook quite as well as my mom, or if I never develop a green thumb (I’ve killed my last three plants), there may still be hope for me. Because what makes moms so great isn’t their seemingly super-human capacities. What makes them great is their love, consistent routines, and willingness to deal with emotions. Thank goodness for moms, our superheroes!