"For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."
-- William Ross Wallace
The most significant person in our lives is our mother, whether we had a wonderful relationship with her or an adversarial one. Perhaps you do not remember your mom because you lost her at a young age, as my mother did. Our mothers' presence -- or absence -- in our lives shapes our relationships internally and with those who share our world.
Mothers are our core. They give us our sense of place in our young and limited world. They instruct us with both love and discipline, and they prepare us, primarily emotionally, to cope with our expanding relationships as we mature. Those earliest lessons are part of our emotional DNA, which we carry forward into every aspect of our life. This Sunday we will honor our mothers, and as we do, we should reflect on all the women in our lives who have shaped us, whom we love and who have loved us in return.
One of the earliest historical records of a society celebrating a mother deity can be found among the ancient Egyptians, who held a festival honoring the goddess Isis. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, who was known as the "Mother of all the Gods". Christians celebrated Mary, the mother of Christ, a representation of Christianity. This honor was later expanded to include all mothers and became known as Mothering Day. In the late 1870s Julia Ward Howe created a Mother's Day event for women who were dedicated to peace, and in the early 1900s Anna Jarvis campaigned and organized a movement for a national Mother's Day.
It is only recently that Mother's Day has become a traditional observance of honoring actual "worldly" mothers rather than female deities or the Church. The past rites had significant spiritual and symbolic connotations, but the human aspect is now the accepted one among most cultures, especially in the United States. Some have bemoaned the fact that Mother's Day has become, like many holidays that were once steeped in religion and tradition, far too commercial. The day is a money generator for many businesses. The biggest sector to benefit is the restaurant industry, which enjoys $3 billion in brunch and dinner revenue; people also spend $2.5 billion on jewelry, $2 million on flowers, $1.5 billion on gift cards, $1.5 billion on clothing and accessories, $700 million on greeting cards, $600 million on electronics and gadgets (including computers), $550 million on books and CDs, and $500 million on housewares and gardening tools. Mothers are keeping our economy active, so might I suggest that we celebrate every day?
Moms deserve to be commemorated each and every day because the job, although joyous, is also 24/7 and one of the most challenging -- and important -- jobs a person can embrace. Mothers raise the future of the world, and if anyone argues that this is too broad a statement, consider the sweeping research in childhood development that underscores the benefit of a nurturing mother figure in the development of a balanced, happy and well-functioning individual. Moms have the capacity to instill in their children moral compasses, respect for themselves and others and the spirit of human kindness. We have a spectrum of people in our midst who register higher or lower in these important qualities; some could do well by returning to their moms, but others need to find a surrogate one!
In our book "Wishes for a Mother's Heart," my co-author Tricia LaVoice and I speak from our hearts with a message of support for other women. We draw from our life experiences as mothers, daughters, sisters and friends of other women to share stories and examples of how we can all be better communicators, caretakers of those we love, listeners and doers of kind and compassionate deeds. One example of a lesson we can all practice is to remember that in a time of crisis or pain, it is often not enough to say, "If there is something you need, just call." I suggest going further by doing something; any act of kindness, mothering or friendship will be welcomed. There is a quote that I live by: "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." We've composed a compilation of Tricia's beautiful prose-poetry, with reflections and pragmatic "to-do" actions to provide inspiration and support, as well as gentle and creative directives that people can use to help themselves and others. The book is also a primer on strategies for making our wishes a reality.
Women are a sisterhood, a tribe, a clan, and we need to understand that historically we have bonded by the fires, in the fields, in our homes and now in the workplace as well. The more we support each other personally and professionally, the stronger we all are, the healthier our children will be and ultimately the greater our nation will become.
"We ascend from a long and noble tradition of sisterhood and the primitive need to bond, to share and to get along to survive."
"A mother is a safe haven, a teacher of good values and principles, a nurturer. A mother is a disciplinarian; a mother does whatever she has to do for her child. A mother gives unconditional and endless love."
--Ellie Lazaroff, Barbara's mother
"Mother Nature knew we would all have to say good-bye to our mothers one day and that this departure would redefine our being and leave us hollow inside, so she gifted all her children with maternal love... maternal love to share with one another when a mother must go."
Here's wishing everyone, whether you have given birth or not, a happy Mother's Day. Find that maternal love within you and share it with someone. That includes you, Menfolk: share the love!
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Barbara Lazaroff is the co-author, with Tricia LaVoice, of "Wishes for a Mother's Heart" (Hay House Publishing), available wherever books are sold, as well as on Barnes & Noble online. A percentage of the sales are being donated to a variety of participating charities.