We live in a world that glorifies fame and fortune, and honestly, I understand the appeal. Being famous stems from an innate human desire to be known and remembered. Fame brings with it the connotation that our lives have a meaning and a purpose that is worth others seeing and knowing about. And the path of motherhood is where a truly valuable “fame” lies — a lifelong legacy that is created and passed down through generations.
Women, and mothers in particular, have a unique role in the family and in society as a whole. Men are traditionally viewed as leaders and have filled that role because of certain traits that lend themselves to giving to their families in this capacity. This doesn’t mean that women are lesser, or that the role of being a wife and a mother is in any way demeaning.
In fact, women play a role within the family that a father is unable to fill. The nurture and care that come from a mother is undeniably unique; there is a reason that so many clichés exist about loving in a way that only a mother can. As matriarchs of the family, women provide a different type of leadership than males. Of course, the dynamic of every family is different, but more often than not it is the woman who leads the tasks of daily life, both big and small, which have a particularly profound influence on children.
People Want To Know Their Life Has Meaning
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a hierarchical model of human needs with the most basic needs at the bottom. The highest need, self-actualization or self-fulfillment, lies at the top of the pyramid and is only attainable when all other needs have been met. This need, although the hardest to attain, is the most critical according to Maslow. A life of truly gratifying, fulfilled potential is the ultimate goal of existence.
Each person obviously has a different idea of what self-fulfillment means for their life, but there are naturally many forms of self-fulfillment inherent in motherhood. Everyone wants to feel needed, and kids need the love of their mother. While a child’s need for their mom certainly changes over time, no one ever really stops “needing” their mom. Even as grown children leave and head off to lead their own adult life, a mother is always there, ever available and waiting for any need that arises, quietly watching as her children make their way in the world using the skills learned from their moms.
It is the woman who leads the tasks of daily life, both big and small, which have a particularly profound influence on children.
Children listen. They constantly watch and pick up on what they are exposed to. For better or worse, kids will repeat what you say and do. Those raising children have the unique opportunity, and quite honestly the responsibility, to lead their children in the cultivation of their beliefs and values. Passing on the beliefs you hold most dear is not only a privilege of motherhood, but also a definitive way of ensuring that the world is filled with more of the values which you uphold yourself.
Others Will Long Tell of the Influence You’ve Had
Unlike the fame of being an actress or other worldly glory, the influence of a mother will live on far beyond the popularity of a movie. I was fortunate enough to have my Italian great grandmother as part of my life for 18 years, and I can still hear her yelling, “Mangia, mangia!” (Italian for “eat”) at all of us. I distinctly remember those days with her, not just because of her Italian stubbornness (although that is impossible to forget), but because, in her own way, she was always concerned with taking care of us. Although my own children will never meet her, I will forever try to duplicate her pasta and remember to make sure my kids are as happy and full as she kept us.
I think of my grandmother, whom I am lucky enough to share phone calls with each week. She is the most generous person I know, and she inspires me to think about others more than myself. I watch my own mother, who continues to selflessly devote her life to the schooling and raising of six children. She does so not at the expense of her own dreams, but because those children are her dreams, as is their success and happiness.
Those raising children have the unique opportunity, and quite honestly the responsibility, to lead their children in the cultivation of their beliefs and values.
A 2011 study revealed that the more children someone has after the age of 40, the happier they are, and I’m certain that my own mother would agree. She is constantly surrounded by love and laughter, and despite the grief we’ve all given her at one point or another, she continues to set an example of sacrificial love for us all. I see my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law shine through my husband, who loves me every day better than I could have ever imagined I would be loved. This is due largely in part to the example of sacrificial love set by his own mother and grandmother, which continues to affect him and his decisions, and which I know will someday play a huge role in his choices as a father.
Finally, I look around at my friends, both those my age and those generations above me, who have and are continuing to raise and nurture beautiful families. What a gift it is to watch my own friends become selfless and giving mothers, and how special it is to see my friends who are mothers of grown children reap the benefits of a lifetime of devotion to their beautiful families. Not only have these mothers inspired and formed their own children, but they also set an example for their friends, and in turn the rest of the world, through the love they have poured into their marriages and children.
To all the mamas out there, your legacy will live on forever. Whether you are giving up hours of sleep each night with your newborn, desperately trying to keep a toddler entertained, struggling through homework, sitting on a cold bleacher at a sports game, aching over the child away at college you’re missing, preparing for the wedding of your not-so-little kid, or watching your babies have babies, your influence extends far beyond what you could possibly imagine.
I couldn’t put it any better than Mother Teresa, who said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” The legacy of a mother lives on through the profound influence she has on her children, and, quite frankly, on anyone else looking carefully enough to be moved by her sacrificial love and devotion.