Becoming my mother

The Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer starts with a line from Psalm 51, “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Every morning that lines prompts me to ask if my words are declaring God’s praise.

It is just one of the me­­asuring sticks I use. Others include Ephesians 4:29-32 (“Never let evil talk pass your lips…”), 1Corinthinians 10:31 (“…do everything for the glory of God”), the Golden Rule and the Rotary Four-Way Test.

Giving glory to God is more difficult for me to evaluate than whether I treated someone well because I am not sure how things look from God’s perspective. But I have to believe that fostering positive thoughts and actions (rather than negativity) is a great way to glorify God.

Recently, I have been thinking about the mother-daughter relationship and how we are influenced by our mothers’ examples. I have been pondering the ways our mother-daughter relationships give glory to God.

So many of my friends fret about their children and worry that they did not do good jobs as mothers. Mom-guilt abounds.

Those same friends have/had mothers and some are still working through issues from those relationships.

Our mothers are easy targets to blame for the problems in our lives. Their flaws and faults are so visible to us. “I’ve become my mother,” is usually sighed in exasperation.

My own mother is a great “doer” and rarely sits still, so it is no mystery to me why I have the work ethic I do and why I have difficulty “being” rather than “doing.” I learned at the feet of a master “doer.” That has made me a good employee because I tend to get a lot accomplished. People who follow me in jobs have commented that they don’t know how I did all I did. “If you knew my mother,” I tell them. If ever I want to slack, I hear my mother’s voice in my head urging me to keep going. It is an ongoing, internal conversation.

I remember when I graduated from college and started working in the nonprofit sector, my mother questioned the wisdom of that decision. Couldn’t I make more money if I went corporate? Wouldn’t that be a better use of my college education? I replied “yes” to the first and “not necessarily” to the second. “I just don’t understand you,” my mother said.

I then explained to her that I learned from watching her take in sick relatives and caring for them, listening to the hardships of women at our kitchen table, and visiting friends and relatives who were ill or lonely. She had unknowingly been preparing me for a nonprofit career of caring about people who were disadvantaged, marginalized and disempowered. It was not the answer she wanted to hear. She had not consciously set out to shape me for a nonprofit career, but that is what she had unwittingly done.

It has been a good career, one that I believe gives glory to God.

Becoming my mother has many positives, but too often, I let the difficult parts of our relationship overshadow the positives. To counter that negativity, I want to focus on the positive character traits my mother instilled in me—resilience, determination, perseverance, compassion and hospitality among them. I want to celebrate all the good things my mother taught me, and I want to use those positive attributes to give glory to God.

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15 thoughts on “Becoming my mother

  1. Jane Banik

    Hi Madeline,

    It’s interesting. Everyone thought of my mother as a sweet lady who attended daily Mass and had a rosary always available. My brother commented one time that Mother dealt with adversity by keeping her hands in water.

    I think of her as one strong lady who seemed to hide that strength, but showed the ability to make you laugh. Growing up t thought of my father as the stronger of the two because outwardly that is what he wanted you to believe. I’ve come to think of myself as more like my mother and I am grateful for that strength as I’ve needed that trait as I deal with my frequent trips to the hospital for bouts with COPD. Her quirky sense of humor seems to be evident in three of her children.

    Love

    Jane

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply
  2. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Jane, I think that what we believe as children is what others want us to believe and a gift of living a long life is the opportunity to look back and see people, relationships, events through a different lens.

    Reply
  3. Maria

    Madeline, I loved your comments and forwarded them to my daughter. My mother and I had an oil and water relationship; my siblings say it’s because we were too much alike. Somehow though, so many of my mother’s good qualities filtered through me to Maura, without her inheriting any of our less savory ones. It takes a few generations, but eventually we learn and we grow. God is good.

    Reply
    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Maria, when I started writing this piece, I wanted to start a campaign of thanking our mothers for the good we learned from them and thanking God for our mothers. I am glad you passed it along to Maura. Happy Mother’s Day.

      Reply
  4. michelebaldwin46

    I liked reading this post, Madeline. It is simple and well thought out. Thanks too for giving voice to the guilt that abounds among mothers. We too, maybe more than anyone, have to forgive ourselves — and accept our own human condition.

    Reply
  5. annemarielom

    What a great Mother’s Day posting, Madeline. I, too, hear my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth and running through my head. I am grateful for my inheritance from her and, also know, she did her best which was more than good enough for us.

    Reply
  6. JustinSchaefer6688

    Thanks for sharing Madeline. Yes it is quite amazing, at least from my perspective, how young people can try so hard to jettison themselves from their parents (surely it is a part of growing up), but eventually come to the conclusion that, “Wow, truly, I am my parent’s child”

    Reply

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