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Do mothers still play an important role in the family—and in society? In an era of single parents and two-income households, what is the future of motherhood? What can a mother do to give her children the foundation they need for success?
Our nations are in a cultural and moral crisis. If you are a mother, what can you do to protect your children from the coming calamities?
Across the United States, millions of families will celebrate Mother's Day on May 11. Nations around the world honor mothers at different times for their love and their nurturing nature, and for the sacrifices they make for their children and families.
Certainly we should thank our mothers—and the mothers of our children—for their lifelong love and support. We are living in a time of crisis when each mother's role is vitally important. The Western nations are at a pivotal crossroads, leading the world in divorce and encouraging immorality. Drug abuse and crime are rampant. Sexual perversion and addictions are not only corroding national character, but are being exported at an alarming rate. Morality and religion have become increasingly irrelevant to millions.
Why does this matter? Bible prophecy shows that our nations will face total societal collapse unless we repent as a people. Jesus Christ foretold that the worst time of warfare in human history would come just before His return to the earth: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). The prophet Jeremiah explained that this time would be so terrible that "none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). To reverse our present course, there must be a drastic change in our attitudes toward God and the true religion of the Bible.
The role of fathers is crucial and cannot be emphasized enough. But neither can the role of mothers—who have a unique and profound effect on their children's growth and spiritual development. Great leaders have attested to the importance of a wise and loving mother. United States President Andrew Jackson praised his mother as being "gentle as a dove and brave as a lioness" (Mother o' Mine: A Mother's Treasury, p. 106). Inventor Thomas Edison honored his mother, saying, "My mother was the making of me," and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln said, "All that I am or hope to be I owe to my mother" (ibid., pp. 107).
A mother's role has always been important, but her role is even more vital when she is a child's only parental influence. This is the sad fact for millions of children in the Western nations today. Author David Blankenhorn points out that because of rampant out-of-wedlock pregnancy and divorce in the U.S., "before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation's children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers" (Fatherless America, p. 1).
One of the earliest calls for celebration of a Mother's Day in the United States came from Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, Howe wrote a "Mother's Day" proclamation, focusing on the plight of mothers who lost their husbands and sons in wars of the mid-nineteenth century.
Although men have historically borne the brunt of warfare, war also has a terrible effect on women and children. In World War II, whole families died in Nazi concentration camps. Human beings were herded into railcars to be humiliated, de-humanized and finally exterminated.
In war, the almost-unthinkable can become routine. Scripture describes the dehumanizing effect of war on desperate parents. Moses warned the Israelites: "You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you…" (Deuteronomy 28:53). History also records that some parents killed and ate their children during the 70ad Roman siege of Jerusalem. Is this unthinkable in our modern day? Ask yourself: how many millions of refined, "enlightened" people in Western society today condone the murder of unborn children for the mere convenience of the parents?
Parents today should realize that without God, their children and families can suffer incredibly. Moses recorded this warning from God: "Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate" (Leviticus 26:21–22).
Mothers are naturally concerned about the direction of our nations. A godly mother wants only to see the best for her family. She cares about her community's future, because it will directly affect her children's future.
But what can a mother do to keep her children safe and prepare them for a happy and successful future?
Without a wholesale, complete repentance and turning to God, our nations will not avoid a horrible end. But how can children know how to do this unless they are taught?
One of a mother's primary responsibilities is to teach her children about the true worship of God. As Dr. Jeffrey Fall writes in Successful Parenting: God's Way: "For Christian parents, the ultimate goal is to lay a foundation in their children's young impressionable years, so they will always desire to fully seek God as their Father" (p. 2). Moses told the Israelites that "you shall teach [the words of God] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Sadly, many mothers—and fathers—have forgotten this God-given role. In their book Passionate Housewives: Desperate for God, authors Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald note that "many times, without a scriptural model, the 'professional mom' creates a child-centered home—a fantasy household that is best described as an ultimate playground" (pp. 24–25). Motherhood is not just about providing recreational and educational experiences for one's offspring—it is about instilling moral and spiritual principles in the next generation.
The Bible shows that it is only through parents' convicted and dedicated religious teaching that the next generation will prosper and thrive. David wrote: "Give ear, O my people, to my law.… We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord…. That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments" (Psalm 78:1–2, 4–7).
If you want your children to escape the coming disasters ahead—and to prepare for God's Kingdom as well—are you setting the example yourself? Are you living a genuine Christian life? Dr. James Dobson writes, "If the salvation of our children is really that vital to us, then our spiritual training should begin before children can even comprehend what it is all about. They should grow up seeing their parents on their knees before God, talking to Him. They will learn quickly at that age and will never forget what they've seen and heard" (Parenting Isn't for Cowards, p. 104).
And yet, author Carla Barnhill notes that many women mistakenly believe that "their ultimate worth is found in motherhood, not in their relationship with God" (The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women, p. 14). That is a mistake. If a mother wants to bring up godly children, her first priority is to be a godly mother, practicing Christianity and walking with God in her personal life.
God promises blessings for those who obey Him with all their hearts. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses warned Israel to "fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged" (v. 2). If you want your children to prosper and grow, teach them to look to and follow God in their lives.
In our increasingly father-neutral and fatherless society, many children today simply do not have a meaningful relationship with a father. And yet, a positive relationship with a child's father is fundamental to healthy growth and development. It also forms the foundation for a child's relationship with his eternal Father, God.
If you are a mother, are you teaching your children to respect their father? Mothers can have a role in helping to turn the hearts of their children to their Heavenly Father, as well as to their physical fathers. But what if you, as a wife, feel you cannot respect your husband? What if you do not feel he is worthy of admiration? Dobson notes: "You as a mother hold the keys to the relationship between your boys [or girls] and their father. If you show respect to him as a man, they will be more inclined to admire and emulate him. If you think he is a wimp or a dope or a loser, those attitudes will translate directly into their interaction" (Bringing Up Boys, p. 94). Do you set an example that helps your children respect their father, despite his human frailties?
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6:1–3). Today, many parents are embarrassed to require obedience and honor from their children. Many parenting techniques today encourage only tolerance and self-expression from young people, and the building of youthful self-esteem. Parents are often made to feel it is selfish and self-serving to require respect and obedience from their children. And yet, God wants children to learn self-control and godliness, and to grow in His image. As Paul noted, to honor and submit to parents is one of the Ten Commandments. And it is a commandment with promise of a long and bountiful life.
What if yours is a troubled home? Seek to reconcile, if at all possible. Work on working it out. A less-than-perfect marriage consisting of a father and mother is generally better for all parties involved than separation and divorce. Researchers Paul Amato and Alan Booth came to the conclusion that "at most a third of divorces are so distressed that the children are likely to benefit. The remainder, about 70 percent, involve low-conflict marriages that apparently harm children much less than the realities of divorce" ("Two parents, even unhappy, are better," Today, January 7, 1998).
What if you are a single mother? Do not try to turn your children against their father. Teach them to respect him as much as they are able. This does not mean tolerating his wrong behaviors; it means teaching them to respect him as a fellow human being. Even if their father is completely absent, or is an unfit role model in every way, you can teach your children to respect other male authority figures. This will help them gain a greater sense of security as they navigate their way through life, and it will pave the way for a relationship with their Heavenly Father. It will help them turn to repentance in their own relationship with God. This may save them from great suffering in the years ahead (Proverbs 30:17).
As a foundation for teaching children to honor God and respect their parents, a mother has a special responsibility to make her house a home. We read: "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands" (Proverbs 14:1). Are you building a home life of peace, tranquility and happiness, where children can grow in a secure and nurturing environment?
Proverbs 31 describes a mother striving to build a warm, peaceful and godly home. She is not an idealized "super-Mom" but rather is a woman exercising her God-given talents to the full. She fears God (v. 30), respects her husband so that he can trust her (vv. 11–12), provides clothing and food for her family (vv. 13–15, 21–22), guards her tongue and speaks with kindness (v. 26). Godly motherhood is not an unattainable ideal—it should be the goal of every mother seeking to follow God.
In modern America, "home" is often little more than a building where related individuals sleep—where there is little meaningful interaction between family members. Television and the Internet now consume much of adults' time at home—about 20 hours a week, according to recent polls. Children have observed and emulated this pattern in their own lives. In 2005, a poll by the National Institute on Media and the Family reported that children aged 8 to 18 spent 44.5 hours per week in front of a computer, television or game screen.
As a mother, you have a unique opportunity to encourage your family to interact together—to build your home through real family connections. How can you do this? Is there one simple key?
Eat together. This is a simple step, but has far-reaching results and will help prepare your children to face their future courageously. Dr. Blake Bowden of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Center conducted a survey of 527 teenagers, to learn what family and lifestyle characteristics were related to mental health. "What they observed, once more, is that adolescents whose parents ate dinner with them five times per week or more were the least likely to be on drugs, to be depressed, or to be in trouble with the law. They were also more likely to be doing well in school and to be surrounded by a supportive circle of friends…. Family mealtimes continue to be great settings in which to impart the truths of our faith. As the blessings of the day are recounted, children see evidence of God's loving, faithful care and the importance of honoring Him with a time of thanks" (Bringing Up Boys, pp. 92–93).
A mother can also facilitate communication within the family. Dr. Dobson gives this advice: "Let me urge you mothers to talk regularly to your sons (and, of course, to every other member of the family). It is a skill that can be taught. Work hard at keeping the lines of communication open and clear. Explore what your children and spouse are thinking and feeling…. When you sense a closed spirit developing, don't let another day go by without bringing hidden feelings out in the open. It's the first principle of healthy family life" (ibid., p. 96). Do not let your house be just a junction where related family members come and go—be the catalyst for real communication and you will be helping them grow into strong young men and women.
In modern society, motherhood is both "undervalued and overly romanticized" (Barnhill, p. 14). It should be neither—it is simply the role God gave to ensure that truth and right values would be passed to the next generation, and that children would be nurtured in an environment where they could develop godly character (Malachi 2:15). Sadly, modern society often gives little encouragement and support to mothers who want to be "keepers at home" (Titus 2:5, KJV). Dorothy Patterson, a homemaker and an adjunct faculty member at Criswell College, explains this double-standard: "Of course, much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else's and not your own." Fewer and fewer mothers train their young daughters at all in how to manage a home. After all, "who has time for learning to run a home—especially when you don't plan to spend much time there anyway?" (Chancey and McDonald, pp. 24–25).
In a crisis-filled world, mothers have the unique privilege of creating a place of peace for stressed-out family members by making their home inviting, warm and welcoming. Mothers can foster an environment where family members learn to communicate at regular intervals, and with respect and courtesy. They can help their children learn godly morality, talk about God's ways and learn how to approach life.
The Apostle Paul warned that at the end of this present age, Christian parents would be bucking the prevailing trend in society, as many around them become "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:2–4). Mothers today can do much to keep their children from falling into this pattern.
Can mothers make a difference? Your parenting may not be able to save the world. But you can nurture and encourage your children, teach them to obey God and respect their parents. Not only will you be helping them along the right path toward a happy and godly adulthood; you may even save them from being destroyed with a disoriented and sinful generation (Proverbs 23:13–14). Yes, mothers, in this time of crisis, you can make a difference!