Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mother and Child, 1881

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mother and Child, 1881

Some quotes about mothers from The Marginalian on this important day where we're reminded that we are forever indebted to our mother (and father) for all that they have sacrificed for us.

On realizing that our parents are just human

One of the hardest realizations in life, and one of the most liberating, is that our mothers are neither saints nor saviors — they are just people who, however messy or painful our childhood may have been, and however complicated the adult relationship, have loved us the best way they knew how, with the cards they were dealt and the tools they had.

In The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell shares the most important thing to remember about your mother:

A mother’s love for her children, even her inability to let them be, is because she is under a painful law that the life that passed through her must be brought to fruition. Even when she swallows it whole she is only acting like any frightened mother cat eating its young to keep it safe

the delicate balance of intimacy and dependence

It is not easy to give closeness and freedom, safety plus danger.

and the parental expectations that all of us live, well into adulthood.

No matter how old a mother is she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. It could not be otherwise for she is impelled to know that the seeds of value sown in her have been winnowed. She never outgrows the burden of love, and to the end she carries the weight of hope for those she bore. Oddly, very oddly, she is forever surprised and even faintly wronged that her sons and daughters are just people, for many mothers hope and half expect that their newborn child will make the world better, will somehow be a redeemer. Perhaps they are right, and they can believe that the rare quality they glimpsed in the child is active in the burdened adult.

And Mary Gaitskill, in Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two, gives advice for when your parents are dying:

My advice here is very specific and practicable. It is advice I wish someone had given me as forcefully as I’m about to give it now: When your parents are dying, you should go be with them. You should spend as much time as you can. This may seem obvious; you would be surprised how difficult it can be. It is less difficult if you have a good relationship with the parent or, even if you don’t, if you’re old enough to have lost friends and to have seriously considered your own death. Even so, it may be more difficult than you think.

Concluding that we are not born alone:

They say that you come into the world alone and that you leave alone too. But you aren’t born alone; your mother is with you, maybe your father too. Their presence may have been loving, it may have been demented, it may have been both. But they were with you. When they are dying, remember that. And go be with them.

And Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott on mother as a pillar of society.

In a piece titled "The Mother’s Contribution to Society," from his book Winnicott on the Child, he writes:

It seems to me that there is something missing in human society. Children grow up and become in their turn fathers and mothers, but, on the whole, they do not grow up to know and acknowledge just what their mothers did for them at the start.

Ordinary good parents do build a home and stick together, thus providing the basic ration of child care and thus maintaining a setting in which each child can gradually find the self and the world, and a working relationship between the two. But parents do not want gratitude for this; they get their rewards, and rather than be thanked they prefer to see their children growing up and themselves becoming parents and home-builders. This can be put the other way round. Boys and girls can legitimately blame parents when, after bringing about their existence, they do not furnish them with that start in life which is their due.

the overlooked value of the home to the welfare of society

We know something of the reasons why this long and exacting task, the parents’ job of seeing their children through, is a job worth doing; and, in fact, we believe that it provides the only real basis for society, and the only factory for the democratic tendency in a country’s social system. But the home is the parents’, not the child’s, responsibility.

and the recognition of "the immense contribution to the individual and to society" the "ordinary good mother" makes simply by virtue of her devotion to the child.

Is not this contribution of the devoted mother unrecognized precisely because it is immense? If this contribution is accepted, it follows that every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman.

I'm also amazed by Edna St. Vincent Millay’s deep bond and rare relationship that she shared with her mother, who uses the terms "dear", "dearest", "sweetheart", and even "my Best Beloved" in herbeautiful letters that you can find in The Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Since this was about mothers, a few writings on raising children I want to save for future reading: