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Mothers and Those Who Stand In the Gap


May brings a time when we think about Mother’s Day. Some of us have warm memories of a mother who nurtured us from newborn to adulthood. She loved unconditionally, disciplined firmly and taught valuable life lessons from how to do laundry to how to love. The older we get, the wiser she’s become, and we are so grateful for the role model she was.

For others, Mother’s Day is tough. There are “unmothered daughters,” raised by mothers who were absent, abusive, or narcissistic. There are women who’ve battled infertility or miscarriage, and some have longed to be a mother but have yet to find the right husband. There are women who’ve become content as doting aunts and others who’ve poured out their motherly love through volunteering.

I was an unmothered daughter, raised by adoptive parents who were much older than the parents of all my friends. As I reflect I realize my mother didn’t have the natural gifts or learned skills for motherhood, because she didn’t have a role model who prepared her for that role. For years I compared her to my “real mother,” who I imagined was vibrant, loving and fun. Instead of experiencing a healthy, nurturing mother/daughter relationship, my adoptive mother and I fought like cats. Unfortunately neither of us leaned on the Lord during those years, and by the time my faith led me to understanding and forgiveness, it was too late.

My daughter once asked how I’d become the mother I am with the relationship I had with my mother. I told her it’s by God’s grace and because I’ve been influenced by other women. My first mentor was a high school teacher who’s still a good friend. My pastor told a story about his wife, who would lie across the bed in their daughter’s room and talk with them for hours. That one small story gave me a vision of what I wanted my life to be. I watched the moms of friends when I was young and relished in the friendships I had as a young adult with godly women. The older I got the more I treasured the women who guided and shaped me—sometimes unknowingly—as I became the mother I wanted to be.

All of us need women in our lives; women who “mother us” as they share their wisdom and encouragement, while loving us unconditionally in our imperfection. We need women to laugh and cry with, giving us the freedom to be real. We need teachers, motivators and accountability partners, and we must have women in our lives who pick us up when we’re down. Life is a team sport, and we cannot do it alone.

Likewise we need to “mother others,” nurturing our children, sisters, nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers through our words and actions. No matter how young or old we are, no matter what our status in life, we have so much to give. We are role models in our everyday lives. Someone is always watching.

Think of the women who’ve influenced your life. Has your mother shaped you in a positive way? Are there other women who’ve had a part in who you are today? This month write a note of thanks to each one. Even better, make some phone calls. For those who may not be alive, tell their children how special they were.

In the same spirit of gratitude, consider how you can influence others. Is there someone in your life who needs encouragement? Do you know someone who’s struggling with life in general? Be on the lookout for someone who needs your wise guidance at work or in her personal life or who’s feeling isolated and just needs a friend. You might make a profound difference in her life, just by opening up and being you.


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Susan is passionate about helping women become stronger and more vibrant by helping them define what’s truly important in life. Like all of our Contributing Writers, Susan has found herself at a major crossroads. Her site was one of the top five resources for women over 50, but she felt it wasn’t enough. She now supports women—on a deeper level—and 1010 Park Place is excited to host Susan Tolles’ Q&A’s. She will answer your questions about integrating your life with your desires. Susan doesn’t do fluff. She digs deep. Want to create a legacy that goes beyond material possessions? Ask Susan! Susan can also be found at

8 thoughts on “Mothers and Those Who Stand In the Gap”

  1. Oh my goodness…thats exactly how i feel..and felt guilty for feeling that way and now with everyone posting send a flower,ballon..a whatever to ” mom in heaven…i want to gag. She wasnt mean or absent but she was cold…perfection got you ‘ better but try harder next time’ never did i get a hug,kiss or compliment. But her friends and friends daught3heard how special i was…never to me. …i vowed never to be her…i heard her words in ,y head and studdered “!* how wonderful, great job with hugs and kisses and flowers and pride,,,i was Not her. But there’s a whole..i have some !o,s that are very dear to me and they probably dont even know how much!

    • Joyce, I can definitely relate to your story. There are so many of us who had mothers in “our era” who just didn’t know how to nurture, or who didn’t have good role models themselves. It has been up to us to break the cycle and create what we wanted, not waht we saw.
      On Mother’s Day, I called two of my “substitute mothers” to tell them how very much I appreciate all they have done for me over the years. They have been my encouraagers and cheerleaders, and have given unconditional love like I longed for. I highly encourage you to do the same for the special women in your life! Especially before it is too late.

  2. As my mother’s dementia progressed, she told me she’d done the best she could as a mother. Before that moment, to myself, I rolled my eyes when she’d say that, but that particular day, everything clicked. I realized mother had been mentally ill all of my life, so yes… She did the best she could. I’m grateful to God that I stood in the gap for her when I was a child and especially during her last years. We grew close in ways we’d never been. The sad part was, five minutes later, she didn’t remember it. On some level I know she did because things shifted for both of us into a more loving relationship. I don’t think I could handle her death, knowing I hadn’t done my best for her and been there for her. XOXOX, Brenda

  3. Brenda, I am so happy that you were able to experience a more loving relationship with your mother before she died. At least you have that sense of peace now, with fond memories of her last days. My heart still breaks when I think of my mother’s waning hours. I would give anythng to do things differently if given a second chance. If nothing else, I would share God’s love, even if I had trouble finding love for her in the depths of my own soul.

  4. Hope you get this article into more venues.

    Thank you for knowing to write it, and deeply appreciate your skill & nuance with a tough topic.

    Not difficult to figure out how I came to write the words, above.

    Decided long ago, my mom did the best she could, sister/me were merely collateral damage to her mothering. In that decision, forgiveness, and easy resolve to treat mom how I treat people, not how she treated/s me. Many of the ladies of my childhood still live near mom. I see them at visits too. Only in the past few years realizing they understood mom’s mothering from the 60’s-now, and stepped into the breach. They are still stepping into the breach. Mom is the gift that keeps on giving. Far more than my role in this, is watching my sister’s. My sister doing the heavy load with mom, she lives close, and receives heavy artillery from mom. Watching my sister’s relationship with G*d carry her in her duties with mom, awe inspiring.

    Again, hope you spread this article further, there are many like us.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  5. What a beautiful post. And a wonderful honest portrayal of mothering. I’m so glad you’ve been able to create a new story about mothering. Your children are very lucky! xo

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