The Challenges Mothers Face
“It is the tasks connected with the home that are the fundamental tasks of humanity. . . . If the mother does not do her duty, there will either be no next generation, or a next generation that is worse than none at all.”—Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States.
CLEARLY, a mother is essential to human life, but her role involves far more than just bearing children. Regarding the role of mothers in most parts of the world today, one writer observed: “She is the primary protector for each child’s health, education, intellect, personality, character, and emotional stability.”
One of a mother’s many functions is that of educator of her children. A child’s first words and its pattern of speech are usually learned from its mother. Thus, a person’s first language is often referred to as his mother tongue. The mother generally spends more time with the children each day than her mate, so she may be their chief teacher as well as principal disciplinarian. Thus, the Mexican proverb “Education is breast-fed” honors the important role of mothers.
Our Creator, Jehovah God, also honors mothers. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments, written on tablets of stone by “God’s finger,” urges children: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12; 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10) Moreover, a Bible proverb refers to “the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 1:8) The importance of teaching children during the first three years of life—when most are largely under their mother’s care—is now widely acknowledged.
What Are Some Challenges?
For many mothers a challenge to teaching their children during the crucial formative years is the pressure to work secularly to help support the family. Statistics gathered by the United Nations show that in many developed countries, more than half of mothers with children under the age of three are employed.
Additionally, mothers often bear the burden of bringing up their children by themselves because their husbands have left home to find work in another city or country. For example, it is reported that in some regions of Armenia, almost one third of the men have gone abroad in search of work. Other mothers are left alone to raise their children because their husbands have abandoned them or have died.
In some countries another challenge for many mothers is that they lack an education. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates that two thirds of the world’s 876 million illiterates are women. In fact, in Africa, the Arab states, and East and South Asia, according to UNESCO, over 60 percent of the women are illiterate. Furthermore, large numbers of men believe that educating women is unnecessary and even makes them unfit for their childbearing role.
The magazine Outlook says that in one district of the state of Kerala in India where girls are commonly mothers by age 15, no one wants an educated bride. In neighboring Pakistan, sons are given priority. Their upbringing prepares them to find better-paying jobs so they can support their parents in their old age. On the other hand, according to the book Women’s Education in Developing Countries, “parents fail to invest in their daughters because they do not expect them to be able to make an economic contribution to the family.”
Then there is the challenge of dealing with local customs. For instance, in some countries a mother is expected to support such customs as the sale of young daughters in marriage and female genital mutilation. There is also a taboo on mothers’ teaching and disciplining their sons. Is a mother obliged to follow such customs and leave the teaching of her sons to others?
In the following articles, we shall see how some mothers are meeting such challenges. We will also try to come to a greater appreciation of mothers and motherhood and obtain a balanced view of the mother’s role as an educator of her children.
[Box/Picture on page 4]
“When it comes to stimulating a child’s intelligence and curiosity, as well as developing his/her creativity, a mother’s role is vital.”—Regional Summit on Children’s Rights, Burkina Faso, 1997.
[Pictures on page 3]
Mothers have a great deal to do with each child’s health, education, personality, and emotional stability