“Take good care of your mother . . . and remember to be kind.”
– Jackson Browne, The Only Child
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. Hopefully you made a phone call, sent a card, flowers, bought lunch or went to visit. But that was almost a week ago by the time you read this. What about today? Next week? Every week? Once you’re grown and gone, it’s not usually your responsibility to take care of your mother. But it’s your opportunity to take good care. How’s that different than just taking care? ‘Taking care’ means responding to her needs, but ‘taking good care’ requires intentionality. It means studying your mom. Understanding her. Loving her the way she wants to be loved.
I think mothers of adult children are some of the most misunderstood people on the planet. Their needs are often exaggerated by our guilt and our unwillingness to slow down and try to understand their stories . . . what made them the way they are. All mothers are certainly not alike, but a few things are common . . .
- They have a desire to know how you’re doing – Basic stuff. Are you healthy, safe, struggling, happy, or frustrated? How’s your job? How are your wife and kids?
- They have a desire to be valued – Your mom carried you around for 9 months, painfully squeezed you through a very small personal space, then gave years of her life so you could have one of your own. Now you’re grown and married and she wants to know she still matters.
- They have a desire to belong – Your mom isn’t stupid. She knows you’re married and long gone. But since you came from her and she invested so much into ‘launching’ you, she wants to be included in your life, at least a little bit. She wants you to have your own family but she still wants you to be a part of hers too.
So, here’s what most of us miss. And I confess, I went a lot of years before I figured this out. Taking good care of your mother involves three simple things . . .
- She wants you to initiate. A quick phone call, initiated by you, can really make her happy. “He thought of me,” she thinks. It’s not a call to your dad, not to your parents, it’s to her. Your mom. Give her your undivided attention for 5 minutes. Often. At least once a week. It’s powerful.
- She wants you to self-disclose. Volunteer how you’re doing, what’s happening in your life, your family, your job, your church. Don’t make her ask.
- She wants you to appreciate. Celebrate anything she does for you, your family or your kids. Brag on her. If she’s not doing anything, thank her for things she did last week, last month, or years ago. No one has ever been thanked too much so long as it’s genuine. Don’t criticize her, coach her, or try to fix her. Just thank her.
I can hear the moans! “Yeah Regi, but you don’t know my mom!” And you’re right, I don’t. But try what I’m suggesting. Give it three months. Put it on your calendar so you won’t forget. And know, only you can do this. Can’t be delegated to your wife . . . her calls don’t count the same way. It has to be you. And if your mom is long-winded, it’s ok to call her on the way somewhere and ‘have to run’ when you get there. Just don’t cut her off every time you call!
People feel good about themselves when they do the right thing. Initiating loving contact with your mom on a regular basis is the right thing if you want to “take good care of your mother . . . and be kind.”
Scripture: Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)
Mentor Tip: Very few of the men I’ve mentored have escaped issues with their moms or their mothers-in-law. Remind them that honoring your father and mother is a command, not a suggestion.