Becoming My Mother

The Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer starts with a line from Psalm 51, “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Every morning that lines prompts me to ask if my words are declaring God’s praise.

It is just one of the me­­asuring sticks I use. Others include Ephesians 4:29-32 (“Never let evil talk pass your lips…”), 1Corinthinians 10:31 (“…do everything for the glory of God”), the Golden Rule and the Rotary Four-Way Test.

Giving glory to God is more difficult for me to evaluate than whether I treated someone well because I am not sure how things look from God’s perspective. But I have to believe that fostering positive thoughts and actions (rather than negativity) is a great way to glorify God.

Recently, I have been thinking about the mother-daughter relationship and how we are influenced by our mothers’ examples. I have been pondering the ways our mother-daughter relationships give glory to God.

So many of my friends fret about their children and worry that they did not do good jobs as mothers. Mom-guilt abounds.

Those same friends have/had mothers and some are still working through issues from those relationships.

Our mothers are easy targets to blame for the problems in our lives. Their flaws and faults are so visible to us. “I’ve become my mother,” is usually sighed in exasperation.

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My own mother is a great “doer” and rarely sits still, so it is no mystery to me why I have the work ethic I do and why I have difficulty “being” rather than “doing.” I learned at the feet of a master “doer.” That has made me a good employee because I tend to get a lot accomplished. People who follow me in jobs have commented that they don’t know how I did all I did. “If you knew my mother,” I tell them. If ever I want to slack, I hear my mother’s voice in my head urging me to keep going. It is an ongoing, internal conversation.

I remember when I graduated from college and started working in the nonprofit sector, my mother questioned the wisdom of that decision. Couldn’t I make more money if I went corporate? Wouldn’t that be a better use of my college education? I replied “yes” to the first and “not necessarily” to the second. “I just don’t understand you,” my mother said.

I then explained to her that I learned from watching her take in sick relatives and caring for them, listening to the hardships of women at our kitchen table, and visiting friends and relatives who were ill or lonely. She had unknowingly been preparing me for a nonprofit career of caring about people who were disadvantaged, marginalized and disempowered. It was not the answer she wanted to hear. She had not consciously set out to shape me for a nonprofit career, but that is what she had unwittingly done.

It has been a good career, one that I believe gives glory to God.

Becoming my mother has many positives, but too often, I let the difficult parts of our relationship overshadow the positives. To counter that negativity, I want to focus on the positive character traits my mother instilled in me—resilience, determination, perseverance, compassion and hospitality among them. I want to celebrate all the good things my mother taught me, and I want to use those positive attributes to give glory to God.

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Madeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.