May
10
2013

Photo Credit: latinohealthzone.com

As an early tribute to Mothers Day, we’d like to share some thoughts on the indefatigable job of – you guessed it – being a mom.

Mothers live an interesting paradox: they are either recognized as saints or servants. A child is a mother’s most important responsibility, and consequently, motherhood is celebrated culturally around the world. Mothers are emblems of caring, giving, patience, and love.

Of course – there’s more to a mother’s saintliness than meets the eye. Is there a biological reason for a mother’s celebrated traits? In this article, Bill Muehlenberg comments on a mother’s dual role in guiding her child both spiritually and practically. He reminds us of Ann Crittenden’s poignant description of this double responsibility. On one hand, Crittenden points to the Jewish adage, which says, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore He made mothers.” On the other hand, there’s the Arab adage, which says, “the mother is a school; if she is well reared, you are sure to build a nation”.

The Arab adage resonates with Kindermusik’s key principle that the parent is the child’s best teacher. In biology, the body is considered to stop physically optimizing once a mother has passed her child-bearing years – evolution is a hard-hearted process of competition, survival of the fittest, and passing genes from one generation to the next. But after a woman has finished having children, another fascinating evolutionary trait sets in: caretaking.

A fascinating Radiolab podcast, “The Good Show,” illuminates this paradox. If altruism (motherhood!) is the opposite of survival of the fittest, how do we explain (as Radiolab puts it) “why one creature might stick its neck out for another?” Why do mothers spend a lifetime “sacrificing” themselves for their children?

The answer, according to “The Good Show,” is still genetic (hence not “purely altruistic”) – a mother is protecting her genes by protecting her child. Even if the show decides that pure altruism doesn’t exist, a mother’s lifelong task of raising her child (to protect her genes) is the most influential force in a child’s development. Maybe we can all agree that being a mother can feel like a selfless plight of altruism, but in the end, the giving, caring, music classes and teaching! – really, really, pays off. What do you think? Comment below!

Happy Mothers Day!

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