Mother’s Day: Taking a Closer Look at the Role of Mothers

Flowers, a gift card from Bloomingdale’s, or perhaps jewelry, all of which are gifts that are traditionally given on Mother’s Day. It is a day to celebrate all that our mothers do for us — from giving birth to us to feeding, cleaning, teaching, caring, and so many other hats that our mothers wear to take care of us. However, Mother’s Day only comes once a year. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it everyday?

Islam’s View on the Role of Mothers

That’s the concept that is emphasized in Islam. Great emphasis has been placed on the high status of mothers, and this is shown in many different references. For instance, the Holy Qur’an states, “ ‘And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents — his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years — ‘Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. Unto Me is the final return’ ” (31:14).

Here, the mother is specifically mentioned, and her labors stated — she has to go through extreme pain to give birth to her children, and then nourish them for years afterwards. This is exemplified when one looks at the effort and risks involved with pregnancy;: mothers often need to abstain from normal activities that they would otherwise do, like running two miles a day. They do this willingly, since they care for us — even before we are born. In addition, when the baby is born, the mother goes on maternity leave, leading to lost wages and opportunities for career advancement. However, our mothers willingly take this chance, showing that this certainly requires a lot of patience and care from the mother, and sacrifices as well — from sacrificing her sleep to putting her children’s needs before hers.

In addition, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) has stated, “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.” This shows that mothers are indeed given such a high status in Islam that they must be respected and taken care of in every manner possible. The quote is in response to the tremendous burden of responsibility that has been placed on our mothers.They are responsible for our moral and spiritual upbringing — a task not to be taken lightly. Mothers are our models in so many ways;even before we can talk, we are observing them and will thus take on what they say and do. If they are righteous and show love and care for their family, their children will take on these qualities and grow up to be righteous as well. They teach us our key values and morals — from having integrity, to developing solid character, to caring for others, to leading a good lifestyle.There are too many to name them all!

Scientific Support for the Role of Mothers

The crucial role of mothers has been supported by various research studies. Even before a baby is born, the growing child listens to the world around them. In a study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2016, it was found that certain regions of the child’s brain become more activated upon hearing the voice of their mothers. For example, not only are auditory processing areas activated, but also those that regulate emotions, like the amygdala (a region that is located deep inside the brain and shaped like an almond). These were revealed through the first-ever brain scans of children after listening to their mother’s voice. Thus, even just hearing the voice of their mother gave emotional support to children, showing that the mother-child bond is extremely important, and is nurtured even before the baby is born.

In a study published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy in January 2018, researchers found that shorter maternity leaves of the mother led to more negative interactions between the mother and her child and that the first few months of a child’s life are key to the development of his/her secure attachment to his/her mother. This clearly displays the importance of mothers and how each interaction between the mother and her child shapes the child’s behavior. Secure attachment has been shown to lead to children having greater empathy and emotional resilience later in life.

Another Facet on the Role of Mothers

For decades, psychological research has advocated the important role of mothers. One example is Harry Harlow’s famous monkey experiment. In this experiment, he took infant monkeys away from their biological moms and put them into a cage. In the cage, there were two substitute mothers: one wire-and-cloth mother, and another one made out of rubber and soft fabric. Then, Harlow came up with two conditions to test: one where the wire mother had food (a bottle of nutrients) and the cloth mother did not, and one where the cloth mother had food and the wire mother did not. In both cases, the monkeys spent a lot more time with the cloth mother, and even when the cloth mother didn’t have food, they would go to the wire mother to get food and then go to the cloth mother right after, for almost 18 hours! That’s a lot of time — showing that monkeys didn’t just depend on their mothers for food, but for contact comfort too.

This finding has been shown with mothers in the real world. Babies who receive more hugs from their mom become more socially adept when they are older, thus showing the importance of our mothers even further.

This is also shown with the countless stories of mothers sacrificing themselves for their children — including for animals as well, such as mother bears protecting their cubs from threats, giving their cubs food before eating themselves, or panda bears cuddling their young for nearly 3 months, and elephant mothers who travel with children kept in the inside of a herd — to name a few examples.

Mothers are our heroes. One example is in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — mothers fulfill them all the way. They give us our physiological needs of food, water, and shelter through giving us food everyday and sheltering us, and give us our need for safety by hugging us or giving a comforting word when we’re stressed. This in turn leads to us belonging socially, thus leading to a rich social life that enables us to grow and learn to communicate with others and function as contributing members of society. This fosters strong self-esteem, a key factor that is needed to ensure healthy relationships and promotes a child’s well-being, leading to the final step of the pyramid — self-actualization, where a person fulfills their potential.

Showing our Appreciation for our Mothers

Our mothers are our first teachers in life. They are who we are attached the most to at the beginning of life, and we are strongly influenced by their actions and behavior. They play a huge role in our lives, and we should always be thankful to them! Everyday, do something kind for your mother whether it’s small, like calling her to ask how her day is going, or big, like organizing a trip for her 50th birthday. It all makes a difference.

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Aumena Choudhry

In her free time, Aumena enjoys writing various types of genres, and also likes to give back to her community through volunteering.