I can't imagine a better time to talk about family relations than a few days before Mother's Day. There's nothing like a mother's love. My own mother is quite incredible. It sometimes overwhelms me, the depth of that love. And I'm not just saying that so I don't have to buy her a gift. She really is wonderful.
A mother's love is special. It is the most important relationship we have in our species, that of mother and child. It's the basis upon which all other relationships develop or don't develop. Our mothers are our first loves. It is through their nurturing that we learn about love — how to give it and how to receive it.
Abraham Lincoln had heartfelt praise for his own mother and of mothers in general. He said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." And also, "I regard no man as poor who has a godly mother." Lincoln's long ago spoken words echo what researchers' stats confirm today.
A recent Barna Group survey shows that women raising children are among the most faith-minded and spiritually active segments of the American population. Three-quarters of moms identify "family" to be their highest priority. The report concludes that "compared to men, women are more likely to communicate about faith, prioritize activities that develop their faith and that of their children, and they are more vulnerable about their needs and emotions."
Barna Group president David Kinnamn said, "Whether they are a parent or not, women in America have high levels of spiritual sensitivity and engagement. Men generally lag behind the spirituality of women — and particularly so if they are not a father."
Putting this in theological terms, women are more likely to submit to, and humble themselves, under the authority of their faith, to better raise their children. In contrast, men's identities are more closely linked to being in control and taking charge of a situation. Submitting to a higher authority doesn't come naturally for them.
But it doesn't mean fathers aren't important. In fact, fathers provide the balance that children need for healthy development, says David Blankenhorn, the founder and president of Institute for American Values. His recent book “The Future of Marriage,” talks about the great need to strengthen marriage for the sake of children's emotional and cognitive well being. Ironically, a mother's love is actually intensified when the father is present.
"What the great anthropologists will tell you about fathers, " Blankenhorn says, "is that there are two preconditions for being a good father. One is you live with the child, you're in the same home that the child is in, and two is, you get along with the mother."
But more and more children are growing up in fractured homes. According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, the percentage of births to unmarried mothers went from 10.7 percent in 1970, to 35.8 percent in 2004. And the U.S. Marriage Index shows that the percentage of children living with two married parents dropped 17 percent from 1970 to 2000.
Children are highly adaptable to most living situations. It's part of the human survival instinct. But Blankenhorn stresses that when adults intentionally bring children up in any other situation than a two parent household, it shows that adults are putting their needs ahead of that of the children.
"What the child really wants, at the deepest level of want and need, is for the two people, the mother and the father, who brought me into this world to love me and for me to love them and for them to love each other."
Blankenhorn says that women and men have different but similar parenting skills. They both love their children, but women are more concerned about the child's safety, while men think more about the child's accomplishments. If a child plays on a jungle gym, the mother says, "Be careful, don't hurt yourself," while the father asks, "How high can you climb?"
Which one's correct? "They both are," says Blankenhorn.
However, in the real world children are born into all kinds of situations, some better than others. The two parent model is becoming less and less the norm. So what's the solution?
I would propose that we can all learn the power and strength of a mother's love. That all of us are capable of giving unconditional love to children and all the people in our lives. And I will go further to say that all of us have this great need to be loved with the gentleness of a mother, and the strength of a father.
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."