What makes a great mom? If I can be completely candid with you, I don’t love the title. It’s boring and feels a bit overwhelming, and in a culture so immersed in the filtered reality of social media, the word “great” felt like a lot of added pressure. However, I kept coming back to it because of what it didn’t say.
Namely, it wasn’t about perfection or striving for some idealized image of motherhood. And while the word great is highly generic, it implies effort, and that’s the part I like. I’ll never be a perfect mom, but with a posture of prayer, I can yield myself to constant growth as I become the mother, but also the daughter, God calls me to be.
Being a great mom isn’t a passive journey. It’s deliberate, imperfect, and filled with trial and error, but it’s also marked by a lifetime of love and learning, an evolution through different seasons of parenting. It’s the type of mom I hope to be; it’s the model my mother, and my mother-in-law, have given me.
Appreciating a mother’s love
Growing up, I know I took much for granted and easily overlooked my mother’s love and devotion. And in many ways, I don’t think I fully understood what it meant to be a good mother until I became one. When I aligned my experiences as a young mother against my mom’s, only then did I begin truly to appreciate her struggles and sacrifice.
So as we approach Mother’s Day, it makes me think not only about my mother and mother-in-law but also the women and friends in my life who I consider great moms. It reminds me to be grateful — grateful for the gift of motherhood, grateful for a loving mother, and grateful for the moments and memories we’ve shared.
Although I know I’m not alone in this, 2020 was a difficult year, but not for the reasons you might think. You see, in the summer of 2020, my mother suffered a heart attack. It scared me for a variety of reasons, but it also made me acutely aware of time.
When we are younger, we feel like we have all the time in the world with futures that stretch long across building careers and starting families, but the truth is we don’t know (James 4:14). Yes, age tends to bring a heightened level of awareness and reflection, but I also don’t want to look back and “wish” I had interrupted my life for the people who mean the most to me. As a result, I’ve tried to be more intentional.
While I sometimes wonder about God’s plans for my life in this aging parent and empty nest season, lately, I’ve been drawn to the idea that maybe for now it’s about availability. Being available to serve, to listen, to sit, to enjoy.
For many of you, thinking about your mom stirs positive memories; for some, though, I know it brings heartache. Feelings of loss and sadness, perhaps the burden of fractured and unhealed relationships, can fill Mother’s Day with the weight of mixed emotions. I have friends who walk uneasy lines with their mothers, so I recognize the struggle.
If that’s you—if you have an earthly parent that has left you hurt and disappointed—remember you have a heavenly parent who loves you perfectly. In her article, What Does the Bible Say about Mothers?, Danielle Bernock put it this way:
The best lesson we can learn about being a good mother is to seek to become more like God.Danielle Bernock
Qualities of a good mother
So by now, you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to get around to answering the question of what makes a great mom. While we each might have slightly different ideas about what makes a great mom, these are the ones that bubble to the surface for me.
A great mom:
This isn’t always the easiest thing to do. As parents, we tend to be quick with our advice. But good relationships come with balance. When I’m talking to my husband, I’m not always seeking his advice or asking him to problem solve, often I just need a sounding board. I need him to listen. It’s the same with our children.
I think it’s important—and hard—to remember this as we interact with our kids, particularly as they become independent adults. However, the Bible is not silent on the topic of listening, as it applies to our relationship with God and with others.
- Be not rash with your mouth…let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
- A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).
- If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13).
- Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… (James 1:19).
– Nurtures and Equips
To nurture our children is to provide love and care while helping them grow and develop (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). It includes training, equipping, and preparing them for life ahead (Proverbs 22:6). Of course, there’s balance in every season of parenting as we learn to Learning to Let Go: Preparing Your Teen to Launch, but there also should be an element of comfort and safety that children find in their mom’s presence.
And by the way, this doesn’t end when your child graduates college. At every life stage, I have learned from my mother. It’s not heavy-handed or overt. Instead, she continues to equip me with the example she sets and the loving guidance she gives. From my mother (and mother-in-law), I have learned the type of mother-in-law and grandmother I hope to one day be.
- But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (Psalm 131:2).
- As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you… (Isaiah 66:13).
- She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue (Proverbs 31:26).
Can we all agree that our aim in motherhood is not about being the “cool” mom or our child’s best friend? Boundaries are necessary, and it’s with loving discipline that we best guide and protect. I love spending time with my mom and my children; we have a great relationship, but we are not peers. That doesn’t make it “less than,” but it does make it different, as it should be.
- Do not withhold discipline from a child…” (Proverbs 23:13).
- “…but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother….Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:15, 17).
- Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid (Proverbs 12:1).
Just three things? Well, no, the list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but for me, each of these qualities aligns with what it means to be a great mom. It’s not a checklist, and it’s not intended to omit the importance of sacrificial love and asking for and giving forgiveness, each one an important characteristic of great parents! But when these things are missing, relationships tend to go awry, and roles get lost.
Regardless of the example your mother set, ultimately, we each have a choice. Just because you didn’t have a good mother doesn’t mean you can’t be one. I can point to a few friends who have made purposeful parenting decisions in order to give their children a radically different upbringing and not repeat the past. I, too, try to parent from failure, correcting or adjusting from past mistakes, both my own and my parents, not because my childhood was bad but because I want to make things better. I imagine—and hope—my children will do the same.
I’m not a perfect mother, but that’s not my goal. I’m striving for great, marked by effort and prayer, so that if nothing else, my children will see God’s love through me.
So what do you think? What are the qualities you think of when you consider what it means to be a great mom?
Drop me an email and let me know!
While we’re on the topic of moms, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite gift ideas for Mom based on things we’ve loved giving and receiving! For the mom who has everything—and doesn’t need one more thing to SIT around the house—these gift ideas are useful, unique, and fun!
Encouraging Bible Verses for Mother’s Day
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you….
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4–7
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ “
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching, for they will be a garland of grace on your head and a gold chain around your neck.
You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
1 Peter 3:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4
I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.
1 Samuel 1:27–28