Mothering: A Necessary Influence

mother and child2In the Family Proclamation we are clearly reminded of woman’s ability to mother, or nurture, when it tells us, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” This responsibility is a natural part of our DNA as women. It comes out without our even having to think about it, unless it is discouraged, frowned upon, or redirected by the world and its counterfeit pleasures.

Mothering has always been the loving influence necessary in teaching and inspiring the next generation. Civilization is based on a man and a woman marrying and raising children to continue the cycle. Without this divine responsibility, there is no sense of selfless service in raising children, no mothering, and ultimately, no future for the rising generation.

Thousands of years ago mankind was taught, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and mother and child3when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Also this, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalms 127:3). And finally, “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalms 78:6-7).

President David O. McKay once told of an experience during his college days. While walking down the street with his family, passing some houses, they heard some ugly screaming and yelling. He knocked on the window to stop the attack as they all waited for the police to arrive. When the door was opened, young McKay glimpsed for the first time in his life a drunken woman with two crying daughters. Years later, while teaching in a reform school, he was introduced to these two sisters now grown. He stated, “They were not to blame—victims of an evil environment into which the mother had led them” (Gospel Ideals, pp. 451-452).

Good people don’t always see the damage they cause with their worldly choices, and people don’t seem concerned so much with the consequences of those choices down the road. It seems our world becomes overloaded with too many choices—too much stimulation—that takes our minds off of what is truly important—family.

While serving at a care facility, I saw firsthand the results of a lifetime of choices made by these women. There was one woman who was always angry. She would wander around in her wheelchair with a giant chip on her shoulder. No visitors came to see her. Anyone walking by might offer a greeting, but receive a grunt in reply. Another woman, also in a wheelchair, would roam around introducing herself, greeting strangers, and welcoming her children and friends, as so many came to visit her. I know life can be very difficult, causing setbacks, loss, and bitterness, but there was no denying the effect of righteous influencing formed from years of selfless mothering habits.


Today, it seems that mothers want to avoid mothering. Women find their escape through work, hobbies, clubs, and activities that are fulfilling only to them. Some of these women allow other women to take care of their little ones so they can escape. Becoming the perfect woman has become more important than becoming the perfect mother.

Working women have the dilemma of limited time with their children, but even then mothering can still take place. Ben Carson, a surgeon and 2016 Presidential Candidate, has told about his upbringing by a single mother who worked long hours to support her family. He and his brother hardly ever saw her, but when she realized they were having trouble in school and could barely read, she demanded that they read two books a week and write a report on them. Even though she couldn’t read herself, she “read” each report and marked a big red checkmark on it. Somehow, her mothering technique was consistent enough to influence her sons to obey her, praise her for her consistent love, and excel in their future lives.

A neighbor once hired me to watch her son while she returned back to work. I guess she was trying to potty train him over the weekends, because she dropped him off with extra underwear, which he needed. His watch care was divided between another woman’s and my household each week. The poor kid was so confused and embarrassed, I finally had to suggest to the mother that she take a week off of work to toilet train her son. This little boy desperately needed mothering from his mother.

Both my husband and I grew up in homes where our mothers worked. In my home I would mother and childhave to say there was little mothering. As a result, I made a conscious choice to mother my children. For me, that meant staying home to raise them. My husband once wrote this sweet tribute about me. “Thirty years of having my wife be at home when our six children came home from school to share their day, to talk about their concerns, to know mom was their to teach, over and over, how to apply the gospel in their lives. It is incalculable the affect all those days, hours and minutes have had for good on our children.”

Speaking at a funeral, President McKay said, “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world” (Gospel Ideals, p. 452).

Once, while having a conversation with my 13-year old granddaughter about her new calling as president of her Beehive class, we started talking about some activity ideas she might like to propose to the girls. I started suggesting the ones I grew up with: sewing, cleaning, cooking, mother and child4gospel studying, caring for children, service opportunities, etc., things a future mother ought to know. She looked at me and said, “I don’t think those would go over real well. We’ve been talking about a Spa/Sleepover night and a Talent Show.” We discussed the merits of all the suggestions and without any prompting from me, she said, “Learning mothering skills is a good idea.”

A home that enjoys the mothering touch is a home full of love.

Elder L. Tom Perry offered three basic child-rearing principles taught by President McKay, “The first and most important inner quality you can instill in a child is faith in God. The first and most important action a child can learn is obedience. And the most powerful tool you have with which to teach a child is love” (L. Tom Perry, “Train Up a Child,” Ap. 1983).

mother and child5

The world models for women a mother that does not seem to have the qualities of mothering. It is confusing for a young girl to reach adulthood without the necessary skills to mother, or a young boy neglected in the security that mothering brings. Without mothering skills there can be no foundation for learning, teaching, and growing toward a productive end. The next generation becomes like “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14). Instead of being pulled away from our responsibility, we must anchor our homes with the strength and power of our motherhood, relying on scripture, the words of a prophet, and our own personal revelation to righteously mother the next generation.

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Jan Tolman

Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.

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About Jan Tolman

Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.

3 thoughts on “Mothering: A Necessary Influence

  1. Kristy

    I want to say that I’m stay-at-home and I agree with alot that you have to say but I feel like this article is very critical to mothers that work – especially since our leaders have recently made it very clear that’s it between the woman and the Lord if she works or not.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with other women watching your kids so you can have a little time to yourself. I have a mental disorder and in order to keep it under control I have to have time a Few hours to myself every week.

    Finally, there are so many more things a young woman needs to be taught in order to develop motherly skills. They need to be taught basic things like home repair, budget, time management, proper use of technology. But in my opinion there are so many mental and emotional things that need to be taught… to develop proper self-esteem, that’s it okay if you not enjoy things like sewing or cooking, how to take care of yourself mentally, etc.

    In young womens, I was only taught the “physical” things of motherly….cooking, sewing, cleaning, ironing, how to do laundry which is important to know how to do but if we had focused more on the emotional and mental parts of mothering I think a lot of women would be better off.

    1. Jan Tolman Post author

      I agree completely with the points you’ve made. Wording things differently doesn’t mean we disagree.

      Working mothers have always had a more difficult time of mothering, because of their time restrictions. But, many working mothers still manage to mother excellently, as noted in my example of Dr. Carson’s mother–and many others out there. This post is actually pointing out the unmistakable reforms in society to downplay mothering. Mothers nit-picking one another is defeating while it’s better to humbly take our proper place in one of the most holy callings ever created.

  2. Kathryn Skaggs

    This is a beautiful post, Jan, and so needed. To be “maker” of our homes is one of the greatest privileges and blessings we have as women. In today’s world, children need mothers who work to find the best ways possible for them to nurture and teach their own children. It has become much too risky to allow others to do this training if it can be avoided. My heart goes out to the child who may have many material advantages but who lacks a mother in the home. Yes, some women must work and for them we stand in full support but I’m glad to see this kind of writing in support of the SAHM whenever and wherever possible.

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