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Full Circle: The Evolution of Mother-Child Relationships

by Susie Michelle Cortright

“Little children disturb your sleep;
big ones, your life.”

–Yiddish proverb

As a mother was tucking in her daughter for the night, the child reached up for a hug. Locked in her mother’s embrace, she whispered, “Mom…Do you love me as much as I love you?”

Her mother replied, “Only when you have a little girl of your own, and you are tucking her in at night, will you know how much I love you.”

I’m not certain where I first heard this story, but it has become one of my favorites. The boundless nature of human love is definable only when you have a child.

Before we had children, I’m sure we all heard the cliché: becoming a mother will change your life more than you ever thought possible. And only after we have children can we truly understand the truth of the statement.

Children open our hearts. I heard a quote recently that likened having children to growing a new heart and allowing it to walk along on its own. To go to kindergarten, to fall in love, to experience the thrill of leaving home for the first time. All the while making our own heart completely vulnerable to entities and forces we never even experience firsthand.

When we have children, our perspective broadens. No longer do we look at the world in terms of our own lives and well-being, but of that of another. With this in mind, it might be easier to understand the frame of reference from which our parents view us.

How do our relationships with our mothers change once we have children of our own?

Most of us report a growing understanding. A greater sense of respect. More empathy for our parents. The classic words ring true: “If I had known what it meant to be a parent, I would never have put my parents through the things I did.”

This renewed and broadened understanding extends to a more complete conception of what it means to be a woman. Of femininity and of the full circle of identity that binds generations of women together.

When we become parents, our own mothers take on a renewed role in the family structure, as well. They become the stabilizers, working to weave the threads of a family together.

Grandmothers are always there to lend an ear.  And some things don’t change: At my grandmother’s house, there were always homemade sugar cookies and ice cold Pepsis. At my daughter’s grandmother’s house, there is homemade caramel corn and ice cold Cokes.

Children tend to bring out the best in our own parents, as well. Some grandparents act like kids again, playing peek-a-boo, making dolls, coloring in coloring books alongside the children. When a new baby comes into a household, we spend a lot of time reminiscing about our own days of youth…and new grandparents reflect fondly on the first days of their own children.

Our parents get a special thrill from watching their grandchildren grow up…and think of the thrill it must be for them to see their own children nurturing another child. Imagine the flattery of seeing parenting styles that reflect their own.

Let us be grateful to the mothers of the world. The mothers who have raised us, loved us, and taught us what it means to be mothers ourselves.


Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder and publisher of Momscape, an online magazine devoted to nurturing the nurturers. Visit her at http://www.momscape.com to escape in inspiring articles and essays, subscribe to Momscape’s free email newsletters, and register to win free pampering packages.