We hear a lot today about father hunger: so many kids grow up with absentee dads, and it leaves a gnawing hunger in them as they restlessly look a for paternal authority that takes responsibility and loves sacrificially. It is a sad reality. But this parental abdication is not limited to dads.
I see a real mother hunger among women today both in and out of the church. So many young women have grown up without a role model. Many were raised in day cares and then shuttled off to school rooms where they never received the loving instruction they longed for. Moms weren’t there to show them how to look pretty, how to braid their hair or put it in a pony tail. They don’t know their way around a kitchen or a cosmetic counter. They are women searching for their place in the world and feeling mighty unprepared.
Little girls are sponges, eager for teaching. They follow Mama around in the kitchen asking if they can help. They want to get their little hands in the dish water; they want to fold the clothes or help toss the wet clothes into the dryer or help hang them on the line. They want to stir the cookie dough or watch the pot boil, arrange flowers, set the table, and make the house look pretty. They want to help take care of the baby. In other words, little girls want very much to be part of their mother’s world. This is the way God has created them, and it is indeed wonderful and mysterious.
When little girls are not included in these things, even if they are mightily entertained in other ways, they will grow up to be needy and insecure. And once they are grown, they may become uncomfortable with their femininity and intimidated by domesticity, never really knowing why.
I believe this accounts for such a widespread cry today among younger women for mentoring. They are looking for mothers because they never got all they wanted from their own mothers. And unless they recognize this for what it is and overcome it somehow, they are going to pass this hunger on to their own daughters without meaning to.
Many Christian women want a mentor who will teach them how to be comfortable being mothers, at ease being women. They can often feel intimidated by their own daughters’ needs and questions because they just don’t know the answers. Their own mothers may have never taught them the simple arts, like how to braid their hair, sew on a button, wear makeup, set a table, or (horrors!) how to have guests. And they don’t know who to ask because sometimes they don’t know what the question is anyway.
This is why older women need to be available, though we can all learn from women of all ages. And though I don’t like the term mentoring because it seems to put the mentor in too high a position, I still appreciate the need for it, and I don’t have a better term to suggest. No one can really replace a mother. You can hire people to do things for you, but you can’t go back to relive your childhood and get these things from your own mom.
So here is a word to you younger women if you are feeling this kind of mother hunger. First, name it for what it is, and forgive your mother for not preparing you to be a woman. Then ask God to give you a healthy desire to learn and the right people to learn from. Nothing wrong with books and other resources, but it’s great to learn from real live women who are doing it. But don’t feel limited to one “mentor.” Technically, a mentor is a trusted advisor. That’s what a mother is supposed to be! She is God’s appointed mentor. But in the event that she didn’t or couldn’t do that for you, you may know an older (or maybe not older) woman who can be that for you. But do still continue to learn many other things from friends and contacts who are not officially “mentoring” you. Ask questions. “How do you braid your daughter’s hair that way? Will you show me?”
When you are visiting friends, look at how they set the table, how they arrange the flowers, how they organize their buffet table. Take mental notes. You can never get too many ideas.
I believe this mother hunger is a big part of the reason why Martha Stewart is so effective: women are very hungry for input, and she is very good at dishing up lots more than any of us can take in. She is always there, and she can answer all our questions. Just like a mother should. But she is no replacement for the real deal.