Like millions of other women, I don’t live in the same town as my mother. Some women have bad relationships with their mothers, and so living in another town is a relief. But for most, living in the same town as your mother means you have local encouragement and help from someone who has known you for life and loves you anyway.
Part of me wants to address the issue by saying to myself, “Boo-hoo, stop it with the princess-martyr complex: ‘My mother’s not in town so I can’t go shopping by myself, nap, or get my nails done every Friday’.” But then the rest of me reads a facebook post from someone whose mother is helping through flu season, or I see a mother in the church foyer giving her daughter encouragement, or I watch my kids soak up my mother’s godly example when we’re on a visit and I realize that it’s not always a self-pity party to feel sad that there are hundreds of miles between us.
If we’re sad that our mothers are not in town because we would like to be pampered and be mothered in non-productive ways, then that is something we need to mature out of through spiritual growth. But if we’re sad that our mothers are not in town because we are missing out on the inter-generational blessings of Christian family life, that is a normal sadness that comes with life in a Genesis 3 world.
What about the church? Isn’t that what the church is for, to be family to those who don’t have family? Yes. But just as a single woman isn’t going to stop wanting a husband just because she’s plugged into the careers group, and a barren women isn’t going to stop longing for a child because she’s on nursery duty, the rest of us aren’t going to stop wishing that we lived closer just because there’s a great Titus 2 programme.
That is not to dismiss the church lightly: the church is God’s multi-faceted provision for our growth and belonging. But that is to note how deep the divinely created mother-daughter bond can and should be.
But it’s not all bad. Yes, it can be hard and sad, but the Lord kindly weaves in other blessings for ones that He has withheld. Here are four that have come into my life because my mother doesn’t live in town. You can probably compile your own list of blessings, and maybe you can relate to some of these.
It’s made me appreciate my mother more. In my family, women have been moving away from their mothers for four generations. Looking back at all of them and especially my own mother, I appreciate their examples, hard work, prayers, and love more than I would if I did not realize much of what they went through. And thankfully, I have unlimited long-distance; mothers today have lots of contact that previous generations did not. I can appreciate without being totally severed!
It has opened up relationships with other, older women. In the congregation where I grew up, there were always older women who taught me by their examples and conversations, but I don’t remember going to them for advice. When I moved away, I had to find older women (except, they usually found me) who could answer questions about local issues or comment on my parenting. Thankfully, I also have unlimited long-distance; there are some questions and conversations that only a godly mother can help with.
It’s made me stronger. A student wife once commented about another young mom: “Her mom looks after the kids once a week so she can do groceries by herself! Can you imagine how great that would be?” I pointed out that she got her groceries every week without help, despite having a busy husband, three pre-school children, and a baby on the way. She was able to carry the big load of caring for home and children without help; the woman she mentioned might never discover what she is capable of on her own. Physical and mental stamina often come with this situation. Of course, there are exceptional circumstances, but in general, living away from my mother has made me grow up faster and handle more.
It’s made me run to the throne of grace more than I run to mother. I pray more. Because even if I am stronger than I would be if I had stayed, I can’t do this myself: I need divine strength.
God must have a bigger purpose in mind. If I was planning my life, my mother would live next door, have Sunday dinner with us (at least!), help my kids with science and math homework, babysit a couple evenings a month, give me advice on my garden, and tell me honestly if the new pants do make me look fat. At times, I think that is what I need. It must not be. If I truly needed that, God would have given it to me. I must need what I have. I must have needed some maturing, some strengthening, other relationships, and prods to prayer.
If our mothers don’t live in town, we can be thankful that God is providing for us in other ways that are best for us in ways we don’t understand. We can also be thankful for unlimited long-distance.