Why Our Mothers are Our Heroes

clip_image006.jpgBy Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals

Each year we celebrate Mother’s Day, and this reminds us of the results of a study we conducted recently that underscored the importance of family members as heroes.  In the study, people of all ages and from all walks of life were asked to list their heroes.  We were surprised, yet pleased, to see that family members were listed about a third of the time.  Most importantly, one fourth of all people listed their mothers as their hero.  Mothers were mentioned more than any other person, including fathers.

Mother’s Day became a nationally recognized holiday in 1914 because of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, a West Virginian who campaigned to honor mothers after her own beloved mother passed away in 1905.  Ironically, by the 1920s Jarvis became disenchanted with the commercialization of Mother’s Day and began campaigning against the holiday.  Anna JarvisStill, we believe her initial sentiment was on target and we applaud the opportunity to recognize the heroic qualities of mothers everywhere.

Many highly accomplished individuals are quick to attribute their success to their mothers.  American presidents are especially likely to do so.  Abraham Lincoln once noted that “all that I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother.”  George Washington also observed that “all I am I owe to my mother.  I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”  Andrew Jackson claimed that “there never was a woman like my mother.  She was as gentle as a dove and as brave as a lioness.”

Other celebrities also express their indebtedness to their mothers.  Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong once said, “My mother gave me more than any teacher or father figure ever had.”  With these words, Armstrong identified the precise reason why so many of us view our mothers as heroes.  It’s all about the loving generosity of mothers.  When the participants in our study were asked why their mothers were heroic, they generated three main reasons:  generosity with time, money, and love.

There are many ways that mothers gave their time to us.  According to survey respondents, mothers tended to us when we were sick, accompanied us to school and soccer practice, made us dinner, and read stories to us.  Our mothers made financial sacrifices, too.  They wore old clothes so that we could wear new clothes; they took on part-time jobs to buy us gifts; they saved money for us to attend college; mothers_day_cake.jpgthey gave us our weekly allowance; and they made sure we had food on the table.

But the most important quality that distinguishes mothers from other heroes, including fathers, is the free offering of love that mothers give us.  Mothers were there for us when we needed emotional support.  Mothers hugged us.  They comforted us and let us sit on their laps.  They kissed us on our cheeks before school and at bedtime at night.

Why are mothers viewed as so heroically loving?  There are at least two reasons.  First, research has shown that women tend to be more likely than men to possess communal traits such as lovingness, affection, warmth, and nurturance.  These communal traits are highly valued in the context of raising children and are associated with morality and goodness.  Second, it is well known that during childhood, mothers are our primary attachment figures.  They are more likely than fathers to interact with, and bond with, infants.  Our society is no doubt evolving toward fathers having more communal traits and showing more attachment behaviors, but mothers still hold the edge.

And so on this Mother’s Day, we’d like to acknowledge and thank Anna Jarvis and all the women who have given so much to us all.  We wish everyone the happiest of Mother’s Days!

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Do you have a hero that you would like us to profile?  Please send your suggestions to Scott T. Allison (sallison@richmond.edu) or to George R. Goethals (ggoethal@richmond.edu).


22 thoughts on “Why Our Mothers are Our Heroes

  1. Mothers can be wonderful, or weird. In my case, both. 😀

    In the days when we were very poor, my Mother worked very hard to make sure we were all taken care of. Not an easy thing to do when you can’t afford to have the furnace fixed and ice is forming on the inside of a drafty old house. But we survived and I, for one, have many happy memories of those days. Some of my best memories are of my Mother reading with me, or the popcorn parties we had when The Munsters were on.

    I worked in Women’s Health for 22 years and I saw many Mothers fight and sacrifice and suffer for their babies. These were inner city women who were poor and uneducated, often suffering from addiction or abuse, and most of them didn’t have a clue what to do. But they, most of them, would do whatever it took to make sure that their babies were born healthy and had a chance at a better life. Sometimes that meant working night and day for minimum wage, sometimes it meant struggling to overcome their addictions or dependencies, and sometimes it meant giving up those babies to others who could give them more. Nothing could be more heartbreaking, or inspiring.

    Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. 🙂

  2. Hello. I’m here again.

    I don’t know exactly why our mothers are our heroes. But I have a theory.
    Our mothers are the first person that we know when we born. The first person that we learn to love.
    Sometimes this first person is not your mother. But a person who acts like her. And that to you is a person whom you will mirror in the future.
    My mother is my hero. Because she faces the worst situations and gave me a example.
    “She who believes will always achieve.”
    She taught me to keep the faith in myself…and believe in everything that I want.
    She shows what is real love.
    And I’m sure that my siblings are proud of her, too.

    Thank you for the history. I didn’t know the context of this holiday. But now I know.
    Congratulations for this post.
    And Happy Mother’s day to every mother in the world.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to all the mothers. Mine has been gone for over 25 years, but she lives on in her legacy. She was a lady! Just for the record, I think she would have loved ALL of these hero stories. Thank you for this one.
    And don’t forget: Welll behaved women rarely make history!” (author unknown)

  4. I 100 percent agree with this blog. My mother is my hero; she is the reason who I am. I respect all moms across the world, especially single parent moms. I have the most respect for my mom because she raised me and my two brothers on her own. I feel that I owe her my life, the sacrifices she made for my brothers and I are unthinkable. I wouldn’t want to trade her for anything in the world.

  5. I would definitely agree that mothers are unsung heroes. I feel like we often overlook them as heroes since their influence is so obvious! There are few that have greater influence in our lives. So when labeling people ‘heroes’ we are overlooking what’s right under our nose, or in this case the one who gave us our nose in the first place. I would definitely consider my mother one of my heroes. She has spent a good part of her life making my life as it is now possible. She helped me to grow and develop into who I am now and has always been there for any type of support I may need. My mother truly has helped me become the person I am today.

    Mothers are a perfect example of how some degree of heroism is very personal. Many heroes are only defined in the eyes of one individual – like mothers. Does that make them any less heroic? Absolutely not.

    Also, I’d like to add that that cookie cake looks delicious!

  6. My mom is by far one of my greatest heroes. She is the mother of four girls, works as an RN and yet still makes time to come to every one of our sporting events and still have dinner ready for when everyone gets home. I know that I do not thank her enough for all that she has done for me, but reading this blog just makes me realize how important she is not only to me, but to my family as a whole. I would not be who I am today without my mom, and I know my family would not be either. Great blog 🙂

  7. Wonderful posting. I really could not have explained that better. I am not sure if everybody will go along with you, but it probably doesn’t matter. Keep up the great work.

  8. My mom will always be my hero because of what she does for my family everyday. She is the sweetest lady i know, next to my grandma. She works extremely hard and does it for other people, not just herself. She works at a public school, where the kids are to poor to go to any other school because their parents cannot afford to send their kids to any kind of school. So This school provides an education for them and my mom is the vice president of the organization. She means the world to me and I am sure she is not just my hero. Love you mom!

  9. Many thanks to Anna Jarvis – we are encouraged to stop for a moment and say “thank you” to all the Mother’s in the world. They deserve so much more, but a special day is just fine. My mom worked so hard to make sure my sister and I had an education and we have never let her down. Strong when she needed to be, and compassionate and understanding when things got tough. I am lucky that she found love again after my Dad passed away. She is a remarkable person and I hope my sister and I enjoy many, many Mother’s Day celebrations with her. Thanks for reminding us it took another strong woman to stand up and recognize Moms for all their hard work! 🙂

  10. Mothers truly are some of the most unsung heroes of all time. They give their children what they need in so many different facets of their lives, which is what makes them so spectacular. The ability to provide emotional, financial, and even practical support such as cooking meals and doing housekeeping – these are all qualities that mothers tend to possess, and their ability to do all of this and stay sane is remarkable. Mothers are some of the most caring, selfless people on earth. They want what is best for their children, and they keep their families united. It is from our mothers that we learn so much about how to behave and how to care for others, qualities that are some of the most important things we can learn as children. It is no surprise that mothers are nearly always our attachment figures when we are children, because mothers are the ones who protect, nurture, and love us unconditionally. It is very fitting that we have a day to honor them, but we should be praising our mothers, our greatest heroes, 365 days a year.

  11. I love my mom so much I wrote a paper on her for one of my school projects. Everyone relize that a mom is the most important person in the world!!!

  12. I think most everyone can understand why mothers are unsung heroes. Even if you do not have a personally great relationship with your mom, you can see in so many circumstances where mothers are excellent role models, and figures of love and affection to so many people. Mothers are the reasons many people become the people they are, and many credit their mothers for developing and building their character. My mother is absolutely my personal hero. I admire her every day and hope to be more like her as I get older!

  13. I love this blog on mothers. My mother has been, and always will be one of my dearest heroes. She has helped to shape and transform me into who I am today. As I grow older, I hope to see more qualities of my own mother in myself. I have the utmost respect for my mom, and I am thrilled to see a blog honoring all mothers around the world.

  14. Mothers are the comfort that kids need. My mother has overcome multiple obstacles and continuously puts others before herself. She was my high school field hockey coach and while she lead us to many championships she taught us a lot about life. Her belief in others and charisma has given her the title of a hero, not just for me but for others too.

  15. In addition to my father, my mother is also one of my biggest heroes. I think this blog is important because of how heroic mothers truly are. The term “unsung hero” is perfect for mothers because I believe people tend to overlook how much mothers really do. I love my mom and there’s nothing I could do to repay her for everything she has done for me. She will always be a hero in my eyes whether she knows it or not.

  16. I was very pleased when I came across this post. My mother is my hero for an abundance of reasons, and I feel that many mother’s heroism goes unnoticed. I myself sometimes take my mom for granted. She has helped me form into the person I am today, and I can’t imagine my life without her.

  17. As both a mom & a daughter – and as usual ‘odd one out’ compared to the modern Western world norms – I can say I find it easier to BE a mother than to have had one…

    Whilst I value the fact that without my now-deceased mother, I would not be as I am today, and that SHE fed me, clothed me, and cared about me, as well as gave birth to me – I was never close to, inspired by, or looking up to my Mom.

    I have to say that I rarely put ‘my’ Mom above other mothers…. or even recognized her role and value until becoming a mother myself. It was not until I myself gave birth and had a precious human being to care for, protect, look after, worry about, and ‘put first’, that I even noticed that a Mom was anything special.

    I therefore wonder how many of us who ARE moms have changed our view of our OWN Mothers since becoming moms – and if this may make a difference to how highly we rate them????

  18. As a single mother, I’m hoping that one day there’ll be a day dedicated to recognize & celebrate the heroism of single mothers who despite all odds, manage to stand “on their own feet”.


  19. our mother is the loving soul to us.we are existing due to our mothers care.she sustains during emotional and hard situations.when we feel sick,she is the the only soul that remains sorrowful.so our mothers are the first god to us.

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