This is the age of the superhero, judging from the most popular films coming out of Hollywood. Movies based on popular crime-fighter comic books seem to roll out every few months.
When people are asked to name their own personal heroes, replies vary; the list includes political and spiritual leaders, sports icons, entertainment stars. But one name comes up more often than any other: good old Mom.
Researcher Scott T. Allison at the University of Richmond in Virginia, says mothers earn the title by meeting, for most people, what psychologists call the hierarchy of needs. And they pretty much display the characteristics that make even the fictional heroes great.
First, mothers defend and protect their young. Stories abound of mothers who have fought attackers, both physical and imagined. Most children learn at an early age that their mother will stand up for them, whether they are being bothered by bullies or called in to a conference with the teacher.
Researchers have found that the process of giving birth changes a woman’s brain, making them “biologically driven to protect, care for and motivate their children to succeed,” according to Rebecca M. Fischer, also of the University of Richmond.
Second, mothers are a child’s first and most important teacher, in multiple ways. Studies suggest that a child’s intelligence is inherited more from the mother than from the father. Also, Mom’s often the one who most often imparts knowledge, whether it’s by helping with homework or offering sage advice during times of doubt or reflection. They’re teach the all-important life lessons to their children.
Third, mothers are moral models. Children see how their mothers interact with others, how they respond to positive and negative stimuli, and instill values in their children through both advice and example. Children often develop their sense of right and wrong from their mothers.
And fourth, mothers inspire and enhance their children’s lives. Many successful people who came from single-parent families have talked about how they were inspired by watching their mothers toil at two, sometimes three jobs, and still come home to take care of their children’s needs at the end of the day. The legendary soccer mom is also there on the sidelines, offering words of encouragement.
So is it any wonder our mothers are so heroic? Like Batman and Superman, we know they’ll answer the call to protect and defend us when needed. Like that inspiration first coach or favorite teacher, Mom provides both knowledge and wisdom that helps us understand the world and succeed in our endeavors. Like spiritual and moral leaders, mothers set the examples that show us what’s important and how we should behave. And like the subjects of all those inspirational books and movies, mothers often inspire us by conquering their own Goliaths and challenges.
Mother’s Day basically is a nudge, reminding us to set aside our daily worries and appreciate how heroic Mom really is. But as we all know, they deserve our gratitude every day.