Molly Guinness

Reflections on the importance of Mothering Sunday

Reflections on the importance of Mothering Sunday
Text settings

For Mothering Sunday, some advice to mothers from a 1912 edition of The Spectator.

Be with him yourself as much as you can… I have no fear of your being a fussy mother, worrying him with continual attentions, but I have just the slightest fear lest you should entertain that silly idea that seeing much of a mother makes a boy unmanly. Kipling says that in nine out of ten cases a man calls on his mother's name at the hour of death. I cannot answer that this is so, but if it be it is of glorious significance for motherhood. After years and years of the world's buffeting it is the one who first knew him, who first clasped him in her arms, who counts. Therefore do not be afraid of influencing him too much…There will come a time when in boyish sorrow of heart he will come to you for consolation and help. Think, ah, only think, Matrona, if, because of the life apart that you and he may have led, that help, that consolation, should not be yours to give!

A few months later, someone who was on board the Titanic recalled hearing a man crying out ‘Mother, mother!’ as the ship went down.

If it is true it is significant and touching in the first degree. One reflects on the terribly searching character of the teat which compels the utterance of the innermost thoughts of a man who knows that he is lost. It is a noble variation of in vino veritas; the elemental and fundamental things in a man's heart and character burst forth unconsciously in the supreme moment. One can believe that the man who called upon his mother may have been a careless and indifferent son. It may be that he was married and that his domestic thoughts had had no time to wander outside his own household for years. We can imagine that. Yet the peremptory instinct to turn in death to the origin of life was obeyed because it could not be resisted. Woman is the only consoler, and if a man knows that the quality of womanliness is his need he snatches at it at the last—irrationally, perhaps, but how touchingly the direction where he first learned its meaning. Browning says with his characteristic confidence: “Womanliness means only motherhood: All love begins and ends there.”

The cry of a perishing human being confirms the poet. Love has its other manifestations and incidents, but all, it seems, may be compactly summed up in motherhood, which is the beginning and the end of the relation of men and women. This is a fact which no selfishness, no flippancy, no revolutions of social arrangement can abolish.