The Science of Mom's Love

It was Shavuot morning, and I saw Yoel fall like he was sliding into third base. He was on the far end of the playground, in the midst of about a hundred dashing and climbing kids playing all around him.

Yoel dug his elbows into the asphalt and rested his little reddening face into his pudgy hands and began to scream.

I stood up and waved to Yoel until I caught his eye. I motioned for him to get up with a nod and a smile.

Yoel perked up right away, and jumped up and began running again towards the slide.

That was all he needed. Just a little dose of eema.

This past year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin asked 61 girls to give a speech or to do some difficult math problems in front of a panel of strangers. The girls’ stress-levels skyrocketed. One third of the girls were then reunited with their mothers for 15 minutes of in-person hugs and comforting by mom. Another third of the girls received 15 minutes of comforting and calming by mom over the phone. Then both groups watched an emotion-neutral movie for an hour.

The third and final group got to watch the same movie for 75 minutes, but were allowed NO CONTACT in person or over the phone with mom.

In the two groups with mom contact, cortisol (a stress-producing hormone) levels plummeted and oxytocin (a stress-reducing hormone) levels began to soar as soon as those stressed-out girls heard their mother’s voice.

And those poor girls left to suffer on their own in front of the DVD player, with no mom contact, maintained the same cortisol/stress levels as before. Even 75 minutes spent watching that movie did nothing to make them feel even a little bit better.

This research, released this past week, made me so happy.

I have dedicated much of the past 12 years of my life to being a mom. But the sad truth is that I don’t often see the impact my mothering has on my children.

What did I do today? I made spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch. I took my 3 and 5-year-old to buy some bread and milk from the corner store. I had a conversation with my 10-year-old after a particularly tough day in 4th grade.

But what did I ACCOMPLISH?

Believe me. I don’t know really know.

I could even begin to think that what I do as a mom day after day and month after month and year after year hasn’t been so important after all.

But this research reminds me of the importance of what I’ve done and what I’m doing, of the irreplaceable, incomparable power and healing of a mother’s love in a child’s heart.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user NIOSH

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3 comments

  1. Nechama

    Thanks, Chana!

    I’ve been toying with the idea of putting my almost one-year-old baby into half-day child-care. I am not too fond of the idea as I beleive a child this young needs his Mommy’s love and attention. But there are so many things I could get done in that time!!! I just could not make up my mind….

    Thank you for this timely message – what a boost to recognize the impact a Mommy has and how empowering it is for a child to be incontact with their Mom.

    Kol Hakavod!

  2. Wow!! Just what we moms should read at the end of the day. It reminds me how much I accomplish each day (even if the house shows evidence of a tornado…).

    Thank You.

  3. Miriam Schlckman

    Dear Chana,

    Thanks so much for all of this. YOUR STUFF IS WONDERFUL! THANK YOU FOR PUTTING IT OUT THERE! THANK YOU FOR HAVING THE COURAGE TO VALUE YORSELF AND BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE AND SHARE IT! I personally and toally beleive this is the stuff that our geulah shelemah comes from.

    I’m a stay at home mom, with ony one son, who is be’H going to be 3 this summer. We’ve decided to raise him “attachment parenting style”, that means not sending him away to gan, beleving that every cry and whine is meaningful and deserves total love and attention. Practically speaking, me not having time for anything else. My house is a mess and, by all objective standards, my life looks like a desaster. Thank G-d, Abba also puts in a lot of hours, so I occasionally have time to keep our house from exploding and even write a little. But most people seem to think we’re totally nuts. This gives me chizzuk to beleive in ourselves, and live out our truth in this particular way, despite feeling that we are going against the advice of the entire universe.

    I think, if we only recognized how important our work of mothering was, how much every tiny drop of human potential REALLY meant, how much every act of love and comitment was worth,(eg : I made spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch. I took my 3 and 5-year-old to buy some bread and milk from the corner store. I had a conversation with my 10-year-old after a particularly tough day in 4th grade), then the waiting for Moshiach would be over. If HaShem would lift the veils just for us enough to glimpse the real significance of these things, the litterally infinite worth of every bit of real life in the real world, the true significance of every tear, every drop of cortisol or oxitosin released (eg- the suffering and comforting of the neshamah in its amazing journey in the body),… If we only “got it”… then we would have our geulah shelemah, and we would find ourselves making spagetti for lunch in the world as HaShem created it to be: total pure bliss, better than Gan Eden.

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