“Ask a Priest: How Far Should a Mom’s Love Go?”

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Q: Could you please tell me if there is anything written in the Bible about a mother’s love for her children. Is it ever OK for a mother to give up on her kids — to stop loving them, to stop talking with them? What about treating each child fairly when there are multiple children? Last of all, is there anything about a mother that, for her own benefit, she should stop associating with her children — for the sole purpose of not wanting to deal, teach, bother, etc., with them any longer? Can she take one child’s side for the sole purpose that she lives with one child and wants to continue to live there, no matter what the outcome for the other child? -L.N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You must be facing very painful challenges in your family. First of all, you want to remember God’s love for you and your children. As a mom, you also enjoy a grace of state that will help you live out your mission to be a bond of love within your family.

As to your question: Permit me to offer one quote from the Gospel, as a simple, but not simplistic, answer.The quote is from Matthew 10:37-38. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”

This quote helps us put all our relationships in perspective, because at every moment the first person in our life should be Jesus. Ideally, he should be part of every relationship we have – be it with a spouse, a child, a friend, whomever.

In practice that means we should be bringing the love of Christ to others in some way. We should also be helping to bring them closer to Christ. And we should try to exclude anything that would separate us from him.

So what does this mean in your case? It means you should never give up loving your children (we should love everyone, after all).

This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate everything they do. If they are adults and are involved in objectionable activities – for instance, crime or adultery – then you have a right (and maybe a duty) to exclude them from your home. But you shouldn’t stop loving them. You can and should still pray for them and offer up sacrifices for their conversion.

It is good to remember, too, that a mother’s love will take different practical forms at various stages of the children’s lives. Infants need a lot more direct care and attention than adult children. In fact, it would be unreasonable for adult children to expect mom to be as available to them, and as malleable, as she was when they were kids. In that case, a mother’s love might have to express itself in putting some distance between herself and her child — even if the child doesn’t want that. The point is that love — sincerely willing the best for another person — doesn’t always have to look the same on the outside.

In general you need to decide how to deal with your children in the light of faith and of your relation with Christ. That might involve praying about a matter, studying what the Church teaches, and consulting with a spouse or a priest or a spiritual director, and then making your best decision. In practice this means that sometimes you will need to be more merciful; at other times, more demanding.

To come back to your question: You are looking for helpful biblical verses.

What is the Bible? It is the word of God. And who is the ultimate Word of God? Christ! So he is the “verse” you need. Stay close to him. Make him the first person in your life. And then deal with the people in your life accordingly.

One other suggestion: Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She knows too well the struggles and pains that the heart of a mom goes through. She will be ready to intercede for you.

I hope this helps. You and your family will be in a Mass intention. God bless.

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