33 Vital Ways Moms Support Their Kids — Other Than Giving Birth

'Mother' isn't just a name, it's also a verb.

mom with her two sons playing outside Halfpoint / Shutterstock

A particular image is conjured by the word "mother." We more than likely think of the word at first as a noun; the woman who gave birth to us. Yet, there is a broader, less-clinical connotation of the word "mother" in its verb form.

The Cambridge English Dictionary offers a lovely definition of "mother" as a verb: "To treat a person with great kindness and love and try to protect them from anything dangerous or difficult." And, by extension, a mother is a woman who does those things.


But why choose to do it given the lack of material pay, unlimited and often unpredictable hours, and endless expectations? The intrinsic satisfaction or psych pay is not assured. Any prestige connected to the role does not often translate to flexible work arrangements for anyone who mothers.

Furthermore, physical demands and even dangers are great, whether in gestation and delivery or generally unremitting daily requirements. That management includes getting and cooking food, dressing, health care, home keeping (not housekeeping), budgeting and psychic nurturing.

Nor is any of this eased by training for mothering in most of this culture, except perhaps by example. When I asked my mother how she learned to be such a good mother when her own mother was mentally ill, she said, “I learned what not to do from my own mother.” 


She was also assisted by her willingness to keep learning, common sense and fine, independent mind as well as her accomplished, present and committed partner, my father. At 50, Mom completed her bachelor’s degree with honors while working full-time.

You’ll find in the list below 33 actions that mothers perform in support of their kids. They are arranged according to themes of social, biological, psychological and cultural aspects that imbue mothering with meaning and purpose. These are the things that make your mother your mom.

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Here are 33 examples of vital things mothers do (other than giving birth)

Socialization and survival

1. Support a balance between conforming to social norms and expressing originality, between adventure into the unknown and discipline based on priorities.

2. Develop an awareness of how to keep safe outside the home, being realistic about dangers without being a scaredy cat. For example, imagine “the talk” Black parents have with their boys.

3. Explain the rationale for boundaries related to hygiene, from cleanliness to brushing teeth properly.

4. Provide guidance in managing interpersonal challenges with other people, especially bullies and peers who disdain or criticize their appearance and behavior.


5. Stimulate curiosity and care about how the body works and what it can do, from sports to appropriate sexual behavior with others.

6. Model decent values and morals, including social skills such as empathy, effective listening and patience, discussing how to express them in particular situations.

7. Provide an environment that’s secure and stimulating, as resources permit.

8. Attend insofar as capable to mental health needs, exacerbated by pandemic school closures and long waiting lists for therapists.  

9. Give effective, loving care without sacrificing oneself.

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Support of a child’s unique nature across all stages of growth

10. Encourage and identify strengths and discourage habits that are limiting.


11. Assist in understanding schoolwork, admitting what’s beyond them and exploring with them how and where to get other help.

13. Suggest ways to identify paths forward in learning and work without creating dependency and show a range of alternatives to parental choices.

14. Celebrate accomplishments, whether appreciated and understood or not.

15. Support ambition that reflects their unique nature, while being practical about possibilities and implications for implementation.

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Tools for self-sufficiency

16. Teach responsible use of resources, financial savvy and basic wardrobe skills. My mother insisted I do all my own ironing from about 12 years of age on; that stood me in good stead as the only student in my dorm area who knew how.


17. Remind them to do things for their own benefit (of course that includes cleaning and neatening their own area).

18. Discover together motivators and incentives for commitment to and sharing family chores.

19. Demonstrate a sense of humor without being flippant, insensitive or dismissive.

20. Let a playful, exploratory attitude lighten issues and problems related to internal and external challenges.

21. Be clear about expectations connected to behavior and social connections, discussing them openly and negotiating manageable goals. For example, in our three-room apartment, there was little room for inviting groups of friends, so I had to come up with viable alternatives such as meeting and playing outside.


22. Create awareness of caregivers’ limitations, including frankness about realities and concerns so boundaries are clear and ancillary responsibilities encouraged.

23. Discuss when to ask for help or work through discomfort and blocks independently.

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Quality of life opportunities

24. Expose them to new experiences and ideas.

25. Share experiences together for fun, including moving beyond everyone’s comfort zones.

26. Foster imagination, wandering and wondering.

27. Support a balanced response to life’s curve balls and unfairness, which are bound to happen.


28. Encourage planning ahead to be prepared.

29. Continue discussing how to make and sustain healthy friendships and romantic relationships.

30. Teach them to express feelings and love in appropriate ways.


31. Recognize, admit and discuss their own errors in assumptions and behaviors.

32. Teach a willingness to learn new things, admitting what’s beyond them, encouraging appropriate role reversals and opportunities for mutual mentoring.

33. Engage in planning adventures together, especially outdoors.

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When it comes to motherhood, experience matters

Mothers must also be aware of how their own life experience imprints on them.

For example, my mother avoided hugging, possibly related to her abuse as a girl. We had a tender selective role reversal when I encouraged and organized her move to a continuing care community near me after my father died. Then I taught her how to hug — which I do with people I care about when appropriate. She got a reputation for that warmth where she lived, but I did not take credit for her new pleasure.


Regardless of the mothering person’s age and gender, the child has opportunities for role reversals, especially as everyone matures.

There is no one way to “do” mothering. But considering together individual differences, receptivity and timing can contribute to better outcomes for everyone.

This complex and challenging but worthwhile choreography of one of the most important relationships in life has great potential for mutual benefit when attention is paid to mothering — and ongoing, creative, open communication is sustained.

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Ruth Schimel, Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work. Request the first chapter of her seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future.