The Incredible Importance of Mothers

7 May 2022

3.3 MINS

Happy Mother’s Day!

James E Faust said, “The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.”
Film star Leonardo DiCaprio said, “My mother is a walking miracle.”

Did you know the word “mother” is the most beautiful word in the English language? A British Council survey of 40,000 people in 102 non-English-speaking countries has put the word at the top of a 70-strong list.

Last year Dads4Kids created a Mother’s Day campaign called Love You Mum. Sadly, we often get attacked by men who say, how dare you do that. Many of them have been betrayed by their wife or the mother of their children and have yet to recover from the wound. I understand their pain, but I do not understand the logic.

You cannot have a father without a mother. Furthermore, you cannot have a mother without a father. Motherhood and fatherhood are both under attack. Mothers and fathers must stick together. That’s why we feature mothers’ articles in the Daily Dad. This recent article is well worth the read. Check out last year’s Mother’s Day Love Your Mum campaign below.


Melanie Tannenbaum from Scientific American shares some very interesting research that highlights the great value of mothers. The article is called “The Incredible Importance of Mom“:

“Imagine that you’re an infant monkey, and you’ve just been thrown into a cage after several hours in isolation. You’ve been deprived of food, so you’re starving. Facing you are two adult-looking (fake) monkeys, designed to look like each one could potentially be your mother.

On the left is a “wire mother,” equipped with a bottle and feeding tube so you can cling to her and fill your belly with milk. On the right is a “cloth mother,” with no bottle, but with a fuzzy terrycloth exterior that will allow for hours of soft, warm snuggles.

You can only run to one of the monkeys. Which one will you choose?

Six or seven decades ago, many psychologists would have claimed that any affection that we experience towards our parental figures is a purely behaviourist response. After many instances of conditioning a sense of “positive affect” after receiving life-sustaining food from mothers, children associate that positive emotion with these caregivers, an association that serves as the sole explanation for why people “love” their mothers.

But that’s not what Harry Harlow thought. Harlow, a psychologist working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the 1960s, believed that there was something more important underlying our affection for Mom and Dad than our primal need to eat and survive. He believed that there was an additional factor: Comfort.

What Harlow did to test this hypothesis was arguably ingenious, though inarguably cruel. Harlow deprived monkeys of food, making them desperately hungry, and then stuck them into a cage where they had a choice of two “mother figures” to run towards. On the left was a wire mother — cold and uncomfortable yet equipped with a bottle that would feed the baby with life-sustaining nutrients.

On the right was a cloth mother — warm, soft, and comfortable, yet unable to provide the infant with any food. If the only reason why we “love” our mothers (and fathers) is based on a conditioned response to our need for food, then the infant monkeys should run to the wire mothers who can feed them every time.

Yet that’s not what happened. Not even close.

Time after time, even when desperately hungry, the monkeys would run over to the wire mother just long enough to fill up on milk, and then dash to the cloth mother as quickly as possible to spend the next 17-18 hours snuggling into her warm, comforting body. The infants would sometimes come close to starvation before they would voluntarily leave their cloth mothers to refill their bellies.

The monkeys showed us that when push comes to shove, we don’t love our mothers just because they feed us…

For now, all we need to know is that our mothers (and fathers) are incredibly important. We need love — in some ways, we crave it as much as (or even more than) we crave basic needs like food.

The different ways in which our mothers might respond to our wants and needs shape how we interact with others, respond to strangers, and explore our environments, which ends up playing a big role in how we learn and grow throughout our entire lives.

Even into adulthood, our attachments with parents continue to play a huge role, and the models they provide for us about how we should expect other people to respond to us within close relationships can shape what we look for in romantic partners, friends, and colleagues.

So Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Thank you for always being there with a snuggle, a kiss, and consistent emotional support.”


You don’t need a wire monkey to appreciate the mother of your children.

Did you know that many mothers feel underappreciated? We as dads need to reverse this feeling in the mother of our children and pull the stops out to show her our love.

Yours for Appreciating Mothers,
Warwick Marsh


First published at Dads4Kids. Photo by Elina Fairytale.

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