According to Dictionary.com, the word mother is defined as "A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child." Nora in Henrik Ibsen's 1879 tale of A Doll's House is a mother, but she does not define the word. Nora is portrayed in both 1973 films, directed by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, as an awful mother.
There are a couple of reasons that could cause Nora's (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) lack of motherly instincts. First it is told in the story that her mother died when she was very young, so then she was also raised by her nanny. Because she had not known her own biological mother, she had not learned how to be motherly herself. Not knowing her biological mother could have contributed to her never having learned how to be motherly. Secondly, since Nora's father had treated her like a doll that would never need to know responsibility or education, Nora could easily lack in the paternal instinct department.
There are also many instances in the play and films that would lead many audiences to believe Nora was a bad mother. The major instances are Nora's actual lack of interaction with her children. There are several scenes where the children seem to be vying for her attention, but she often sends them off with the nanny. For example, when the children arrive home from playing out in the snow, they seem to want to tell their mother all about there fun, but Nora is so distracted with her own problems that she immediately sends the children off.
The next instance of Nora's bad mothering is evident when her friend Christine (Delphine Seyrig/Anna Massey) arrives to visit her. Christine appears eager to catch up with her long lost friend. She tells Nora she wants to hear all about her life, including the children. Nora barely mentions them to her friend, instead she rambles on about her money.
Probably the most important scene of her putting off her children is evident in her lack of interaction with them on Christmas morning. Christmas is one of the largest family holidays of the year, and in this story Nora is seen only watching her children open the presents and then sending them off with the nanny for the rest of the day. The play and movies do not show the actual Christmas present opening, but it is evident otherwise that she had not paid much attention to them on Christmas.
Finally Nora's biggest mothering mistake is made when she decides to leave her family for good. Although we do see her sneak into their room to say goodbye while they are sleeping, she should know that not having a mother can be very damaging. Going to comfort his crying children, Krogstad (Edward Fox) foreshadows this, in Losey's film version of the story, when he says to Christina, after she comes to him to offer him marriage and beg him to leave Nora and Torvald alone, "Children whose mothers leave them often have strange qualities."
From Nora's lack of interaction with her children and her lack of enthusiasm to talk about them she is portrayed as a bad mother. While this work in all versions only takes place over the span of a few days, it does become apparent quite quickly that Nora is not fit to raise those three children.