On the hard days, I feel guilty. Shouldn’t I always feel joyful that I am a mother? Why is it sometimes very difficult to feel fulfilled in this role?
To be fair, let’s acknowledge that this is a tough era in which to be a parent. I was struck by Rachel Jankovic’s comments on the blog, desiringgod.org, when she stated;
“[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. … Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds: “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling.”
In contrast to modern philosophies which minimize the importance of children and belittle motherhood, I believe that there is great strength in recognizing these societal shifts and calling them by name. Or, maybe just by the name of he who works hard to muddy the water, the father of all lies.
Is it any wonder that we have to work at feeling fulfilled as mothers? There are voices all around that seem to shout, what do you have to show for yourself, woman? Yeah, yeah, you’ve got kids, but what have you done for you?
How Do We Claim Joy?
At times, I find the philosophies of our culture subtly seeping into my work as a mother. Invariably, these invasions tend to squelch my joy in motherhood.
The other day, I caught myself stressing over the kindergarten pick-up routine. I didn’t want to be too early, standing around waiting for my kid, because the other moms might think I was a bit pathetic. I didn’t want to appear as if I had nowhere more important to be… What? “Hold up! Wait a minute!” I said internally, “I am grateful that I get to watch over my child with care. I am grateful to be a parent, and there is no better use of my time.” What could I possibly be doing that would be more important than being there for my child? Than literally being there, showing up. Showing him that he is important to me—-My fist priority. Why should I feel afraid of making my children my first priority?
I found that it was very helpful to have this internal dialogue. Talking back to that negative voice in my head was validating. In a world where children are marginalized, we have to work at valuing motherhood. Our efforts might never be applauded by the world, so we must give ourselves permission to value the role of nurturer.
I noticed that when I changed my thinking, joy blossomed in my chest. I was owning it. I was claiming my role and my blessings as a mother. Instead of feeling the tiniest bit ashamed, I felt a blanket of peace. The day seemed rosier. It was as if I could feel the warm rays of Gods approval on my shoulders. I felt like I was basking in the light that had always been there, which I had rarely before chosen to see. I felt the assurance that this was God’s work for me. Even in this tiny act of service, I felt I was on His errand.
Motherhood is incredibly humble at times. It is incredibly invasive too. Yes, it’s messy. It’s literally a sack of diapers. It’s a whole landfill of diapers! And, it’s hard work.
When did we, as a society, loose our pride in the work of motherhood, or just honest labor in general? No honest work is demeaning. Good, respectable, hard work is exalting. Caregiving is noble. There is more nobility in a stable, in the hard work of mucking out the stalls, than in all the amoral business ventures of the glass-panneled-high-rise world.
I sense that in the lowly work, we claim our truest selves. The great paradox of motherhood is that even in the mucky moments, we stand beside angels. We earn something of infinite value. Didn’t Jesus Christ come to a lowly stable? In the most grubby of circumstances- a diamond. At His humble birth, very few saw the divine in Him either. That did not diminish His work, and it does not diminish ours.
We have these infinitely precious, eternal souls in our care. It is just a few short years. A few short years that are incredibly formative in their lives. Parents are meant to guide through this journey from innocence to knowledge. Their first experiences, attachments, habits, explanations, patterns of belief, family traditions and home will make an indelible mark on their lives that will create literal pathways in their brains unlike any other period of time. We can make life so much easier for them.
It takes an insane amount of effort. It is more than I can do. I battle my own confusion at the hands of many worthy or sometimes just worldly ideas. I battle my own flaws. But, through the Savior, I can be enough. As a mother, my part is to pray, study and ask. I know that He sees me in this work. He, the perfect listener, is right there waiting. I can come to Him and counsel with Him over even the small daily decisions and trials of parenting. In motherhood, we get credit for trying. God knows what we are up against psychologically, in a world where homemaking is all but a forgotten art, in an era when service is undervalued, He sees us. He is the only one who sees every sacrifice we make for our children. He knows of our sleepless nights, our over-taxed self-control, our perfect desires despite our imperfect execution. His gratitude for our service is deep. I am coming to understand just how much He values me as a mother. In the words of Jeffery Holland:
“To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.” …To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.”