I waited with my youngest infant son in the doctor’s examining room for a well baby check-up. It took the doctor an interminable time to come. Meanwhile, baby had a leaky diaper that necessitated cleaning him and the examining table. Then baby spit up all over his clean clothes and his mom..
And I thought wryly about “the nobility of motherhood.”
Mothering is filled with highs and lows. There is nothing like snuggling with a baby wrapped in a hoodie towel fresh from his shower, the smell of baby shampoo wafting from his hair. Or receiving your first gift of a wildflower plucked with chubby toddler fingers especially for you. Or “book gluttony” after a library visit. Or laughs and tickles and playgrounds when they are young to games and talks and insights when they are older.
But there are also continual struggles with never-ending laundry, picking up toys, feeling like there is not enough time and energy to go around, not to mention blow-out diapers, meltdowns, trying to teach manners, arguing over why eating candy before dinner is not a good idea and why “everybody else is doing it” is not a good reason.
Some women focus more on the bad than the good, as one woman did when she wrote that she regretted having children. So now she advises other women not to have them. She feels motherhood keeps women “out of the work force, trapping them in a prison of domesticity.”
One of her reasons not to have children is that her children disappointed her. She doesn’t reflect on how she disappointed them. She tells women, “To persist in saying ‘me first’ is a badge of courage.” Yet she doesn’t feel that way about the child saying “me first.”
It’s true we sometimes come to motherhood with idyllic expectations. Christians know that our children are born with sin natures, but we’re surprised how early and strongly those natures exert themselves.
And we bring our own sin natures into the mix. It’s no wonder all these sin natures bumping into each other cause conflict and stress.
But they are also an excellent segue for teaching about grace and our need for God’s forgiveness and help. It’s not for nothing Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Besides sin, children aren’t born knowing how to behave, share, think of others’ feelings, take turns. That’s what parents are for: to patiently teach them all those things.
Many in our society at large honor those who invest their lives in others–teachers, mentors, philanthropists. Yet so many look down on the investments of everyday motherhood, which for love’s sake deals with the nitty gritty and teaches and trains children through the highs as well as the lows, the mundane as well as the heart-warming. Why is being in the work force considered more valuable than training children at home? Why is taking care of and training children considered such a low-level occupation (even among paid professions like child care and teaching, some of the lowest-paid jobs) when children are our future?
Being a mother is hard work. Nothing else in my life showed me my own selfishness and need for God’s wisdom and enabling.
But being a mother is also rewarding work. My children aren’t perfect–of course not, coming from an imperfect mother. I pray God makes up for my mistakes with them. But my children are enjoyable people to know and be around.
In everything else I thought about being when I grew up, I always wanted to be a wife and mother as well. I am so thankful God gave me that opportunity.
So to the naysayers I respond: yes, it is worth it to be a mother. I am so grateful for my mother’s investment of time and love in me and for other women who “mothered” me in various ways.
Even as I try to defend and support motherhood, however, I am keenly aware of the pain of some women whose longing for motherhood is an unanswered prayer. God, for reasons only He knows, has not seen fit so far to bring husband and children.
Though motherhood is a blessing, it is not God’s highest calling. God’s highest calling for each woman is to be exactly where God placed her, doing exactly what He called her to do, whether that’s being a teacher, secretary, writer, nurse, or whatever. He can work in and through us to develop Christlikeness and further His kingdom in any number of ways.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)