Monday, May 2, 2011

Defining Motherhood: a guest post by Mary

My dear friend Mary (who has a private blog) agreed to send me her thoughts on being a Mother.  I am so glad she did, because her advice on parenting and lack of sleep and how to handle my daughter when she is sassy has calmed my troubled heart more times than I can count. I love her and her example of what it means to be a Mother, and I am so happy to share her goodness and perspective with everyone else.

Years ago, when I was in college, I was in a coffee shop of some sort with a group of kids from school having a conversation with a boy about future plans. I don't remember his name, or the whole extent of our conversation, but I do remember what he said when I told him I planned (among other things) to be a Mother one day. He said, you would "limit yourself like that?!". Those were his words exactly. I've written them down before. Limit myself? Even then, even before I'd ever felt the first tiny movement of life within me, I knew he was dead wrong. Even then, something inside my soul stirred and made me forcefully defend Motherhood. I knew what I wanted to be one day, and I knew that there would be absolutely nothing limiting about it.

I've never had to struggle with long periods of infertility, and though I know the pain and sadness of miscarriage, I can't fully empathize with any woman who has suffered this many times over. I can't fully comprehend the pain of a Mother whose child has died too early (and any time they should go before us would be too early). I DO know, however, what those Mothers are aching over and missing because I have it. I live that lovely dream each and every day and I love it. I wish there was a stronger word than just "love"! I am some days stretched too thin, but more often than not I am the happiest, most fulfilled, industrious, and creative I've ever been in my life.

Don't get me wrong, I live in a bustling city with power-suits aplenty. I've attended functions with very polished women who showed up in cars that cost more than anything I've ever owned. These ladies obviously didn't have to pry their un-manicured fingers away from sticky toddler hands to go out as I did. I've received the look of incomprehension from their flawless faces when I've said, "I am a stay-at-home-Mom, and I have four children". They give me the usual platitudes about how that is also a very demanding job, but I know that they often don't believe what they are saying to me. I know that they often feel, as that teenage boy did, that I am not living up to my potential.

I've considered the important careers, fashionable clothes, lithe bodies, and beautiful jewelry of those very high-powered, childless women and wondered seriously what it would be like to be only responsible for me. What if I had chosen a different path? No matter how I try, I cannot imagine it. I can't imagine my life could ever be as full as it is without these beautiful children of mine in the center of it. Work only for myself? Love only me? Serve just me? How empty. How lonely. So much.... less.

I would not trade. I couldn't love what I do more. This is my life's great work. I know that God has blessed me with these children and He has given me a divine directive to raise them up (physically, mentally, spiritually) to the best of my ability. I don't want to let him down, but my motivation is more than even that - when my time here on earth is done, and when my children remember me, my hope of hopes is that they can say with unshakable knowledge, "my Mother loves me, everything she did for me made that clear".


Sue said...

I feel and have felt exactly the same way about being a mom.

Thanks for sharing Mary's thoughts with us.


Katrin said...

Don't you think it is a bit one sided to say that women who don't have kids only have love for themselves? Because I don't have children, I am selfish?
I would never dare to judge women who are mothers just because they are mothers, and I hope I am not judged just because I am not a mother.

Mary Seals said...

Now now, calm down. I was asked to write about how I felt about being a Mother. I don't have the time or the inclination to go on and on and on being perfectly politically correct and addressing everything from every angle so, of course, this was somewhat one-sided. Do I have friends that don't have children? Yes. Are they beautiful, caring human beings? Yes. Do I think every woman who does not have children is selfish? No, of course not.

I'm writing from my perspective only and I'm imperfect. However, I DO have the advantage of having seen both sides of the coin. I've been without kids and now I have some so I know what it was like before and I know what it is like now. What I'm saying (imperfectly, of course) is that I could never go back. I can't imagine that anything, let alone a career, could fill the space that is now occupied in my life by my kids and being a Mother. I can't imagine going back to only being responsible for myself and those I choose to be responsible for. I'm saying that I've always wanted this experience and I value it over any of the other options.

I've been judged as unmotivated and undereducated by childless women. I've been told directly that I have too many kids and I'm doing a disservice to my species and planet to have them. That's okay by me. I choose to not be bothered by it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and you are welcome to feel judged by my post or to understand that I was expressing my own personal thoughts on being a stay-at-home Mother and how much I value it.

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