How is it that motherhood has taken such a nosedive in honor and respect in the last twenty years? Television doesn’t seem to know how to portray moms. Teachers often encourage young girls not to “waste” their lives just being mothers. And women are continually encouraged to assert their intelligence and influence everywhere but in the home.
Many women, beginning with my generation, have acted as if motherhood were a brand of mediocrity to bear—if you can’t make it in “the real world,” at least you can always fall back on being a mother, but you’ll have to live with the stigma. Yet now we see them on the evening news programs, their biological clocks running down, as they start to sense that maybe they have missed out and they go to unbelievable lengths to become what they’ve always shown disregard for—mothers.
Several times each year, my husband, Stu, and I travel to speak at weekend family conferences. During a break in my lecture one evening, a woman approached who had been reading ahead in the outline provided. She didn’t like what she saw coming, and she told me there were things she wanted me to omit—things like the importance of mothering, how to raise kids, and making the family a priority.
She didn’t want to hear anything about staying at home. She didn’t want to hear anything about having kids. And she didn’t want anyone making her feel guilty. She was a professor at a local university, and she wanted to stay in the classroom where she deserved to be.
I tried to explain graciously that what I would be presenting was generally applicable (after all, having kids is the only way to ensure future generations) and that I wouldn’t have time to address all the exceptions. Since I was the speaker and already had my message prepared, and since I happen to believe what I was going to say and intended to say so anyway she walked away in a huff.
After the break, as I stood to continue my talk, I saw her standing by the back door. She never left, but she never returned to her seat, either. I guess she was stationed near an escape route in case the pressure became too much. How sad to have made a decision and yet to feel so greatly intimidated by it.
She’ll probably never change her mind. Maybe that’s best. Maybe not. You may feel much the same. Or you may be confused, not knowing which route to take.
Let me offer an example of a friend who changed her mind about mothering. My two older sons both had her as a single teacher in high school. When they knew her, she was adamant about never having children. She once told her class, “If a baby fell out of the sky and landed in my lap, I wouldn’t have an inkling of what to do with it.”
Later, I saw her at a ball game. She laughed as she told me, ‘You’ll have to tell the boys to drop by the house when they’re home from college. It’s been an amazing transformation. They’ll have to see it to believe it.”
What would they have to see to believe? She was not only happily married, but the mother of a baby boy as well. And the transformation has been amazing. She even wrote to me after learning I was writing this book:
“I don’t ever want to have kids!”
I wonder how many times in my life I’ve said those words? Hundreds probably. And I really meant it. If there was ever anyone who was sure about not having children, it was me!
Now here I sit, a 37-year-old mother of a 6-month-old baby, and I laugh as those words echo in my memory! Describing what my son means to me is an impossible task. I could never put down in words the feelings I have when I’m doing all those things mothers do, feeding him, changing him, comforting him, playing with him, holding him, or watching him sleep.
The joy I get from taking care of this helpless little human being and knowing that I’m there for him when he needs me is immeasurable! He’s such a precious little one. I can’t imagine my life without him. He’s added a different dimension to who I am. He’s helped me to focus on someone other than myself, in the process making me a more caring person, I think, toward everyone else in my life.
I still work. I love my job teaching high-school English, and I always will. But I’ve cut back my schedule, and now I only teach part-time. Instead of being the sole fulfillment in my life, as it was for so many years, now it’s only a part of my life. Real living begins when I pick up my baby after school and head home to be a mom. I’m a changed person, and I love it!
All the people in my life who heard me for so many years say I didn’t want kids would be proud of me. Being a mother is the best choice I ever made. Motherhood is terrific!
Elisabeth Elliot quotes a mother, Brenda Sawyer, who says, “I can’t think of another career more challenging and satisfying than to pour my energies into the daily task of making order out of chaos, music out of noise, communication out of babble, purposefulness out of purposelessness, pointing chubby little wayward feet gently toward the Path, lighting ignorance with knowledge and confusion with understanding.”
Another good example is Dr. Mary Ann Froehlich. She holds a “doctorate in music education/music therapy from the University of Southern California, an MA degree in Theology (pastoral care) from Fuller Theological Seminary, an MA and BM degrees in piano and harp performance and music therapy.
“She is also a certified Child Life Specialist and has published her dissertation research on the use of music therapy with chronically and terminally ill children.
“A Suzuki music educator and Registered Music Therapist—Board Certified, Mary Ann has worked in hospitals, schools, churches, and private practice. She is a frequent contributor to professional journals. Her piano/harp arrangements [have been published as well].”
And her attitude toward mothering?
When I was working and in graduate school, more than one person asked me why I was working so hard. Wasn’t it all going to be wasted when I stopped to have a family? Why didn’t I stop to have children now and “get it over with,” and pursue my career later? They made motherhood sound like a prison term, a bad pill to swallow, a time for putting life on hold. Raising a family was posed as the antithesis of growing, learning, thinking, and contributing a specialization.
I have found family life to be quite the opposite. Not only is this the most enjoyable time of my life, but also my children are the most stimulating and challenging teachers I’ve had yet, and they have tapped every resource in my background.
Those women use strong words describing their experience as mothers: “immeasurable, precious, a new dimension, real living, terrific, nothing more challenging and satisfying, the most enjoyable time of my life, stimulating.” Does that sound like a stigma to bear? Does that sound like wasted, unfulfilled living?
Don’t listen only to the call of the politically correct, who tell you not to stay home and bake cookies but to get out there and make something of yourself. Sure you have rights to be your own person. But your children have rights too. Among them is the right to be properly nurtured and given a strong foundation upon which to build their lives.
Look behind those messages. Look at the lives of the messengers. I challenge you to make a list of women you know, one column for those who have become mothers, another for those who have discounted motherhood and focused their attention elsewhere. Which ones seem truly happier? Which ones are more content, more at peace with themselves? Which ones have really been laying up more treasures for their later years? And if you had to live out the last few years of either land of life, which would you choose?
Yes, some women cannot become mothers. Others have lost their children. Some simply have not felt adequate or gifted for the task and have avoided it. I have no criticism to aim at them.
I do take exception to those, though, who bad-mouth and denounce motherhood. How arrogant! Do they think they were produced by a color copier and a FAX machine? Are they really unaware that many of the personal strengths they now flaunt, they owe to their mothers, either through inherited genes or acquired skills at the feet of or thanks to the efforts of their mothers?
Motherhood is not an entry-level service position for mindless, insecure, second-class citizens. It is the noblest of callings. To be entrusted with the very life, health, and well-being of a tiny human person is a great gift and honor. To realize this small child reflects traits and characteristics of you, your spouse, and your families is a mind-shattering and heart-rending realization. To invest your time and best efforts into a child and to watch him grow, develop, and excel is to be part of the creative majesty of life itself.
Never let anyone denounce motherhood or dissuade you from experiencing it. As the three ladies in this article have told you, it transcends all other experiences.
No other success in life—not being President, or being wealthy, or going to college, or writing a book, or anything else—comes up to the success of the man or woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up and call them blessed.
—Theodore Roosevelt, 1917
Excerpted from Mom, You’re Incredible! by Linda Weber. Used by permission of Broadman and Holman Publishers, copyright © 1999 by Linda Weber. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Broadman and Holman Publishers.