It is so easy to get overwhelmed as parents. Neil L. Anderson affirmed this feeling with an anecdote in his talk, “Children”, from October 2011. (Read it again! It’s so good!)
“Having young children is not easy. Many days are just difficult. A young mother got on a bus with seven children. The bus driver asked, “Are these all yours, lady? Or is it a picnic?”
“They’re all mine,” she replied. “And it’s no picnic!””
On the hard days, I feel guilty that it’s hard for me. Shouldn’t I always feel joyful that I am a mother? Why is it sometimes very difficult to feel fulfilled in this role?
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.”
So, 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?
I had a great conversation with my cousin and friend on this topic. She expressed something profound saying (and I’m paraphrasing);
Sometimes I’m afraid to take my kids anywhere. People in our culture are wired to be critical. I’m half frightened someone will take a video of me in an awful mom moment and post it on the internet for all to critique. That’s what our culture is like. Sometimes I can’t stand the ridicule. But, then I realize this culture is seriously wrong! It’s unhealthy. Ours is a society where 1 in 5 children are sexually assaulted. It’s a culture where elective abortion is celebrated as a basic right. So, no, I don’t choose to listen to what our society says about motherhood.
These facts are sad to contemplate, but the sentiment is strangely liberating. In our culture, God is not valued. Life is not valued. Parenthood is not valued. Negative sentiments about traditional roles are sometimes blatantly, and often subtly woven into popular literature and media.
In Dalin H. Oaks’s wonderful address Protect the Children from October 2012 (read it again, it’s so good!), he references the idea that in our society, children have become mere shadowy figures in the background of selfish adult interests.
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. In contrast to modern philosophies which minimize the importance of children and belittle motherhood, I have often thought back to Julie B. Beck’s words from, A Mother Heart (read it again, it’s so good!), when she stated:
“I was recently at a park where I met a group of women with mother hearts. They were young, covenant-keeping women. They were bright and had obtained advanced degrees from respected universities. Now they were devoting their considerable gifts to planning dinner that evening and sharing housekeeping ideas. They were teaching two-year-olds to be kind to one another. They were soothing babies, kissing bruised knees, and wiping tears. I asked one of those mothers how it came about that she could transfer her talents so cheerfully into the role of motherhood. She replied, “I know who I am, and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” That young mother will build faith and character in the next generation one family prayer at a time, one scripture study session, one book read aloud, one song, one family meal after another. She is involved in a great work. She knows that “children are an heritage of the Lord” and “happy is the [woman] that hath [a] quiver full of them” (Ps. 127:3, 5).”
I love the way Julie Beck acknowledges the faith of mothers who are willing to place their own aspirations in the background to make children the central focus of their lives. Marilyn Faulkner describes these early years of motherhood as a time grow deep roots. Dedicated mothers can figuratively prune back the showy leaves and blossoms of their branches for a season, allowing deep roots to develop below ground. These foundational roots may not be much to look at, and it’s hard to see our own progress. However, The Master Gardener knows that in the end, the willing mother is the stronger for it, bearing sweet fruit in other seasons.