Last Friday night we attended The Living Stations of the Cross at our little church by the Sound. As always, the teens did an outstanding job, even if for many it meant putting themselves on a stage they would rather not step onto. I looked at these children, most of who I taught in Sunday School when they were either in third or fifth grade and I realized that they are, in the eyes of the church, all grown up and capable of making their own decisions and formulating their own understandings and faith formations.
There are a few things that Grace knows for sure. She knows for sure that her love of music runs deep. Being able to play in church every month as part of an adult band has taught her skills she could not attain by playing as a piano soloist. She knows that she wants to become fluent in sign language. She watched with awe and wonder and curiosity as a family we know signed with their children. She still has a passion for weather, especially severe weather, and she simply adores children. She knows without a doubt that someday she would like to become a mother.
When she expressed her desire to become a mother openly during the reception held after the stations performance, she was met with an interesting comment from one of our church “elders”, a woman who is a mother and grandmother and who has been an educator in religious education for over thirty years. She expressed that women “can do much more” and that she should go to school, be financially independent, and then have children after she is married. While I agree with the going to school, having the ability to support herself and a child if need be, and being married before entering into parenthood, I was taken aback at the comment women can do much more than be a mother.
As a society we devalue the calling of motherhood and then we wonder why our society is on a moral decline. If we can do more, be more, have more, achieve more, what does that imply about the value of a child? Are they less than the career, the wants, the selfish desires of the parent as an individual? If the religiously faithful of our community express this thought, then what hope do we have of ever instilling the idea that life is sacred in future generations?
Think about it. We legally protect the eggs of Eagles. We legally protect animals. We legally protect the land that these animals gestate their young, live and raise their offspring. Yet, we legally ended the lives of 1.06 million people in 2011 and we have legally ended the lives of over 50 million people since 1973. Catholics have an obligation to the youth of their churches and communities to show in every breath we take that life is valued. Life is sacred. Motherhood is sacred. It is to be honored, revered, just as if we were Mary. Our role models for motherhood are not Gweneth Paltrow, Jessica Seinfeld, Angelina Jolie, or Gwen Stefani. Our role model for motherhood is Mary. Somehow I doubt very much Mary would have ever uttered the words that there was more in life she could do, have, or accomplish than being the mother to the Savior of the world.
As mothers, as women, we often take on multiple roles. We are mothers, we are wives, we are caregiviers, we are homemakers, we are healers. We have jobs inside our homes. We have jobs outside our homes. These roles and responsibilities do not supersede our role as mother, they are in addition to our role as mother. Society would like to see these roles supersede the role of motherhood. Society has done a very effective job of brainwashing women into thinking we can have it all, do it all, be it all, with no consequence. I simply do not think this is true.
I spoke to Grace about this seemingly innocuous comment later as a family. It was weighing heavily on my heart that she understood without a doubt, that being a mother is in itself a lofty, worthy, respectable choice for her life. My mother always told me that motherhood if done right is the hardest job you will ever have. I told Grace I never expected to be a mother who stayed primarily in the home and always thought I would split my time and responsibilities between the home and my career. That is until I became a mother. Then my world was redefined and choosing to stay home and devote my time, my energy, my years to the nurturing and development of my family was my primary responsibility. Not every day is easy. Not every day is fun. But every single day of my motherhood is a blessing. Every single day is an honor. Every single day is a gift.
Choosing motherhood is not something we should be fitting in when we have enough money, have enough material wealth, have enough corporate success, have enough status. Children are not possessions to add to our home to fill it up, no different from a Persian rug or a crystal vase. Motherhood should not be entered into casually, with indifference or disdain. Our children will not always be perfect. They will have messy rooms. Should we publicly shame them? They will not always say kind things. Should we take over their Facebook account? They will not always dress as we consider best. Should we dress up like them and embarrass them? Or should we consider that these children are gifts entrusted to us but not really ever belonging to us, as we may be their earthly parents but we all have a Father who is waiting for our return.