It’s hard to admit, but I remember a time when I wondered if I wanted to be a mother.
I thought I lacked the natural maternal desire.
It just didn’t grab hold of me with the urgency and excitement I thought I should feel.
It didn’t help that I grew up in the women’s liberation era when motherhood was characterized as the most unsatisfying job on the planet.
Women spoke of motherhood as drudgery, and the common belief was that there was more to life than just having babies and staying home to take care of them.
Who would want the mind-numbing, old-fashioned role of mother when the doors of opportunity for women in the workplace were flinging open, inviting us to experience true fulfillment, intellectual stimulation, and real success?
We could “have it all,” so why settle for be strapped down by crying babies with runny noses, ear infections and chicken pox?
Surely my life would not be limited to that!
But, after I married Doug, I felt like having a family was the next natural step.
It just felt right like when you set out on a path and your feet just naturally move.
Even though my feet were moving in that direction, I had no confidence in myself as a mother.
After Sara was born, a friend asked me how I liked being a mother.
I said, “I feel totally incompetent!”
She kindly said, “How can that be? You are one of the most competent women I know.”
“Not as a mother,” I said. “I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s actually a relief to go to work every day because at least I know what I’m doing in an office. I feel totally out of my element at home with a baby.”
As time went on, I became better at it, probably because every time I looked into the face of that baby girl, my heart expanded to a new capacity.
Every time I cuddled her, and smelled her powdery body, my worldly skin molted a bit, and my confidence in my ability to be a good mother grew.
Actually, my confidence grew because my love grew.
After I had Annie, my mom came to stay with me to help.
One afternoon, Sara was sitting next to me and I was holding our new little Annie.
“Laurie, do you know how much you’re loved?” My mom asked as she watched me with my two children.
“Yes,” I said, feeling grateful to know how much she loved me.
“I don’t think you do,” she responded, surprising me. “I don’t think you’ll know how much I love you until you are my age and your babies are grown up like you. Then you will know because you will have loved them for a lifetime. That’s when you’ll know how much I love you.”
I see what she meant by that now. Just when I think my heart can’t get any bigger, it does.
I’m glad she taught me that while my heart expands to new capacities, it also contracts to new depths as my children experience the challenges of life.
When I had cancer, my mom embroidered a pillow for me that said, “Always remember, I am the rock in your garden. You are the blossom in mine.”
I try to remember that, hoping to be the rock in Sara’s and Annie’s gardens like my mom has been in mine.
I can’t believe there was a time I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mother because I can’t imagine my life without them.
Being a mother has made me a better woman in every possible way.
I don’t care what the feminists of my era said, motherhood is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.
There is a level of satisfaction that comes from career success, but it can’t compare to the joy I’ve felt as a mother.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I will celebrate being a mother, having a mother, and knowing that the voices of my era were wrong.
Motherhood is not stifling, unsatisfying, and unimportant.
It is the opposite of all of those words.
While I may have believed I lacked the maternal instinct, I found it,.
And, I discovered it was more than an instinct, it was a divine part of my identity as a woman. It just got a little buried in the mire of all my other ambitions.
It is the essence of who I am.
I am proud to say I am a mother. It’s the most ennobling, dignified, and important job I’ve ever had.
Happy Mother’s Day. I would love to hear your thoughts on motherhood.
6 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day”
Beautiful post, Laurie. I used to think that motherhood was making me stupid. Countless hours of Elmo, the Wiggles, cleaning the same mess and wiping the same butts seemed completely mind-numbing, like you said. I used to joke that I thought my brain had shrunk. After my fourth child was born and I went back to school, I realized that the opposite was actually true. Motherhood expands our capacity to understand. It enlarges intellect and lengthens perspective. Not to mention that we learn how to manage time so much better and can accomplish a lot in a little bit of time. Thank goodness for our children who give us such wonderful blessings to progress!
Beautiful post, Laurie. I used to think that motherhood was making me stupid. Countless hours of Elmo, the Wiggles, cleaning the same mess and wiping the same butts seemed completely mind-numbing, like you said. I used to joke that my brain had shrunk. After my fourth child was born and I returned to school, I realized that the opposite actually is true. Motherhood expands intellect and lengthens perspective. It teaches time-management skills and helps us accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Thank goodness for our children who bless us with the opportunity to progress. Happy Mother’s Day!
Happy Mother’s Day to you! I am so often grateful for you and your influence during my formative and oh so ignorant years.
Thank you Laura! You are amazing…still!
Laurie, I read this close to Mother’s Day and have come back to it a few times. I share so many of your feelings. I am embarrassed to say that I was surprised not only how much I enjoyed being a Mom, but I was surprised more people weren’t shouting from the house-tops what an amazing journey it is! (And I have a long ways to go, so there are many adventures ahead.) Maybe I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic had a been able to have a family in my 20’s and my life unfolded in “regular order.” What a gift it has been so far.
Anyway, thanks for such a beautiful post.
Corine, Thanks for sharing this. Maybe getting married a little later than most gives a different perspective. I like that.