After Julie Bogart wrote her blog post On Being a Mother, she said she received more emails and comments to that post than she ever had before. She received affirmative, supportive and appreciative comments as well as others:
"There were comments and emails too, though, from those who are on the outside looking in, feeling that mothering really is a hardship, that they don’t enjoy the company of their children, and worse, feel guilty about it. Guilt for something you can’t control is the worst feeling you can possibly have." ~ Developing a Philosophy of Mothering
I don't mean to rob Julie's thread...you can read the whole post and discussion in the comment's section here: Developing a Philosophy of Mothering
But one question, which Julie focuses on in her post, made me think long and hard about my own overall outlook on mothering, parenting, and feeling at odds with the world.
Lizzy wrote: "I wonder, Julie, what or who it was that helped you develop your perspective. Was it your own mother? Was mothering a dream you’ve had since you were a little girl? Are you one of those folks who has read ‘all the books’ for inspiration?"
I'm hijacking this for my own thought-process and discernment; not to take anything away from Julie's discussion.
I believe my primary vocation has always been to be a good wife and a good mother. Mothering was indeed a dream I had since girlhood. It was a dream carefully, silently guarded and wrapped around my heart.
Even today, I hope my family remembers me as nothing but Mark's wife and Corey, Kayleigh, Garrett, Chelsea, and Annie's mother. That will be a stellar legacy.
Some who read this might shake their head in disbelief. No ambition! No self-confidence! No sense of worth! That's what they might think; oh, but if they only knew. If they only knew my secret.
If they only knew that it is because of my children that I have a voice at all. I have learned to stand up in a world that likes to quiet parents. I have learned to stand up to school systems who like to make parents feel inferior. I have learned to stand up to doctors concerning all sorts of things.
If they only knew that it is because of my children that I have a surging desire to be a better, kinder, more understanding, holier person than I ever was before.
Ambition? I am better educated and more knowledgeable since I had children. There is no longer any mountain I will not climb. Okay, so maybe I shirk on roller coasts but you should have seen me this past week when a certain 7-yr-old asked me to ride with her.
Self-confidence? Self-worth! My confidence soared when I became a mother. I took on a vast and alien world when I became a mother. I learned patience and fortitude and things that only potty chairs, broken crayons, and enemas can teach a person. It is because of my children that I learned my self-worth was not about how much I had or how pretty or thin I was. I never was pretty and I'm no longer thin but my self-confidence is at an all-time high.
I always wanted to be a mother and I have seen my dream come true. God has blessed my husband and me very generously.
I loved being pregnant...even during a problem pregnancy, bedrest with my second baby, and a miscarriage...I adored the whole look, feel, and experience of it.
I loved having babies in the house...even sleepless nights, earaches, bellyaches, spit-up, and teething. I've had twenty-two years of blissful parenting.
But, I didn't always act like it...or say it. Sometimes I still don't.
I am not only surrounded by a culture who finds children inconvenient, but there are family members who view children as a burden and chore. I was born in the 60's. Our middle name was 'cynicism."
Early in my parenting, I felt I had to bend to the world's expectations, at least on the surface. I had to admit that:
- yes, I was tired
- yes, he was a whiny baby
- yes, children are a lot of work
- yes, I didn't have much free time for myself
- yes, it'd be nice when I could go out to the movies and dinner without children to tend to
How shallow of me to cave to the more popular belief that my life would be better and more fulfilling when these children were no longer small and needy. Hadn't I prayed for God to send me children since I was old enough to remember? Hadn't I prayed that all my children would stay safe and warm and healthy inside of me until time to be born?
I began raising my children with the tough parenting mold which seemed to have been the wisdom of Dr. Spock. As a sixties baby, that parenting generation was my model. When my third child was about three years of age, I realized that I was not enjoying myself as a parent much. The older generation probably would have told me that parenting was not meant to be an enjoyment. It was a duty. Chin up! Deal with it!
What type women came out of this generation? Here are a couple of examples:
Once I heard a women, upon hearing that someone else was pregnant with her third child, suck in her breath and exclaim, "Her life is ruined!" with all the gall and venom that the serpent attacks the child. I know another mother who, upon finding out she was pregnant in her forties, was told by a friend, "I'd rather have cancer than be pregnant."
I know and see these two mothers today. There lives were not...are not...ruined. Far from it.
So I did not exactly trust the view or image of the older generation when it came to raising children.
And I didn't worry about their view; I worried about my children's. How much more distasteful were my children viewing me? Would I struggle to have a relationship with them once the leaky diapers, snotty noses, the cries, the spills, the whines, and the demands were things of the past?
I decided that relationships begin in the here and now...never in the future. It was during this time...during the leaky diapers, snotty noses, cries, spills, whines, and demands of three very young children...that something changed, and it wasn't my children.
I realized that it wasn't just the children who were selfish and self-centered, crying and whining, demanding and grumpy. I was worse...way worse.
Instead of expecting them to change, I began to change. I began looking at this job of parenting as a joy and a blessing. I began looking at it as a vocation rather than a job. This was not a class to be graduated from or a job to retire from. This was a lifetime commitment. My younger children are being raised with more flexibility and less enforcement, but I can't say they are any worse (or any better) than the older ones who were corrected before they even thought of what disobedience they were going to commit that day.
As Julia Bogart wrote on her blog: "Yes, there have been nights where I cried myself to sleep over a non-stop crying toddler or a teenager’s emotional pain. There are times when I feel out of control and invisible and fearful for my child’s future or welfare. But the rewards of mothering so far outweigh any of its challenges..."
There are still days I get upset over a sassy mouth or cry out in despair over a unthoughtful teenager. I worry, counsel, and pray over my children. They disobey. They sin. They argue. They fall. They tarry.
So do I.
But I never loose sight of the vision: the beatific vision of God when all things will be explained to me, when His all-powerful plan will be shown to me, when all these things will fade into nothingness in the beauty of His vision which, for now, only He sees and I do not.
I also never loose sight of the knowledge that these children who argue and mess-up and skip out might, just might, get to Heaven quicker than me. They might become saints who go straight to heaven while my sentence might demand a heftier penalty handed down by the judge.
My focus is to trust in God's vision for me and my children. My duty is to be open to his will in my life. My vocation is to never loose sight that these children are God's, not mine, and they are only on loan to me for a short time. My only job, really, is to lead them to Heaven. It really isn't about neatly made beds, chores done on time, or math lessons learned...though I concur that these disciplines are the tools that teach servitude and proper use of God's generosity in our lives.
My view of parenting and the logistics of raising children has changed with each child. It is true that with each child God teaches you a little more patience, a little more compassion, and a little more spirituality. In the end I find that the graces and blessings God gives us to raise the souls He entrusts to us are far greater than anything we are given before we have our children. Only a true Father knows this. Only a true Father teaches this.
There is nothing better or packed more full of virtue and wisdom than being a parent.
I say, "Bring it on!"
"A selfish heart desires love for itself; a Christian heart delights to love--without return." ~ Gold Dust