Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Motherhood, the best job in the world!

(For Jennifer)

It’s almost Mother’s Day, which means the gushy Hallmark sentiments are hanging over the aisles at Target. “Treasure these moments, the kids grow up in a flash!” “Motherhood, the ‘best’ job in the world!”

I’m in the midst of my own “survival” mode yet again. Two kids are coming down with some sort of sweaty, clammy virus that makes them horribly irritable. This morning found me brokering a fragile peace between them while ignoring an upset stomach of my own. (The flu? Allergies? Morning sickness?)

Does Condi Rice have such trials?

In the midst of struggle, my own mantra on motherhood has become terrible simple. Motherhood is no longer “the best job in the world.” Better than what? Condi Rice negotiating a lasting peace between Israel and a new Palestian state? A priest calling down the blood and body of Jesus in the Eucharist? A Sister of Charity lavishing loving care on deprived, orphan children who don’t share half her DNA?

For me, motherhood is simply “the job God is asking me to perform right now.”

Service to God comes in many forms. You can be called to run for President of the United States and serve God by negotiating an end to the nuclear arms race and embryonic stem-cell research. You can be called to be a Carmelite Nun. (In my own, limited imagination, I sort of think that following in the mighty footsteps of Teresa of Avila might get greater results for world peace and protection of the dignity of life than running for office).

Or God can call you to be a mother. Right now. In the midst of a 60 percent divorce rate. In the midst of a contraceptive culture. In the midst of much head shaking by your parents, your siblings, your friends, and the alumna of your college who wish they hadn’t wasted a partial college scholarship on you.

Motherhood is a privledged way to serve God. Not because it’s easy. Because it’s sometimes impossibly hard. We all know the negatives: physical pain, sleepless night, “lost earning potential,” never not worrying that crazy three year old who currently enjoys leaning off of balconies & sticking pliers into light sockets is one day going to turn into a 23 year old who does some equally stupid stunt that lands him in the hospital, jail or the morgue.

Motherhood is privileged because it takes us beyond our frailties, our limitations, and our sinful natures. Motherhood places us squarely upon the concept of “grace.” You need grace to get through pregnancy, you need grace to get through night-time nursing sessions, you need grace to survive the upset stomachs and the teething and the trips to the ER.

That grace, that feeling the breath of the Holy Spirit move over you and transform you—those are the golden moments of Motherhood.

I have a feeling that in the movie review of my life, God isn’t going to pick out the times when all the kids were laughing together in the swimming pool. Those happy moments, pasted on the scrapbook of my mind, have already given me their thank you notes. Instead, God is going to show me the hidden, hard moments of grace.

Two nights ago, I got up at 4 AM. I had to change the sheets of a nameless child who insists on sleeping in manly power-ranger underwear despite failing to master to fine-art of potty training. I got up for the first time and I didn’t sigh. I didn’t stare enviously at my sleeping spouse. I simply got up, plodded through the dark hallway and gave a nod to the Visiting Pilgrim Virgin Mary Statute. “You had these nights too,” I thought.

If Motherhood was simply one job out of many, I would never pick it. Motherhood is “my way”, however little, however hard. It’s the one thing that only I can do for myself, for my husband for my children—those children who are here and those who have yet to arrive. If I don’t do my motherhood job, there is a gap in the world—there is a gap in myself.

God doesn’t need my motherhood to save the world. God gave me motherhood so that I could find Him, serve Him and love Him. Thank you!

4 comments:

Anne Marie said...

Hang in there Abigail. I think this is where the real well, rather than the virtual well Jen talks about would be useful. To have other women to hang out with while moving through the day, women at different stages of life, might take some of the pressure off.

When we live somewhat isolated from others there isn’t anyone else to hand the baby to or help keep an eye on the preschoolers. I think it makes an individual mother’s job more intense.

Jennifer F. said...

Wow! This is an amazing post. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And Anne Marie's comment is really interesting as well -- I bet it would take some of the pressure off not only to have other moms around to share in the work, but to have older women around, every day, to remind us to see the big picture.

Thanks for an amazing post!

Nancy P. said...

Abigail,
Beautiful writing here, as usual! Thanks for this reflection.

Jenny said...

Abigail you are so beautiful!