Saturday, July 27, 2013

What does it mean to be a mother?

What does it mean to be a mother?

This summer the group of moms I meet with are reading the book: Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as Sacred Role by Erin Davis.  We started talking about the first chapter of the book last week and it has really made me think about the role of motherhood and who defines this role. Despite what many people may think women are pressured by the church, by family, and by society to conform to vastly different standards of motherhood. It is the life long problem of a women, she is being pulled in many  different directions all at once!

How does society shape my idea of motherhood?

This is a good question to ask and a difficult one too. It is a very worthy question to ask however, and as a believer it is good for me to understand where I am getting certain ideas about motherhood. 

My initial response is that we see two different kinds of moms on television. We see the June Clever's of the television world and think that we must have our hair and make-up done, our starched dress covered in a clean apron while holding a nutritious snack in our hands when our kids and husband come home. We are given the impression by these "Clever" mom's that we must be the perfect homemaker with clean homes and homemade meals to boot. We must always be wearing a smile. Perfect Everything is what comes to mind when we see this television mom. She sets an impossible standard. The second kind of television mom is the Lorelai Gilmore's. The working mom who blunders all the time, who is prone to mistakes but finds a way to put a comedic twist on things. She has a career and tries to balance both family and work. She is a single mom who gets help from family and some how she always has the money she needs to give her kid that really great "make-up" gift. The third is the Clair Huxtable mom who works at a fabulous career and some how has a house that runs smoothly and in perfect order despite the fact that she has 4 kids. She never has to choose between her family and her career- she has it all and it costs her nothing.

I think the idea of all three of these types of moms is very dangerous to women who decide to become mothers. They are also very dangerous to the believer. Yet, their images are stamped in our brains as if they represent the truth. Society would have us believe that our decisions are cookie cutter choices that have specific characteristics we must fulfill. This idea of motherhood however, plagues me. It taunts me. It makes me feel inadequate and less than worthy.

I can't discuss how society shapes our idea of motherhood and ignore the feminist movement in our country. I was raised by a feminist, my single mom; and I was also raised by my grandmother, who was very much a traditional Catholic woman. I didn't realize it until I became a mother myself, but I really did get the best of both worlds. My mother worked and went to night school and m grandmother was a home with me. I had two amazing women in my life but they happened to come from completely different ends of the spectrum.

When I was in high school and thinking about what career path I wanted to choose, I admit that having a family one day played a role in my decision making. I chose to be a teacher for many reasons but a benefit to this career choice was the time I would get to be with my kids if I found the right guy to marry. I was also aware that men leave and being a teacher would give me a chance to be a single mom who has the same school schedule as my kids. My mom was proud of me for going to college but was also very disappointed that I had chosen a "traditional female role" for myself. I have always felt that being a teacher was the right choice for me however, when I became a mom I knew two things at the same time: 1) I wanted to be home with my kid! 2) I felt guilty and as if I had thrown away the hard work women had done to break the barriers down in society so that I could one day have a career and a family.

I personally don't think feminism has done good things for motherhood or for our children. I think it has created a cavern so large in our society that our young girls today don't know what it means to be woman and they don't know why being a woman is great. They have so many choices they are confused. Don't get me wrong, choices are great! However, when I talk to teen girls now I hear the confusion and dismay at not knowing what to do with themselves or which part of themselves to embrace.

I have also thought that feminism is about ensuring that women have choices but I am beginning to wonder if feminism is really about society dictating yet another set of standards and expectations. Only this time no one knows what the "ideal' feminist looks like or acts like. She is the ultimate mysterious woman. The only thing I really know for sure about a feminist is that she should be able to terminate a pregnancy if she wants to and that no one should say anything to her about it.

In the book there is a quote from Rachel Jankovic which had a profound affect on my heart when I read it. Please: read it below:

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

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. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.
If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

Since we must have children in order to be a mother it makes sense that we should first look at where our children rank in our priorities and values. This will help us to understand the decisions we make and possibly why we make them.

This quote really made me question the role abortion plays on our ideas of motherhood. I have never consciously connected the two ideas. Before I saw my son for the first time in an ultrasound, I had been on the fence about abortion. I felt it was wrong and against what God wanted for us, but I was not in favor of revoking abortion laws. Seeing my son caused me to fall off the fence. In an instant I became Pro-Life.

When I realized that God had blessed me with the task of raising one of His children I could not deny the call or the responsibility. Once I saw becoming a mother as a calling from God, it ceased to exist for me a selfish act of carrying on my genetics or family legacy and became the next step in my faith journey. This line of thinking led me to the next question:

How does my faith shape my ideas of motherhood?

Well, to this I have answer- in a lot of ways. I will however be the first to admit that I struggle with submitting to a traditional marriage, to submitting to my husband as the authority in our family and in fulfilling the role the Bible sets for me. I guess if I were being really honest I would admit that I am not obedient.

Before I got pregnant with my son I did a lot of research on Mary, mother of God. I guess you could say I had a Mary crush. I read lots of book about her and I attended a worship service at my local catholic church when a Marian visionary came to receive a vision from Mary. I also pray the rosary and feel very close the Mary. My due date was right around Christmas and I felt especially close to Mary toward the end of my pregnancy. Mary is the perfect example of a woman being obedient to God and embracing motherhood. If there was an ideal of motherhood to live up to it, it is the idea of Mary. Yet, there isn't much actually said about her or her mothering in the Bible. She is mysterious in many ways.

There are a few scriptures that I use to help me focus my priorities as a mother and as a wife. For the purposes of this blog I am only going to discuss the virtues of motherhood.  These virtues also seem like a tall order to fill however, the focus is different in the scripture. The focus is on please God not on pleasing the outside world. God does not require that I look perfect or that I have the latest fashions on. God requires that I am living to serve Him and to teach my children to believe in Him and to serve as well. The most exciting scripture for me is Proverbs 31:28. God wants me to be happy and He wants my husband and children to give me praise. That sounds like a fair deal to me.

One of my greatest struggles as a mother of faith is remembering that my son does not belong to me- he belongs to God. When my son is sick and I begin to worry, I try to keep this in mind. It helps me to let go when I need to let go and it helps me to remember to watch my actions and my words. It is much harder to keep this in mind when I am making dreams and goals for my son. It is hard to know when to push him into a certain direction and when to simply encourage him so that God can lead him.

Scriptures on the Virtues of Motherhood

Proverbs 31on the virtues of a mother. Mothering - A Virtuous Woman teaches her children the ways of her Father in heaven. She nurtures her children with the love of Christ, disciplines them with care and wisdom, and trains them in the way they should go. (

Proverbs 31: 26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”

 Proverbs 31: 28 “Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her”

 Proverbs 22: 6 “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”

Deuteronomy 6 (MOSES EXHORTS ISRAEL TO HEAR GOD AND TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.) “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth. Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may go in and occupy the good land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you, thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised. When your children ask you in time to come, "What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?"  then you shall say to your children, "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.  He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will 
be in the right."

Luke 18: 16 “But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

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