True motherhood, the best of mothering, the true heart of parenting is selflessness. Motherhood is not about you. Motherhood is always about someone else. It is a ministry. Ministry means service. It is about ministering to someone else’s needs. It is committing to someone else’s welfare and well being. From the time that they are conceived and take up residence in your womb or when they become embedded in your heart as your child—no matter what the age or circumstance-- motherhood is not about you.
A selfish mother would seem to be a contradiction in terms—an oxymoron to say the least. But too often in this “me” society, I have seen mothers who have put themselves or even worse, a man they hardly know, ahead of the welfare and interests of their child. It’s all about what makes “me” happy. In a society of selfishness and a culture that values self-fulfillment, the ministry of motherhood can sometimes seem to lose ground.
It’s not that mothers don’t need “me” time. Mothers who take their calling seriously need to take more time for themselves sometimes. How can we truly give if we have nothing to give? How can we give to our children and nurture them if we are depleted? It’s important to pursue our creative interests and purpose that God has placed in our hearts.
But for the purpose-driven mother, the priority is always her family. We are not the sacrificial lambs. We do not have to die to give our lives. But mothering is a sacrifice.
I became a biological mother almost 16 years ago. I loved being pregnant the two times that I have had the privilege to carry my children. It was a wonderful miracle to share my body with another human being. Some of the happiest times in my life were when I was carrying my children. Never would they be closer to me. I would always know where they were. My life had a direct effect on their life, growth, development and well being. It was an awesome responsibility. It wasn’t about me, but the life inside of me.
Although I gave birth to a child almost 16 years ago, I became a mother almost 19 years ago when I said “I do” on a beautiful, sunny August afternoon. Although the vows did not mention children, my husband had three children from a previous marriage. I always saw loving and helping him raise his children as loving my husband. We were a family and his children were his heart. I witnessed a portrait of our heavenly father’s love by seeing my husband’s love and sacrifice for his children.
So we went without so they could have. I went to the school, sat at the table and supervised homework, talked, counseled, went to parent teacher conferences and track meets and gave driving lessons. I was not their mother. I did not give birth to them, but I determined that I would follow the example of the best of mothering that I knew -- my mother.
She was there. She demanded excellence and cheered my victories. She was my biggest fan, advocate and example. I saw her feed the homeless, visit the nursing home, buy clothes for children in her Sunday School class. Whatever I needed she made sure that I had it. She worked the night shift so she could be there when I went to school and came back home.
So I have always tried to be there for all of my children.
I used the example of my mother-in-law. She sacrificed for her children. She went without so that she could send my husband to private school. Every Christmas she would make miracles happen and her greatest joy was seeing the excitement on her children and grandchildren’s faces. I followed the example of my husband’s grandmother and my adopted grandmother, Mother Green. Although I could not bake peach cobblers and rolls and sew quilts, I prayed for my children, counseled them from God’s Word and always tried to show them how much I loved them.
Although I had wonderful examples, I must admit sometimes I have felt like a failure as a mother. It’s not like a story in the newspaper that you report and publish and it’s done or a grade in a class where you take a final exam and get an A on your report card. Motherhood is never done. And sometimes the larger ministry for me gets lost in the daily routine of dishes and laundry and taking care of my son's dog. Most of those feelings of failure have come when I have felt inadequate for the task at hand, but thank God for my examples—my mother and mother-in-law-- and other women who I admire who have come alongside me and encouraged me by their words or example.
As I reflect on this Mother’s Day on this awesome ministry and responsibility, I think that what mothers really need to do this ministry is a community. A community of mothering. I have found that community sometimes within my family—my mother , mother-in-law and others. But I have also found it within my church family and organizations like Mocha Moms. I think we have to be intentional in supporting one another, encouraging one another, setting examples for younger mothers and lifting their hands, not putting them down.
To always, as my mother taught me, to say thank you to the women who are true mothers, whether they have given birth to a child or been a mother to every child that comes within their sphere of influence. Thank you for giving your life and love to us. Thank you for sacrificing. Thank you for all the little things you do, like getting the bread off the top of the refrigerator.