I've been thinking a lot about womanhood and motherhood. And what I've discovered is that womanhood is motherhood. As far as I'm concerned they're synonymous terms. As women we're built for this . . . or more correctly, we were created for this.
God has showered every woman with divine gifts and abilities that ideally suit them for the role of being a mother. We're not all the same. In fact, put thousands of women in a room together and you won't find any two alike. Our talents are that varied. We really are that different. However, each us has been given strengths that make us worthy and able to perform this most sacred task.
I know a lot of women . . . a lot of women whom I feel are worthy of my respect and admiration. I know women with qualities that make them amazing mothers. I know women with gifts that I feel all should aspire to achieve. I want to talk about a few of these women for a minute.
This is my little sister, Wendy. She is beautiful in every way. Call me partial if you want to, but if you watch her with her three children, she is a breath of fresh air. She is devoted and kind and stronger than she thinks. But if I had to pick one typifying quality . . . one concept that my sister best understood . . . it would be love.
Wendy fully grasps the love that our Father in Heaven has for her. And because she has internalized it, she is able to extend that love to all within her reach. Those immediately within her reach are, of course, her husband and children. Wendy just gave birth in February to their third child . . . an amazing little girl named Kate. Kate was born with complications. Some of those complications were physical and some were genetic. A multitude of miracles and amazing doctors were able to correct the physical part. The genetic part has left Wendy and her family with a lot of unknowns now and into the future. And with love unwavering, I've watched my sister take this as much in stride as anyone I've ever seen. Did she feel overwhelming fear of those unknowns? I'm certain that she did. Did she feel sorrow for her little girl, not knowing what challenges her sweet daughter would have to overcome? Undoubtedly yes. But that love that is so instinctive and unfailing in my sister carried her through like a champ. I am in awe of her love and goodness and strength. Kate is one lucky girl and honestly, Wendy is one blessed mother to be entrusted with that amazing little person.
Wendy is motherhood.
This is Robin. She has 8 children, ages 12 and under, including 2 sets of twins. Just typing those numbers makes me almost capable of feeling how stressful that could be. I can easily get stressed out with my four . . . and I frequently do. As I've spent more time around her and gotten to know her on a personal level, I've become keenly aware of Robin's gift: devotion.
She works tirelessly in her home and with her children because somewhere down deep she understands that she's doing the most important work she'll ever do. Like the rest of us, she has a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter, but she just keeps going. And I think the most amazing thing about this devotion is that she does it with a smile. Regardless of what challenges come or what doesn't get done, she continues to work. She continues to care for her children and her household. And in the middle of it all she finds the sunshine. Does she ever feel overwhelmed? Yep, I'd say she most definitely does. Do tears of frustration ever fall? I'd be concerned if they didn't. Is she ever overcome with exhaustion? Probably by 7 in the morning. But her devotion keeps her feet and her heart moving.
Robin is motherhood.
This is my own mom. I hesitated to use her as an example because most people think they have a wonderful and admirable mother and I didn't want anyone rolling their eyes at me. But my mom possesses an amazing trait that, in my mind, has made her the greatest mother and I didn't want to ignore it. My mom has strength . . . the kind of strength that has infused itself into every part of who she is.
I am number 2 of 8 children. My mom is a talented woman who chose to use her gifts and abilities to raise us. She gave up life's luxuries and her own personal luxuries because she thought that being with us was more important. And her sacrifice made her strong. She has had her fair share of challenges and heartache and yet she remains a stalwart example of faith and perseverance. I've never, not one time, seen her knees bend in despair. I have seen them repeatedly bend in prayer, however, which I think proves my point. She keeps moving, keeps believing, and keeps loving . . . even when it hurts. Did my mom experience uncertainty and fear as she raised 8 kids? Yes. She probably experienced enough fear hoping that I'd turn out alright to make up for any reprieve she got in any other area. Did she ever feel weak? Certainly. Sometimes I think she forgets how strong she is even now. But she is . . . and I hope and pray every day that her strength is somehow a genetic trait that she's given to me.
My mom is motherhood.
I'm surrounded by amazing women. But here's the important thing: I said that I knew a lot of women whom I felt were deserving of my respect and admiration. And I do. I could have gone on all day. But what I should have said . . . what we all should be saying . . . is that all women are worthy of our respect and admiration.
Too often, we're incredibly quick to judge and criticize those performing the same role that we are. We strangely assume that if we acknowledge their goodness and their success that it somehow diminishes our own. It doesn't. We should be celebrating the victories of every mother. We should be weeping with the brokenhearted and lifting those who feel weak.
We're quick to cut the legs out from under any mother who dares to discipline differently than we do. We berate other women for the time they don't spend with their kids or for indulging and spoiling them. We criticize mothers who use formula, who use disposable diapers, and who don't make homemade baby food. We insult women who nurse their babies in public places and who don't cook. We claim offense when women choose to home school their children or when they don't keep their homes as clean as we would.
I'm as guilty as anyone. I've heard myself saying the very things I hope no one ever says about me. And even more often I've found my thoughts judging the woman who does everything adverse to the way I would do it. How could we both be right!?
The truth is, Wendy is a different mother than I am. Robin is a different mother than I am. Even my mom is a different mother than I am. This has to be the case. God has graciously blessed each of us with the gifts and abilities we would need to raise our own children . . . not someone else's. Wendy feeds her kids different foods than I do (mostly because she's very self-disciplined in her healthy eating habits and I'm the kind of mother who can't even look at a box of donuts without buying it). Robin and I have different systems that we use for our kids' chores and responsibilities. Hers works for her and mine works for me. My mom was far more "domestic" than I am . . . and now she's teaching me as an adult the things I ignored as a teenager. Wendy, Robin, my mom, and I each handle discipline in the way that we believe is best for our children. It's not our business or our stewardship to judge the way that someone else is accomplishing that task . . . even if we think they're failing miserably at it.
I've discovered the thing we need most to remember is this: every mother, and I mean every mother, has been blessed with various talents and abilities . . . and we need to celebrate it. We need to celebrate all that the women in our lives are doing right. We need to be accepting of the differences in each other just as we're accepting of the differences in our own children. We need to keep our mouths shut when the judgments want to fly out. We need to lift and to help and to accept. God doesn't make mistakes.
So, today I'm repenting . . . for everything I've ever said that even halfway resembled judgment of any other mother. I'm apologizing for all the times I thought other mothers were neglectful or selfish or indulgent or just plain crazy. From this day forward I'm looking for that one amazing trait in every mom . . . I'm looking for what every woman is doing right. And I've resolved to lift and to help and to accept. So, I hope I am forgiven for all that I've ever said or thought. And I also hope that if you ever see me get even a glimmer of disdain in my eyes directed at the parenting practices of another woman that you'll just kick me in the shins. I will completely deserve it.