Amongst the shelves of any bookstore lie countless weighty opinions on how to mother, and what makes a good mother. From “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua to “Your Baby and Child” by Penelope Leech, the bookstore is a treacherous place for an aspiring mother to seek advice on how to care best for her child because there are so many varying opinions. The Internet is no better, with websites from the “experts” hawking the latest fad or trend in raising children.
An article on so-called “experts” by Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun got me thinking that now even motherhood requires experts. No longer encouraged to discover the mother within, new mums are besieged by experts on everything from breast feeding and weaning, to clothing, schooling and beyond. Experts have advice for helicopter mothers, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, absent mothers – and many more. It seems that we cannot do without the experts, even in the ancient practice of motherhood.
What this says to me is that how we view motherhood changes with the seasons of thought, from one fashion to the next. Mothers must be disciplinarians; mothers should be nurturing; they should be sensitive, communicative, relaxed, responsible. It never ends – these conflicting opinions and demands on what a mother should be. The differing opinions and consequent battles that rage over the best practices for motherhood leaves women more than confused. It’s tough being a mother these days.
To all you moms – be you young or not so young, grandmas or grandpas, step moms or single moms, be you a man who is mothering your children, or a teacher mothering others’ children – you are wonderful, amazing and stronger than you realize. Within you, you already have all the qualities that you need for the job. When you silence the clamor of opinions, and listen quietly, you will hear the expert within, and feel the real mother taking over and showing you the undeniable and beautiful qualities of motherhood.
When I was a mother with young children, every day seemed to be a marathon of endless tasks, demands and uncertainties. I was certainly not the perfect mom seen in TV sitcoms, nor did I ever manage to aspire to the perfection promised if I only did everything that some book suggested. I did, however, discover in myself qualities of motherhood that I had not known existed in me. Some, like patience, needed working on, others like humor and joy seemed natural and easy. One quality though did need a little help. It was motherly wisdom. I was one of those moms that did not read the endless books by experts. This is not to decry the sometime’s useful practical advice in some parenting books, but my reasoning was that I did not know these experts. I did not know what they were like with their children or with their spouse. I just had their opinion. So I went to the real experts – the mothers who had older children, the women, and sometimes men, who had a depth of experience born of a deep love. And it was there that I learned that motherhood is all about learning to love – unconditionally. Not just your children, but yourself as well.
It was in the practice of motherhood that I also learned about prayer, of turning to a mothering Love that I call God. Christ Jesus explained mothering love this way: “Every hair on your head is numbered by the father.” The way that I see this teaching is that though I love each of my children deeply and know them so very well, I have no idea how many hairs are on their heads. This one sentence shows us all how much deeper, wider and more intimately does our Father-Mother God love us. It is deeper than an ocean, and more glorious than the night sky, yet as close as the breath of a loved one, and we have the capability within us to reflect, live and rejoice in that eternal unconditional, energizing, spiritual love.
So this Sunday, take some quiet time, all you mothers, and gently allow the spiritual qualities of motherhood to mother you – “every hair on your head.”