The Work of Mothering

I was sitting in Old Testament when I couldn’t take it anymore. Thursdays are my long days, out of the house before the girls leave for school, I come home right in time for bedtime. But I had a welcome dinner for the certificate I am considering. So, I didn’t really get to see them.

Priscilla had stayed up too late the night before and was not thrilled with the idea that she was going to have to go to school despite her complaints of a multitude of ailments. Her tummy hurt, her arms were too tired to lift above her head, her feet hurt. She was just too tired.

On paper I would have told you that natural consequences are a way we parent and this was a perfect opportunity for her to learn them. On paper I would tell you that it is important for my girls to watch their mom follow her God into the wilderness. How else are they going to learn how to do it? On paper (and multiple times on this blog, and in the class I teach, and all kinds of other places) I would tell you that my daughters need their whole mother and they have a mother that God sent to seminary. This is not an accident on anyones account.

And I believe that. I do. But it is so much easier to believe something on paper than it is to live it out in this world. It is so much easier to think something with your mind, then it is to act it out with your body. And while you would tell your daughter, your husband, whoever would listen that it is time for you to go back and you believe this is what the Lord is asking of you, that doesn’t mean you don’t sit in Old Testament and cry. It doesn’t mean you don’t let the tears run down your face while the jovial professor in the front snaps his fingers and asks everyone in the room to sing a long to a little Hebrew alphabet song he made up.

The lies about motherhood are ancient and persistent. We must sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. We must always, always make sure everyone else has their needs met. We go last. We get up first. We say we didn’t much want that pie anyway.

I don’t want to be that kind of mother. I wasn’t raised by that kind of mother. I was raised by a woman who said “I think we can probably make this work.” And “If it is really this important to you, we will figure out a way.” I was raised by a woman who taught me how to do my own laundry at 12 and expected me to cook dinner once a week in High school. Not because she was super busy (she was) or because she couldn’t do it herself (she totally could) but because she wanted me to grow up as a contributing member to our house hold.

I did those things because it was my turn and my responsibility. I was expected to contribute because the weight of what belongs to you can at first feel overwhelming and too difficult, but if you learn to step beneath it you will find it is where you belong.

I don’t want to raise daughters who shirk from their work, and part of that is not constantly doing it for them. And I want to be the kind of mom who bears the weight of her responsibility well in front of my girls. On Thursday that looked like telling her I was sorry she was sad but she absolutely had to go to school. Because I had to go to school. There was work to be done. And it felt for a moment as though I wasn’t mothering well. But I came home and they were fine. Of course they were. And we managed. All of us. To do our work that day.

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One thought on “The Work of Mothering

  1. Yes! Yes and yes!!! I too am back in school with kids in elementary and it matters to me that they see me do this. I want them to have a clear image in their mind of what it looks like to choose your life on purpose and actively take part. My program is online and my husband asked if I would want to walk at graduation. Um, yes absolutely! Part for me, part to connect with the school that will take me there and part for my girls to see me cross that finish line. I know they see themselves in me and want to give them a wide range of possibility.

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