Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Motherhood: the best job you could ever have?

I am blessed to have grown up in an environment that encouraged and affirmed family relationships: marriage, parenting, siblings, etc. I firmly believe that families are the building blocks of society, and therefore healthy family life is essential to good communities.

So let that be the backdrop for the rest of this post. With that in mind, I also understand that it is so necessary and important to continue to affirm and encourage parents as they (we) raise the future leaders, workers, and parents of the world.

But, despite my admiration for parenthood even while single, there were times when I felt like the adulation of its virtues went almost too far - to the point of disparaging other roles. I know I have heard this line, or variations of it before, and while I can't actually pinpoint any particular book, speech, or sermon as a source, it goes something like this:

"Motherhood is the best job you could ever have."

Hearing that made me cringe internally. Not because motherhood isn't extremely important, or because I didn't want to be a mother someday, but the word that struck me was "best." I didn't have a baby until I was 26, and so I spent a fair amount of time as a single and child-free adult (though still not as much as many of my friends have), but I have to admit, it would probably still make me cringe even now.

Why? Because by saying that motherhood is the best job that a woman can have, you are therefore saying that any woman who is not a mother, no matter what else she does, is doing something that is less than best. And that's a lie. "If motherhood is the best job I could ever have," I would think, "Does that mean I'm failing now?" I didn't feel like I was. At least not all the time.

Honestly, I don't think that most people who say/type lines like that really mean it that way. I think what they're mostly trying to say is that if you're a mother, motherhood is the most important of all your jobs. But there are ways to communicate that without making it sound like you're minimizing the jobs and roles of child-free people, or negating their importance. (Or minimizing the importance of other jobs that mothers may have.)

Motherhood is SO important. It's already the hardest job I've ever had, and I've only just started! But it is also a great job, and I'm so glad I have the privilege of being one. It is a role in which you are closely bonded with one or more brand new little people, and you become one of (and at times THE) chief influence to shepherd them through their early years, and beyond. That is a huge responsibility, with so much involvement and potential, and it can be pretty scary sometimes. Affirmation and support are so important. And yes, there may be people who feel as though they wasted portions of their lives, or at least did not use their time wisely, and thought they "grew up" a lot by becoming parents. There's nothing wrong with being honest about those feelings.

But that doesn't mean that having a child is the only way to shepherd and influence the next generation. Many people do that without taking on the role of parenthood. What's truly important is that every person realizes the importance and value in relationships. While immediate family relationships are the obvious ones, they don't have to be the only ones. There are many people in many different stages of life who will either never be parents, or are simply child-free for a season, and to say or imply that the work they're currently doing is good but still lacking without children is wrong and hurtful - especially since, like me at the time, it's not always something that's a current option for them. Child-free people have the freedom and ability to develop relationships outside their nuclear families that parents don't always have.

Again, I think very few people would actually say that line above. Most churches and communities I have been in have done a great job of affirming people in whatever their current stages of life are. But I still think it's worth keeping in mind. The importance of motherhood/parenthood does not mean that the time spent before it is of less importance, for me or anyone else.

That's why it's so important to make sure that in encouraging and building up parents, it is not done in a way that downplays anyone else's role or job, but rather affirms the importance of every role and stage of life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I found out a couple days ago that my cat has diabetes.

In one sense I'm glad because it's an answer to what has been troubling him lately, but in another I feel distressed because I know the treatments are more than we can afford or feasibly handle right now.

We live in a time and country where some people will spend a fortune on pets even when they're not chronically ill. It's a sad fact of life that in some areas of the world, pets get better medical treatment than people in other areas of the world.

So yes, he's not a person, he's a cat, and we know his lifespan is short to begin with. But that doesn't change the fact that he's important to me. Obviously our time and long-term financial health are important too, but still, this cat was my friend before I had a family of my own. Clearly I'm torn.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that to a cat, the methods used to control this illness (needles, daily injections and monitoring, more vet visits, etc.) are rather contrary to his desired mode of living, and he would never understand them. He wouldn't know why I was constantly having to hurt him and not letting him go outside. He might even come to fear me because of all the needles. I suppose some other things in this house are contrary to his desires, but that's beside the point.

The point is, for an animal, he has had a good life. And I want him to continue having a good life, which in this case, I believe, means comfort care. I want him to fully enjoy whatever time he has left, and when it comes to the point where he can't do that anymore, I don't want him to suffer. I really don't think that months and possibly years full of needles and medication are the right choice for us.

He's at least eight years old... I knew it had to happen eventually, and I guess I'd rather have warning. Still, it's a sad thing. He's been with me for five years. I hope he can stay around a lot longer, but if he doesn't, I want to make his last months as loving as possible.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Do I have to start a mommy blog now?

Wow, much has changed since I last updated. I'm married and I have a son - two major life-altering experiences right there, and I suppose a pretty decent excuse for letting my poor blog languish.

I need to get back into the habit of writing though, and while typing one-handed is harder, I can't let that be my excuse because I need to write. It's healthy, cathartic, and therapeutic. Writing is to my brain what a brisk walk is to my muscular and circulatory systems.

But there's a part of me that groans inwardly at the idea of a "mommy blog." Even if I don't try to make my writing all about my role as a mother, I can't help the fact that it is a very significant part of my life and it will undoubtedly sneak into my inspiration, which I don't mind, because to keep it out entirely would be a bit of a loss.

I really can't be down on "mommy blogs" though - I have come across some wonderful blogs out there, written by women who are mothers, that provide timely insights, and truly helpful ideas and practical solutions without judgment or condescension. I would have a long way to go to develop the experience needed to write a truly helpful parenting blog.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, are some blogs that, sometimes under the guise of "sharing information," proceed to regale the reader with opinions on their favorite hot-button issues, and whatever parenting labels they have chosen to align their choices with, subtly (or not-so-subtly) implying that their way is "best," even though they're "totally not judging you." And unfortunately, I know how easy it is to fall into that trap.

Right now, raising a child is a HUGE part of my life. There is no way around that. But something tells me that someday, the issues that seem oh-so-important to me right now (mode of diapering, method of feeding, the extent to which a routine is kept or not kept, etc. etc.) will pale in comparison to the big picture: raising a child to become an adult, with love, discipline, and compassion, and hoping that will come to pass despite all of our mistakes. I don't want to get lost in, or overly committed to the details along the way.

That's what I'm going for anyway. We'll see what happens.