Is Mothering Part-Time, Full-Time, or All-the-Time?
Being a mother is both demanding and rewarding—and equivalent to a professional pursuit. No teacher, psychologist, or spiritual leader has the opportunity to mold minds, heal spirits, nurture bodies, and develop potential as does a mother. Despite pressures and difficulties, this job can be amazingly productive and overwhelmingly rewarding. The results of competent mothering will be passed from generation to generation! A mother dare not look at rearing her children as merely one of her mundane responsibilities but rather as her mission, life’s work, the opportunity for her greatest legacy.
My mother was the heart of my childhood home. She operated behind the scenes, orchestrating the myriad of details required to manage a household of seven. She prepared our meals; she bought, kept in repair, and laundered our clothes; she cleaned the house; she maintained our health program; she supervised our education; she planned our entertainment. I knew that I was loved and cherished; I was clearly worthy of Mother’s time and energies. Not snippets of time sandwiched among more important obligations and not left-over time after other work was done—but I, with my siblings, moment by moment, day by day, year after year had her personal attention—fulltime! My mother was the creative visionary and driving force who assumed responsibility for seeing that everything was done in due course. Her creativity reached every corner of our home and extended to every moment of life. She reared five children from birth to empty nest, sending each of us—in 3 generations—a weekly letter and staying abreast of what we and our families were doing until her death.
One of the most amazing things about my mother’s routine was the ease with which she moved, accomplishing all expected of her while maintaining her personal church activities, club memberships, and her own graciousness in community events. With her life consisting of mundane responsibilities and routine activities to keep up with five children born over a decade of time, she must have sometimes despaired that she would ever have time for herself. Staying at home with young children is not an easy task. Yet my mother never complained. Caring for us and making us happy were her chief goals in life. She was both a guiding star and a dynamic meteor in our lives. She nurtured lives formed in her womb; she molded and influenced the development of those lives; she inspired the work of the next generation; she received rewards on earth until she breathed her last breath and now continues in the heavenly court.
In the family circle a mother has the potential of her own “greenhouse” to be managed under the attentive hand of the master caretaker. There is more than automatic sprinkling and robotic feeding of plants—not simply survival but the delight of fellowship and personal interaction as she “grows” the next generation! I see the home as essential for the production of moral, social, and human capital—the work forces and visionary leaders needed for the future. This process, when done with excellence, cannot be short-circuited, mechanized, or standardized to one-size-fits-all.
Children reflect their mother—often saying more about her in the living out of their lives than she would want anyone to hear! I consider the best present I have given my children to be my presence in their lives day in and day out. The best present they have given me is wrapped up in who they have become, their roles in their own respective homes and the contributions they are making in the lives of their own families, friends, and even with the strangers who cross their paths. And they continue to be a very special part of my own life.
So perhaps we mothers do have the toughest job in the marketplace: the hours are unending, the responsibility is overwhelming, and the clients are often ungrateful. But—what benefits! A mother has the opportunity to speak with her life as well as with her tongue. There is no higher happiness and joy than birthing and nurturing life. Nothing in this world I have ever done—the writing of books, participating in radio and television broadcasts, delivering messages from the public platform, pursuing multiple academic degrees, teaching classes, or traveling around the world—nothing equals the joy and satisfaction I have personally experienced in molding the lives of my children and then watching them walk across the stage of life, taking their places of service in the next generation.
My children and grandchildren have been the reservoir into which I have poured my primary energies and creativity—they are truly my life’s work and most important job! The nurturing of my children has been an awesome task and a precious privilege and is the substance of the crowns I will lay at the feet of the blessed Jesus.
Oh, for a host of women, like my mother Doris Weisiger Kelley, who will embrace the challenge of motherhood with determination and creativity and be empowered by the task of producing and nurturing the next generation and who will empower that generation to embrace their own roles of leadership in the challenging world before them!
“Who can measure the long-term effects of nurturing helpless infants, supervising wandering toddlers, discipling self-willed children, and counseling self-absorbed adolescents? Of family outings planned, traditions built, memories made, books read, songs sung, Scripture taught? That’s why motherhood belongs under the heading, ‘Engage the World’; no one shapes generations or fashions cultures more than mothers.”~ Jeff Purswell