Saturday, March 28, 2009

Embracing the Mother Part

A couple of weeks ago, a post at
Segullah (this one by a guest blogger, Annette Lyon) piqued my interest. It is called "Beyond Mommy: Knowing Who I Am," and it discusses the age-old issue about "losing" ourselves to motherhood and whether that is a good thing or not. What exactly does the Lord mean when He asks us to "lose ourselves" in the service of others? There's a lot of room for interpretation there.

Below, in red, is my response to Annette's post, which I wanted to share with you.

"I always kept active with my interests, even as a young mother. I never stopped writing something or other, and my children were well aware of my passion for many subjects and pursuits besides mothering. My talents found numerous outlets at church, in the community, and (once my children were all in school) in a master’s program in counseling. Having said that, being my children’s mother was and continues to be my favorite pursuit. Nothing else fills me as much…not writing a play, directing a program, or publishing a book.

"I mention this because something happened to me when my children left the nest that I did not expect. I thought I would feel a lovely, yet slightly bittersweet, 'release'…a liberating feeling that now I could spend as much time with my writing and other interests as I wanted. My friends all agreed with me that, because I was so active in my pursuing my individual interests and developing my talents while I was raising my children, I would reap the benefits as an empty nester in that I wouldn’t go through all that sadness, longing, and sense of being 'lost.' What a shock it was to me when I did go through exactly those feelings…in spades!

"What I realized was that my personal pursuits and interests didn’t fill the same place in my heart that mothering my children did. Yes, my heart had many mansions, but one of them (apparently, the main one) was standing empty after they left home, and boy, did I feel it! As if a central molar had been extracted from my mouth, I experienced the hole that was left as a gaping void, my tongue constantly going back to 'check' the vacant space as if doing so would somehow speed the healing. I even tried to replace the 'molar' with various implants, but nothing else I implanted seemed to fill the space. Instead, I had to go through a complicated adjustment to becoming a different incarnation of 'mother' and make peace with that. As one of my friends once said, 'It’s hard to be the hub of a wheel and suddenly become one of the spokes…or even the rim.' (So true, Lynna.)

"I’ve made the adjustment now. My youngest is 26. But I will never stop missing those days when all of my children were together, in my home, and I was the center of their 'wheels.' What an opportunity for creative expression it was! I was blessed with the opportunity, as all mothers can be, to create the entire atmosphere of that home as if it were a blank page…or a piece of canvas, and my little audience was mine to captivate. What a fun job I had, despite the sacrifices. After all, true art involves sacrifice, right? And mothering is definitely an art. In fact, it remains the most satisfying medium I’ve ever worked in, though it is considerably more enjoyable once you tame the inner critic."

[I closed my comment with a quote I've already shared with you recently, in this post.] 

“The most visible creators I know of are those artists whose medium is life itself…the ones who express the inexpressible without brush, hammer, clay, or guitar. They neither paint nor sculpt—their medium is being. Whatever their presence touches has increased life. They see and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being alive” (Jane Stone).

Okay, that was my comment on Segullah, but I'm revisiting the subject here because I kept mulling it over. Some of the comments made in response to Annette's post intrigued me. A few women seemed to view the "mothering" role as something separate and apart from the role of being one's "self." I, on the other hand, see my mothering as one of (and inseparable from) the many parts that comprise my "self" and make me the person I am. To use the "artist of life" analogy, motherhood is an integral color in the palette I use to create my life every day, my favorite color, by the way. However, it cannot overwhelm the other shades of me unless I ignore them, which I do not.

Here's my concern. Are we headed down some kind of slippery slope that leads to throwing the baby out with the bath water where motherhood is concerned? Is Satan pulling the old twisteroo on us again by encouraging us to look at "mother" as a job description rather than a divine, eternal identity? Oh, don't misunderstand me...No one is more in favor than I am of women owning and developing every spiritual gift, talent, and innate ability they possess and sharing these both in and outside of their wards and families. I would never want any woman to subjugate her every need to her children or arrive at the lamentable place where she can't even voice an opinion about what she would like to do or see or be. That, arguably, would be sinful. It would surely be pitiful, and Women of God are hardly that. But should fear that we cannot somehow find the strength and/or resources to keep ourselves from such an ignominious fate prompt us to, almost for our own protection, separate our mothering from our concept of "who we are" as individual women and personalities? As we strive not to "lose" our "selves" to motherhood, are we losing the opportunity to "find ourselves in the service of others?"

I don't have all the answers, but the questions interest me. One thing I know for certain. Being a mother needn't stop us from becoming "artists of being alive." It just offers another medium with which to create the evolving masterpiece that is us. Surely we can recognize, exercise, and appreciate all the parts of ourselves without having to choose one over the other. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation, and it is hoped that in trying to be "who we are," we don't forget that the most celestial feature of a daughter of God's divine self is that part which creates and nurtures...the "mother" part.

JMHO, of course.


Momza said...

Wow. Your words are inspired, no doubt. As my older children have grown and married, I find I am relishing having the two youngest still in my "arms" so-to-speak.
I'm the clingy one these days.
And I appreciate your point of veiw from the other side of mtoherhood...I always watch my dear friends who are just a few steps ahead of me to see their examples of what to do "next", taking note of what brings them joy,ie: granma-hood, hobbies, travelling, service, etc. Thanks for your gracious point of veiw.

Brad said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Just had another horrible night with kids and excrement, and to read your post this morning was exactly what I needed.
Although I am still in that trench with the first poised to leave the nest, I feel just as you do. But I could never express it as beautifully as you do. Thanks again

jen said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Just had another horrible night with kids and excrement, and to read your post this morning was exactly what I needed.
Although I am still in that trench with the first poised to leave the nest, I feel just as you do. But I could never express it as beautifully as you do. Thanks again. Just wanted you to know it was me, and not Brad somebody!

K2cole said...

Loved the comparison to an artist - that is what I am with my kids, I hope to mold them into nice people and good parents. I am always amazed at Moms who view childrearing as a job - a job is usually not alot of fun, it denotes only work...many years ago spring break was approaching and we moms were talking at homemaking (many years ago) and mostly it was grumbling, but my one friend spoke up and said she loved it when her kids were home, they had so much fun doing all kinds of things together - instead of dreading it, she looked forward to it. That taught me 2 things. I am supposed to like (and love) my kids and it is up to me to find the common ground. And second attitude is everything when it comes to mothering. I am just approaching the empty nest thing (5 yrs away) and I dread not being in the center of that wheel but again, I suppose, attitude is everything.

Thank you for the thoughts to think today.


Nikki Nichols said...

Sue, this was so beautiful and much needed. As a new mom and wife myself I sometimes worry that I will become so wrapped up in my little boy and forget my husband, so I make a big effort to make him so special, as he is my Eternal Companion and my children will grow and meet their own someday. I find so much joy in serving them and helping them in whatever their needs may be. I feel fullfilled. I am however so so grateful for you pointing out the divine role of mothers and women, but that it takes us looking beyond our children sometimes and into ourselves so that we can be the best we can be. You are such an eloquent writer and are able to put into words things that I am sure so many women think about. Thanks for you thoughts, inspiration and testimony. It has made me just a little bit stronger, prouder and and more grateful that I am a woman!!

NBlake said...

I am never more alive then when I am with my children. I still find satisfying things to do now that they are gone, but nothing is sweeter than spending time with my children and getting to be their mother. Their friendship and love is an integral part of making my life complete.

Natalie said...

Wow. You are inspiring and beyond wise. Thank you, thank you.

Also, thanks for your comments on my latest post. They hit the nail right on!

Angie said...

Thank you. I needed this.

Heather Anderson said...

I love that you bring the point in that you can be an artist of life and in life as a mother and it does not need to be divided. I have found my creativity in my children. As I have worked to be a better Mom and provide my children with good opportunities it has pushed me to develop new "talents". I have enjoyed using ASL to teach baby sign to my children, I have taken the time to learn to cook healthy meals and find some joy in a task I once hated, I have a new level of passion for photography as there is no picture more enjoyable to take then capturing my own children's lives the list goes on and on and all of these things have either developed or increased because I am a Mom. I cannot separate out the creativity I love to express and the blessings of motherhood they are both intertwined and part of who I am and who I am becoming as a mother. Thanks for this post it reminds me of the many blessings I have from being a mother:)

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