Victor Hugo wrote, "She broke the bread into two fragments and gave them to her children, who ate them with eagerness. 'She hath kept none for herself,' grumbled the sergeant. "Because she is not hungry," said a soldier." "No," said the sergeant, "because she is a mother." Mothers are different in ways that are simply not measurable. Societies that lose respect for the role of mothers quickly lose a great deal more. Mothers don't need patronizing platitudes — they need to be valued for their value and honored for their powerful impact on children, families and communities.
I do not know what it is like to be a mother. My only qualification for commenting here is that I do know what it is like to be inspired and influenced by amazing mothers and extraordinary women. (I include my own mother, my wife, seven sisters and three daughters among the many, many women who have made a difference in my life.)
Mothers have an incredible ability to see the whole picture. Because she is a mother she can be taking a relaxing walk but mentally be going through a shopping list, reviewing a project for work, calculating the family budget and preparing for a church meeting. A mother can be fixing a meal, helping with homework, coordinating a community project and talking to a sick friend on the telephone all at once.
Unfortunately we live in a world bent on belittling the divine role of mothers. We are bombarded with images of what the perfect mother, wife, professional and citizen should be. It is a world consumed with comparisons. Whether you are a mother in a traditional family structure, are struggling with a difficult child, are working inside or outside of your home (or both), are facing the daunting task of single parenting or are longing to be a mother but are not — remember that viewing life by comparison, especially through the lens of social media, is fatal vision.
As a mother, it is also easy to fall into the trap of comparing your worst trait with the greatest trait of another woman in your neighborhood or community. You may not be the best cook and so you make unfair comparisons to a woman who can exquisitely cater any meal. You may have young children and the inevitable feelings of a constantly messy house, so of course you compare yourself with a woman who has older children, is an immaculate housekeeper or pays for a professional housekeeper.
Perhaps your understanding of the history, theology or literature is not as well developed you would like, so you compare yourself to someone who has spent a lifetime mastering those subjects. You may have put your career on hold to raise young children, so you compare yourself to the professional woman who has achieved great success. Or you are a professional mother who sometimes feels stretched beyond capacity, so you compare yourself to the mother who is able to focus solely on her work within her home. Because you are a mother, please do not create unnecessary feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Keep your shortcomings and struggles in proper perspective.
Because you are a mother, it is critical for you to realize that you are not alone. You are not the only mother who yells at her children or loses patience from time to time. You are not the only mother who has hidden from her children just to get five minutes of peace. You are not the only mother who has started and given up on an exercise program on the first day. You are not the only mother who has sat in the car in the garage and eaten the last of the chocolate chip cookies. You are not the only mother who has silently wished that your husband or children really understood what it is like to be a mother. You are not the only mother who has followed your children's example, and stuffed piles of dirty clothes or other messes under your bed or in a closet when company arrived. You are not the only mother who has wished for a vacation after the vacation to have some time away from your family. You are not the only mother who has picked up fast-food for your children on your way home from work for the third straight day. You are not the only mother who wonders if you are making a difference. You are not the only mother who has wanted to pull the covers over your head when the alarm rings, not knowing how you will make it through another day of doing it all. Mothers — you are not alone.
Mothers, please do not judge your value or worth by our inept ability to express our true feelings. Efforts which today are unheralded, often unnoticed and seemingly unrewarded will, in a coming day, be published, gratefully acknowledged and, I believe, eternally rewarded — because you are a mother.