I begin this conversation with thought, consideration and sensitivity due this subject. And after having weighed it greatly, I think it is time for us to begin this dialogue.
This is a conversation about motherhood.
On this Mother’s Day morning, I called many to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. But one call brought me to this writing. My great-aunt, someone I admire greatly, complimented me on the mothering of my two sons. She told me that I had raised the bar on mothering and joked that I've 'made a career of motherhood'
I thanked her dearly for her compliment, knowing that my work is not even half finished and that I can easily think of other mothers whose wisdom and success I am striving to match.
But something else came to mind for me in this conversation. In my ‘success’ and effort in being a good mother, the greatest component of motherhood, for me, has been in maintaining a healthy marriage to my sons' father.
Those who are married, or were married, can attest to the challenges involved in any marriage. There are no Cinderella stories; fairy tales simply do not exist.
I have once said that one of the greatest of all life’s challenges is to be in and maintain a marriage. Here you have two people who have their own separate perceptions, personal goals and unique histories. And these two have committed to a lifetime union, before a community of witnesses. And within that lifetime, ideas change, goals shift and family, career, financial and a score of other challenges arise. Yet the commitment is to maintain the union.
Consider how many times we change our minds, leave difficult job situations or dissolve friendships that sour. People are ever growing and ever changing. And in all circumstances we reserve the right to make a different decision.
But in marriage we have committed to togetherness through ‘good and bad’ times. We commit to oneness in ‘abundance and poverty’ and through ‘sickness and health.’ This is no easy feat to accomplish, especially in modern America.
How does this relate to motherhood?
Motherhood is defined simply as the state of being a mother. Yet there is nothing simplistic in it at all. In motherhood, our obligation is not just to rear our children by feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating them. Motherhood involves exposing our children to that which is healthy and progressive and protecting them from that which is damaging. The fullness of the child is dependent on the completion of our duty.
We must be careful not to exclude the provision of fatherhood as an unnecessary or extra option. Fatherhood is as necessary to a child as is a good education, wholesome nutrition and safe shelter.
Motherhood means ensuring our children have access to all that is necessary; this includes a father. Marriage is the course which ‘best’ ensures fathers parent their children. Obviously, fathers may pass away while their children are young and there are other unfortunate circumstances such as divorce, incarceration, abandonment and addictions which may preclude a father from actively(daily) raising his child.
I began this saying that it is with great sensitivity in which I write because as mothers, we can often be sensitive and/or defensive regarding this subject. And while I observe our sensitivity, I also must note our accountability.
We have the greatest influence on our children that anyone can ever have. Motherhood entitles us to this gift. As such we must always stay mindful of the best structure to produce the best outcomes.
And this is marriage. And as hard as marriage may come to be at times, it is a worthy expression of motherhood.
I had a conversation with my older son once. He heard an NPR report about child custody and said that it was unfair that just because parents break up, fathers cannot see their children. It was the perfect opportunity to teach him about reality.
I told him that marriage is hard work and just like he and his brother do not always like each other, parents go through the same challenges. And just as he and his brother make amends, so do parents. It is what happens in a family.
I explained that parenting is a like a group project. Each has their own contribution to the project to create the best outcome. When one party drops out, that leaves an unfair burden on the other and there is bound to be a shortage somewhere that cannot be made up. That is parenting in a marriage.
Motherhood is glorious! It is also hard work and not exclusive of creating conditions that encourage a father's presence.
I realize this writing will certainly have its detractors. And I welcome that feedback as I would any positive feedback. However know in advance that I make no apologies for the above. I was not raised by either parent; mother or father. And I am very familiar with the identity issues, emotional issues and other psycho-social issues for a child who lacks a parent (or both.) Therefore, it was my decision early on in life to minimize this, if I ever had children, by exhausting every effort to maintain my children in a two parent household.
I am also aware of unhealthy or dangerous circumstances that prevent a father from actively parenting his children and by no means am I suggesting any mother remain in such. That is antithetical to motherhood.
Still I am under no illusion of the victimhood some single-mothers promote of their situations. Some parents tag out of marriage because it’s easier to change their minds than endure the challenges. Tagging out is an option for all of us although not all of us take advantage-in part because of the whole child we are striving to develop. I know of other women who irresponsibly/accidentally become co-parents with a man never having had an intention of securing a family. And I observe many of these women presenting themselves as single-parent martyrs to their children and others…
Motherhood is a challenge in any condition. It is a very big job with many components that mustn't be overlooked. How great it is to have a partner who is just as invested in the active parenting of our children. This is a blessing for our children and for ourselves.
My ninth grader recently had to write two essays as part of an application to attend a STEM program at a local university.
Unsure of himself, he said, “I’m not great at writing.” My reply was, “You don’t have to be great; you only have to be able.”
When he’d finally written the essays and emailed them to me for my review, I was impressed, very impressed. I told him that besides punctuation errors, the essays were wonderful. I watched him stifle his smile when I told him he was more than able; in this case, he was actually very good!
I share this story because knowingly or unknowingly, often is the case that we erect our own barriers to great opportunities. When an opportunity presents, we can be quicker at finding ways to disqualify ourselves than to secure our moment.
Insecurity is a beast.
That is why I say, “You don't have to be great; just be able.”
Having the capacity to complete a task, in this case write an essay, is the only requirement. Use of grammar, knowing how to write an introduction, body and conclusion are the basics of essay writing. Writing that compels the reader to action, emotion or a yearning to learn more about the writer are simply wonderful bonuses. But this comes with practice-and sometimes just natural raw talent.
In any case however, we must each have just have a basic skill set in commonly required tasks such as writing, interviewing and public speaking. We can always improve to become better but just being able is foundational.
Let us change the way we think. Instead of thinking that we must be exceptional; it’d be less pressure to simply know that we must be able. And to become able, we must have practiced the skills. This way, when we are asked to write or speak; we needn’t worry ourselves with repetitions of, “I can’t speak in public,”, “I don't interview well” or "I'm really not that good." With practice, we can gain a competency of most things and eliminate any excuses or disqualifications. Our mantra will then be, “I can because I am able!”
As it happens, my ninth grader is an avid reader. I’ve always told him that to improve his writing, he should just keep reading. And he has. Turns out, he has decent writing skills. But the commotion in his head convinced him otherwise.
Many of us already possess the experience and skills that qualify us for the opportunities that open to us. We mustn’t let our doubts and insecurities convince us that we are misaligned when we are well able and sometimes, even great!
I encourage anyone who is reading this to give themselves grace and teach our children to do the same. Let us recognize that a basic skill set is good enough to get us going while we grow to greatness.
We must never ‘wait for great’ before capitalizing on favor.
Nurah strives to enlighten, empower and engage her readers with the wealth of knowledge she has gained from her own experiences and those of others from whom she has learned.