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.
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.