by Erin Weist
When I was a teenager I didn’t think much of being a mom. In fact, that thought process continued as I grew into a young adult, attended college, lived overseas, held full-time jobs and basically became an adult. Looking back it’s silly that I didn’t even once consider my own mother and the amazing woman she is and how fully I owed my life and the shaping of my persona to her loving time and attention—didn’t even cross my mind. That sort of sums up young adulthood, though. We spend a great deal of time “finding ourselves” or discovering our interests and planning our future or whatever it is we do and conversely spend very little time thinking about how that future could involve or shape other people. Now, there are others who are more sensitive than me, I will wholeheartedly agree to that. But even those seeking altruistic professions would probably agree that those times in their lives were basically selfish.
Then, I met my husband. Well, of course, he wasn’t my husband when I met him. He was just a hunky guy that I wanted to wrap myself around and never let go. I fell in love. We talked about a future and I admitted that, while I agreed to the ideal of family, I wasn’t sure if it was the life for me. It sounded so… boring, so unfulfilling. I worried that I needed to be out backpacking around the world, volunteering in third world countries, holding a corporate job, doing SOMETHING BIG that really mattered, otherwise my life wouldn’t mean anything. Really, I was still in my selfish phase and I had no clue. Understandably, this freaked out my poor soon-to-be-husband who actually really wanted a family and it was almost a deal-breaker. It speaks volumes about his maturity and his love for me that he accepted my concerns and stuck with me.
After we were married we both worked full-time in jobs that paid our bills but that we both ironically hated. ‘But this is what adults do and this is fulfilling,’ I kept trying to tell myself. It was hard to take myself seriously.
And then we decided to have a baby.
We talked about family, we talked about our responsibilities, but really we had no idea. Would I continue to work afterwards? Hmmm, I wasn’t sure. ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,’ I thought. Although, truth be told, it was a relief to have an exit plan from a job I dreaded going to every day. I had thought about looking for a new job but they all seemed the same: stuck in one place, working for someone else all day, only being able to live my own life for about 2 hours a day, plus weekends. For the first time in my life I started to get excited about staying home with a baby.
I still didn’t know how long it would last. Maybe I would get bored after a few months and be itching to get back to work. (And honestly, those times have come over the years as we have welcomed more children into our home, but they never last very long.) I can promise that the moment I held that squishy baby on my chest, breathing his first breaths, I never wanted to be away. Not for a moment. I wanted to hold him every second of his life and let him hold my finger for comfort and just be there. And so I was. I stayed home, feeding him, holding him, trying to keep up with mealtimes and cleaning and oh my goodness how do I go grocery shopping with a baby???… and being an attentive wife and a helpful neighbor and all the while dealing with the nagging doubts swirling around me of “what do you do all day?” (Well, if you don’t have kids and you wonder what moms do all day, try babysitting for a week sometime and then we’ll talk.)
And it was hard. And beautiful. And we created memories—some good, some bad, but all memorable. And we’re still creating them. My children are still all under 10 years and I have learned a million and one things since that first foray into full-time motherhood and I will learn another million and one things just this year. And then they’ll grow, reach new life stages and it will all change. But somewhere in there, I got it. I mean, I get it now.
I understand why motherhood is important. I understand that having a full-time out-of-the-home job will never be as fulfilling as the full-time in-the-home job I’m undertaking right now. Mostly because co-workers and bosses and corporate politics will fade but I will have my children forever. But also because I’m realizing that I am the first line of defense for my children in a confusing, violent, and sometimes dirty world.
I can spend my days teaching them about self-control and love and patience and making better choices and learning to see beauty and wonder and love in that scary world. Certainly I can teach them their ABC’s and how important it is to eat their vegetables and how to sort clothes for the laundry. Those are visible things, probably things that they can recognize now as teaching. But most of my teaching they won’t recognize until they’re grown and trying to raise their own little brood.
Then, possibly like I did, they’ll understand the significance of their mom teaching them to pray always. They’ll know why the most important parts of the day were the ones when our family was all together. They’ll remember that their mom believed in them to make good choices and knew they could always strive to be better.
I could still be a part of the work force and do those things, but I have found that this is where my heart is…and I count myself incredibly blessed both in circumstances and in my husband who allows me to do this, to be taking part in the noblest undertaking I will ever experience in this life.
I walked through the valley of the shadow of death to bring these kids into this world and I’ve never looked back. Nothing can ever shake the firmness of my belief in the VITAL, CRUCIAL, IRREPLACEABLE role of a mother. And I believe fathers have their own vital, crucial, irreplaceable role as well but that deserves its’ own topic another day.
I wanted to record my thoughts today when I realized my own daughter might struggle with these same fears. And that’s OK, everyone has to learn and we do that by experience. But I want her, and any young woman concerned with her place in this world, to know that their potential to be a mother will be the most difficult, fulfilling, and important work she will EVER do. Not to mention the most lasting. So prepare for it, if you can. Make your foundation steadfast and immovable so that you’ll be strong enough to hold up yourself AND your little ones. It will be hard, you may feel unnoticed or unsure, but stick with it and I promise that someday you will look at your life’s work and say, “It is good.”