To encase the life of another in your own being – to devote your whole self to the “becoming” of another soul – to dedicate all imaginable resources for the sake of one who can never fully appreciate your sacrifice – to risk a love that threatens to utterly undo you on a daily basis… this is but a particle of what it is to truly be a mother. I know of no other life experience that compares – nothing else comes close. And, in my opinion, no one can truly appreciate a mother like another mother. Only having done it can you know the width and breadth of it.
I can remember after having my first child the greatest adjustment for me was not the lack of sleep, the endless laundry, or the huge responsibility that I felt, but the intense sense of vulnerability I experienced with my heart now outside my body. I had never loved anything so much. I had never felt so deeply about anything – ever. There is something about holding this precious little defenseless person that simultaneously evokes delirious joy and overwhelming helplessness. You would give your own soul to see them safe and wholly evolved into the fullness of their destiny. You would pay any price; sacrifice any goal; reach any compromise to make them content and complete.
But life does not afford us that bargain – there are no guarantees on the outcome of our efforts, no assurances that all will be perfect. All we can do is love them every day – deeply, intensely but also freely. Like a kite on a string we can stay connected, we can ground, we can direct, but the flight is theirs. The dips and swirls, peaks and valleys belong to them. Mothering is the most intense relationship we can experience that requires an ultimate commitment to letting go. That is radical love.
I must confess that I think the most beautiful thing I have ever seen is a devoted mother who truly enjoys her children. It is the pinnacle of love to me. I took my daughters to our main public library for marionette shows when they were young, and we just kept going – we still go even though they are both nearly grown. Recently, I was watching the young mothers wrangle their cubs as the audience semi-patiently waited for the wonder to begin. I noticed as one little boy coyly approached his mother who was on the floor next to him. He nestled into her as if they were still one being – leaning close and whispering – hands cupped to her ear. I could feel the puffy warmth of his words to her as I watched her respond to him as if he had just proposed marriage. I was arrested by their simple tender moment, feeling all her joy in him and all his adoration of her. The moment stood still for me as I thought, “Is there anything in the entire world as beautiful as a loving mother with her child?”
The beauty is in the abandonment. It’s in the vulnerability, the openness, the sacrifice, the devotion, the hope, and the submission to becoming a person who lives the whole continuum of being. Nowhere are such polar opposites required to co-exist as in the heart of a mother: tenderness and ferocity, flexibility and the immovable, complete devotion and a willingness to let go, unflinching confidence and gnawing doubt. Motherhood demands a stretching of the heart as well as the body. If you resist or self-protect, you will stunt everything beautiful about it. It is a job that cannot be done half-heartedly or “in addition to” – it requires all. And that is exactly why it is so very beautiful.
When you are in the thick of raising people it is easy to feel like you will never have “your own life” again. This season lasts a long time but it is just a season. As an older mother I can tell you with assurance that the season does change and in the next season you live with the fruit of what you planted and tended in the first. I do not mean to imply that a mother cannot have a job or a career, but simply that motherhood done well requires your full attention. Other things must fall in line behind this priority or you will feel splintered and strained. This is another reason why mothers are extraordinary creatures. They sacrifice like saints.
I cannot begin to think of a greater source of Goodness in the world than mothers. You are the fount from which it flows. So much of the understanding that children garner about the importance of Good is transferred directly from their mothers. So thank you, dear women, who have devoted yourself so selflessly to the art and craft of motherhood. You are preservers of the human heart and promoters of Goodness. Your job, while often thankless, is critical to the well-being of our world. Thank you for being so vulnerable and so tough, so sturdy and so flexible, so loving and so willing to fight for your little ones. Goodness belongs to you.
Share with a mother you admire!
An ode to the beauty of motherhood...