My small and quiet (but extremely determined) mother adopted a baby several years before marrying my father at age 32. She later had three babies of her own, and chose a lifelong career of mothering. I’m beyond grateful for that. She and Dad fostered well into their eighties. I long ago lost count of the children welcomed into Mom’s loving care.
Today I watch my four granddaughters play dolls, and smile at their mothering efforts. They change their charges’ clothes, mostly. They make them argue and then make up. Two generations ago my sister and I played with our own dolls in similar ways.
We pretended we were teachers and nurses, bakers and gardeners. But we were always, first of all, mothers. (Though sometimes, after allowing our doll-children to play outside, we forgot to bring them in when it rained.)
“I’m never going to go to work,” one of my ladybeans told me. “EV-ER, Nana. I’m going to just stay home and look after my children.”
Like all children’s view of mothering, my granddaughter’s perspective will evolve in the years ahead. Decades ahead of her on the timeline of life, it humbles me to realize I’m one of the women God will use to teach her about the multiple roles mothers play in life.
Her mother, my daughter, has given birth six times. She amazes me. With her husband’s full cooperation, she has chosen to stay home to raise and home-educate their children. She’s also a freelance musician and photographer. She often volunteers in the community, teaching her children by example the charity so characteristic of the Christian life.
I also chose to remain home to raise and educate her and her brother. God used experiences gained and skills developed in those younger years to launch mid-life vocations as writer, speaker, broadcaster and political assistant.
My friend Glenda, too, waited until after her children were grown before beginning a career as a nutritional consultant. Cathay, my current boss, and a Member of Parliament, spent the first half of her adult life raising her children and assisting in her husband’s work. Only in her grandmother-hood did she enter politics. “What I love to tell girls,” I’ve heard her say often, “is that you can do it all – be a wife and a mother, and still have a career. You just don’t need to do it all at the same time!”
Like our fingerprints, every mother is different, and differently gifted by God to touch the lives of those around us. Those gifts he intends us to share, both at home and away from it. But I’ve observed something timeless and constant about the mothers I’ve known. Whether we are also photographers or politicians, nutritional consultants or writers, (or teachers, nurses, bakers or gardeners) or any other career God leads us to, most of us are always, first of all, mothers. And blessed to be, even in the most difficult of times.
I hope my children and grandchildren, whom I love with all my heart, understand that.