I am a stay-at-home mom.
Many of the things I do on a daily basis are fairly mundane.
You could pay somebody else to do the sweeping and the cooking and the washing and the childcare. While it would all add up, you wouldn't have to pay each person very much in order to fill my shoes as a stay-at-home mother.
There are times I have gotten a little down on this fact: the seeming replaceability of my main role in my particular home. It was hard to feel like I mattered when what I did could be done by another for minimum (or worse) wage.
This of course begs the question, "Does motherhood matter anymore?"
As time has gone on I think my ideas about this have shifted and changed. They will probably continue to do so as I get older and more tired and hopefully more...wise.
1000 years ago the work of a mother was immense. Nobody would say that she didn't work. She was so necessary that if a man lost his wife to death and he already had children, he would marry again as soon as possible or the children would be sent to live with others. A man simply couldn't raise a family by himself, nor could he, all alone, do the work required of a woman. Her duties were many, varied, and necessary and could range from planting, growing, and harvesting food to making cloth and clothing.
Most of those duties for modern women in wealthy countries are accomplished by machines. Who needs mom when you have a washing machine, a dryer, available clothing at the store and microwave dinners? My goodness, you can now get a toy that entertains our baby with your iPad!
Still, in my heart, I know that motherhood matters. Mothering is so much more than dishes and sewing. It is so much more than I can even put into words. Even if my work can be replaced by machines and my coos replaced by a tiny touchscreen computer, I believe in motherhood and its importance.
Why? Because motherhood isn't just the nuts and bolts, it is the art of growing humans. Mothering is an eternal balancing act. It means being there to hug and hold a tender little person when they need you. Even if their problems are tiny to you, like a sibling that scratched them or a toy they can't find. Even if you can't solve all those little person problems, being the one who is there with open arms and kind word matters.
Motherhood is tenderness when somebody else could be cold. Motherhood is understanding when nobody else understands. Motherhood is love when it isn't earned.
But of course, anybody who has ever done anything difficult knows that the sweetest rewards are never found on the easy street. Life's greatest triumphs come after some of the hardest tests. I know that motherhood matters and yet I fail and act imperfectly on a daily basis.
Motherhood also means realizing your imperfections when someone re-enacts them in miniature and with gusto. Motherhood means struggling sometimes to find joy in the mundane and happiness in the messes you are too tired to clean.
Mothering can be much heavier than all of that too. It can mean deep sadness, sorrow, even hopelessness when tragedy strikes or the unexpected happens and those we never knew we could love so much are hurt. I never understood the levels of joy and pure delight I could feel until I became a mother. But I also never understood the depth and power of affliction, even depression, until I was a mother.
Motherhood is a great teacher. It teaches us the love our parents must have had for us, the love others must have for their children, the degree to which we ourselves were and are loved. Mothering shows us our weakness while at the same time exposing strengths we had no idea our simple bodies housed.
Does motherhood matter?
I believe perhaps that it matters more than just about anything else. Motherhood is literally where it all begins- life, our universe, ourselves, our children, our generations and our past. It is meaningful no matter where we are, no matter what machines we are able to employ to help us accomplish the daily work of caring for a family.
Motherhood is beauty and pain, humility and pride, fierceness and tenderness, all housed in a singular and unique, yet universal and unifying life experience.
Ironically you don't have to actually give birth to experience the joys and sorrows of motherhood. You don't have to bake meals from scratch to be a "good mother", and you don't even have to be perfect to try to raise another human to be kind, thoughtful, and good.
Yes, motherhood matters. Mothers matter. Mothering and the nurturing and loving that always accompany it - matters.
I am saddened that I, and I believe so many others, have ever wondered if there is value in the role of motherhood. I once had a new mom tell me that her baby didn't really need her. What a tragedy that she believed that... What a tragedy that so many women believe that.
Mothers are needed. Motherhood matters. Perhaps it matters more than anything else. I don't know if women can ever really understand their strength and their POWER if they don't accept the importance of motherhood.
The hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
-W. R. Wallace
(Or wears the baby, if you prefer.)