"Mother" is a stately word that's been handed down to us throughout the generations. As a woman born in the 1970s, I hate to admit that the word "Mother" has taken a hit inside my own, imperfectly formed head. I can talk a good game about Mary, the Mother of God and the spiritual motherhood of St. Teresa of Avila. However, in my deepest core, I often feel like "Mother" also means a woman who is ignored, unimportant, and a self-made-martyr.
The avalanche of "Hurrah My Kids Are Back in School" updates on Facebook has made me conscious of a division within my own religious community. Caring for small children is hard work. I like to think "we're all in this together!" Honestly, it doesn't matter to me whether a Mom has one kid or eleven. It only takes one kid with colic, or an earache, or a learning disability, or somekind of scary rare health complication to knock the wind out of a Mother's heart. I don't mother six children in my life. I mother six only children in my life.
There is an undercurrent contained in the usual "Hurrah My Kids Are Back in School" Facebook updates from Mothers that tugs at my overly senstive, artist heart. I believe that so many women share in the notion that real life can't happen for them whenever small children are in the house. I understand the truth of that belief. I've got a teething son in my house and the word count for my novel has sat unchanged for 10 days.
And yet.... I watched this amazing documentary about a chef in Japan that completely soothed my angst about living in a forgotten part of Appalachian and spending hours cleaning chocolate cake crumbs off the walls. I only clicked on "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" because I'm homeschooling an 8 year old who is insanely into cooking. My support of my daughter's interests open up new pathways of creativity inside my own brain.
Yesterday when I prayed, I read the passage of Matthew where Jesus calls Peter to drop his fishing net and become a fisher of men. As a Mother, I've been called to drop my legal career (which wasn't a big loss because writing appellate briefs was far more dull to me than fishing on the Sea of Galilee). Now, I sometimes struggle with self-identity in a world that judges who I am by what I do. I'll admit, that cleaning the house from dog hair and cake crumbs does not make for sparkling party conversation. Yet at age 40, it matters to me less what the world thinks of me and more what "I think of me." I hope I start to better match my own self-reference to God's reference of me.
I am a Fisher of Men. I teach. I clean. I cook. I write. I do these things not because I'm winning somekind of Catholic Motherhood prize. I do these things because service wins influence. I hope that my kids will call me when they are sick with mono when they are in college. I hope that they will call me whenever they are struggling with their faith after a loved ones death. I can't demand that my kids include me into their lives after they become independent adults and most likely, move far away from home. I'm laying a foundation of trust in intimacy that they will carry onward wherever they go. My calmness and my kindness help my children believe that the world is a good and safe place in which to explore.
I live in a modern world where there is a crisis of intimacy. I see so many good, good people who are afraid to get married, who are afraid to buy a house, and who are afraid of raising a child. There is a kind of loneliness that we have in America, which is unknown throughout most of the Third World.
I can't fight that loneliness by returning to work at a cool non-profit. I can fight that loneliness by letting myself be loved passionately and deeply and individually by God Himself. Then I can share that type of specific, individual love with the seven people in this world who live inside my own house.
This Fall, I hope that everyone finds their true purpose in life. It doesn't matter if you are single or married. It doesn't matter if you adopt two kids or had a homebirth of seven kids. It doesn't matter if your choose homeschool, Catholic school, or Public School. Our true purpose as women is to become Fishers of Men for the Lord. I'm totally convinced that the best way to help others, is to become firmly caught by heart by God inside our own lives first and foremost.
May this Fall find you peace, prayer, and lots of pumpkin pie!