There is a very clear watershed moment in the lives of most women. It is a moment that will forever divide her life into "before" and "after". If you are reading this, I assume that you have your own point of demarcation and you know the one I mean. Every mother's experience is different and each one is special. Celebrate your special self!
When I was a young child I read a folk tale about a child who had walked with her mother to a village where they knew no one. They were there to go to the market to buy and to sell, but while they were there they became separated from one another.
The child began to cry and the villagers took pity and asked, "What does your mother look like? We will help you find her!" The child tearfully replied, "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!" So the villagers brought to the child the most beautiful women they could find in the market, and the child continued to weep because none of these was the mother. "She is the most beautiful woman in the world!" insisted the child.
Suddenly a distraught woman appeared in their midst. She was terribly unattractive in the eyes of the villagers, and they began to shoo her away, knowing that this couldn't be the woman the child was describing, but when this woman saw the weeping child she called out saying, "My child! I have been so worried!" and the child immediately stopped crying and ran to mother's arms.
"See?" beamed the child to the villagers, "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!"
Of course, the point of this story is that to the villagers, this woman was not at all beautiful but in the eyes of her child she was the most beautiful. The most beautiful in the world. This is as it is and as it should be. To your child you are the entire world and they see you through the eyes of adoration. Let your mind settle on that for a moment.
I spoke at a meeting of young mothers last week and, for several minutes, the discussion came to rest on how much impact mothering has on a child across their lifetimes. We noted that people who live well into their eighties and nineties remember and talk about their mothers more than their spouses, children, or careers. We pondered what our children would say about us when they were on their own death beds. Think about that a minute.
Mothering is the most significant work you will do. Think about the impact your mother had on you. Seriously. Think for a moment about how and in what ways your mother imprinted on you. This is the human experience. As a mother you must understand the essential aspect of the work. Once you grasp this, you will never look at the task of mothering the same way. Mothering will rise in your estimation and you will see the true value of the works of your hands and heart once you understand how vital it is.
You, mother/stepmother, are a heroine in every way. You nurture and teach, encourage and enable, affirm and guide. This is the work of heroes. You may feel as though you are an unsung hero and, probably, you are. So you must sing to yourself. Write your own songs acclaiming your accomplishments as a mother. Even on those days when the best thing you can say is, "Well, at least nobody died." claim the victory.
I compiled a short list of the virtues that most mothers have in common. Read over them and remind yourself that even though you may not exhibit each of these every day, they are within you. You can use these virtues as tools to build your family and your community.
A Virtuous Mother Is:
1. Focused on the needs of her family.
This doesn't mean that her needs go unmet. She cares well for herself knowing that without her the family is without moorings. She finds ways to care for herself while loving the family.
2. Engaged in the nurturing of her family.
This mom stays checked in. She remains calm in the face of chaos while staying mentally vigilant. When mom is disengaged the children are deeply insecure.
3. Confident that she knows her family
An active mother knows her children's and spouses friends and favorite hobbies. She listens to what the children have to say with genuine interest. She lets the voice of each child be heard and acknowledged. She knows that to shut down their words is to squelch their spirit. This mother knows her family intimately and uses that knowledge to raise them up.
4. Joyful in the honor that she receives.
A mother who knows her own worth understands that children and spouses honor this role differently than the jewelry store ads want them to. A virtuous mother prizes the homemade cards and the "Thanks, mom!" shouted across the house far more than the diamond necklace that the television announcer says is the best thing to give. If diamonds or valuable gifts come in time, they are appreciated. But the virtuous mother finds honor all around.
So Happy Mothers' Day To You! On this day and every day, remember that you do not merely keep another human alive. That is relatively easy. You are building and repairing and impacting society. Do not underestimate, or let others influence you to underestimate the vital role mothers play in our world. Let motherhood rise again.