“A wife is essentially a creature of time, for even while she lives she can become a widow; but a mother is outside time.
She dies, but she is still a mother.” –Fulton Sheen
When God created mothers, He was doing something quite extraordinary. Motherhood is a vocation. It’s not a job. It’s not a career. It’s who you are. It’s something that is particularly worthy and requires supernatural, lifelong dedication. Living your vocation, I think, is a choice I have to make every day, every morning when I open my eyes. It’s a decision to not necessarily be “my best,” (because Lord knows that is just not possible every. single. day.) but to be authentic. To be Katie. Today. And feel, deep down in my being, somewhere in that Thing That Is Me, that this day is true, that this person, this life I’m choosing to live, is good. That this person living and breathing and interacting with others is the Real Katie.
As Ellie used to say, it’s “exhausterating.”
But I do feel that mothers are sacred, that motherhood is a special fast track to saint hood. It requires all of our being, every single last bit, and there is no boundary for Enough. There is no time off, no night off, no weekend off. There is no magical age when your child stops being your child, when you stop feeling like your very beating heart is walking outside your body. You would gladly die for these people – little or big – and you’re pretty sure they’re the prettiest, cutest, most amazing humans ever. And you’re sad for everyone else because they MUST wish for your kids, your place, your motherhood. 🙂
As a woman, and as someone who needs lots of help and asks for it, I often talk to Mary, Mother of God. She, historically speaking, was a woman who didn’t have all the answers, didn’t have all the resources, didn’t know every step or every outcome, but felt KEENLY her vocation as a mother. That powerful calling directed her steps, her decisions, her way of looking at life and at others. I envy her confidence and conviction. So, I ask for her help. A lot.
Help me be a better mother and woman. Help me be gracious and graceful, humble and strong. It is a prayer with an answer that is far reaching, with lasting effects. This is a time in my life that cannot be mastered or survived without help. So, I pray. And drink coffee. And sit. And know that life is so beautiful, especially in these moments that I define, not that define me.
In 1974, Erma Bombeck wrote the following poem for her wildly popular newspaper column. It was an instant success, with women all over the country cutting it out and folding into their purses, taping it to their fridges. I share it with you again, today. When I need a reminder of how irreplaceable I am for my children, how truly magical and special mothers are (I am), I read this.
“When God Created Mothers”
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said.
“You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands…. no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. God nodded.
“One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”
“God,” said the angel touching His sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow….”
“I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But tough!” said God excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.
“There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius, ” said the angel.
Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”
To all of us struggling in our vocations, I send you lots of applause and grace and air hugs. You are magical, you are worthy, you are irreplaceable.