The world's toughest job


Helping, freeing, communicating

By Sarah Smith, mother of eight and art historian, living in Cleveland, Ohio:

Being a mother is, in fact, “the oldest profession” for women, contrary to what others may say. I have eight children, ages 32 to 15. The oldest daughter has five of her own. The main challenge of motherhood has probably been the same since the beginning of the world: getting the balance right between “helping” and giving freedom, and having a home that is an antidote to the outside evils of society, which are present, but variable in any given age and culture.

A major challenge for our particular time is that sexual immorality is not only accepted and not considered shameful in any way, but people who think otherwise are considered nuts, medieval, of full of hatred for people who think otherwise. This is demonstrated by a bumper sticker seen in the United States that says “hate is not a family value,” the clear implication being that people who like family values hate those who don’t.

If I had to choose one thing of the many advances of the last century which affects the way a mother “mothers” it would be the information explosion. The dangers here are well-known to all, as mothers have to worry about the availability of images and information from which we would like to shield our children.

At the same time, we can e-mail our distant young adult children, who may be on the other side of the world, daily, instantly, at little cost. If a child is diagnosed with a condition we’ve never heard of before, we can “google” the disease, and become an experts in a few minutes. The information highway is so new that there is the sense of being at the edge of a new Age of Exploration as parents and children can figure out more and better ways to use our easy access to information, images and communication without losing appreciation for personal contact and the human voice.


The first baby and lessons in love

By Jennifer Blain, a teacher living in Napa Valley, California, and expecting her second child in August.

The challenges of motherhood certainly began pre-delivery for me. There were a couple to three months of exhaustion beyond anything I had experienced, with an emotional downpour for just about everything. Just as I was beginning to feel normal again, a whole new set of challenges arose. Being newly married and having relocated to my husband's hometown, I found myself job searching as well. Should I tell them I was pregnant and would have to leave in six months? Was it really their business? What would I do when the baby was born?

My mother said, "You'll forget the pain of delivery when you see your baby." Yes. But Mom didn't tell me about the first days and weeks post-delivery. The exhaustion of the first trimester seemed like dreamland compared to the sleepless nights of the first few weeks. Was I really expected to cook dinner and take care of my baby? Would I ever be able to hold a conversation about something other than breastfeeding and a baby's sleep habits?

Paul is now 12 months old and my life before his birth seems ages ago. The sleepless nights and missed movies (we haven't seen a movie since his birth) are quickly forgotten when I see his face each morning. His enthusiasm for the smallest thing -- bananas and balls -- completely grounds me. Although I look forward to his bedtime each evening for a little time with my husband, I am more excited to wake to his "singing".

The biggest reward of motherhood is the complete joy you feel knowing this person who is your child. There is a new realization of the love we received from our parents and an even greater awareness of the love God must feel towards each and every one of his children. We are loved simply for being ourselves. What lesson motherhood has been!


Let's not forget the great-grandmothers

By Carolyn Moynihan, Deputy Editor of MercatorNet, living in Auckland, New Zealand

I am not a mother, but this is a word on behalf the oldest and frailest mothers. These are the ones who have breakfast in bed every day, not as a treat, as is customary on Mothers' Day, but out of necessity -- because they are incapable of sitting in a chair any longer; or for convenience -- because it is more practical that way for the staff who look after them.

In nursing homes throughout North America and Australasia -- and perhaps elsewhere -- this Sunday, families will appear bearing bouquets of flowers and little treats that they hope their aged mother/grandmother/great-grandmother might be able to enjoy. Many will come without expecting very much in the way of recognition or signs of pleasure, because the frail little matriarch has lost the power of understanding or communicating. So they will not stay long. They will chat around her bedside for half an hour, shower her with kisses and good wishes, and then depart, sad that a life they want to treasure can be so diminished and that they can do so little for her.

But it is not true that fleeting visits are all that can be done. In the nursing home where my sister lives I come across daughters and sons, elderly wives or husbands and other family members who spend hours each week with their helpless relative. They are not many, but they are an inspiration. What do they do? They talk to them, do little things for their comfort, feed them morsels of food or sips of drink, read aloud (just the sound of a familiar voice is reassuring), hold their hand, stroke their heads, or simply sit with them.

It doesn't matter that they cannot talk back, or even recognise their visitor. Perhaps they are aware but they cannot show it. There are doubtless more things in the mind of a physically spent person than are dreamed of by the rest of us. It doesn't matter that they cannot give anything to us. Mothers, for example, have done plenty of giving, and now it is our turn. And we might be surprised, if we are faithful enough to our visits, at the little signs of awareness otherwise missed.

One of the saddest sights in the world is that of someone at the end of his or her life lying alone, between infrequent and brief visits, in an anonymous hospital bed. Let's do all we can to make sure that no-one lacks affectionate company when they can no longer seek it out.


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