The Labor of Love That Is Motherhood

moms

Mom’s the word.

Well, at least this week it is.

And pretty much every week if you have a preschooler.

“Mom. Mom? Mom! Mommy???  Mom!!! And, my personal favorite, “MomMomMomMomMomMomMomMomMomMOMMMMMMEEEEEE!”

(Keep breathing, kid.)

Moms all over the world will be celebrated Sunday with sappy greeting cards, overpriced flowers, social media tributes, and every imaginable type of chocolate. (If anybody asks, I favor Swiss. But since I doubt any of my offspring are flying to Zurich this weekend, I’ll happily settle for a box of Sno-Caps.)

Come Sunday, some moms will be blessed with brunch reservations (in states that have lifted COVID restrictions). Others, breakfast in bed. Some will be recipients of fine art. Others will get homemade-handprint-fingerpaint masterpieces (which they will cherish and preserve like an original Renoir). Some moms will get jewelry. Others, a cherry ring pop. Some will nearly faint at the gift of surprise visitors from farflung places (“Mom, I’m home!” will elicit sweet bliss from mamas whose birdies have flown the nest) or a brand new vacuum (personally, I think a new Hoover is a terrible idea, but I know a few moms who’d be genuinely overjoyed by strong suction and assorted attachments). Others will feign delight when they get a bottle of Eau de Toilette. Again. (Side note: At $90 an ounce, one chooses to say toilet water in French, so as not to feel swindled.)

And then there’s the crown jewel of Mother’s Day bounty. Only a few highly favored and fortunate mothers will be given this most elusive and indulgent gift:

P & Q.

As in:

Peace and Quiet.

A long-anticipated trip.

Or nap.

Or a leisurely stroll around Sam’s Club… sans kids. (Retail therapy, wild freedom, and samples of bison burgers and cinnamon waffles all rolled into one glorious outing. Practically a spa day… without the robe and slippers.)

The “mom job” is the veritable zenith of multi-tasking. It requires versatility, creativity, grace and grit. It entails wide-ranging responsibilities, ever-changing demands, gut-wrenching setbacks, grueling hours, and a vast and varied skillset. According to Business Insider, the “average” mom (as if there were such a person) works 94 hours per week and could command over $113,000 for her services in the marketplace. (I’ve been a mom for more than 27 years, so I’ll be issuing an invoice for a cool $3 mil. In my dreams.)

Here’s the reality of motherhood…

It’s actually (approximately) 28 jobs, including (but not limited to) the following:

Caregiver.

Counselor.

Coach/referee/cheerleader (sometimes all in a period of sixty seconds).

Chauffeur.

Chaplain.

Personal chef.

Program director.

Travel agent.

Tour guide/lifeguard/playground supervisor.

Scheduler. (And issuer of repeated reminders.)

Stylist/wardrobe consultant.

Laundress. (A ceaseless, stinkin’ dirty job. Can I get an amen from all the football/hockey/soccer moms out there?)

Teacher/tutor/academic advisor.

Nurse.

Nutritionist.

Project supervisor. (This particular job strikes fear in the hearts of fourth-grade moms everywhere.)

Driving instructor. (Sheer terror.)

Event planner.

Money manager.

Motivational speaker.

And the most fierce, fulfilling, heart-stirring and heart-stopping job of all:

Nurturer.

This is the one that comes most naturally and instantaneously to nearly every mother who has ever lived (even those of us who are the least “domesticated” of domesticators).

Why? Well, maybe because we were made in the image of God who is the very Essence of flawless nurturing. He is the perfect (and undeniably the most patient) Parent ever. Not only is He our Heavenly Father. He invented and ordained the art of mothering.

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them… (Deuteronomy 32:11-12a)

That hovering thing that moms do? It’s hard-wired into us. And it’s divine. For a time. (Children and “chicks” need hovering. Young adults do not. Preaching to myself here.)

Moms are a beautiful study of contrasts:

Soft as marshmallows and tough as nails.

Tender as NICU nurses and brutal as drill sergeants.

Gentle as doves… and ferocious as lions.

The mom job is all-consuming. 365/24/7. No vacations or holidays… or sick days. Those days are Just. The. Worst. Feverishly and valiantly enduring chores, errands, homework hell and dinner prep despite a splitting headache or churning stomach. All hail the barfing, battle-weary baby mama!

And, while we’re offering salutes, let’s just take a moment to reverently extol all the adoptive moms, homeschool moms, foster moms, stepmoms, and military moms. The grieving moms… and those aching to just be moms (our collective hearts go out to you). The moms of sick kids, strong-willed kids, and special needs kids. As well as the undisputed heroines of motherhood: single moms (and dads) doing daunting double-duty due to the lack or loss of a parent along the way.

Kudos and Bravos and Blessings on the whole lot of you!

The founder and forefather of parenthood – God – clearly understood the complexity and intensity of the job. And He issued a very clear directive to every child (of every age). The fifth commandment (one of 10 that He – literally – wrote in stone, once upon a time) is this:

Honor your father and mother. (Exodus 20:12)

Not just on Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day). Everyday. With your words (to them and about them), your tone, your actions and attitude.

It doesn’t say “honor your mother if you think she’s doing (or did) a great job mothering you.” It doesn’t say “honor your mother if she’s exemplary or even somewhat honorable.” It simply says honor her. Period. (Yes, even when she has it.) The word “honor” means:

To regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect; to give special recognition to.

Moms aren’t perfect. They mess up. (Most of us, every single day.) But nearly every mom on the planet is trying really, really hard to give her very best. Most want desperately to succeed in this mom job. And most will fall short and falter and fail. Repeatedly.

Honor them anyway.

Acknowledge their efforts. Affirm their best qualities. Appreciate their sacrifices. Applaud their “heroic measures.” Can’t think of any? How about 280 days of in-utero nurturing and sustenance, you ungrateful parasite! (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Certainly there are plenty of troubled moms out there. Moms whose children have suffered the collateral damage of their own unmitigated hurts and heartache. Moms who simply couldn’t give their children what they needed because of their own brokenness.

Honor them, too. If for no other reason than the fact that they gave you life.

Pretty great gift, don’t you think?

Mothering is hard, holy, humbling work.

The toughest and best job of all.

~ Wendy (aka Mom, Mommy, Momma, Ma)

P.S. to Zack, Mitch, Jordan, Trent and Chloe: First, I want to say thank you. Being your mom has been the most profound privilege of my life. Second, I want to say sorry. I know I’ve screwed up plenty. And royally. And I can only pray and trust that God’s grace and mercy will cover my countless mistakes. Third, I want to say I’m proud. Proud of the people you are becoming. Keep going, keep growing, keep becoming who God made you to be. Fourth, I want to say I’m praying. Hard. For every one of you, every day. And finally, I want to say, I love you. All the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

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Wendy Holtz is a Midwestern writer, teacher and speaker, mother of five, and exceedingly grateful recipient of God's grace. A self-described "reclusive extrovert," Wendy adores people and parties and the happy chaos she calls home, but frequently and desperately seeks the stillness, nearness, and fullness of God in and through scripture, nature and artistic endeavors. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Holtz worked in advertising before taking a 20-year mommy sabbatical to raise five extraordinary human beings (and do approximately 9,437 loads of laundry). Over the years, Holtz has taught a variety of Christian education classes and Bible studies, mentored some remarkable young women, and facilitated dozens of interactive marriage workshops with her husband and soulmate, Steve. Holtz is the author of Treasure Hunter: A Field Guide for 12 Spiritual Expeditions and the keynote speaker for Treasure Hunter retreats and day trip expeditions. In her writing and teaching, Holtz passionately conveys her mission and message, taken from Psalm 16: In God's presence, there is fullness of joy.  You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter... or read her blog here:  Wendywithawhy.wordpress.com