Motherhood - Consumer or covenant?
I was recently asked to do a live radio interview for BBC Hereford and Worcester on what motherhood meant to me. The researcher planned to dedicate half term to the topic of motherhood and interview different people with their own unique perspectives on the subject. She invited all three of my kids to come to the recording studio too, 'to chat live on air if they wanted to’!
I had the big two on holiday from school and had also just received a foster baby who was 6 days old, and to be honest I couldn't think of anything more unappealing than three children on live radio.
As it turned out, the baby slept through it, six-year-old James waved enthusiastically from the safety of sound proof glass and eight-year-old Connie was at a sleepover. The interview went well, but I kept thinking that I hadn't really answered the question satisfactorily: what does motherhood mean to me?
It made me think that it was quite a self-centred way of looking at it, as a consumer if you like. We choose things for our life – a new car, a perfect wedding, a house, maybe 2.4 children too – and perhaps there is a bit of an expectation that we will become mothers. Like it’s something to acquire or that it’s our right.
I think perhaps we need to turn this around and consider children as a gift, given to us from God. And then we can ask the question again but through the lens of the child:
What does motherhood mean to them?
What is their experience of being mothered?
I have two birth children. The ‘Big Two’. We’re careful with language in our family so that no one feels excluded. I might bath the big two while my husband feeds the little one. Or, the big one has a party and the little two have a trip to soft play. And so it goes on. Whilst they are in our home, our foster children are part of our family.
We have looked after two children so far and are now caring for our third baby. The first one came to us at four months, the second at four weeks, and this one at just two days old. Each time we receive the gift of a precious child entrusted to us by God – and the Local Authority. We give thanks for the gift that they are.
It's not just that I want to be a Mother (although I do, and I happen to think it's the most important job I've ever done), but more, that they need to be mothered.
So what is their experience of being mothered by me? Do they feel unconditional love, do they feel safe, secure and able to thrive and meet their potential? Do they feel accepted and equal to the other children in the home? I hope so, and I pray regularly that God would equip me, enlarge my heart, build more capacity and teach me how to love them as He does.
During my school days I had Latin lessons, which I performed spectacularly badly in. But I do remember conjugating the verb 'to love' (Amo, Amas, Amat and so on), and of course, verbs are 'doing' words. To love. There's an action involved.
As I change umpteen nappies each day, feed every three hours around the clock, provide skin to skin, wear, rock and soothe her I am 'doing' love in a very real way that she can understand and receive.
But we don't all fall in love with our children immediately. A traumatic birth, postnatal depression, feeding difficulties, all can play their part. And let's be honest (if we dare), we don't feel love for our kids all the time. As mine are screaming at each other and running through the house with muddy shoes the emotion I'm most in touch with is not love!
But, we choose to love. Loving our kids on purpose. Just as marriage is a covenant agreement, so too is motherhood.
This often means that our looked after children need more love, more attention, more therapeutic parenting, more parenting with PACE, more patience, more physical contact, just… MORE.
So, if thinking about what motherhood means to me sounds rather consumer led, I like to think that considering the experience of my motherhood through the prism of the children I get to share my life with, is covenant led. I choose to love my kids.
All of them.
I wonder if perhaps we could change focus, and rather than thinking about who wants to be a Mother, we consider who needs a Mother. And then, oh my gosh, the blessings and possibilities will be endless!