I keep reading over and over again the blog on Motherhood from the Desiring God website (here, here, and here). There are so many things I utterly agree within those beautiful words; yet, one thing reverberates off the page every time I sit down to deeply reflect on the notions presented there: unnecessary sacrifice.
Within the blog, I see elements of the the martyr complex. With the martyr complex, people seek out suffering or persecution to fill a psychological need. In some cases, their need to feel highly significant in this chaotic world results in believing this way. In shorthand, they believe their suffering is a direct result of being chosen by God. Blogs like these read to me as thinly veiled attempts to seek out some kind of ego boost concealed under “religious duty.” For me, this exploits religion in order to fill the ego.
This blog seems to strike me in this way. It uses sacrificial motherhood as glorified persecution in order to illustrate they are on the track to godliness, thus they more are remarkable than other humans. But I don’t think the writer/readers even recognize this.
While I agree with many things about motherhood this blog states, it leaves much to be desired for me.
There is no doubt in my mind that motherhood involves immense sacrifice – the sacrifice of our personal time, the sacrifice of our bodies, the sacrifice of our mental peace, and most of all, the sacrificing of our heart’s walls, moving us beyond our comfort level when loving another.
But for me, I need more than the sacrificial motherhood descriptor. Call it my pride or my trial to get closer to God – label it whatever you need to in order to be comfortable with me not believing exactly what you believe.
Nevertheless, for me, beyond sacrifice, motherhood requires advocation, personal power, and humility. What I mean is while yes, sacrificing one’s life for another is the most unselfish act in the universe, but being a mother is not that. We don’t wither up and die as soon as we birth a child. We don’t lay down our whole lives for our children – we still have needs and wants we act upon. This is what I am writing about today- blogs like these proclaiming it as our religious duty to suffer as mothers.
This particular blog states sacrifice it the highest quality mothers can have. And indeed, mothers will sacrifice! Yes, we mothers need to accept the personal restriction that comes with the reality of motherhood. This is a good point for me.
But I never hear these blogs talk about asking for help from others. Instead, they admonish mothers to graciously accept the banality and then glorify this position through language by using terms such as: “a calling”, “what God gave women time for”, “strategically situated as mothers in your missionary field”.
And although, you may feel this pronounces your reality completely, I feel let down. I feel it puts the complete responsibility of parenting directly on women, and ultimately, it limits our connection with others and our children’s connection with others. It tells women to be gatekeeper parents, and it admonishes us for wanting more avenues beyond motherhood to find peace and happiness.
Yes, there are aspects of motherhood that “sanctify” us- i.e. make us less selfish – again, I agree with this point. Taking care of a pet or a child will certainly cause us to reduce our self-serving agenda (well, one hopes).
Often the solution provided in these blogs is more prayer. If prayer works for you, keep doing it! I want all mothers struggling with these issues to do all in their power to increase their happiness.
But when I pray/meditate for more help, I don’t receive it.
I don’t receive it because outsiders don’t get the message. If I walk around with a smile on my face while cleaning up the house for the third time that day, believing this is how God challenges me, no one around understands my strain.
Indeed, we have more direct approaches to help besides prayer that sometimes we miss or encouraged to not utilize.
We have brains, mouths, and families for a reason too.
It’s is not wise or helpful to throw ourselves under the sacrificial motherhood train dutifully. I’m worried doing so teaches our children to be victims also.
Developing personal awareness, accepting things we can’t control, yet also asking for help may be lessons we must learn through motherhood as well.
That being said- it takes advocating for ourselves to highlight the amount of work it takes to be a mother. The blog and I agree here.
It requires personal power to focus one’s attention while navigating through development of another human while prioritizing one’s own free time. Yes, we both agree on this too.
But most importantly, it demands humility to ask for help with this never-ending job. Blogs like these seem to miss this most vital point.
I have power to change my circumstances and stop being a victim. Maybe God wants us to use all the things available to us to increase our joy.
Another way to think about it is this: In most jobs, your complaints must be filed by the appropriate chain of command. Maybe prayer skips to the highest person in command, thus disregards the channels of power you have right in front of you. There are many other ways to change your circumstance then sitting around, convinced this simply is your cross to bear.
It takes lobbying my partner for help. It takes digging deeper to find more grit to keep doing the mundane things. It takes humility to accept and admit to others I need help.
Maybe we are getting more caught up in this idea that as mothers we are way more special than we were before children.
We may already be close to God, we may already have a strong bond there. Perhaps what we need more is to work on creating that type of relationship with those around us. Maybe we have forgotten we have free will. And using this free will doesn’t mean we will use it unjustly. It may mean taking personal responsibility for your own happiness. It just may make you a better mother, your partner a better father, the people around you closer.
Motherhood – beyond this type of sacrificial motherhood some blogs describe – allows moments of power through humility (not victimhood) as we mothers open the arena for fathers to be intimate parents, for grandparents to feel joy through the cycle of life, for friends to experience closeness beyond romantic attachments, and – most of all- for our children to understand while they are special, they also are eternally connected to others.