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Motherhood can sometimes be an idol to be worshiped - and as for all worship, it has its detractors and its fanatics.
Every time I think about this topic an image comes to my mind. It is a flat in Madrid, near the city centre, very nice, small, tastefully decorated, nicely reformed to look like one of these bourgeois homes of a century ago. It belongs to a modern woman who dresses in her own style, has an important and creative job she loves. She is more than 35 years old. She has a very varied group of friends. She travels, goes to museums every Sunday, strolls in Lavapiés’ district, reads books, and knows a lot of things.
Very often, she invites friends and acquaintances to come home and have supper; after that they all sit in comfortable sofas and she serves an exotic tea she bought in an exclusive shop of Malasaña. The conversation proceeds and ends up around parents and their children.
- At times, I think about it –says the woman-, what it would be like being a mother. What it would be like to have someone in your life who loves you unconditionally.
She says that and it floats a short moment in the room, then the conversation goes somewhere else.
Nobody comments on it respectfully, because those invited know how hard it takes for this lady to keep a partner. She has had quite a lot of boyfriends, but every time an insolvable problem comes up in their living together. In fact, she gave up the idea of finding a steady partner after suffering love disappointments and sorrows. Resignation has become a way of survival and with it the idea to form a family disappeared too.
After some time, the piece of news spreads that she became pregnant. She is happy about her decision and unofficially people got to know that she applied to a sperm bank and had a special fertility treatment for several months. She is nearly 40 and she couldn’t wait any longer.
She and her son came to live in that flat in Madrid’s city centre. All seems perfect. But some time later, after the little boy had gone to bed, in one of these informal conversation finishing a socializing night, the topic of parents and children surfaced again. In the end, to have a son is not the transcendental experience she thought. She loves him very much but misses the freedom she had before.
This time too, none of her friends says a thing. Because they don’t know what to say. None of them have had this experience. None of them know about parenthood. In fact, even this mother doesn’t know really what it is; she just moves on with a sense of improvisation, though she always tries to prepare herself for the next stage.
The years go by and, when the youngster is approaching adolescence and his mother can enjoy the freedom she missed again, she realizes that what she has lost along the way is that unconditional love she longed for. Her son now is more distant, is complaining, reproaching her, because teenagers need to demolish their world in order to be able to live in it, and this begins with the closest relationship they have. But she cannot understand how that could happen. She ends up having the same failure in this relationship that she used to have and always wanted to escape from: love is painful, she must accept that with resignation and she is not satisfied. Her heart breaks again.
I know that this woman reminds us a lot of what Spanish author Samanta Villar said in her declaration about motherhood several weeks ago, which made her famous and provoked quite a controversy. What is certain is that it is not the story of just one particular woman, nor of hundreds of women in the western world: it is the story of their children.
Samanta Villar is right when she says that motherhood can be a totally disappointing experience… it is at least all she experienced personally as a mother.
Many lies are said. Motherhood can sometimes be an idol to be worshiped; and as for all worship, it has its detractors and its fanatics. There are the women who believe that being a mother is the only thing that can give a sense or a reason to their lives, they are wrong as well as those who think that children are a hindrance, a useless load, who ruin your life. They are all wrong because these women still are in the centre, it is what they believe or not, what they live or not. Sometimes the child has to live with the conviction that his existence is an accessory in his mother’s life, or in the opposite view, a hindrance to her freedom. Both positions are a clear violation of the biblical truth, which declares that every life is important, all are worthy in themselves for the mere fact that they exist, irrespective of the circumstances around them.
As a mother, sometimes you just don’t know; and this ignorance can lead to a constant feeling of guilt, for the mere fact to be a woman (not even a mother). The pursuit of a perfect motherhood, a complete, fulfilling and revealing experience for your entire life, can turn to be a heavy and unbearable load to be carried.
That woman I was talking to you about was right when she eventually ended up saying that not any relationship with a partner could be the ideal love. But she was wrong when she thought that this unconditional love she longed for, could come from a new born baby. She mistook the need with love, and this is the mistake we all tend to make. However, in that case no one could tell her how wrong she was, because no one saw the lie. Without God, it is impossible to experience any kind of true love.
I have no idea how I managed to survive as a mother, and while I’m writing these thoughts for an article I asked myself: “What did I know and what did I learn?” How can any mother submit herself to all the needs of lovingly taking care of another human being, completely dependant on her, without seriously challenging her own identity? Motherhood can be an extremely challenging issue, indeed. We see how easily it is possible to lose one’s way. When the mother is not in the centre of the experience, the children end up being the centre, and they turn up to be little tyrants, around whom every activity and family thought turns. Even getting over the obsession of enjoying an experience of a perfectly satisfying motherhood, it is very easy to fall immediately into another obsession: that your child may have a totally happy and unforgettable infancy experience.
But this I leave for another time.
I remember a day when I felt that the situation was becoming very hard and untenable. On that day the Lord struck me with this verse: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way unto him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Actually, this verse doesn’t speak about mothers or children. However, it points to a transcendental truth: whether you are a mother or not, your condition of God’s daughter hasn’t changed. Your way towards spiritual things (from above), your way forward, hasn’t changed. The centre is still Christ; The goal is being like Him in the midst of your everyday life.
Is it worth while being a mother? Always, as far as it is worthwhile that a new life may exist. Your life may be changing with different conditions and activities, but actually, you won’t be the one who will experience a transcendental change, your child will, from a non-existence to a living being. In the end, the best mother is the one who knows this for certain and calmly takes it easy. But personally and in all sincerity, I don’t believe that it can be done well without God.
The truth of the Gospel tells us that the centre of our identity is not in what we do, it is not in any particular activity, but in the deepest experience of the relationship we have with our God and Father. And this is one of many things that we can believe or not, but we cannot just believe half of it. For a woman who is a mother this can be translated in the thought that she must not forget herself, and must be conscious that the best she can do for her child is to preserve a space for her emotional, physical and spiritual health with the Lord, and then her child will be always happy, when she puts him in the midst of this life of faith during the years she shares with him. And this, for a society which lost its way, sounds egoistic. It is true. But again, you can’t understand how correct and healthy it is, unless you abide in the Lord.
Not any experience is meaningful in itself. Not any experience may change your life. Living in the obsession that the only thing that is worthwhile, is collecting souvenirs of activities or situations can become a stupid slavery. It is what has brought these women to believe that to be a mother is a must, and later on caused them to feel cheated. Though these experiences were as transcendental as motherhood, in themselves they don not bring a great meaning to one’s life. They come, you live them, and they leave you. We run the risk of losing our way if we allow them to become the centre of everything.