yesterday, in response to a co-worker describing how she weekly ships her son’s fraternity a case of his favorite (read: not cheap) snack, i said i was shocked that she did that. i then said i would not be that nice of a mother.
a different co-worker quickly turned to me and pointedly said, “are you a mother?” now this co-worker is quite the jokester. i’m sure he meant it in a jovial way. however, all i heard was something more accusatory.
i was stunned in the way the honey badger lays immobile after being bitten by the snake.
as heads turned my face flushed. several seconds passed and my mind raced. did he mean if i were a mother i would ship my kid expensive treats? or did he mean if i were a mother i’d understand? maybe he meant because i was not a mother i should not have spoken up? maybe he was fishing for a birth announcement?
i managed to squeak out a very small no.
as everyone moved on and left the room i still felt the sting. it was the silent stinging of an invisible wound.
his question, are you a mother? made me think of something i read recently. in sheri dew’s book, no one can take your place, there is a chapter titled “are we not all mothers?” my immediate answer was, no. and yet, i hung on to a hope. a hope that there was, just maybe a secret hidden in those pages. but by the end of that chapter, i still do not agree that we are all mothers.
sheri dew knows intimately how it feels to long for a righteous desire with all her heart that is not realized.
i have thought long and had about the work of women of god. and i have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means to all women…while we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity and to, in effect, limit it to that definition, in the lord’s language the word mother has layers of meanings. motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly and definitely that. it is the essence of who we are as women. motherhood defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits, talents, and tendencies our father gave us (p. 27-30).
yet being a vicarious mother – through teaching, through serving, through loving, does not require the same responsibility nor does it offer the same reward.
something later in the book resonated with me a little more.
now some of us encounter life circumstances that are less than ideal. i understand this in a very personal way. for decades i have pleaded with the lord for the privilege of marrying and having a family. to this point, those prayers have not been answered in the way i have asked them to be. and yet, i cannot deny (and would never wish to do so) that our understanding and testimony of this divine pattern is absolutely imperative, perhaps more so today than ever before. our understanding of this divine patter [the unique roles of men and women and eternal marriage] affects our attitudes about gender, marriage and family. it affects our ability to help build up the kingdom. it even affects our ability ultimately to receive eternal life (p. 41-42).
maybe the key is belief in a divine understanding that shapes all else i do in my life.
but just so we’re clear co-worker, i am not a mother. i was almost a mother. i want to be a mother. but that isn’t the answer you were looking for.