“I’m majoring in Journalism… but I really want to be a stay-at-home mom someday.”
This was my answer for the first two years of college every time someone asked. But by the third and fourth year, with a dozen close female friends who were all very career oriented, I had learned to amend my answer just a bit.
“I’m majoring in Journalism, but I don’t necessarily want to work as a journalist. I just know I want to write.”
This was true, and it still is, but you notice that the motherhood thing had totally dropped out of my “nice to meet you” spiel. I was slow by that time to admit that even after my four years of education, I’d give up every career goal in two seconds if a man came along and asked me to marry him, bear his children, and homeschool them.
Having It All?
My career-driven friends and I didn’t analyze our deepest assumptions about our futures. We didn’t realize that our vision for life was deeply impacted by the air we were all breathing, which was a confusing blend of 90’s purity movement and second wave feminism. We only knew that we were expected to “have it all,” and even I, with my homeschool-mom aspirations, was unwilling to imagine a life that didn’t include some kind of glorious accomplishment out in the “real world.”
A few years after graduating, having walked away from church and faith, I found myself in the pregnancy test aisle at Walgreens. Would I keep it? I thought, then was shocked by the question. I’d grown up staunchly defensive for the unborn. But for the first time, I was actually experiencing the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. I felt the despair of not liking the world enough to bring a child into it. I imagined the reaction from friends, family, and church members when they saw me and my baby, alone against the world.
Until that day, I had never understood the close link between godlessness and death. I don’t just meant that the wage of sin is death (it is), I mean that within just a few years of rejecting God as Father, I was also willing to reject life itself. I would have preferred not to live, and I couldn’t imagine a baby in my womb would make a different choice. A godless view of the world had created a hatred of the world, and of existence itself. Motherhood would have meant an embracing of life as good and worthwhile. I knew I didn’t have it in me.
Understanding Fear and Feminism
God didn’t give me a baby that year. I never had to test how far my hatred of life would go.
He saved my soul a few months later, and brought a man into my life a year after that. As the years passed, he gave me three precious children, who I now am blessed to home school.
But none of it feels the way I expected it to feel. I can still put my finger on that fear, the fear of responsibility’s weight. I still experience that fear of bringing new life into a world that looks unsafe. Even under the protection of marriage and family, my children are held only by God’s hand, and I still have to wrestle with him daily over the promises he’s made for them… and the promises he hasn’t made. I now understand more deeply than ever how pain and fear is part of the curse connected to motherhood, and how only in Christ can any of us see the world as it is: a place of hope, joy, blessing, and ultimate victory over sin and death. It is a place worth bringing children into—because it’s a place ruled by a kind and loving Father.
I also know more now about the movement called feminism, and can see its impact on my life more clearly. I can see why the young me went from openly aspiring to motherhood to mentioning only career ideas that sounded respectable.
Because I breathe air from a place that chooses to see child and elder care as unskilled labor, which we outsource to the less educated among us. It’s a place that sees motherhood as the final cap on a pyramid of career moves, just one more accomplishment to adorn a more necessary list. It’s a place that tells its women to throw off encumbrances, including people, who keep us from tending to ourselves first and always. It’s a place that has managed to sell women the word “empowerment” as a description for the process by which she trades love and commitment for total loss of self into sexual commodity for the pleasure of men who have no intention of cherishing her, or even acknowledging her humanity. It’s a place that tells me “home” is an enormous, decorated, air-conditioned space for sleeping and watching TV at the end of a day spent anywhere but here.
I can’t not breathe this air. It’s everywhere I go. But I can limit its power by examining the assumptions I’ve inhaled and rejecting the ones that don’t find their basis in the word of God.
The True Value of Motherhood
Motherhood is valuable. It’s not valuable like a Precious Moments card; it’s valuable like an investment property is valuable, like time is valuable, like life itself is valuable. It’s valuable with the kind of value that God names when he blesses meek things, quiet things, unseen things. It’s value that reaches beyond the fiscal, that asks better questions than “Can I earn more than the babysitter I pay to watch my children while I’m gone?”
This is what’s valuable in God’s economy: Life because he made it. Love because he embodies and commands it.
And looking at life and love as fundamentally valuable means that we look at motherhood as the stewardship of something fundamentally valuable. A single mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable. A married middle-aged mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable. An adoptive mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable.
A woman who accepts the call to motherhood steps into a story written by someone else. She steps in despite inevitable fear and pain. And when we honor her calling, we reject the voices that would reduce a woman to suit or sexual commodity. We strengthen and encourage women to accept their God-given role as a steward of life.
Honoring motherhood is a crucial part of the pro-life endeavor. Because motherhood isn’t just an alternate career. Motherhood is the medium God chose for the creation and nurturing of life. It’s God’s inventive answer to the question, “Is life good, or isn’t it?”