Motherhood is not the hardest job

Okay, so maybe my inner cynic is showing, but not too long ago I read yet another post affirming motherhood as the hardest job and the highest calling and I think I rolled my eyes. For sure I sighed. I may or may not have sent a snarky text to my friend (who, incidentally, may or may not have replied with a hearty assent urging the authors of such pieces to go ahead and get over themselves).

My friend and I don’t mean to be cynical. I do understand the authors’ intent with such articles. I do. Really, I do. No doubt I’ve written similar sentiments here on the blog. Motherhood is not easy, not by a long shot. It can be overwhelming and confusing and all-encompassing and, well, just plain hard, yes and amen. Not always but sometimes.

And maybe my snark is because I’m nearing the end of my daily responsibility as a mom. My nest is emptying; hence my curmudgeon-ry grows. Could be. Certainly my cynicism may well be closely related to my angst about transitioning out of this stage of life.

Regardless of the motivating factors, it’s not the assertion of the difficulty of the task of motherhood that gives me pause but rather the superlatives. The hardest job ever? The highest and best calling? If that were true, what about my life now as I near “retirement”? Am I to conclude that from here on out whatever my hand finds to do is somehow less important, of a less critical nature? And what about the implications for those who are single or who do not have children? Is our message really that motherhood is highest and best?

Besides, parenthood as we know it, what with medicine and healthcare and preschool and answers to any and all questions available with a few clicks of the google, is it really the hardest job? There are eternal implications to be sure. But I can’t help but think of friends who are laboring in parts of the world openly antagonistic to the gospel, where they do not know any other believers apart from they themselves; surely their job, their calling, their mission is hard, if not impossible.

Why then the repeated assertion of motherhood as highest and noblest? Does saying such really foster encouragement and joy in the task? For me it often had the opposite effect. I would grow depressed and discouraged to know that * this * ought to be the height of what I do and who I am; yet I was so often bored or overwhelmed or a complete failure. Some days, to be frank, seemed devoid of meaning and purpose in what was supposed to be the most important job of my life. Forget highest and hardest, while I knew days full of all that is good and grand about mothering, a lot of days just weren’t. If this was to be the end all, be all of my existence here on earth, shouldn’t I be better at it? Or find more joy in it?

Yes, indeed, dear mother, your task is difficult. It is a high and holy calling to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There are fabulous days and glorious days of sheer joy. There are also dark days and boring days and long days. Rest in the provision of your God no matter which kind of day you find yourself in. Do the best you can in the wisdom and provision of God, knowing your motherhood doesn’t define you. There are hard things and high callings beyond this stage and what matters is not necessarily the task at hand but the glory of God the Father who calls and empowers and sustains.

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

4 thoughts on “Motherhood is not the hardest job”

  1. Amen. A great responsibility for sure but there is life before and life after and life for those who are barren that will glorify our God for sure. Happy summer to you!

  2. Lisa, well said. Living life here on this earth is a multi-role calling, where our various roles and vocations serve not to make much of ourselves or those roles/vocations but to point us to the Holy God who appoints and graces us with them. He uses all of those things to draw us to worship Him in humble dependence because our vocations were never meant to define our significance or be what we worship. Jesus is our source of significance.

  3. This is an incredibly refreshing perspective! I too find those articles depressing and leave me feeling like I’m not doing enough, or will never live up to the task….
    I too am entering the “older woman” stage, though my children range from age 20 to age 5 and I still have several “mothering” days ahead!
    Thank you so much for your encouraging and inspiring post!!!

  4. Hmm. Honestly I have mixed feelings on this post. Obviously I’m in the middle of the parenting and yes, I’d say it’s dang hard. And one thing that makes it harder? To be incredibly honest? It’s that I can’t find any older women who remember well enough what it was like and who give decent-to-good advice on how to handle the challenges. I’m a person who WILL seek out advice, if I can find someone who is willing to give it and be wise in the giving. I can’t. Older women in the church who I especially seek out as noticing that they are wise tell me so frequently that they just “can’t remember.” So I DO think this is something of a hard, lonely job because you’re going it alone and it frequently feels like this enormous but very important experiment and you just don’t know which way is up sometimes.

    When I hear an older woman say that she is rolling her eyes at the complaints of the young mom I feel, well, ANNOYED because I know that I need the older woman to help out and I am getting the very clear, distinct impression that she finds me silly and ridiculous, mostly because she’s forgotten what it’s like. Usually because she’s forgotten.

    I take away from that some hope that I, too, will forget. And I, too, will join the ranks of those older and wiser who somehow recover from the insanely long, frustrating days of challenges and chaos. Someday there’ll be more quiet in life than noise and I’ll grow to some height of thinking that I was ……over reacting?

    Except then I have one older lady in my life who remembers. She never belittles. She never talks down. She never rolls her eyes. She remembers. And she encourages me right where I am to keep pressing on. Because she has walked through this season of life, remembers it, and knows that I will also make it through. Honestly? I want to be like her. Remembering. Looking behind me at the younger women and young mothers and saying, “By God’s grace, you will do this.”

    Now, when it comes to saying that this is the most important job I’ll ever have? I can’t say that. I can’t necessarily agree when another person would say it but neither can I disagree. I don’t know. I take your word for it that it’s A job that we have in our lifetime and it lasts awhile. And I agree that this is a season and then I’ll move to another season and then another and then another. I wear many hats even now but I do feel like the most important one I have right now is being a wife and then a mother. It’s a calling I committed to and I must do it well. So we go back, circle round, and point out that I need older women to remember, to encourage, to inspire. So that I can end up where you are….having learned, grown, developed as a Christian, being disciplined and yes, living each and every day for the glory of God.

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