Friday, May 7, 2010

Motherhood: Shaping a World

All art by William Adolfe Bouguereau

There are those who think motherhood is menial and a waste of any talented woman's time. Some believe that if you're not making money, you're not successful. Others say marriage and motherhood are confining. In my experience these statements are false. One blessing of mothers is to help shape the world.

With seven children, our home was noisy and busy, but it wasn't usually chaotic. It was a bustling schoolhouse where kids were learning to work, cooperate, forgive and communicate. Tutoring and study groups were held in the kitchen; collaboration and reasoning workshops took place in the bedrooms. Besides flute and clarinet, multiplication tables and setting tables, life skills were being taught: doing the laundry, fixing a sprinkler, organizing a garage, planning a meal, or changing the oil. And while I was teaching this home-school, I was learning, too.

Among other things, I learned to listen, to counsel, to motivate and support. My kids shaped my world while I was shaping theirs. The writer Ellen Goodman said, "The pleasure of being a parent is the extraordinary experience of having short people who hang around a while, who push and prod and aggravate and thrill you and make life fuller."

by Ellen Bryson Remington

A learned friend from time gone by
When my pursuits were intellectual
Crossed my path today; and glancing
Quickly at my rounded middle,
Noting the smudges there from little hands,
The wrinkles, too, from childish tears,
He asked, "What are you into now?"

I wish I could have made him understand.
"I'm into graphic arts—a type
Advanced beyond the popular conception.
I deal in shapes so intricate, so exquisite
That in this life I'll never know their limits."

I thought how every day I shape so many things:
I shape the edges of a pie,
I shape a diaper to the tiny leg,
I shape some flowers from our small backyard
Into a bright bouquet,
The covers on a bed till they are
Soft and welcoming.
I shape small eager hands around a ball
And show them how to throw.

But also, with my mind and with my love
I shape the tense and troubled hours;
I take them formless, dark, and shape them
Into light and warmth for spirits' growing.

I guide a pliant, loving mind,
Now fresh and good from God.
I try to show him things our Savior would.
I shape the design of his temperament,
The pattern of his moods.
I shape desires in his heart
Of this world and another.

And now in me another life is shaped—
The way he'll look and stand,
The contours of his hands—
And God is partner to that shaping.

Let those who do not understand
Think I am lost in merely mothering.
I smile—and shape my daily chores
Into eternal joy.


Amy said...

That poem makes me cry. That IS what it's all about! How could I have forgotten?

crissy said...

I have loved all of your Mother Hood posts from this week.
I never thought I would start a family as early as I did, or that I would want as many children as I do. But being a mom is such an amazing thing. Even with all of the frustrations and struggles, it is incredible. I can't imagine my life any other way.
Life in the Mother Hood can be hard, but it's worth it! ;)