Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Motherhood these days is often denied, put on hold, terminated, limited, hired out, enjoyed less and complained about more. It’s a cultural malaise as well as a personal one.
Until the 1960s, mothers and their darling offspring were treasured. By the 1970s, children were simply choking off the world’s resources and hindering women from fulfillment. Of course mothers were not all aglow pre-sixties any more than they are all screaming monkeys today. It’s just a trend.
For those who have absorbed any of the propaganda that leads to complaining about motherhood, please stop for two reasons: 1) People are listening. 2) It leads to a bad attitude.
Complaining Sends the Wrong Message
Consider the effect a “woe-is-me” aura has on post-abortive women. For those mourning a tragic mistake they can never undo, complaints about motherhood’s inconveniences rub acid into their wounds. They would trade places with you in a heartbeat.
For the wounded sisterhood in denial that shout their abortions as if scars are confetti, your complaints reinforce the lies they tell themselves. Don’t give them more excuses to run from facing grief and healing.
Then there are women suffering from infertility that show great restraint by not slapping you every time you complain. Your motherhood is a blessing beyond measure. Do not ever forget that.
A Blessing, Not a Curse
As the mother of 10 (and two others who have adopted me as their mother), in addition to some thinking that I’m brainless sub-specie too ignorant to know “what causes that,” I’ve been privy to the horror that the news of a large family brings to many women. You would think the blessing of a priceless treasure would not decrease in value if multiplied. Things like diamonds and steak dinners have no limits but for some, the value of children decreases after 2. Not to slip this conversation into the value of children, but when motherhood is relegated to just a phase on the way to the rest of your life, children become devalued also.
Yes, there will be days you will regret not having joined a cloister. So what? The world can make anyone crazy; so if you are going to lose your mind, let it be on something worthwhile. It’s not always a smooth ride and results may vary, but it’s no small thing to create and grow an everlasting soul.
Feeling stressed over motherhood? Then handle it in healthy ways with prayer, exercise, healthy eating and help where needed. Complaining ultimately does not reduce stress. A future article I have simmering in the files, cites studies that show negative thinking establishes brain circuitry for a negative future. So see the blessing, find joy, and stop complaining.
When other people complain for you, tell them you don’t need their negativity. If they make a nasty comment (in so many words) that you are a selfish little ninny to bask in motherhood while the world is burning down, tell them you’ve heard that the weather is fine in heaven and no one goes hungry there. Then remind them that children are the only things you can take with you to heaven.
Perspective is Everything
Motherhood changes us. It grows our hearts, advances our maturity and takes us into a new world. The new world is not martyrdom any more than blessings are curses, although it is heaven, purgatory, and hell at different times. We are nothing if not well rounded.
But for those of you who compare motherhood with a pre-children life and have ready complaints on your tongue, I ask you to open your mind and heart enough to rejoice in what you’ve been given. Perspective is everything.
On a plane once, a nursing student with two children being babysat at home, asked me if I had any children. When I answered “Eight,” she practically shrieked and gave me the once over. “You don’t look religious!” she announced. (Note to religious people: wear hoop earrings and a leather jacket when going undercover.)
“Doesn’t it get to you?” she wanted to know. “How can you stand all the drudgery?”
The Holy Spirit, at that moment, gave me the answer. “Flight attendants have glamorous lives, don’t they?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered.
“Well, what is she doing? “ I said pointing to the attendant cleaning up before our landing. “She’s picking up garbage.”
“And you are going to be a nurse, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered slowly.
“Will you be cleaning up bedpans and taking care of sick people?”
“I’ll tell you what the difference is,” I said. “When I take care of my children, I am taking care of the people who I love most in the world. So how is anything better than that?”
My seatmate was silent for a moment. “But I’m not like you,” she finally said.
“I didn’t used to me like me either. I used to be like you.”
Silence again and then: “I think I was supposed to sit next to you.”
I could have complained about our dear children without halos, but then I would have only spread poison instead of celebrating motherhood. It seems that my seatmate would have commiserated with any grumbling but instead… well, I’m not sure what happened instead. I just believe it ended better.