There’s No Such Thing as ‘Just’ a Mother

It’s the only job in the world that comes with benefits that are eternal.

Mothers matter, now and for eternity.
Mothers matter, now and for eternity. (photo: Shutterstock)

The question arises at nearly every cocktail party. People hovering over the onion dip and meeting someone for the first time will inquire, “What do you do for a living?” English teachers often get the reaction, “I’ll be careful with my grammar around you!” But the mention of one profession often leads to a stunned silence. “I’m just a mother,” some lady will reply, which elicits a blank look on the face of the questioner, who suddenly remembers he must refresh his drink.

The problem is that mothering lacks wages, titles and promotions, so many people overlook its worth. As for me, I think motherhood is one of the greatest professions ever, and I deeply admire women who pursue it full time. Still, it’s time to come up with a new job description. After all, saying, “I’m just a mother” is like saying “I’m just the inventor of the wheel.” 

When the first baby is cooing in the crib, a mother’s tasks seem unending and unvaried, and it might be tempting to disparage them. The baby eats and grows hungry again; the baby has to be changed; the baby cries and must be comforted. Even with these basic tasks, though, something wondrous is happening. The baby is “just” learning that someone loves him and someone will take care of him. Before long, there may be another baby in the home, and the job responsibilities of motherhood increase exponentially. At the same time she’s giving round-the-clock care to the new infant, she must explain to a toddler why the sky is blue and what makes a cow say moo. 

As the children grow, the questions become more difficult, which means Mom “just” has to know ethics, geography, history and science. She must teach children how to be a true friend, how to control their tempers and how to protect their sandwiches from the mouth of the family dog. The woman who is “just” a mother must ensure children say their prayers, get their homework done and get to church on time. These tasks, however, pale in comparison to the deepest, eternal value of motherhood, which is eloquently expressed by Alice von Hildebrand: “One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.” 

Much of mothering involves scrubbing and cooking, and many people look down their noses at these tasks. But, really, what is more soul-nourishing than a clean home, fresh clothing and a hot meal on the table? “There’s no place like home” was Dorothy’s mantra in The Wizard of Oz, and the truth of that statement has never dimmed. Anyone in the salaried world can attest to the lovely mental image of home that soothes the heart during the most stressful moments on the job. 

Many are able to endure the terribly long commute because they are sustained by the thought of opening the door, inhaling the scent of pot roast and calling out, “Darling, I’m home!” and then being mobbed by little children running to hug their knees. 

It might be tempting to label motherhood monotonous and dull, since the floors that are waxed will grow dull and the crisp, clean clothing will have to be laundered again. However, G.K. Chesterton offers a solid defense of monotony when he points out that children who delight in a game will say, “Do it again!” and the adult who obliges may soon become exhausted. He notes, “Grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.”

So what do mothers do for a living? They teach ethics; they are experts in nutrition; they are healers; they are counselors. They’ve been entrusted by God with the responsibility of loving and protecting a precious child made in his image and likeness. 

It’s the only job in the world that comes with benefits that are eternal.