Yesterday, I asked a co-worker what her plans were for Valentine’s Day. She mentioned that she and her husband didn’t have much planned and that, since they had their baby girl, who is now four months old, she and her husband are not very exciting. That statement hit me as a sad way to think about our roles as parents. What concerns me is that I know that I have had the same thought. The perspective on the work of parenting in our society seems to be colored by undertones of menial, less important work that gets in the way of the really important stuff we need to do. Yet, what could be more important, critical – and yes, exciting – than raising the next generation?
We get excited by a new job, a new project, a major success in our career or an opportunity to travel to a new place. We get excited at the prospect of taking a vacation, buying a house or being recognized for an achievement. Excitement for some is being able to go out and celebrate on the weekends, socialize with friends or get away from it all for a brief break. Yet, how fleeting are so many of these things? By comparison, raising a child is a huge commitment to contributing to the next generation and a responsibility to help a new human being grow and develop.
Every moment of being a parent has its own joys and challenges. For women, they are amplified by the fact that we have the privilege of actually having the child grow and make its passage into the world through our very bodies! I remember how excited I was by every kick and movement my baby made as he grew inside of me. After 26 hours of labor I thought all I would want to do is pass out and sleep. As tired as I was, the excitement of having my baby next to me was greater than my exhaustion and I could not sleep at all. I will never forget walking in the park with my sister and mother when my son was three months old, and sharing my excitement about my son seeing his first flower bloom, his first butterfly and his first frog! My sister eventually said, “Cath, give it a break!”
I have done my best to not take a moment for granted and have so enjoyed all of his firsts. My son is 16, taller than me, and his firsts have not stopped. Soon, he will drive for the first time (eek!) and get his first job and go out on his first date. I marvel at the young man he is becoming. There are still so many firsts ahead for him and it is such a huge responsibility to be there for him, guiding him and supporting him each step of the way.
Since I began working for the National Association of Mothers Centers and now volunteering for the MACC Initiative, I have revisited my perspective on what it means to be a mother. Boring? My experiences as a mother have been many things. Challenging, awe-inspiring, heart breaking, wonderful, and filled with amazement and amusement. But honestly, they have rarely been boring.
I think we need to reframe how we think of motherhood and fatherhood. When you stop and think about it, it really is one of the most exciting and amazing endeavors a human being can experience in life.