The Pain of Being Mother

The Pain of Being Mother

I was excited to sign up for the topic of Mothering. I thought that since I had done a post about The Importance of Being Father I would do a post on the importance of motherhood. However, as I sat around processing and thinking through what to write, I kept hitting a wall.

It’s funny and maybe a little annoying that God refers to himself as Father. We can read through Scripture and find connection upon connection to ways in which earthly fathers can bear the face of God for their children. Yet, who are our motherly examples? Who are our good and godly and perfect mothers?

There is Eve, of course, who is the first of us. The first to sin, the first to give birth and the first to know the pain of childbearing. God tells her, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.” 

Very severe, he says. It will be filled with sorrows, worries and toil.

Then there is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The one who was chosen to carry and care for the Creator of the world. She accepted the calling that God placed on her and she carried our Christ, she painfully delivered him in squalor, she fed him at her breast, she protected him while he grew.

Fast forward thirty years and I can see Mary at the foot of Christ’s cross as she endures the torture of her son, her child, her baby. She didn’t run away. When the disciples scattered, she stayed; when God forsook, she watched and when Jesus breathed his last, she wept. She was fierce and brave and unimaginably strong as she faced the suffering of her child.

I wonder if she wished she could turn back time, if she could have kept Jesus in Nazareth, if she could have persuaded him to stay a carpenter. Would she have tried to pull the nails from his feet? Would she have longed for a different life?

With painful labor we will give birth to children.

I loved becoming a mother and I loved the process of nurturing and mothering my littles. During those early years I was invested in attachment parenting, co-sleeping and breastfeeding. I learned early on (through study) the importance of forming a secure attachment and bond with my infants. The theory being that the more secure the parental attachment, the braver and more secure an adult they will become.

But what I find so significant is that the goal of attachment and mothering is not that a child will stay, but that a child will be secure enough to leave.

I think God was right, mothering is a painful labor, because its very essence is one of self-giving for the sake of another individuals well-being. There is no prize, no glory, no applause and yet without it, the entire world suffers.

Our death for their life and I’ll bet you anything that Mary knew her broken heart was worth it.

I’d posit that mothering is active discipleship, it is the embodiment of the great commission. Jesus Christ, himself, was not a self-made man, he had a mother, a mother who gave her life for his and the cost was high. It is a high cost for all of us who mother as the very act of attachment is sacrificial and invites pain. Because the souls of our children are not ours to keep, anymore than Jesus was Mary’s, and as we empower our children they move on.

They will grow, mature and create beauty.

They will cry, make mistakes and experience suffering.

What gave Christ the courage to leave his home and pursue his ministry? Mary’s love? As I go through the Scriptures and read the words that he spoke, I wonder if he was repeating many of Mary’s own words to him. What he knew of love, did he know it from her? You know she loved him with a ferocious love. A protective love. A love that endured loss so that Christ could walk his own path.

We are not all mothers in the same way. Many of us have born our children, we carried them in our wombs and we experienced the physical labor of birth. There are mothers whose labor is different. It is a labor of desire and longing that may or may not involve the placement of an infant in hopeful arms.

But we are all women, entrusted with a unique and beautiful calling to nurture the generations below us. Our call is one to attach, to be a place of safety and peace, and to withstand the sight of the suffering of those we love most.

We take the hits, we don’t run, and within the pain of motherhood we experience the beauty of attached relationships, bonded over time and intention. In this way we join Mary at the foot of the cross, fully committed to be present, even as life throws its worst.

What kind of attachment did you have to your own mother? How does that affect your current attachments?

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Hilkemann May 11, 2020

    I love this perspective, Joy! I’m still learning about the importance of attachment and it is fascinating. I’m really really grateful for a safe and wonderful mom, and a secure attachment that allowed me to go out into the world and know there was always a home to come back to. I hope to be a safe and trustworthy adult to the kiddos in my life! 🙂 Thank you for your heart and words.

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