By Carrie McCormack
THE transition into motherhood is an epic adventure.
Whether you’ve always wanted to be a mother or not, the real-life stakes of parenting are high.
I liken the impact of being pregnant and childbirth to “bodyline”, a term used in cricket in the day of Don Bradman.
“Bodyline” was considered by many to be intimidating and physically threatening.
The commitment that a child needs from the world is enormous and requires grace.
Yet it also has many rewards including gratitude from children themselves.
I particularly like these thankful words from St John Paul II in his letter to women: “You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail”.
I had a busy young adult life. I completed a bachelor’s degree, was employed as an allied health professional and moved around a lot, changing jobs.
However, when I was holding my first-born baby girl I was overwhelmed by the simplicity of her needs that required little of my expertise.
I was also struck by the permanence of the commitment my husband and I now had to our child. This child needed us and depended on us for everything.
A close friend, and father of three, told me one day, “Being a mother isn’t a job, it’s a person”.
These words really called me out.
My mind was set that I was just filling a job description of being the primary carer of an infant who only had physical needs.
But my friend was saying being a mother is so much more.
I didn’t know how to realise this vision of motherhood.
I stored this treasure up in my heart and those words are still with me today as I become more of a mother to my four children.
For this month’s column I have interviewed some Brisbane mothers about their expectations of motherhood while they were still single and what those first years were like and how they have adjusted.
I introduce Nicky, from Toowoomba; Caitlyn, from Springfield; and Kathryn, from Kenmore.
Let’s take a walk through real experiences around this fascinating topic: how we grow from expectations to a deep and fulfilling sense of joy and purpose.
Nicky’s expectations were that motherhood would be easier than child-minding.
“I figured, when looking after kids I had created there would be more of a bond because they’re part of you,” Nicky said.
Caitlyn said, “As a young woman I so badly wanted to have babies and be a mama! What a privilege it would be to mould and shape a little person”.
Kathryn said, “I felt confident, as my mother had always instilled in me that being a mother is your first call.”
Nicky said, “Having worked in a profession where I had ‘worked my way up the ladder’ I found it incredibly difficult that the only feedback I was getting through my ‘work day’ was a screaming baby. I felt overwhelmed and useless when I couldn’t comfort her.
“I also had times of incredible elation when she would smile or fall asleep on my chest, even if it was at the end of the day and I ended up watching TV with her asleep on my chest, my husband would come home and he found it hard to accept that one baby could need so much attention.”
Caitlyn’s experience was, “… (It was) time-consuming and overpowering. It drained me and stripped me of all the ‘pretty’ things about myself that I would have put on to make myself feel better and fit into the world.”
Kathryn realised, “… that this calling is a 24/7 job not just a few babysitting hours at a time”.
Nicky now delights in the reciprocated relationship she has with her children as opposed to a carer’s relationship. She adds that adjusting from one to two kids is definitely easier.
“I love being a mum and feel so blessed that the gift my mother gave (staying at home to raise me) is something I can pass on to my children.”
Caitlyn has found renewal in her task-oriented world. “It often seems to me that I get nothing done with kids, but I am beginning to realise that they are helping me to be more of who I really am and who I was meant to be and with God’s help they will make a mighty impact on this world and that is one big task completed.”
Kathryn has found joy – “I currently have five kids under seven years and life can get a little hectic.
“Sometimes I forget what this is all about but then realise while changing a nappy or helping someone get dressed that this is all part of my calling. I have so much more joy in my life because of my five little cherubs who bring me closer to God.”
Children draw us into a deep pilgrimage with Jesus as we encounter the best and worst of ourselves.
We need to remember that in being this person, “mother”, we are being someone very close to Jesus’ heart as we welcome little people in this world. God promised through Isaiah that “he gently leads those that have young”.
As adults we are always growing and learning and being formed.
When you hold your child in your arms remember you are their first educator and you too can discover the profound effect that this “first education” can have on your child.
Carrie McCormack is the founder of Mother Effect, a ministry that promotes parents as the first educators, and understanding the potential of the child.