Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post: Motherhood Lessons in Becoming our True Selves

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson


With Mother’s Day fast approaching, we see the commercials urging our families to find the perfect gift, celebrate the perfect brunch (or for some of us, find the perfect cocktail. No? Oops…), or cook the perfect breakfast in bed. I wanted to take some time instead to reflect on what it means for us to be mothers, especially in a world that is so broken, with souls that are broken and in need of healing.

I don’t write about it much to protect the privacy of the women in our care, but I work at a Catholic home for homeless, expectant women called Mary’s Mantle. I’ve only been with the ministry since 2011, but in that time have come to appreciate what a deep struggle we face as wounded women. Not all of us face the same difficulties as the women who come into our care. Many of them have had extraordinarily heartbreaking experiences, from domestic violence, to abandonment by parents and adoptive parents, to sexual violence, to being told they were only wanted for state money – you get the picture. In reality though, we are all broken, even if not to the extent to the women who find themselves in our ministry. In that brokenness and seeing these women face their wounds head on, Motherhood has become a valiant teacher. I could probably write for days, but here are a few of the lessons I have learned, both through my own journey of mothering littles and in watching the women who have come into our care.

1) Motherhood forces us to face our selfishness. If you would have asked me prior to becoming a mother if I was a selfish person, I probably would have laughed and said no. I usually felt like I was always putting another’s needs in front of my own. Enter motherhood. The concept of putting someone else’s needs in front of your own becomes drastically different when you cannot choose the who and the when. Sure, I was selfless when I could decide for whom and when I would be selfless. Enter an infant who needs me 24/7 and my selfishness stares me right in the face. This is one of the hardest struggles I have seen our mothers face. In our brokenness, we buy into the lie that we must take care of ourselves or no one else will. We get accustomed to everything our way, and manipulating situations to be sure that our needs and desires are met. Yet, God tells us to leave everything and lean on Him, and Him alone. God tells us to put the needs of others ahead of our own at all times. This is a lesson I am still working on learning. If I were in a classroom, I would not be a straight A student right now. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

2) Motherhood deepens our understanding of the love the Father has for us. Have you ever looked at your child and felt that wellspring of love fill your heart to the point you thought it might burst? I have to admit that with a toddler, sometimes I have to really want to see that through a tantrum. However, every time I really look at my children, every time I marvel at how beautiful they are, how much they have grown, how much they are learning, how much a miracle they truly are, my heart fills and tears fall. I know in my brokenness that this is not even a miniscule portion of the love the Father has for me and for each and every person He created. With many women coming to us with very broken relationships, it is difficult for them to understand anyone loving them with that kind of love…until they have their child. I particularly remember talking to one mother who always put herself down. I saw that mother’s gaze in her eyes, looking at her daughter. Out of nowhere, I was prompted to tell her that the love she felt for her daughter, the beauty she saw in her, was the love and the beauty that came out of her, that this beauty was inside her out of God’s love for her. So often we don’t believe that about ourselves. Motherhood is starting to change that for me, though there are many times the lies still sound easier to believe. I know now that they are, in fact, lies. God loves me infinitely more than I love my children, and that is overwhelming. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

3) Motherhood not so gently exposes the demons that plague us. Whether it is insecurity about our appearance, a critical voice, feelings of unworthiness, doubt about our ability to be loved unconditionally, fear of failure, questioning our intelligence, or [enter worry here], motherhood rips our hearts open and exposes what is not in the light. There is so much banter out there about what perfect motherhood looks like, that any deviation from the “norm” can make us feel like we are ruining our children. We want so much to be the perfect mother to our children, that desire creates a shadow side. It is so very important to be rooted in the Word of God and deep friendship with Christ. Being Catholic, it is so comforting to have the model of Mary, the Mother of God to turn to, not as a measure of judgment, but a measure of hope and recourse for prayer. We will all fail – even if we are supermom, we are human. The sooner we bring our demons into the light, the sooner we can silence the voice of darkness and let God take over. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14

4) Motherhood can intensify the desire to want better for our children, and in turn, for ourselves. I know for me, dreaming about what my children might become has caused me to examine my own desires and the desires God has planted in my heart. That is one of the things I love about where I work. It is such a joy to watch the mothers start to dream about what they want for themselves, and to help them to truly dream bigger and want better. To see a woman come in broken and shattered, and then see her eyes start to light up when she talks about what her dreams have been – it is indescribable. That has been my own experience in motherhood as well. I would never limit the horizon for my children, yet I limit them for myself based on others’ expectations or fear. While we have to learn that life comes in seasons and we cannot have it all at once, it is life giving to dream big and see the possibilities on the horizon. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

5) Motherhood teaches strength in weakness. Whether we want to admit it or not, we mothers all need help. Some of us (big old finger pointing at myself here) need more than others. Motherhood begins to expose the deeper truth of our connectedness and need for relationship. That has been a beautiful lesson to learn working with the ladies of Mary’s Mantle. To see the bonds of motherhood, the sisterhood that forms, is beautiful. Even when they are upset with one another, they are united as mothers and care for each other in that way. We could learn a lot from them in how to set our judgments aside and build each other up for the sake of the children. We pray together, we share our joys and struggles and we learn. We learn that we need one another to survive. We need God to survive. We need a Savior to survive. As mothers, we can keep up a frantic pace trying to do it all and be it all on our own, but eventually even the mighty fall. We were not created to thrive in isolation. Motherhood forces us to create community, in person and these days virtually. It forces us to let go of the pride that says I have it under control. “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

So this Mother’s Day, may you know the deep love that God has for you and the intrinsic beauty that you possess as a daughter of God. May you feel the release of unrealistic expectations and know that God is in control. May you see yourself through the eyes of the Father, and may you feel the strength of your sisterhood of mothers and the community of believers joined to Christ and Mary, His Mother. Happy Mother’s Day to one and all!


Rakhi McCormick is the author of The Pitter Patter Diaries. She is wife to Timothy (3+ years) and  mama to Li'l G (2+ years) and Baby J (9+ months). Rakhi is a part-time stay-at-home-mom and works part time out of the home. She converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 20 and is spending her days learning to love selflessly, serve joyfully and live boldly for Christ. 

1 comment:

  1. Rakhi, this is beautiful! What a great service you do for those women at Mary's Mantle! I totally agree with all of these points and I would just add for myself that having realized these points at different moments over the past year, I've been overwhelmed by such a feeling of gratitude and awe for my own mother, knowing that she went through all this with me and with my 6 siblings.


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