It’s been said that motherhood is the toughest job in the world. American Greetings latest ad campaign took it one step further to prove that point. They produced a video featuring real people that are interviewing for a job that was really posted in newspapers. The “Director of Operations” has a list of requirements that would likely violate every labor law in the country. No breaks, on your feet all the time, giving the “associates” constant attention, a workload that increases on Thanksgiving and Christmas, no days off, oh, and it’s a volunteer (as in no pay) position. The reaction of the interviewees when they find out millions of people work in those conditions every day is…well, you know the rest.
I tear up every time I see it. Not because my job is the toughest job in the world, but because it’s not. I have the privilege of being the mother to three amazing children. Sure the hours are tough, but the pay is immeasurable. Every roll of the pre-teen eye, every sleepless hour rocking a baby, every missed night out because of a sick child…I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
Sophocles said, “Children are the anchors of a mother’s life.” Centuries later, the jury is still out. Some women view their children as a great mass of iron, holding them back from an ocean full of promise, new discovery, and adventure. Children become this thing we have, when we’ve run out of everything else to do. We “settle down” and start a family. I suppose it takes a few drunken trips to Cancun with other childless friends or working long hours to make partner before we’re fully prepared for the “world’s toughest job?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there are parents that plan ahead. They prepare emotionally and financially to care for another human being.
Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha. How’s that working out for you?
In my sixteen years as a mom, I can honestly say there isn’t enough time, energy or money to prepare you for what lays ahead. Nine months of day dreaming about the beautifully forming life inside you. Will he be the next quarterback for the Lions? Stop laughing, Bears fans). Will she be the next Madame Curie? Of course there are the other totally reasonable expectations. He’ll sleep through the night after a week! She’ll be talking in complete sentences at two! Perfect table manners, an arm like Tom Brady. It’s all reduced to hours of hot, sweaty, painful labor that has you less concerned about potty training time tables than GETTING THIS THING OUT NOW!
And suddenly he’s placed into your arms, slimy and shocked into this cold, unfamiliar world of lights and noises. But he knows you. He knows your voice and your soothing touch. Instinct takes over as you swaddle and snuggle this little person. You realize nothing else matters. He isn’t just something you’ve made. He is a piece of your soul, a tiny bit of humanity wrapped in a blanket.
It is in that moment, that precious life-altering moment, you begin to realize the anchor isn’t holding you back. It’s keeping you steady. It is your security and your strength. I need my children as much as they need me. The sleepless nights become hours of getting to know your little girl. When he falls and skins his knee, he runs to you. It’s you she sweetly convinces to become stage mom for this year’s play. And we need it. We need those moments of joy and stress and crazy and wonderful because they make us who we are. Mothers.
Last night I gathered with my friends, an amazing group of moms, as they closed a chapter in their lives at a school sports banquet. It was the last time they’d be “Colts Moms” with me. They watched as their sons and daughters took to the stage one last time, accepting certificates and praise from their coaches. It hit me then. These women, and soon I, would have to let go.
Somehow, in the inexplicable way that only God works, our children have switched places with us. We’ve become their anchors. Steady, secure, and steadfast. It is they that seek adventure, new discovery, and promise. We have to loosen the ropes, untie the moorings, and let them sail.
And that is the toughest job of all.
Image: Courtesy of: http://justamandaslife.blogspot.com/2010/08/manic-mommy-monday-family-command.html