Friday, July 21, 2006

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World

I think most little girls grow up dreaming of being mommies someday. I remember an aching longing to be a mother, even from a very, very young age. I would cradle and care for my baby dolls, but it wasn't the same as having my real, live, own baby. Of course, I now laugh at the idea of a preschooler wanting to take on the cares of motherhood :). The mothering instinct is so ingrained in women, though! Have you ever watched a little two year old girl walk into a room in which there is a baby? She goes straight for him, and begins cooing at him and stroking him. A young boy may do the same, but from my own observations, not nearly as frequently (my point is not that men are insensitive). Little girls just love to nurture, and God made us that way.

One of my favorite passages from Les Miserables describes Cosette as she wistfully observes the activities of a young family and dreams of her love, Marius:

The mother was there, opening her wings like a fan over her brood; the father flew about, went away, then returned, bringing food and kisses in his break. The rising day gilded this happy thing, the great law Multiply was there, smiling and august, and this sweet mystery was blossoming in the glory of the morning. Cosette, her hair in the sunshine, her soul in fantasy, made luminous by inner love and the outer dawn, leaned out unconsciously, and, almost without daring to acknowledge to herself that she was thinking of Marius at the same time, began to look at these birds, this family, this male and this female, this mother and these little ones, withthe deep restlessness which a nest gives to a young girl.
I love the way Victor Hugo speaks of the "great law Multiply." What an interesting way to describe that longing, that nurturing instinct, that desire to procreate and mother!

The church we attended when I was younger used to have a fall festival every year, and one year (I was about 5 or 6?) the costume theme was "what you want to be when you grow up." The other girls there had an assortment of costumes; my memory fails me with details, but I'm sure there were ballerinas, teachers, scientists, actresses, princesses, etc. present. I do remember that my sister was a nurse, and a very cute one, I might add :). I dressed as an expectant mother. My mom let me wear one of her shirts for "growth" ;), and she used a marker to draw an arrow and the word "baby" down to my protruding belly.

To me, the costume choice was obvious. I remember when my mom was discussing costumes with Boy, Sister Dear, and me, I had no problem sorting through my dreams of "what I wanted to be." Most little girls go through various phases of wanting to be an astronaut, a teacher, or a librarian, in addition to being a mother, but fom my earliest memories, becoming a mother was my strongest yearning. At times through the years, I've also considered teaching piano lessons or being a seamstress (or becoming a math teacher. . . ), but those were always in addition to and second to my desire to be a mother, so my costume so long ago was quite appropriate.

In college, being an education major resulted in being asked on numerous occasions, "How long have you wanted to be a teacher?" :-) Well, actually, I really want to be a mother. A homeschool mother. Teaching is sort of an "interim occupation." Hehe.

Then I had the well-meaning mathematics professors who tried to convince me to switch from a math education major to a strictly mathematics major. Now, I'm not denying that the mathematics courses were far more interesting and stimulating than my education courses! But I didn't want a second degree or an eventual professorship, like they were suggesting. I wanted a little home, a Godly man to love, and a brood of children to nurture. My most emphatic mathematics professor persisted in trying to convince me to switch my degree to math and go on for a graduate degree in mathematics. When I told her that my plan was not to use my degree long-term, she looked a bit discouraged, and pleaded with me that "we need women in higher mathematics." This statement sort of perplexed me. Women are not specially suited for higher mathematics, though many are gifted in this area, myself included, so the need seemed contrived to me. But women are specially suited for another vocation: motherhood. As my professor told me of the great "need" for women in higher mathematics, I could not help but think, but we need mothers far more!

I was reminded of this conversation recently when reading this article, on the importance of motherhood. Here are a few snippets:

There is no compelling case that the world would be a better place if more women were lawyers, bankers, soldiers or engineers. There are many such arguments, however, that the world would be a far better place if more women were mothers. Which means more than the mere act of procreation. It means devotion, sacrifice and time. Not quality time, just time. Lots of it. It means refusing to accept that self-esteem can only come through a boss, water cooler gossip and a generous pension scheme.

Recently, a Tory MP told me, in a spasm of political correctness, that Canada needed more women in Parliament. I asked him why, and he reacted as if he'd never been asked the question before. Which, of course, he probably hadn't.

I continued: "Could it be argued that raising a child to be a respectful, intelligent, moral and good person is just slightly more important than sitting in a building in Ottawa and obeying the orders of some second-rate prime ministerial assistant?"
Make sure to read the whole article (Hattip: LAF)

Will God ever grant my prayers for a husband and children? Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn't mean my hands need be idle now, lamenting my empty arms. I can cradle another mother's sweet infant and whisper a prayer of thanks for another gift of life, another child to be raised for Him.

I can also be thankful for the women in my family who sacrificed to raise up their children, who would in turn raise up children, who would raise up children, who would raise up children. . . eventually raising up me! I can be thankful for my own mother, who may not have ministered to the whole world when I was younger, but certainly defined the whole world for her three children. Some women choose to relinquish a powerful position of CEO, congressman, principal, or lawyer to become a mother, but they take on a far more powerful position. For the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.


zan said...

That was awesome, Susan!

I became a nurse to fill up my time until I could be a mommy/wife.

Now I have two little boys who... are fighting over toy cars. I can't believe it! Harry is only 4 mos old.

Excuse me I have to break this up. ; )

Jessica said... the survey I said I didn't know which of your posts is my favorite, but now I think I might...this one! It was excellent...and pretty much exactly how I feel about the subject too! If you don't mind, I'll probably link to it on my blog...thanks!

Sherrin said...

Wonderful post! I feel very similarly, but I feel ashamed of confessing it for some reason! I would be far too embarrassed to make these sort of confessions on my blog. Maybe I need to be liberated :)

Jessie said...

Now I might have to change my answer about my favorite post- this one might just be it!!
I have a post I need to finish up from a few weeks (months?) ago, along very similar lines. But I won't say more now. : )
Thanks for the great read!

ashley said...

Wow, this was a great post! Thanks, Susan, for writing it.

I'm linking to it from my new blog.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! You explained your view point (and mine as well!) very clearly. Probably my favorite post of your so far!

Anonymous said...

There is no compelling case that the world would be a better place if more women were lawyers, bankers, soldiers or engineers.

I disagree (of course!) The world would certainly be a better place for women if there were more lawyers, bankers, soldiers, and engineers. I remember as a little girl having that aching longing to fulfill my calling too -- to be a politician most likely or a lawyer, but agonizing constantly as to whether it would be feasible since there seemed to be so few women in these positions in the 70s.

I also think the world is a better place in an absolute sense. My work as an attorney matters. I may not be the most talented lawyer in the world, but I think I am one of the more talented lawyers in my region and I use that talent to make a contribution to the larger community. I have prosecuted countless criminals and helped get a fair result for my clients. My community is a better place because I, not as a woman per se but as an individual, am practicing law.

Some women choose to relinquish a powerful position of CEO, congressman, principal, or lawyer to become a mother, but they take on a far more powerful position. For the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

They do not take on a more powerful position. Arguably they take on a more influential position, at least over those in their immediate family, but there is a big difference between power and influence -- a difference that most certainly accounts for the shabby treatment of women as a class throughout history and to the present day throughout much of the world and even in the United States. That influence also tends to be much less widespread than that available to ambitious women in the professions.

Susan said...


What I mean (and the writer of the article means) is that women are not specially designed to be lawyers, bankers, soldiers, etc., so why would the world be a better place if they specifically took on these roles? There is also (in my eyes) no compelling case that the world would be a better place if more hispanics were lawyers, bankers, soldiers, or engineers. That doesn't mean I think of hispanics as lesser people! Whether or not women should take on those roles is quite another issue, but whether or not it is necessarily beneficial to mankind is quite another. We need lawyers, bankers, etc., but why must they be women any more than they must be white, hispanics, etc?

I would also still argue that women take on a far more powerful position as mothers, not just an influential position in the family. Abraham Lincoln once said that all he ever learned, he learned from his mother. That's power. That's widespread power, in fact. When I think of a way that I could influence the world by spreading the gospel, I can think of no more effective way than ministering to others while I myself am training up a small army of children to also minister to others, who will in turn minister to others, and so on. We both know the power of exponentials!

I am a teacher and tutor, and I have the opportunity to influence my students in a positive way, but this influence is limited. As a mother, I would have a much greater influence that would be much more far-reaching. It is one thing to teach teach one child about the world, and it is quite another to be the whole world to one (or many) child.

twiga92 said...

I'm one of those rare women who have no desire to be a mother. Even when I was younger, I didn't have that longing. I expected that I would eventually have children, but did not long for them as many women do. Now I'm married to a wonderful Godly man who has no desire for children either. So we are content not to have our own children. I know most people cannot understand our choice. Just as I don't understand the intense longing to be a mother, others can't understand my desire not to have children. I think we need both in this world. :-)