Mothers wear many hats

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"And where do you work?" people asked when my children were young.

For then, I chose to stay home as a homemaker and mother. That was during the era when women assumed jobs outside the home so they could "feel fulfilled." Self-actualization was found through performing worthwhile pursuits that emphasized a mother's true talents and gifts. Mom could have it all: a job, home and motherhood. Consequently, I often felt my self-image diminishing as I wondered if my role as just a wife and mother was significant.

Often, mothers work outside the home for financial reasons and still are good mothers. One, however, needn't feel socially pressured into choosing. As the years unfolded, I watched my children grow into people who would, somehow, shape the world. I wondered if they would exert a positive or negative influence. One never knows, in spite of one's success as a mother. She can only do her best. She often forms her conclusions through what she sees -- youth using drugs and alcohol in excess. Or she encounters those genuinely working toward making a difference in the community. Even though mothers can't always be held accountable for how children mature, they can attempt to ingrain worthy values in them.

For sure, mothers are anything but "just mothers." If one believes her role is dull and unimportant, she only needs to think of the many varied tasks she performs, using numerous skills, talents and virtues.

Women often say, "I always wanted to be a nurse, but that dream is forgotten, because I now have children to rear," and a sigh escapes. She's forgotten the times she's administered medicine, applied bandages and checked for fever in one of her children. Is that being anything besides a nurse?

Another mother expressed the desire to be a horticulturist, working with flowers and plants. Her yard was beautiful beyond compare, and she did it all herself. Wasn't that what a horticulturist, landscapist and even a farmer did? She had merely failed to evaluate her job description.

Some women declare they wished they'd been a teacher for that had always been a dream. I questioned how often they had helped with math problems from school or taught a Scout project.

Another mom expressed her desire to be a minister. Spirituality had always been a driving force in her life. She watched priests during Mass, and women ministers of other denominations preaching and conducting Sunday services. She felt a pang of regret that she, in some fashion, had failed to enter into the ministry, been unable to help save souls. She merely became a mother instead.

As I contemplated her attitude toward the ministry, I was shocked she failed to recognize and understand how she could be involved in the spiritual realm without officially being ordained as a priest or pastor. She could make sure her children attended church regularly, teaching them spirituality by example, as Jesus did. She already helps them with religion and Sunday school lessons. Seeing that meal blessings and bedtime prayers are prayed is certainly ministerial. Reading Scripture, attending Bible studies and instructing others in the word of God is ministry. Moms can be principal ministers, if they choose to be, for the home is "the Domestic Church." It's the first church with which children become familiar. Mothers are awesome for they're creators, teachers, gardeners, decorators, artists and ministers, and participate in numerous other breathtaking occupations.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, reared the most famous person in the world. And while researching her role, I found nothing in Scripture revealing she was bored or unfulfilled.

In fact, Jesus even honored Mary while dying on the cross, as was shown when he gave her to his disciple saying, "Behold your mother." (John 19:27) Knowing this, I shall never again be ashamed to say, "I'm just a mother," for I wear many hats!

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish.

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