making PEOPLE

     Where did our culture go so desperately wrong?  I do not understand how motherhood has become so unimportant in the eyes of most people.  I hear signs of its devaluation every day.  Some are putting off having children as long as they possibly can; others are fearful of having more than two; still others are looking to farm out as much of the “dirty work” as they can afford from infancy through graduation day.  Contrarily, mothers who are exclusively devoted to rearing their children are looked upon as having not enough to do, not thinking enough about societal contribution, or being overly possessive of their children.
     These ideas all trace back to one belief: motherhood is an unexceptional calling.  This could not be further from the truth.  What do I do all day long?  I make people.  Other people make cars, or houses, or shoes, or airplanes.  Some people make money, or make laws, or make changes in laws.  Some people make changes in people’s health or changes in people’s fitness.
     But I make people.  I give my body to be the environment in which growth occurs until a living, breathing person is ready to enter the world.  I do not do all the work of making this person–God, nature and my husband play their roles too.  But ask any mother how exhausting and all-encompassing of a job it is to be pregnant.  It is a full time job.
     Then, childbirth is a lifetime accomplishment.  When done prayerfully and lovingly, the mother’s spirit is closer to God in those hours than perhaps any human being’s ever is, except, I believe, in the event of martyrdom.
     Then in the next minutes and hours, and then days and weeks and months, the mother engages in the crafting of the human being.  The baby needs to sleep, and yet mothers need to help the child find sleep by rocking the baby and helping her drift off (why can’t babies do this on their own?).  The baby needs to eat, and yet the mother needs to provide the food.  Often, she generates the food with her own body, and she administers it to the baby (why can’t the baby feed herself?).  Babies need their mothers to teach them order, calm, and tenderness (why do babies take on and imitate their environment?).  Babies need their mothers to teach them that they are loved (why don’t we come into the world with an automatic sense of self-worth?).  A child’s self-worth is not fully set until she is an adult.  Even then, it can still be reshaped.  Why are we so vulnerable to the information our parents and others give us?  Why are we such wholly dependent creatures?  Other animals are not.  Humans are distinct in their radical vulnerability.
     This vulnerability is correlated to the high calling of motherhood.  A culture can de-prioritize motherhood and send messages that other jobs are more important.  But the baby’s vulnerability does not go away.  The baby is left in a lurch, with a mother who is trying to do something “really important,” and the baby’s needs are just getting unfulfilled.
     I believe that there are other important jobs.  Providing education of all kinds, teaching skills and trades of all kinds, making good laws, helping others to become healthy, or live in a healthier society, ending wars, avoiding divorce, resolving conflicts, reversing harm to people or the earth or the waters–there are many, many important jobs.  I love these jobs and others like them, and I hope that my children will select jobs that have a high value.  But it just makes sense to me that motherhood is among the highest.  In order to have people to teach, in order to have people to run for office, or people to serve in office, there have to be people in the first place.  Making people, and helping them to be well-functioning, well-adapted, empathetic, good-hearted, disciplined and compassionate, is the prior requisite.  To make good laws is important; but to make people in the first place is of higher value.  Not all women are called to motherhood; goodness knows I am aware of that, and wish that people who are not called to something would not pursue it.
     But I dream of a world in which those who are called to motherhood would be delighted to receive the call, and would be surrounded by others cheering them on with awe and admiration, and that the future mothers would prepare themselves with all diligence and enthusiasm for this highest of vocations.