Lessons from my mother: A reflection on motherhood
By GraceAnna Castleberry | For many, Mother’s Day is marked by celebration and thankfulness, honoring the special woman in their life that they call “mom.” The day brings forth wonderful memories of the mom that raised them, loved them, taught them, and nurtured them. However, for others, it’s a painful time as it reminds them about the mother they wish they’d had. In either case, mothers have an impact on their children’s lives that will last forever.
As this Mother’s Day arrives, I’ve been reflecting on some of the ways my mother has helped shape me as a woman, and also as a new mother.
Motherhood is a Calling, Not a Hobby
For as long as I can remember, my mom always loved being a mother. Right after my mom graduated from UNC, Chapel Hill, she married my dad, a graduate of Boston College. Shortly after they were married, they got pregnant with my oldest brother, Jeremy. From the moment he was born, my mom decided to stay home to take care of him. A few years later, they had my brother Jordan, then I was born, then my brother Grant, and lastly, my brother Jameson. Because my parents had five children (4 of those being boys!) our home was definitely a loud and rambunctious place.
The memories I have of my growing up years are some of my absolute favorite. My parents made our home a safe place, a place where we were taught to work hard, where we were corrected when we strayed, and where we were celebrated as unique children created by God. My parents were a team when it came to raising us, but since I’m writing about my mom, I’m going to focus on what I learned from her. I never once doubted my mom’s love, because she showed me that every day. The neighborhood children would often come and play after school at our house, because many of their mothers weren’t home. My mom would play out in the yard with us, be the referee in races, talk with us about life issues, and of course make us cookies. Several times I heard one of my friends tell my mom, “I wish you were my mother.” I just remember thinking, “I’m so glad she’s mine.”
My mom fully embraced her calling as a mother. She didn’t mind being known as “her kid’s mom.” She always viewed it as the most important job in the world and told us that there was nothing that she would rather do than invest in our lives. And that’s what she did. My brothers and I weren’t ranked low on a list of other things that were more important to my mom. While my mom made sure that we weren’t the center of attention all the time, we never felt like we had to compete for her time or affection. Mothering isn’t the kind of job that produces a tangible monetary salary.
Spending days at home while raising children rarely receives accolades or applause from the outside world. But there’s a much smaller world that will one day be thankful for it.
The Little Moments Matter
When I think back on my childhood, I remember so many little things. I remember my mom rocking me in the old blue rocker that used to sit in my parents’ bedroom. I can still here the “click, click, click” noise that it made as it moved back and forth along with the soft hum of my mom’s voice. I remember my mom helping me learn new things – like how to ride a bike and how to read. I remember her celebrating those joyous achievements with me and encouraging me as I struggled along the way.
I remember calling home once when I was spending the night at a friend’s house. I was homesick and just wanted to come back home. It was near midnight, but my mom drove over and picked me up. It was in these little moments that I especially felt loved. These were moments when I really needed my mom, and she was there for me. As a mother of a one-year-old now, I treasure these moments too.
When I used to get up in the middle of the night to feed my infant daughter, I would remind myself that this moment mattered, no matter how tired I was. When I talk to my daughter about things that I’m not sure she yet understands, I know that I am helping her to develop into the person that she will one day be. That’s not something that I ever want to take lightly. I’m so happy that I witnessed firsthand her discovering her hands and feet for the first time, hearing her say her first word, and watching her finally figure out how to crawl down the stairs backwards. These are little things, yet they matter so much. It’s these little moments that make up life, and I don’t want to miss them.
You Are Fully Equipped to be a Mother
I’ll never forget the moment when the doctor handed me my little girl just seconds after she was born. No mother ever forgets that moment. It’s unlike any other.
One moment you are the person you’ve always been, and the next moment you are keenly aware that you have forever changed. When my husband and I brought our 6lbs 7oz daughter home for the first time, we laid her on the bed to change her diaper. When I saw how absolutely tiny she was, I started to cry. I suddenly became completely overwhelmed at the reality that this little person was utterly dependent on me in every way. I began to doubt whether I was capable of such a huge task. As I battled my tears, the words that I’d heard my mother say countless times to other young women echoed in my mind, “God has fully equipped you to be the mother that your child needs.” As I watched my tiny little girl squirm and cry on the bed, I picked her up and cuddled her in my arms. She stopped crying and I found courage, knowing that I was what she needed.
Because of my mother, I know in the crazy moments, in the hard moments, and in the very best of moments, that there is no better mother for my child than me. I am not a perfect mother, and even though I may stumble along the way, I don’t have to doubt whether or not I was “cut out” to be a mom.
Embrace the Calling of Motherhood; Don’t Struggle Against It
There are hard days being a mom. There just are. There are days when kids get sick, they don’t take naps, they have meltdowns in public, or things just generally get chaotic. But I learned from my mom, that in order to be a wonderful mother, you have to embrace it whole-heartedly. You can’t be the mom your child needs while constantly wishing you were somewhere else. I’ve heard my mom say so many times, “Don’t get distracted,” and “No one has to be upset but the baby,” and “Take it in stride.” And really, it’s like that with anything. If you don’t embrace the challenge with open arms, you will experience discontentment that leads to bitterness.
My mom has also told me many times that, “Anything worth doing is hard.” What if we as mothers stopped struggling to be something else other than what we are? What if we embraced the joys along with the hard times of motherhood instead of struggling to be or do something else? Motherhood is humbling and it does take sacrifice. Yet as I’ve learned from my mom, those who are willing to walk that road will reap great rewards.
About five years ago, when my brother Jeremy was working for former President George W. Bush, my parents were invited to the Oval Office to meet him. The President greeted my dad, but then went straight to my mom and said, “You have done a wonderful job raising your son.” I know it meant so much to my mom that the President of the United States was commending her as a mother. Those years that she had spent changing diapers and teaching her children had somehow landed her in front of the leader of the free world. But as much as his words encouraged her, she didn’t need to hear them to know that her calling was important. She had always believed that. And because she believed that and practiced it, I believe it too. All four of my brothers and I are grown up now and have moved out of the house. My brother Jeremy is married with two children and is studying at Harvard Law School. My brother Jordan is married with four children and a graduate of Harvard Business School. My brother Grant is about to graduate from Officer Candidate School as a United States Marine, and my brother Jameson is at the University of South Carolina studying to work in politics one day.
Well, I’m a mother, just like my mom. And there’s nothing else I’d rather be.
See more from GraceAnna at http://graceannacastleberry.com/