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The priceless privilege of motherhood

A recent study found that mothers who were more frequent visitors to Facebook reported higher levels of parenting stress. |

It’s been said that motherhood is the hardest job in the world. Many moms reported that they work 106 hours per week and a website even calculated that a mother’s salary would be $184,820 a year if she were paid for her time.

We read about women who miss their “life before motherhood” and others who feel they’ve lost their identity in the ocean of motherly responsibilities. While I can understand the sentiment behind these narratives, they never sit right with me. 

To focus on the dollar compensation of midnight feedings, bedtime stories, and tantrum tending feels sacrilege. To say we’ve lost ourselves as a result of our children is antithetical to the great privilege of motherhood. God thought it good for women to be the incubators of His most valuable creation. For all we hear about the patriarchy, men aren’t the ones God tasked with this unique, Godly ability. We are mothers, His appointed helpers in birthing the new life He sent His son to save and sanctify. 

We wouldn’t put a price tag on our children. Nor would we charge God for the service of mothering. All the well-meaning calculations are a distraction at best, and a disgrace at worst. Everywhere you turn these days, motherhood is denigrated as a thankless job that made our lives miserable during the pandemic. All the negativity is enough to make childless young women see a difficult journey that may not be worth starting.

This is not good for them or the future. 

The birth rate fell by 4% in 2020 and has been steadily declining for years. The reasons for the decline are varied. Some can be blamed on latent motherhood, women who hold off on childbearing until they are well-grounded into careers (and giving them time to change their minds about it.) Marriage rates have also nose-dived, which can also contribute to lower birth rates. But, women complaining incessantly about their children on social media may also be a culprit. I recently saw a young woman on a Twitter post who was having second thoughts about motherhood, considering the hardship it brought.

While the responses online were reassuring, urging her to believe that motherhood is worth all the trouble, such convincing may be for naught. After our many honest confessions about the perils of mealtime and the need to drink our way through the witching hour (binge drinking among mothers of young children increased by 300% during the pandemic), can we really expect young women to believe their time, money, and freedom are worth the sacrifice? 

I’ve been guilty of oversharing myself, but lately, I’ve chosen to share the good more than the bad. Those quiet moments as my daughter falls asleep on my shoulder or the exuberant recount my son gives me of his day when he gets off the bus. I convey the incomparable joy found in my daughter’s curiosity and the pure delight my son takes in accomplishing a new skill in his math workbook. 

To change diapers, to rock a baby with starlight streaming in the window, to wash their dishes and brush their teeth, to soothe their fears and teach them truth are the hard but good privileges of motherhood. Sacrificing money, travel and sleep do sound difficult when you don’t have a child yet to weigh the idea out. But the embodied reality of soft cheeks, finger squeezes and early morning snuggles make every struggle worth it. 

Rather than lose yourself in motherhood, you gain dimensions you never knew existed. You unearth emotions, triggered to life by the pure love you have for your children. You thought the world was colorful before, but it grows brighter: soft pink lips, sparkling blue eyes, the glow of childhood magic illuminating blades of grass, bolts of lightning, and drops of rain like you’re seeing them for the first time. 

Is motherhood hard? Yes. But it can’t be calculated as a job. It’s a stunning and honored responsibility that becomes embedded into your brain, skin, and soul. It assimilates to your psyche, literally “remodeling” your brain for a lifetime, naturally shaping you for the role assigned. 

God knew what He was doing when He blessed us with this incredible responsibility. He knew this was a mission for women and He created our hearts to bend and break and transform right on cue.

To young women swayed by the hardship they’ve witnessed in the past several years, don’t be. No career goal or mountaintop achievement will trump the pure privilege of being someone’s mother. Life only gets bigger, brighter, and better when, even when you work overtime. 

Ericka Andersen is a mother two and freelance writer in Indianapolis. She is the author of the upcoming book, Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women. She writes about faith and motherhood at Follow her on Instagram at @ericka_andersen.  

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