Throughout childhood, I frequently heard that motherhood was a very important job, and I still believe it’s true. However, it’s kind of like the phrase “Jesus loves me.” Though profound at its core, the idea can begin to sound trite for those who have been hearing it for decades. Unless you develop a deeper understanding of the truth, it can be difficult to fully embrace it for yourself.
I also often heard that “motherhood is the most important job in the world.” But as I approached my own mothering years, I began to question this. How was this statement fair to women who weren’t married, or those who wished to be mothers and couldn’t? Were their lives any less significant? I didn’t think so. I began to believe (and still believe) that God has a special calling for each one of us, and whatever His purpose is for us is the most significant thing we could do.
Yet as I became a mother myself, seeing my job as equally important to others’ made me feel less like I was fulfilling a calling and more like I was just part of the herd, none of us being more special than another. Through the trials and failures of homemaking and motherhood, I began to wonder whether this even was my calling when I seemed so bad at it at times. I often wished to have a greater influence on the world than “just being a mom.” Was this job of mothering really so important that everything else ought to go out the window?
In a word, no. Being a mother, even a homeschooling mother, doesn’t preclude us from all other occupations. But at the same time, it’s crucial that we not lose sight of how truly life-changing our job of mothering is. As much as I may question it sometimes, raising my children is a far more important occupation than any outside work or volunteering I do.
Think of someone who had a great impact on the world, such as Abraham Lincoln or Billy Graham. What did these great men have to say about the influences in their lives? Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Billy Graham had a similar opinion. “Of all the people I have ever known,” he said, speaking about his mother, “she had the greatest influence on me.” How often do we see famous men and women—those who have achieved great earthly success—get all teary-eyed when they talk about their mothers? Motherhood seems one of the lowliest of jobs, yet many attest to its amazing power.
How can that be? I think a mother’s influence boils down to two things. First: time. A mother spends nine months with her child before birth, and if breastfeeding, hours upon hours of connection with her child. Though the child won’t remember it, that bond is formed nonetheless. This trend usually stays the same throughout childhood. Though more households today are adopting the stay-at-home dad model, it is still far more common for the mother to stay at home, and in general for moms to spend more time with the children than their father does.
Of course, a father’s leadership, as well as his attention and affection, is extremely important. But when a mother is the one chiefly spending time with the children, it is she who is reinforcing parenting lessons, showing the children how the principles apply in everyday life, and giving them an example to watch and follow all day long. Another quote from Billy Graham says it well: “The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness and industry.”
The second ingredient is obvious, but we often underestimate its power: love. There is a reason 1 Corinthians 13 calls it the greatest of all qualities. All the time and energy in the world put into child-rearing would mean nothing without love. Children who don’t receive consistent love can begin to believe that they mean nothing. This is one reason foster parenting and adoption are so important. Children who don’t have a mother (or father) to love on them—make them feel secure and special—are bound to struggle much more than those who have the consistent, affirming love of their parents.
I think mothers have a unique kind of love. Children often seek the approval of their fathers, but see their mother’s love as more unconditional. (We hope that they are both unconditional, of course, but I guess kids feel more of a duty to make their dads proud.) It is that kind of love that is often mentioned in those teary speeches: “My mom was always there for me. . . . She always believed in me. . . . She was my rock.” Those of us who are blessed with awesome mothers (like mine!) know that no matter what, we can always count on Mom to make us feel loved and special. We all know how we need someone to make us feel special, but we often fail to see how much of an impact we have on the giving end. It is often such a given in our minds—and theirs—that we don’t realize how life-giving our love is.
But every so often, I get little glimpses of it. Recently my 5-year-old son, after a scolding, asked, “Mommy, do you love me?” He needed that affirmation of my love (which I readily gave). One time my 10-year-old daughter was worried about something and asked me for a hug because “I just feel better about it when you give me a hug.” And my 11-year-old, who has never been the affectionate type toward me, will write in her Mother’s Day and birthday cards that I am “the best mom ever.” I am worlds away from being the best mom ever, but by God’s grace I must have managed to pour enough time and love into her life that she thinks I’m the best ever. That’s pretty amazing.
So moms, don’t ever forget how important you are. It may seem like everyone else is out doing the “more significant” stuff, but as C. S. Lewis wrote to one housewife, “Your job is the one for which all others exist.” And though they may not show it sometimes, you absolutely mean the world to your kiddos. I still don’t like to say that motherhood is the most important job, as if it’s a competition. But I know that if I, as a mother, fail to properly love and raise my children, I have failed at my most important job. That’s a rather sobering thought. We moms have an extremely great influence in the lives of our children. Let’s remember to use that influence wisely!
 More complete quote: “I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? […] We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.” http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2016/01/23/ccslq-19-homemakerultimate-career/
Photo Credit: Jessica Cole.