What Is It About Mothers?

Ruth Sanford // Genius of the Call


March 14  

My daughter Becca, obviously pregnant with her fourth child, got on the escalator while hurrying home to be with her kiddos. A voice calling her name from across the lobby suddenly startled her. A former co-worker had seen her and yelled, “Hey, Becca! Didn’t you know they have something to prevent that from happening now!” I’m sure we could all write a notebook of stories like this one.

Disparaging opinions about our pregnancy can come from friends, parents of our children’s classmates, parish members, or even (often!) perfect strangers. What is it about mothers that calls forth unsolicited negative remarks and strongly held opinions by so many?

Although Mighty Is Her Call tries to support open-to-life mothers, we are also sensitive to those who may be open to life, but for one reason or another have not been able to conceive a child. I thought about this earlier this week when a close friend told me about her experiences. Kathy had three sons—each one seven years after the last one. Six years after her first son was born, an older man from their church came up after the service and asked, “Why have you decided not to have any more children? Don’t you believe that children are a blessing from God?” Angry and mortified, my friend replied near tears, that she would certainly welcome more children, but that the Lord had not seen fit to give her and her husband that blessing. She suggested the man go and discuss it with her husband if he had any other questions.

A more common scenario is when a relative asks (even at the wedding) if a newlywed is planning on waiting to have children, or if they’re planning on having children at all, or which type of birth control they plan to use. Often a mother or mother-in-law asks if a young bride is pregnant yet, or how long she plans to wait.  

As I thought about these types of situations, I realized that for some reason, many (most?) of us feel like we have carte blanche to offer our opinions to anyone who will listen when it has to do with having or not having children. This can even take the form (as it has many times to a friend) of asking someone who has been long without children why she and her husband don’t adopt.(!)

We can’t do much about others, but we can surely guard our own speech. I’m certainly not immune to experiencing difficulties with my own speech. When I sense those temptations, I try to remember to turn to Romans 12: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Your reflection speaks to so many experiences I had with infertility. Crude, very crude comments about what was wrong, “whose fault is it?” Even in a women’s faith group someone talking about their friend with infertility, saying, “I wish she would just adopt, and not do treatments to get pregnant!” Like adopting was no big deal…if she only knew how hard that journey really is. She who had 5 children of her own, could never imagine the struggle of infertility. I often shared with others that adoption is a cure for parenthood, but not a cure for infertility. As a woman, there is always a desire to have a biological child and all that entails. I am so very grateful to the women who gave birth and made that sacrifice to make me a mother!

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflection. God Bless!

  • I relate to this so much!! Being on the receiving end of so many of those comments of why we do t have more children has made me so much more aware of my speech. I love the idea of bringing scripture into it.

  • At 44, I just gave birth to our 10th child (with another son in heaven). I have heard every imaginable ugly comment. I recall that as a young mom, they often upset, embarrassed or shamed me. My husband and I could provide for all our children financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet I still was made to feel like I was doing something wrong as we tried to live our faith and marriage vows in the way we felt called to.

    Now as an older mom, I don’t feel that way anymore. These disparaging comments still come, but I have the advantage of the wisdom that has come with 23 years of parenting a large family. I get to hold a newborn at my son’s wedding. I am watching my older children start their lives and families, while still coming home each weekend to play with their little sisters. I see how much love my kids have for each other, the generosity that has grown in them from having to share (all the time), the care and consideration they possess for the poor and weak that has come from loving littler siblings. I see that our family has shaped some pretty incredible adults. Yes, it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we have had our share of heartache and things not quite turning out as we planned. But I’d never trade it.

    So when the comments come, I smile and feel blessed. If you are raising little ones right now and you feel overwhelmed, burdened and judged (whether you have one child or many), just pat yourself on the back, Momma, and know that what you are doing every day matters more than you can possibly know. Joy is coming, even in the chaos!

    • This is a beautiful reflection Carolyn! I can relate to so much. I’m 44 and pregnant with our 4th. With age comes wisdom and I feel proud that we are able to live our faith and not worry about what others have to say. Thanks for sharing 💜. I definitely agree that you can find joy in the chaos…and it is beautiful.

    • Thank you for sharing this Carolyn! There is such joy in seeing our families grow, and having distance from the years where we felt so vulnerable to people’s negative comments and perceptions. YOU are why Mighty Is Her Call exists! So we can see mother’s of all ages come together and be reminded that it’s worth it, that God multiplies our offering and that he is never outdone in generosity.

      I too was on the receiving end of so many negative comments but now with two adult children, two grandchildren and six still at home I revel in the joy they bring and the goodness of God to give me the strength to carry on. Young mama’s it DOES get easier and you ARE doing God’s work! THANK YOU for saying yes to this Christ-like vocation.

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