It is a miraculous gift from God to be able to bring a child into this world, one that I thank Him for every single day. I never thought I was capable of this type of overwhelming love until I met my little Samuel James on the day he was born. I would move mountains for that kid…but make no mistake, having a child is frieking hard.
Before we had kids, our life was our own. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted without thinking too much about it. Now, our son rules our life: when he needs to eat, when he needs to sleep, etc…and we just have one!
As a mother who is home every day with my child, life can somehow feel monotonous, joyous, exhausting, and exciting all at the same time. When Samuel smiles up at me with his sweet little face, buries his head in my chest for a drive-by hug, or triumphantly says a new word, my heart bursts with pure love and adoration for him. When Samuel is purposefully not listening, or sneakily heading to turn on the dishwasher for the thousandth time, or slyly opening a drawer and running away with the can opener, I want to run screaming from the house! Motherhood is a wild ride and it is easy to feel some days that my identity and vocation (and my mind) have been “lost” to the throes of motherhood.
But of course, our Church is wise and sees and acknowledges the struggle of motherhood. St. John Chrysostom states, “I mean, the children being born, provided they receive proper care and are brought up to virtue by your attention, prove a basis and occasion of complete salvation for you; and in addition to your own virtuous acts you will receive a great reward for your care of them” (Homily on Hannah, Old Testament Homilies by Robert Hill). How encouraging this is to hear, especially on those harder days!
Motherhood (and parenthood) is a continual act of denying oneself. Yet through this act, we are somehow rejuvenated. Every time that I’m feeling torn between cleaning, folding the laundry, or working, but instead I sit down on the floor to play with Sam, it is a form of prayer for me in that moment. I usually find that when I surrender to motherhood, my new vocation, I feel much more peaceful. Just as we surrender our lives to the Lord, the most important part of motherhood is to be present and “lean in” even when it feels hard or overwhelming.
“Chrysostom saw motherhood as a salvific opportunity, as a vocation that can lead to the heavenly reward” (The Power of a Mother’s Prayer, Carrie Frederick Frost). I haven’t lost myself because I am no longer in “charge” of my every day life, I have received an unbelievable opportunity to draw closer to Christ in surrendering to motherhood every single day.
Maria McMullen is the Media Coordinator for the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
This article was first written for CrossRoad’s 2020 edition of Alumni Magazine: Down the Road.