“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues – faith and hope.” Charles Dickens
“The Positive Mother gives birth to the Hero,” says Dr. Jordan Peterson. This is the “hope” in Dicken’s quote – hope that we can produce a heroic child. Dr. Peterson explains the faith we must have in our role as mother, and in the relationships we can build. The mother/child “relationship is the only relationship you will ever have in your life where you have a chance of creating something close to perfect. When your child is delivered to you, in some sense, they are perfect, and your job is to maintain that perfection if you can…it can easily be the best relationship you ever have in your life…it’s a real gift.”
The Modern Shame of Motherhood
In today’s culture we rarely encounter this attitude of hopeful and proud motherhood. Instead we see depictions of tired mothers, bratty children, and dysfunctional families. In the past, shows like Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show portrayed happy families with respectful children. These depictions now seem naive and erroneously idealistic. Instead modern women are discouraged from any of the self-sacrificing aspects of motherhood. Helen Gurley Brown, the Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, women’s current source of enlightenment, wrote, “Hard work and sex will set you free (as long as you don’t have children)”, and if you do have children… “Never waste time feeling guilt, never agonize too much, and have a lot of paid help at home, and never, ever, let them interfere with the long climb to the top.” Rather than the “faith and hope” of Dickens pride – modern mothers are told to be ashamed of the years wasted at home and to assume their children will become disrespectful and rebellious. But the modern interpretation of womanhood is only successful in producing unhappy women and dissatisfied mothers, as well as children unworthy of a mother’s pride*. Mothers who dismiss the hope of motherhood and faith in its purpose, and instead focus on their own sacrifice, will lose their ability to raise strong and respectful children. These women are unlikely to find pride in their calling.**
Power of Positive Motherhood
If we find we may have swallowed some of these lies about the insignificance of motherhood, how do we begin to regain our faith and hope? There is some truth in the modern-woman’s interpretation of motherhood; it is full of sacrifice and little appreciation. But what are they leaving out?
The reality of work and hardship in motherhood need not prevent us from experiencing the incomparable joy and love to be found in our role. However, we should be aware that negative emotions and experiences are more powerful in altering our perceptions than positive. The concept of “negativity bias” explains that in order to feel content and happy we need at least three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions.*** Therefore we must amplify the positive aspects of Motherhood in our minds and conversation. We must make a conscious effort to notice the highs of motherhood -a child saying “I love you”, our nervous son bravely climbing a tree, our daughter comforting a crying sibling – these every-day experiences should give us pause for gratitude. We must recognize the spiritual and emotional advantages to be found in a life of sacrifice and service, advantages oft-forgotten by the childless or self-obsessed. If our eyes are open to the rewards of motherhood, we look with pride upon our children and we will begin to see our lives in a different light.
Pride as a Mother
Women that glory in their children, and their role as mother, can be content and fulfilled. But are we communicating this joy to our children and other women? Are we perpetuating the stereotype of the unfulfilled mother because we consciously avoid discussing our pride?
Whenever I gather with fellow moms at the playground, complaining begins. I know because often I am the initiator. Why is school so early?! My son is so destructive! We discuss the hardships and anxieties of motherhood, often within earshot of our children. But what good does complaining really do?
“Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.”Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
Complaining weighs us down, it shades everything in darkness. I know for a fact that all these women at the park, myself included, get tremendous joy and meaning from our children – why don’t we discuss that? I think, perhaps, we are ambivalent in sharing our successes and happiness, fearing we may inadvertently “mom-shame” or seem arrogant. We don’t want to make others feel insecure in their own parenting, or offend those without children, so we undermine the value of our position. We relate to other mothers through our common hardships rather than our common joys. As we grumble we begin to listen to our own complaints, we begin to form a mentality of mothering which emphasizes the sacrifice while trivializing the meaning.
“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.”Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
It is not easy to successfully communicate the love we have for our children, or the fulfillment we feel when we see them progress, but we need to try. We need not boast or use our children’s successes as measurements of our own worth, but speaking positively about our children can make a big difference in our own perceptions of motherhood. Rather than complain about our daughter’s moods – we can share a cute story about her creativity. We can ask other mothers to share what they enjoy about being a mother, and make it clear that we want to glory in our fellow mothers successes.
If our children overhear us praising them rather than complaining, they will feel confident in their mother’s love and feel they are worth the sacrifice. If we begin to take pride in the unselfish title of Mother, pride in the unique opportunity placed upon women to influence the future, pride in the hope brought by our precious children, pride in our natural proclivity to love and nurture – perhaps society will begin to discover Motherhood’s righteous-pride as well.
**Feminism against Motherhood
***Power of Positive
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