"Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”
—The Velveteen Rabbit
I think one of the hardest parts about being a mother is that we are real…and so are our children.
Parenting is a continual act of living in reality…even if we would much rather just live in a world where our children don’t get hurt, don’t make mistakes, and don't have to suffer.
I remember when my first four or five children were little. My oldest was no more than ten. Sometimes it felt like I was the mother duck and they were my little ducklings—if I looked behind me, they were all following…my little brood. I’m sure I thought this was real, and it was. But it was also only temporary.
As my first few children embarked on the teen and young adult years, the “real” was not so easy. When I looked behind me I didn’t always have the same view: what I saw was the older ones venturing off in different directions and I couldn’t easily herd them back. I started to lose that control that I must have believed I would always have. It hurt a little, and my fur got a little tattered, like the Rabbit in the beautiful story quoted above.
Motherhood Is Difficult But Rewarding
I love being a mother. But it certainly isn’t the easiest thing I have ever done.
This role comes with tremendous rewards, but it also comes with disappointments and hardships. There is not always the appreciation we would like. I didn’t really begin appreciating my own mother until I had children myself. And now I appreciate her more—especially our friendship. I know that my own journey as a mother is also a process. In that process, my fur will become worn and my hinges a little rusty, and I will be very real. But that real is worth any hardships that I have to endure. And the joys of parenting will outweigh them!
When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time in October 2010, my mom was there. She and I had driven first to pick up my son Charlie at college so that he could come, too. He cheered me on at mile ten, fifteen, and twenty-six. Sitting with both of them at lunch afterward, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. As a mother, I will always treasure sharing that day with my son and my mom!
Training for a marathon is hard work, but the job of motherhood takes a lot more stamina. In fact, I sometimes fear that I will simply run out of energy in the mothering journey. (We have nine children, ranging in ages from ten to thirty!)
But I don’t worry too long about this…I don’t have time! And God is tremendously gracious in our vocations. He gives us what we need when we need it, even if we don't always recognize it.
Jesus Gave Us His Mother to be Our Blessed Mother
From the cross, Jesus gave us the gift of His own mother. To His beloved disciple John He said "Behold your mother." And to Mary He said "Behold your son."
These words of Jesus should bring us consolation because Our Blessed Mother always points us to the loving embrace of her Son. And in her own sorrows, Mary showed us all how to suffer with Him. For this reason, I turn to Mary often in those particular burdens of motherhood. Saint Mother Teresa said to turn to her often:
"If you ever feel distressed during your day — call upon our Lady — just say this simple prayer: 'Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.' I must admit — this prayer has never failed me."
—St. Teresa of Calcutta
I am so very grateful on this Mother’s Day weekend for my faith. It is true that the vocation of motherhood comes with many graces, and I rely constantly on this for strength. Part of becoming a little worn and tattered in motherhood is that we are forced to rely more on God and less on ourselves. To me, this is a relief. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, I know there is a price for being “real,” but I will gladly pay that price. I am tattered and well-worn—yet it is the wonderful realness of motherhood that makes me a very happy mother indeed!