My oldest just turned 14, so we are now in the realms of being parents to teenagers – which brings a whole other level of complexity to the household. Being a mother today is very complicated. There are a wide range of expectations – both self-imposed and those imposed by others. There always seems to be a lot of judgement passed, and some very wide views held, as to what is “best” or “right”. Some of the most necessary traits needed for mothering are some of the hardest for many people. One such trait is patience. Mothers always talk about the “juggle” – juggling the children’s needs with your own needs, as well as your spousal relationship – which does, at times, seem like an impossible task.
Growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand, and now as a working mother, I don’t think our culture values motherhood. We now live in a society in which, for a lot of families, both parents work because of financial pressures. The expectations on us to provide is immense and suffocating at times. Since I became a mum, there has been a marked increase in the paid parental leave on offer, which is a blessing for many. Some workplaces are getting more flexible, but that is variable. I had a friend tell me how her work has a big meeting at 8.45am twice a week, and she has been criticised for not attending, even though she has communicated multiple times that she will attend when it is moved back to after 9am to allow mothers to drop their kids at school!
When the kids are little, there is joy in the smiles and laughs, the milestones such as crawling, walking and talking – and talking! As they get older, the joys change to seeing them become more independent, noticing when they do a chore willingly, or even better, unprompted. Joy comes when you see them being kind or gentle or thoughtful or prayerful. As the kids have become older, I feel joy when I see windows in to the future that help me to be reassured they will be OK. On only the second day on the school bus to intermediate, the bus broke down and our second child had to walk to school.
As a Catholic mother, I look to Mary to help guide me. I grew up with a mother who was a huge advocate of the rosary, and for me this has always been the cornerstone of my prayer life. It is such a deeply profound prayer, and allows reflective meditation on the mysteries of our faith any time and anywhere. We recently had a lovely family weekend away with Catholic families, and did a large group rosary outside, with the kids leading. It was a deeply moving experience. I do reflect on how different our lives as mothers are today, compared with what Mary would have experienced in so many ways. However, she knew deeply about following the will of our Lord, what that sacrifice truly means, and the grief and loss of losing a child.
Nowadays, we are bombarded with secular images and notions that are very opposed to our faith, and it is so hard to keep focused on the truth of the sanctity of life and the tenets of our faith. Questioning faith is an important part of growing up, and us as parents responding to these questions in a loving and faithful way is vital. I see questioning from the kids as opening the door to discussions and learning and growth in faith. As parents, and as a mother, we are our child’s first educators, and this is so important in the faith. Living and witnessing to the faith is key to helping growing our kids into saints!
Luke 1:26-28; “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’”
(Helen Luxford is a physician, working part-time and living in Auckland. With her husband Michael, they are raising their children in the Catholic Faith, and are reflecting on the challenges and joys that brings. Helen writes a regular Family Matters column in NZ Catholic)