By Bonnie Finnerty
In two days we will celebrate Mother’s Day. For one day, we will honor the women in our lives for their sacrifice.
Yet today motherhood seems to be easily surrendered, traded for careers, recreation, even fears about climate change. Not only are people delaying marriage and parenthood, some are choosing to forego both. Our country, like many others, is seeing record-low birthrates, raising concerns about the impact on the future workforce, economy, and care for an aging population.
But it wasn’t always so. Not so long ago, motherhood, babies, and large families were actually embraced. I was reminded of this in the last few months as I attended several funerals of women dear to me.
Reading their obituaries, hearing their eulogies, seeing fond memories displayed on picture boards, watching dozens of family members process behind caskets— all of these moved me to reflect on how much our society has changed with regard to the vocation of motherhood.
Can we reclaim it?
Can we make it great again?
Thinking of the examples of these women gives me great hope. Their beautiful lives were beautifully celebrated by the large families they left behind.
My aunt and godmother, Florence, died in February. The physical mother of eight, the spiritual mother of so many more. Smart, holy, articulate—she wrote the most amazing handwritten notes with the most perfect penmanship in birthday cards she never failed to send on time. Her sacrificial love and joy are evidenced in the warmth of her children and grandchildren.
As her obituary stated
Florence was a devoted mother and grandmother, roles that brought her much pride and joy. She was warm, loving, comforting, sassy and sarcastic, a good listener, and always there for her family. Florence…put the needs of her family before her own.
And then there was Betty, my best friend’s mom and my second mother. Steady, loyal, resilient, and also sacrificial. Betty had four kids but still found space in her heart to love me like a daughter.Her self-discipline, organizational skills, and attention to detail would have made her an asset to any corporation, but that was not where herheart was.
For a while she worked part-time, but her true calling was that of ‘homemaker’ and caregiver. Family was the center of her world to whom she dedicated her life. She was a devoted wife, who lovingly cared for her husband during his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, she devotedlycared for two sons who preceded her in death.
Shortly after Betty’s death, my sister-in-law’s mother passed away. Janet was the youngest of eleven children who had seven children with her husband of 65 years. She was a kind, gentle, humble person who also centered her life on family.
She graciously accepted the role of matriarch at an early age. She always put the needs of others ahead of her own. Although most people today dread the duties of being a homemaker, Janet was a consummate perfectionist.
Most recently my Aunt Rosie, also the youngest of eleven, passed away peacefully in her sleep at age 84. She excelled in everything she did. While having the highest grades in herclass, she was denied being named valedictorian because she was not going to college.
She took a job at a bank, married a man she had met when she was just 13, and went on to birth six boys in six years (no twins). Much of her life was devoted to nurturing her sons’ many educational and athletic achievements, while nurturing her own love of golf and knitting.
Between them, these four matriarchs nurtured a total of 25 children, 42 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren (to date)! They made marriage and family, the fundamental cell of our society, their utmost priority.
They are my role-models, my inspiration, and my heroes. Their sacrifices were many but so were their joys. They received no awards, promotions, or pay increases for their work, yet their accomplishments are far more important than any of those things.
They recognized the greatness of the vocation of motherhood, remained open to life, and now leave a beautiful fingerprint on the world in the exceptionally good people they lovingly raised.
Let’s make motherhood great again. Let’s strengthen marriage and family and thus strengthen society. Let us not be either/or but and/both and let us celebrate, marvel in, and emulate the amazing women who have gone before us and left a beautiful legacy!