Friday, July 8, 2011

When Nurturing Doesn't Come Naturally

This post is a rewrite of an essay I posted earlier entitled "My Job Description."  I submitted it to the Power of Moms and they thought it didn't appeal to a broad enough audience and encouraged me to rewrite it.  Well, through much blood, sweat, and tears, (and a little help from my husband), this was the result.  I thought I would publish it here.  It will appear on the Power of Moms website next month.  

When Nurturing Doesn’t Come Naturally

I was a lawyer once.  

Now I am a full time wife and mother.  I never thought my life would turn out this way. To be honest, I never knew if “mothering” was in me.  Even now, I’m still trying to figure out how to do it well.  Why?  Because I am not, by nature, a nurturer.  Or maybe I am, but my "instincts" have abandoned me somewhere along the way.  It just doesn't come naturally to me.  I am much too task oriented.  I like to do things, to accomplish things. Check things off a list.  

Growing up I never thought much about motherhood.  I mean, I always assumed
I would be a mother, but I never dreamt about it.  I never played with dolls or babies and I didn’t even like Barbies all that much.  I never even liked to babysit!  But I always had other ambitions. I loved school, wanted to be a lawyer, and eventually get involved in politics and maybe even run for office.  Something important!  And my parents always told me that I was really good at arguing, so I might as well become an attorney and get paid to do it.  Why did I have to be a mother anyway?

Now I knew that there was nothing wrong with ambition.  And I knew that there was no reason why I couldn’t be involved in politics, or run for office, or have a career when the time was right.  

But I needed a reason to be a mother.  

Fortunately, God must have known that, because he gave me one.  Shortly after I graduated from law school, and I had already married, I happened to be listening to a program on TV.  I cannot remember who was speaking, but he said something I will never forget: women are meant to be mothers because they have special abilities, given to them by God, that are unique to them, that enable them to nurture and care for their children.

Oh. Whoops.  

Well, that hit me between the eyes.  

I had seen, even known of women who seemed to have those abilities; women who were sensitive, warm, empathetic and caring.  Women who loved being mothers.  In fact, I have a sister-in-law who loves nothing more than to sit and hold babies.  I never loved to sit and hold babies.  I have never even loved to sit!  Could I become one of those mothers?  Did I have some of those special abilities somewhere inside of me?  At that moment, on that afternoon, my faith led me to believe that it might be true.  

And so despite my perceived nurturing weakness, from that moment on I became a dedicated mother - to no one.  Our first child, in fact, didn't come to us for another four years.  But I knew then that whenever they came, I would be their mother.  And any career choices or ambitions I had at that moment would have to wait.  

I realize that not everyone comes to that same conclusion.  I realize that not everyone can. And I know that those mothers who choose paths different from mine are good mothers too.
But just because I know that I am doing what I am meant to be doing at this time in my life, doesn’t mean it has been easy.  My nurturing instincts did not just “kick in” because I brought babies home.  I confess that most of my mothering career has been spent doing what has come naturally to me, being busy and doing tasks such as: cleaning, shopping, cooking, sewing, scrapbooking, carpooling, etc.  All good things to be sure. But, over the years I have come to realize that children need more than that.

They need warmth.

They need love.

They need me.

And God has helped me become more like the mother he intends for me to be.  Every effort I have made, he has met me half-way.  I have realized that good mothering, like everything else, has required a lot of practice and effort.  The more I practice, the better I get.  The more I slow down and enjoy the moments, the more moments there are to enjoy.  The more I work at being empathetic towards my children, the more empathy I feel.  The more I focus on my children, the more I enjoy being their mother.  

And do you know what I discovered?

I never knew I could feel that way.  I never knew I could be that kind of mother.  It still takes work, and a near constant alignment of my priorities everyday.  Even now, I still have to consciously let go of all the things that come naturally to me, and focus on nurturing my children.  But I am getting better.  And you know what else?  It’s important.         

Question:  Does nurturing come easily to you?

Challenge: Find one way that you can better nurture your children today!  


  1. Great article. I think we are very much alike in alot of ways. I am better at accomplishing tasks and marking them off then being nurturing.

  2. I know, bummer huh! I just realized that you probably have never received any of the "replies" I have sent to you from my e-mail account! Because your comment comes from a no-reply! Sorry. I will make sure to comment directly from my blog.

  3. I really loved this article!! I feel the same way A LOT! I struggle with the mind numbing-ness of being a mom. I don't like routines or mundane work and since my husband hasn't provided me with a fully staffed house, (ha ha!) I have to do a lot of things that I quite dislike. I love my child more than anything, but being a stay-at-home mom is far harder for me than the 65 hour work weeks I was doing. I had the same epiphany as you when Carter was one. I was offered a pretty darn good and high paying job and they were only going to require me in the office one day a week. I actually signed the contract and then as I went home and thought about it, I realized that I could always make money. I'd proven to myself how the corporate world would reward me, but I couldn't always raise my child. Time wouldn't stand still. He would grow and I would only partially be checked in during the week. I didn't want that for him. Since we went through years of infertility, I also didn't know if I would ever get the chance to be a mom again. But, I knew I would always have the opportunity to earn money. Since it was a choice for me, (as opposed to a necessity) I made the choice to stay home. It's still hard, but not a choice I regret in the least. BTW thanks for the menu!! Can't wait to try it. -Mikell

  4. Mikell,

    Thanks for your comments! You really made a bigger decision than I did, because I had a job that I didn't love. It made it that much easier. Your's was definately more of a sacrifice. And it is way hard to be a stay at home mom to one. You are his playmate! You are awesome, keep it up!

  5. Funny-- I "ran" into a comment you posted on Power of Moms - and found your blog. Interesting article - I never left a career but have struggled with similar feelings about nurturing and motherhood...I never liked babysitting either :) Good to see you again!

  6. Oh wow! This is what I needed to read today ... How did I find you? I often say I needed to be a SAHM because I needed to learn things I couldn't learn any other way ... I say as I'm sitting at my computer reading blogs (gheesh!)

    I'm going to get off now and come back another time and look around -- thx!