The entire class sank in dreadful anticipation of being told their work was not satisfactory. I lingered for a moment and then continued. “Actually the quality of the interviews is very good. I just don’t believe most of the answers you were given. I believe you were told what your interviewee thought you wanted to hear.”
The assignment had been straightforward. Every student was asked to conduct an open-ended interview of a mother. “Any mother will do,” I told them. “Whether she is 18 or 88, has one child or 15, is married, divorced or single — just pick a mother and ask her one question: ‘What does being a mother mean to you?’”
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Such glowing expressions of joy, love, excitement, happiness, and fulfillment. “Can’t be true,” I repeated to myself again and again after reading each interview. Not that I questioned that many, even most mothers feel positive feelings toward their children, this glowing picture of motherhood that was being portrayed interview after interview seemed increasingly unrealistic.
I wanted realness, not idealism. Picking up the final interview to read and grade, I assumed that it, too, would be like all the rest, another syrupy sweet account of motherhood. I was wrong. Here was a mother with the courage to be honest, not only concerning the joys of motherhood, but also the pain. Carefully read these honest and wise words from this mother of three adult children.
“Being a mother is an exciting but frightening experience. It is an unmeasurable amount of love and blessings sent from God. Motherhood is a time of joy and sorrow, pride and disappointment. It is enduring the unendurable and loving when others see the unlovable. A mother’s love is a quivering smile as your child steps into a new era—baby to toddler, toddler to child, child to teen and teen to adult. It is knowing all the mistakes but not always being able to protect, stop or advise about them. Motherhood is being available at all times to soothe coughs, check homework, share tears and laughter. Mothers open the doors but don’t push children through them. Mothers provide the canvas, paint, and brushes but let the children paint their own picture. As a mother you are so excited when your baby can do each new thing: sit-up, crawl, walk, talk. It lets you know that they are developing normally. It is also a frightening time because with each new milestone they are coming close to independence and things that will bring pain to them in one form or another. Each new stage of their life is filled with wonder, but each new stage also brings with it dangers that cannot be prevented. ... I always let them know that I love them no matter what they may or may not do. We discuss why I am disappointed and actions that can be taken so that disappointment will not occur again. Sometimes I have to realize that my expectations are too high, and that I owe them an apology for expecting more than I should have from them. My children know that they can discuss anything with me openly. I want them to know that I am and always will be there for them. I do not believe my role as mother will ever change. My job description has changed through the years and will continue to change. I will always be their mother.”
I read this mother’s response to the class. Some in the class were already mothers. Tears filled their eyes as they began to talk openly not only of the joys but of the sorrows of being a mother. “It is,” one mother confessed, “the hardest and most wonderful work in the world.” I agreed. Mothers who are honest enough to admit all the complexities of being a good mother have lucky children, since they will always have an insightful, honest, wise mother for guidance and inspiration.