This week as I am blessing my own children day and night, I have been asked to reflect on a new book being published by FaithWords, Hachette Press, called The Mother God Made Me To Be, by Karen Valentin, a writer of for Daily Guideposts and a single mother of two young boys. She and I are at opposite ends of the mothering spectrum; she writes about the beginnings and endings of a marriage, and her call to be the single working mother of young children, responsible for supporting them. I am a retired grandmother in a long marriage, whose days of balancing mothering and vocation are completed. Yet, there are many overlaps in the ways we love and care for our children.
In her book made up of vignettes of her story, Valentin captures both the extreme delight of mothering children, each one a unique miracle, and the overwhelming and unremitting sense of responsibility for their welfare-physical, emotional and spiritual. She is candid about her fatigue and disappointment that is exacerbated by having to raise her boys alone, and having to face the reality of living a life that is not the one of which she dreamed. What she finds through her spiritual journey, supported by family, friends and church, is the Presence of the God who continues to work in and through her, even in her times of most conflicted decisions; she encounters the Spirit in worship, in ministry, in sustenance, in surprise and quiet moments.
Almost every mother I know struggles at some time or in some situation with their “mothering,” whether their children are tiny, as they were in the middle sections of the Valentin’s book, or older in school, or teenagers, or adults with children of their own. The cultures we in habit in 21st C. North America do not support us well. In this present day mothers of young children are caught in culture wars in which almost every act of nurture is a cause for polarization–breastfeeding, working inside or out of the home, schooling–public, private or home, vaccinations, feeding, sleeping. There seem to be a limitless number of judges and critics who have an opinion on what a mother should do. Karen Valentin in not immune from those pressures, living in New York City, raising two boys on her own. Yet she continues to seek and to find both solace for the sadness and energy for the tasks in front of her, as she listens to the Spirit leading her, even letting her dare to become self-employed and entrepreneurial in her calling to be the kind of mother God wants her to be.
For every mother who is feels challenged by that calling, this book will be an encouragement to keep faith, to seek support and to recognize that we are not alone. The community of faithful, seeking mothers is wide and deep, and Karen Valentin has given voice to many of us in telling her story.
Personal photo from Museum Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico.