We live in a time when we as women can do and be anything we want to be. There is no limit to what we can accomplish, and for this I am truly grateful. But these seemingly limitless opportunities can often cause confusion, and even stress, for many us as we try to define what makes a successful mother in a culture where motherhood is just one of many options.
This Mother’s Day, millions of moms around the world are doing the best they can for their children. For some, that means getting up early and working long hours. For others, it means walking miles to get clean water and then spending all day cooking over a fire. Some moms are staying home and changing diapers while others are defending cases in the courtroom. Each of these women have days that look different from each other, but the unifying piece is that every mom is working hard to give her kids the very best.
Mothers around the world are the backbone and driving force for our families. Mothers carry the joys, the burdens and the pains of our families. We hold a great responsibility for the successful functioning of the household each day and are the cornerstones of the family. In America today, however, this foundation is beginning to crumble as our society puts less and less value on the hard work of being a mother. Moms often feel insignificant, unsupported and judged for their role in the family.
The mom-shaming culture is happening on both sides of the aisle. Working moms with high-paying jobs often look down on mothers who are staying home. On the flip side, those same stay-at-home moms judge working moms for not spending enough time with their children. I have been on the receiving end of both kinds of hurtful comments.
When I was a new mother, I was criticized for not working more. Now that I am doing more in my career, I am frequently told that I need to stay home with my children. Mothers are often made to feel that no choice they make is the right one, and the guilt takes a toll on all of us. Sometimes, the pressure can be almost crippling. It is impossible to live up to. How do I care best for my family at the same time that I am remaining true to what God has called me to do out in the world?
In my current season as a mom, I am juggling raising my two children while working for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but my dreams and career aspirations don’t stop there.
Michele Bachmann, a woman I greatly admire, once told me something that I will never forget. She said, “Women can have it all—we just can’t have it all at the same time.” At the time of our conversation, I was considering running for a Florida state political office. Politics have always been a passion of mine, and it seemed like this dream could finally become a reality. I was struggling with how I could balance running a campaign while being there for my children at a critical time in their young lives. Wrestling with this decision, I was struck by her statement.
Just because women can do anything, doesn’t mean we have to do everything to be successful.
Michelle’s words left a deep impression on my heart because it came from a woman who seemingly has done it all—wife, sister, daughter, lawyer, U.S. Congressional Representative, mom to five, foster parent to 23, beauty pageant queen and a 2012 presidential candidate. I realized that every decision requires sacrifice. In the end, I chose to put that dream on hold and wait patiently while trusting the Lord’s timing.
Universally, we moms want what’s best for our children. I’ve seen this across the U.S., but I’ve also witnessed it in remote villages in Asia and Africa. Even though “best” may look different in different contexts, the fierce love of a mom unifies us all. We just want what’s best for our kids.
Whether you are a working mom, a stay-at-home mom or, like me, fall somewhere in between, this choice doesn’t define your success. I am tired of society saying that women are only successful if they are doctors, lawyers, engineers or some other fast-paced career. While I am proud of these mom’s achievements, I know that sometimes success as a mother is not so glamorous. Sometimes it means sacrificing your own career aspirations.
The sacrificial love of a mother is the closest I have come to understand the ultimate sacrifice that God made when he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. We will never grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us. He created us each uniquely in His image. It’s the greatest love story our human hearts can fathom. The sacrifice I have made as a mother, and the joy I have in making it, has given me a small glimpse of how much I am loved by God.
This Mother’s Day I challenge you to forget society’s definition of success. As a society, let’s make sure that we never diminish the value of staying at home or lay guilt on a woman who is working outside of the home. Let’s link arms together, cheer each other on and fight for our families. Let’s remember that all mothers have made sacrifices, and everyone deserves to be celebrated—not for breaking glass ceilings but for their commitment to raise their families in the best ways they know how.