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Choosing Motherhood

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One of my not-so-favorite pastimes is standing in grocery-store checkout lines. While my frequent “dates” with the cashier and bag boy are most likely due to poor planning on my part, I’d like to believe having three young kids in tow contributes to my perpetual forgetfulness. Somehow I always manage to return home without the very item my refrigerator’s lacking.

On one such trip, my eyes wandered to the magazine headlines as I stood in line. I quickly noticed a trend: Hollywood and motherhood. One cover in particular summed up the sentiments of all the headlines in a simple yet thought-provoking phrase: “Motherhood now the hottest role in Hollywood.” It was as if motherhood was some new, exciting role actresses were flocking to fill as never before.

But the truth is, celebrity mothers aren’t new news. For decades women in Hollywood have been giving birth to babies. Vivian Leigh. Lucille Ball. Audrey Hepburn. Doris Day. Mary Tyler Moore. Goldie Hawn. Reese Witherspoon. All mothers. Yet, it appears that in the last several years, celebrity motherhood has recaptured the attention of our culture’s gatekeepers—the editors, producers and commentators—in a way it hasn’t since the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s first persuaded women that motherhood wasn’t all their mothers and grandmothers told them it was.

Some celebrity moms have even put their careers on hold to care for their children. When expecting her son Moses Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow told the press, “With another baby on its way, I don’t think I will be doing a lot for the next year or so, either. Having Apple has changed everything for me. It’s changed the way I see the world—I feel like it’s changed my DNA.”

Funny thing is, being a mom isn’t a financially rewarding career choice. There’s no 401(k), no Christmas bonuses, and no pay raises—although it does guarantee that at least half of our wardrobes will end up covered in either regurgitated bananas or peanut butter marks the size of small fingerprints. Motherhood doesn’t result in public accolades, other than those once-a-year Hallmark commercials, and there are no Academy Awards given for the “Greatest Number of Diaper Changes in a Given Day” or “Best Performance in the Category of Sleep-Deprivation.” It’s far from glamorous. Showers aren’t guaranteed. Trips to the hair salon are few and far between. Pedicures are a foreign word. Plain and simple: Motherhood is hard work. But despite this, even women who have it all desire to gain the title “Mommy.”

Realistically, for many Hollywood starlets, choosing motherhood isn’t all that sacrificial. There are nannies for the babies, housekeepers for the home, and personal trainers for the unsightly tummy bulge. Most celebrity moms won’t be attempting to balance husband, baby, laundry, meals, housework, and career. Because of their financial means, they have the ability to “have it all”—fame, a successful career, and motherhood.

But for many of us who bear the name “Mommy” and don’t have the financial means of Hollywood’s “A-list,” choosing motherhood means sacrifice. It means sleep deprivation, little or no privacy even in the bathroom, and, ultimately, dying to oneself daily. For those who don’t have to work outside the home for their family to survive financially, it also means making tough decisions. Will I pursue my career? Or will I choose to stay at home and invest my time and energy in my children?

In her book, Get to Work … And Get a Life Before It’s Too Late, author Linda Hirschman discusses why women who’ve earned college degrees are choosing to stay home with their kids and give up their careers. Ultimately, she attacks the decision of women who’ve opted to trade in suits, brief cases, and laptops for yoga pants, diaper bags, and bottles. In an interview with Good Morning America, she said, “I think it’s a mistake for these highly educated and capable women to make that choice [to stay home]. I am saying an educated, competent adult’s place is in the office.”

It seems that many, including Hirschman, have failed to realize that motherhood isn’t about adding a child to our already full lifestyles and expecting nothing to change. Children aren’t simply another accessory we add with the intention of making ourselves feel good. Motherhood is about more than what’s best for us as mothers.

Perhaps what society is witnessing in this migration of women from the workplace to the home is this: Well-known and educated women are discovering what many women have known for centuries—motherhood offers an indescribable fulfillment that can’t be found elsewhere. Something in those who’ve pursued education and careers alone to find satisfaction has whispered, “There has to be more.” And, whether they realize it or not, they’ve found that the desire for children isn’t merely a response to a ticking biological clock. Rather, having children feeds a deep God-given longing to support, nurture, and bring about life.

I never imagined myself choosing motherhood right out of graduate school. For me, getting married and raising kids was something I’d do later—after a successful career in television producing. But all of that changed when I met my husband while still in grad school. We were married within a year of meeting and I was pregnant before our first anniversary.

Just three days before being handed my master’s degree, I gave birth to my oldest daughter. While part of me saw it as the death of a long-held dream, I made the tough decision to become a stay-at-home mom. While not every mom is called to follow my example—in fact, God may indeed be calling them to work outside the home—for me, it was the right choice.

When it comes right down to it, I don’t believe the interest the media is taking in Hollywood mothers, or the growing number of educated women leaving their full-time careers to stay at home, is simply a fading trend. Instead, it communicates loudly that motherhood is a worthy calling to pursue. It reminds me that lasting fulfillment isn’t found in producing television shows that will someday be obscure or irrelevant, in gold statues cluttering up a shelf, or in the public accolades of others. It’s not found in corner offices, business trips or high-power positions. Rather, it’s in the unconditional love expressed in an infant’s smile. It’s in the sweet utterance of the name “Mommy.” It’s in a joy that can be found in denying oneself to embrace the gift and the calling of motherhood.

Ashleigh Slater is the editor of Ungrind. As a wife and stay-at-home mom, she enjoys moonlighting as a freelance writer, proofreader, and editor. Her writing has appeared in print and online in publications including Marriage Partnership, Thriving Family, MOMSense, Brio, Brio & Beyond, Guideposts’ Angels on Earth, Focus on the Family Magazine, Radiant, Campus Life’s Ignite Your Faith, Focus on Your Child, Clubhouse, Jr., Small Group Exchange, and Sunday/Monday Woman. She spent five years as a media critic for LinC (Living in Christ): Youth Connecting Faith and Culture and two years writing music reviews and artist bios for All Music Guide. She graduated from Regent University with a M.A. in Communication. She currently lives in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri with her husband Ted and four daughters.

Ashleigh Slater is the author of the books Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard and Team Us: The Unifying Power of Grace, Commitment, and Cooperation in Marriage. With over twenty years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication, she loves to combine the power of a good story with practical application to encourage and inspire readers. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband, Ted, and four daughters.

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Choosing Motherhood

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 5 min