How would you define “motherhood?” Everyone would probably have a very different answer to that question … and that’s what makes being a mom so special. Mother’s Day is next week, so to honor all the moms and mother figures in the world, we spoke with three moms who represent different “versions” of motherhood: 4word founder Diane Paddison, Cynthia Nwaubani, relationship manager for the Wells Fargo Regional Commercial Banking office in North Dallas, Texas, and Hallie Graves, lawyer and director the Austin chapter of Polished.
4word: What is your personal definition of "motherhood?"
Cynthia: I define motherhood as the act of giving yourself to another who is largely dependent on you for life and everyday necessities. It's the expression of unconditional love, not devoid of imperfection but constant through life's many stages: from fear to faith, from pain to laughter. For some, motherhood starts at conception, and for others it begins at adoption. Regardless of how motherhood begins and regardless of how it may be defined, one thing is constant: motherhood starts and ends with love, the kind of love that forever changes both the mother and the child.
Diane: Raising a child and doing the best I can with the gifts God has given me. My dream would be to be the mother talked about in the following verses:
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (My kids would say I take the last phrase too literally.) - Proverbs 31:26-27 ESV
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Hallie: Motherhood, to me, is loving, leading, sacrificing, and serving others, in whatever capacity to which God has called you. I know that’s probably a broader definition than most, but I can’t ignore the many “mothers” I’ve had, and the ways in which I’ve mothered others. Spiritual mothers, biological mothers, aunt mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, work mothers, church mothers. We are all mothers when we love, lead, sacrifice, and serve. We care for others and see their needs. How glorious it would be if we, especially as the Western church, embraced this more comprehensive call to motherhood as God has ordained, to all see ourselves as mothering in some capacity to the glory of God. (Colossians 3:12-17)
4word: Is becoming a mom something you felt you were called to?
Cynthia: I wouldn't necessarily say motherhood was something I was called to and certainly not something for which I was prepared. However, once I became a mother, I quickly learned a piece of my heart was staring back at me through my child's eyes. It became natural for me to love and care for my child as one will do for his or her own heart. I'm at my happiest when I'm with my children, but I also realize that to be the best mom I can be to my children, I have to pay attention to myself - my spirit, soul, and body. You can't give what you don't have and if you don't have love for yourself, it's almost impossible for you to express love to someone else, even if it's your child.
Diane: I felt called to be a mom since I was born. I never questioned that feeling. I do believe God calls some to be moms and some to be aunts, etc. My children have been so blessed to have my sister, Becky, and brother, Greig, as an aunt and uncle, respectively in their lives. God then blessed me with two step children through my second marriage with Chris.
Blended families bring challenges and opportunities. Christian, Annie, Rose, and Gus would not tell you that the union of our families has been perfect and would say even today it has warts. Do you know of any family without warts? They were 12, 9, 8 and 6 years old when Chris and I married. Today, they are 28, 25, 24, and 22. I have seen the trial of Annie’s almost three year health battle become a catalyst to really bring us close. We are promised through trials there are blessings.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:2-4 NIV
As Chris and I prepared to get married, we went to a counselor to gain some insight other blended families who had gone before us had learned. The counselor offered these insights:
- Family of origin – The kids did not decide on this union. Continue to keep traditions of your family of origin in place. Example: In our case, I had taken each of my blood children on an alone trip each year. We continued with the tradition.
- Discipline – He advised us that the biological parent should discipline their biological children.
Hallie: I haven’t felt more distinctly called to do anything like I’ve felt called to my special brand of motherhood: becoming a single foster mama. Kids in foster care have been in my life and on my heart since I was a teenager volunteering at the Austin Children’s Shelter. Since then, I’ve helped out with these kids in various ways, but I always knew I’d become a foster or adoptive mom one day. But I imagined it in a quite different context: I’d be married, with biological kids, a settled life, a house. Instead, I’m unmarried, no kids, no house, and a wonderfully chaotic life.
Even though my circumstances don’t align with what I’d envisioned, the call to foster kiddos hasn’t diminished. I’ve prayed through it, discussed it with my community, wrestled with what that will actually look like, and confronted the reality of voluntarily becoming a single mama to kids who’ve suffered trauma. But amidst all of my “Is this crazy?” and “Can I do this?” prayers, God’s answered, “Yes, this is crazy” and “No, you can’t do it, but I can.” With Him, on the path He has for me, is the best place for me, so I am excited and nervous to keep walking it.
4word: What influence did your mom have on who you are today?
Cynthia: My mom is largely responsible for setting the foundation for my faith. She taught me at a very young age the importance of relying on the teachings of Christ for life's journey. My faith influences how I parent today. With so many ideologies out there, I strive to live a life worthy of my spiritual calling so my children can witness how powerful the word of God is and how it truly can change one's life for the good. More importantly, I hope to teach my kids the act of loving people - regardless of their background, beliefs, faith or ideologies - while maintaining their identity in Christ.
Diane: My mom had a huge influence on who I am today. First, she loved God and Jesus was her Savior. Second, she was a devoted wife and mother. Third, she worked hard as the wife of a farmer with four children. I always say, the greatest gift she gave me was confidence. Any time I would consider something, she would say “Diane, you need to do this or try that . . . she always ended with . . . you can be President of the United State if you want to.” I believed her. I think that is why “self-assurance” is one of my top five strengths.
In founding an organization, there are a lot of nay sayer’s, plus, a lot of people that don’t like what you’ve decided or how you have handled something, but with God as my strength and guiding my every decision and Mom as my confidence booster, I seem to have the ability to let those things side off my back pretty easily.
Hallie: My mama is a professional mother. Seriously, she has degrees in child rearing and homemaking, and, with my dad, raised four successfully-launched children (if I do say so, myself). I can’t begin to name the things I’ve learned from my mama, but here are a few...
Family time is always fun time. Choose fun and messy over tidy and boring. Always buy name brand medicine, Coca Cola, peanut butter, and toilet paper. Jesus loves you more than you’ll ever know. Many problems can be solved over warm cookies and milk. Being kind is more important than being right. Siblings are built-in best friends. Because of my mama, I try to listen even when I think I know better. I love Jesus. I love kids. I have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world, and my siblings really are my best friends.
Honor the mom(s) in your life this coming Sunday, but also be mindful to recognize this beautiful and life-giving relationship every day. We at 4word hope all the moms out there have a wonderful Mother’s Day!
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