“I can imagine no greater heroism than motherhood.”
-Musings of the Historian
Let me take a moment and give a further interpretation of that. I think I’d like to do that by giving three things that all heroes have in common, and how mothers exceed them in every possible way.
#1: Heroes answer the call…
The princess has been kidnapped, the world is in danger, or the machines have rebelled and everyone is counting on you. Every hero gets this call at some point and they step up, leaving all else behind to go out on this great quest that will restore harmony to the natural order if they can win the day.
The call for mothers is never-ending, often trivial, and comes in a variety of high pitches that scratch on the nerves. The world isn’t in danger, but diapers are full, knees are scraped, and homework assignments are suddenly remembered. These calls don’t come once, they come every day. This avalanche of small troubles, enough to bury anyone, must be answered. For while world safety might not be at stake, the world’s future certainly is.
…mothers answer every call
#2: Heroes have what it takes…
Intelligence, strength, determination, fortitude, bravery, and any number of other key elements factor into a hero’s make up. Something sets them apart, made them the one and only person who could have pulled off their ultimate task. We have even created an entire modern mythology of heroes that have superhuman abilities that allow them to battle greater odds than any mere mortal ever could.
I have traveled far and seen a great many wonderful mothers. While this might be the day to paint them as perfect, there is a higher point that must be made. Every mother I have ever met had an entire smorgasbord of failings. They weren’t strong enough to change their own flat tire, they weren’t educated enough to figure out that particular homework assignment, or weren’t brave enough to meet all of life’s challenges with a laugh and a smile.
More often, I have seen mothers who cry themselves to sleep, and can barely drag themselves out of bed in the morning to meet the new day. I have seen them break. Mothers despair and complain, they fail and bleed. Therefore, no one is more surprised than the mother herself to discover, when all is said and done, that what they have said and done was enough.
…mothers usually don’t, but they do it anyways.
3: Heroes are willing to die for their cause…
Isn’t that the ultimate sacrifice? Isn’t that what we demand from our heroes? Perhaps it might not end that way, and we cheer loudest when they manage to survive the day, but we would not respect any hero who wasn’t willing to make that jump, to risk ending it all. All of their possible future experiences and joys placed on the altar so the greater good might be served.
I have made no secret of the fact that I dream of such a thing, one glorious moment of reckless valor, my life traded for someone else’s. For this reason, I leave my house every day with the undercurrent of hope that today will be the day I push a little boy out of the way of a careening bus or save an old lady from the attacks of a vicious gang of thugs. But I want one thing made abundantly clear: this is not bravery. It is, if anything, an admission of my cowardice. The thought of one moment and done scares me far less than the crushing weight of years, an entire lifetime of anxiety and pain.
In this arena, mothers surpass me effortlessly. Many of the things we fear to lose in death are often lost to them already. Fulfilling careers, vibrant social lives, a good night’s sleep, great adventures filled with laughter and safety nets, and even the occasional night out on the town are part of what a woman gives up when she opts instead to feel a helpless hand gripping her finger.
Worst of all, every mother must carry in her heart the fear that, for everything she can do or give up, she can never be sure her child won’t be taken away. The universe loves its tragic coincidences, and every mother must acknowledge the possibility of one day standing graveside, surrounded by people who cannot possibly understand, and all her sacrifices paid only for fading memories. I think this is one reason why mothers are so much closer to God. After all, what prophet has ever prayed more than a mother?
…mothers live for theirs.