Riding Only on Deep Belief
For almost 15 years, the little blue index card hung conspicuously above the landline phone attached to the wall in my kitchen. Whenever I talked on the phone, I glanced at the inspirational words that danced across the small rectangle, hoping they would lodge in my brain and settle in my heart. On the best of days, the words echoed my certitude in my calling as a full-time mother. On the worst of days, the quote served as my battle cry as I fought through the challenges of taking care of six active children.
The words, penned by Dr. Deborah Fallows, spoke of the great pride she has in women who pursue full-time motherhood. “They come through the very difficult task of raising children riding only on a deep belief that what they are doing is worthy and important,” she eloquently wrote.
As a mother of a large family, I was moved along day to day by the mundane rituals that have defined motherhood for generations. I changed diapers, taught potty training, prepared meals and snacks, washed dishes, did laundry, folded clothes, supervised homework, drove kids to activities, cleaned house, running the home from morning to night.
Repetitive and never ending, the tasks of raising my children were the drumbeat of motherhood. They patterned my life and marched my family through the years as I pursued the mission of motherhood with passion and purpose.
As a family of eight, we found our own tempo, mostly ignoring the crescendo of the Mommy Wars in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, although social gatherings often were uncomfortable for me. At a women’s symposium I attended while my mother watched the children, I met a pregnant television executive who said she worked 70 to 80 hours per week.
“When I have the baby, I will probably cut back to 60 hours per week,” she blithely said. “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a full-time mother,” I answered.
A tall woman, she immediately started looking over my head around the room to find a more interesting person to engage in conversation. To her, motherhood must have appeared as a series of mundane tasks – nothing worthy or important. Perhaps how we choose to define those words determines how we view motherhood and whether our choices confine or refine us.
During the many times that my role as a stay-at-home mom seemed to demote my status in the face of working mothers, I would recall the quote on my wall near the telephone. I had it memorized for I had often read it during the day. At the busiest times, I would see it as I answered a dinnertime phone call. Longing to speak to another adult, I would cradle the receiver to my ear, hold the small baby in the crook of my arm, and breastfeed as I stirred the spaghetti sauce on the stove.
I could multitask with the best of them whether at the office or home. Interestingly, in the 1700’s, the word “office” was the general term for any workspace. To me, my laundry room and kitchen were office spaces. They were the places where I ensured the health and well-being of my children, where I kept them adequately dressed for the weather and robust play, where I prepared home cooked meals, and where many a night I instilled a love of learning as we did homework or read together around the kitchen table.
Those tasks I did at home, in my offices, but I never thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom. We ventured far from the house on many occasions: to the library, to the pool, to the park, to baseball and dance practice, and to violin and flute lessons. We played at the homes of friends, went ice-skating at the local rink, chased lightening bugs, trekked through the woods, and visited grandparents.
The tasks in the home and the excursions outside of the home were all part of the routine of motherhood. They gave a flow and direction to my life and the lives of my children. I believed that even in their simplicity and mundaneness, they were worthy and important. I rode on that belief for thirty years as I pursued motherhood with a passion.
Today, the children are happy well-adjusted adults leading their own lives. The landline phone with the long chord no longer exists. The frayed blue card with Dr. Fallows’ words of encouragement resides in a scrapbook of memories and reads like a caption for all the pictures of family life: “worthy and important.”
Lori Rosenlof Drake is the mother of six grown children and the founder and former Headmistress of Roseleaf Academy, which was the only girls’ school in eastern North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in Mothers Always Write, San Diego Woman, Daily Nebraskan, Gaithersburg Gazette in Maryland and the Daily Reflector and Farmville Enterprise in North Carolina. The recipient of three Honorable Mentions in the Writers’ Digest National Competition, Lori currently works as an educational consultant and freelance writer.