I must clarify, just for a moment, some thoughts on the “art of motherhood” I talked about yesterday. Because in speaking of that art, I’m not talking about whether or not women adopt or bear their own children…or whether women even have children for that matter (one of my best friends who has never had children practices the “art” of motherhood better than most people I know). I’m not talking about whether a mother works away from home in addition to all the work she does at home or not. No, I’m not talking about any of the extenuating circumstances that shift our unique lives off, individually, into different branches because of such varying needs and personalities and hopes and dreams.

In speaking of the “art” of motherhood I’m talking about motherhood as just that…a beautiful act of doing something with our hearts, and doing it gracefully, deliberately, in the best way we can taking into account our vastly different circumstances.

Just as a meticulous dancer balances and leaps, making her work look so compelling and beautiful to a bystander who may or may not even comprehend all the grueling work that has gone into her precision, so a mother can perform her work with grace and beauty. What comes across when someone makes what they love doing into an “art” is that it is important enough to them that they are willing to make the sacrifices needed to make it beautiful.

To me, motherhood is beautiful. A mother with a toddler on her hip, or a pacifier slung around her finger as a ring speaks to me. A mother who, tired from a day of working at an office, still comes home and puts on a puppet show with her children, or that mother who is willing to stop what she’s doing and stoop down to look into the eyes of a worried child as she balances a load of laundry on her hip and lets the swirl of activity just be, even for a split second…those mothers know the art of motherhood. And I want to be like them.

To me, the “art” of motherhood doesn’t have as much do to with all the extra things we balance…whether it is working full-time or developing a talent that fulfills us…as it has to do with being in the moment when the “moment” arises. Really reading a book with a child (instead of skipping pages in an attempt to please not have to read every word for the thirty-fifth time in a day like I do), or staying up late to talk to a teenager who needs a little extra loving, or praying our guts out that a child will make good decisions in life all contribute to the moments that make our motherhood an art.

There can certainly be no generalized “perfect mother.” We are all too different. We have different husbands or have no husbands at all. We all have different children to care for who have myriads of varying needs. And most importantly we are all different…unique daughters of God, all with completely different abilities and attributes to develop.

But no matter what we do, or who we are, or where we live, or how many children we have, we can all make our little piece of motherhood an “art” in it’s own right. We can go about what we do in a day just as a dancer goes about a beautiful dance, with precision and grace. We can keep getting up again, after numerous failures and mistakes, and keep trying. We have the power to choose to meet our challenges in a way that will help us grow and become who God wants us to be.

No one on earth may ever know the heart break we have endured, or the gallons of throw up we have cleaned or the amount of times we have counted to ten in valiant efforts not to loose our minds with difficult children. There are no Pulitzer prizes or even gold stars stuck to our foreheads for figuring out how life-changing “magic erasers” can be, folding load after load of laundry, or being able to whip up a decent dinner with the random assortment of what we have to work with after not making it to the grocery store for a while.

But on that same note, no one else will feel the rewarding heart-swell we will when a child finally makes a much prayed for breakthrough. No one else will quite understand the sweetness of an inside joke shared with a child we’ve cultivated time with. No one else gets to feel the same joy watching our children love each other as only siblings do, or save money as we have painstakingly tried to teach them. And those things come when we choose to make the way we mother a priority, whether we work outside the home or not, whether we live in a different culture or have different interests outside of mothering. They come when we put our heart into our mothering, no matter how different we may be.

Some day, as we look back, we will marvel at the strength and rhythm we were able to develop. Because what we have willingly done with love in our hearts has become our passion. Hopefully we will see that love reflected in the eyes of our children. And that will be our reward.

I must also clarify that I am writing these things mostly for me…one who has more patience to learn than I can even comprehend. One who gets frustrated and slams doors and forgets things right and left. One who gets distracted from the “moments” at hand quite easily and is just about as far from perfect as you can get. But also one who knows there is a God who cares and who is willing to help me every step of the way if I will only let Him in. And that is what I am hoping will somehow help mold me into the mother I want so much to become.

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  1. Your thoughts are beautiful. It's like that saying "Dance like no one is watching…" When you love something, you do it because it's inside of you. True art becomes second nature. Where does the painter end and the brush begin? True mothering is the same.

  2. That was beautiful – just like the original post. I think your meaning was clear the first time. People are too quick to jump to conclusions and take offense.

  3. I totally agree with Kate…both are beautiful posts & well written. I got it the 1st time & loved it! Thank you for sharing…1st one was well written & I always appreciate & look forward to your encouraging posts! Beautiful pictures!!

  4. I hope you know I LOVE all of your posts. I love it when you lay it all out there. I love it when you help me to understand how important being a Mother is.
    (this is something I truly wasn't born with)
    Honestly, I don't "feel" the same as you when you discuss motherhood because it's not innate in me. BUT, it's things like your posts that help me to understand how to learn "the art of motherhood."

    I wonder, when people comment as they did on your last post re: motherhood, do you worry? Do you worry you've offended someone or that people have totally mis understood you? I only ask because I am one who "is seen" in my community and, man oh man, can I tick off people without even trying..or better yet, when I'm trying NOT to.:)

    What I am trying to say is…I HOPE you didn't worry, I hope that you know you are a wonderful person in our "cyber community" and yes, because you have stuck yourself out there to be seen/heard, you will be criticized…but I for one will remain a fan!!:)
    THANKS & please keep these insights coming I'm sure there are many like me who weren't born with the art — but would love to learn it….no matter our walk of life.

  5. just when i thought the first post (art of motherhood) couldn't get any better, this added to it gives me JUST what i am needing right now. thanks for your inspiring words. πŸ™‚

  6. In answer to meegz: mostly I wrote this post because I didn't quite get everything out that I was thinking about yesterday…I kept thinking of more things throughout the day and kept trying to get a minute to add to that post (this is obviously something close to my heart). But then when I realized some had misinterpreted what I said it was a perfect opportunity to clarify and add my extra thoughts at the same time.

  7. I needed this. How did you know I needed this? I am forwarding this to my sister right now..

    I had a great "motherhood" day today, but it's not always so.

    Thanks for sharing so much.


  8. the comparison of the dancer who practices over and over and gets up when she falls or makes a mistake… you made motherhood click for me just now. and i have 4 children. i am not a graceful mother. but i will now strive to be one. thank you.

  9. I have to admit that I went through a phase in motherhood where it was tough for me because I felt like I was doing a thankless, unappreciated job and I felt I should be out helping the world instead of staying home. Reading your blog helps to constantly remind me how blessed I am to be a mom and stay home with my kids. Last conference Julie B. Beck said something that really helped me. She said,

    "Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters?"

    That totally stuck with me and helped me realize I don't need anyone to give me a gold star or a promotion for being a mom. I'm doing it for my family's benefit and my own. She also said,

    "Good women always have a desire to know if they are succeeding. In a world where the measures of success are often distorted, it is important to seek appreciation and affirmation from proper sources. To paraphrase a list found in Preach My Gospel, we are doing well when we develop attributes of Christ and strive to obey His gospel with exactness. We are doing well when we seek to improve ourselves and do our best. We are doing well when we increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help others who are in need. We know we are successful if we live so that we qualify for, receive, and know how to follow the Spirit. When we have done our very best, we may still experience disappointments, but we will not be disappointed in ourselves. We can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when we feel the Spirit working through us. Peace, joy, and hope are available to those who measure success properly."

    Such great words for a woman and mother to hear.

  10. Shawni,

    I have been wanting to write a comment since you left that sweet note on my blog last week. I've been thinking of your kind words since I read them. In fact, I think about you all the time. Your posts, insights and thoughts are the kind that make you really ponder life, reconsider what you've been doing as a parent/friend/spouse, assess what you are focusing on and make you question how to be better in all you do. I love your posts. Words are powerful because they make you think and thinking can make you change. I love that. I proves that reaching out to people, even via a blog can affect people and change lives for the better. It's amazing.

    Things are looking up for my son. It's true that tough things can make us stronger and help us in the future. I know he'll think back to this experience when he's faced with another challenge.

    I love this post. You are so elequent in your words. Motherhood is an art. It's so much more than giving birth or raising a child. It's noticing the small things and giving them value. It's seeing the bigger picture and knowing the tiny daily events will get us to that desired destination. It's giving thanks even when you're at your wits end. That's motherhood. That is being a woman and knowing we have the gift of nuturing those around us. And it comes from God.

    I love your other posts as well. The blue tape on the floor for gymnastics practice, the mastered homemade bread, the fan for the photos (and the cool sound effects they offer). Bits of life that make you SO real.

    And that makes you even more amazing because it make you feel like a friend.

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