A few weeks ago, around Mother's Day, I saw a quote that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I can't tell you where I saw it or who said it. I don't even know where it came from. But, I can't stop thinking about it:
"Being a mother is the greatest thing a woman will ever do."
As you can imagine, I have a few problems with this statement. I'm not here to say that mothers aren't amazing, wonderful, selfless, amazing human beings. They are. Like you, I have a mother. And she's truly an amazing lady. She put her career on hold to raise four children and I am forever grateful for all of the many, many selfless things she has done for me and each of my siblings. I'm know my father is pretty appreciative of her, too. I have no beef with the moms, trust me.
But, is motherhood the only thing that defines us as women?
For me, it's just a bit hurtful to think that we are so defined by something that we sometimes cannot choose. What about the women who can't have children? What about the ones who will never be mothers--either by choice or by circumstance? Can someone without children still be the greatest in her own way?
I think about this a lot, particularly when I think about my body. I hear women say their bodies were "built" or "made" to carry children. And then I wonder what, exactly, my body was built to do. Run? Be lanky and awkward? I don't know, really. But I do know this: I can still be pretty great without motherhood.
At the root of the term, what is greatness, really? Being a good person? Giving to those in need? Going to church every week? Achieving your goals? What about being a good human being, sister, wife, aunt, and daughter? Who gets to decide what is great and what is not?
I ask a litany of questions that have no real answers for a reason: I don't believe it's up to you and I to decide. Let's be honest, no one walks around telling everyone how great they are. And if they did, you'd probably think they were trying to sell you something you'd rather not buy. Isn't the point of greatness to just live your life to the best of your given ability?
I think every person and their body was built for something very specific. We all have our talents--for some, there are things come easily and naturally. Still others need to work and sweat tirelessly for the things they want. We all have a destiny, if you will, that defines our lives in the most amazing of ways. And I can't help but think our physical bodies are tied closely into that equation.
So, what's the greatest thing I will ever do? I say it's too early to know the answer to that particular question. And really, I don't think it's up to me to decide. Sometimes, it feels like the lack of something like motherhood makes me greater. Other times, it feels like it makes me broken in some way. My feelings rise and fall like a seesaw.
I'm better without motherhood.
I've been denied something wonderful.
Things are perfect just the way they are.
Maybe I will look back and regret my choices.
It's enough to drive the sanest person to the brink of insanity, I think. But the fact of the matter is this: I'm smart enough to realize that just about everything I see, hear and feel is filtered through a thick screen that is composed entirely of skewed emotions. Whether I like it or not, everything always seem to go back to that place---even when I don't want things to be that way.
Perhaps greatness is more easily defined by something less tangible. Doing the best with the hand you're dealt. Or, letting your worst day become your greatest teacher.
It's always up to you.