Last week my bible study group was working our way through Galatians when we came across this verse from Isaiah as quoted by the apostle Paul:
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. Galations 4:27
Paul quotes it as it relates to lineage and the birthright of the Lord, given to all of us by adoption through his son Jesus; but as we analyzed the verse in its New Testament context I started thinking about the very basic truth in the passage, and how it’s value has manifested itself in my own life.
Because progenation is the only way the human race survives, we are naturally hard-wired to place great value in the act of conception. Mothers are afforded a certain respect. Much of what we do - in church, at work, in marketing - is aimed at the child-bearing woman or women who will eventually bear children.
It’s only natural, but where does that leave the childless woman?
Some women forgo motherhood as a personal choice. Others are forced to forgo motherhood by their bodies and still others may have longed to become mothers but were unable to find a suitable partner in their child bearing years and unwilling to pursue a path as a single mother.
Having been married for 20 years and a mother for 17 of those years I know nothing about what if feels like to be any of these women, but I do know how much the childless women in my life have meant to me and my children and many children around us. I wanted to write this for those women - to thank them and to let them know that they are a vital part of raising children whether they realize it or not.
Motherhood has many personal advantages, including making one less selfish and more prone to tolerance and forgiveness; but it has some personal drawbacks as well. Once you’re a mother, that’s what you are. You may have a career outside the home but your first responsibility will be to your children and yours alone. Raising those children will be your job. Being emotionally available to those children will be your job. Disciplining those children will be your job. You will not be able to do that job to the full extent for any other child outside your home. You and you alone will be “Mom.” You will love the children of your relatives and your friends, but you will never love them like you love your own. It will be impossible and rightly so. You’ve got a job to do and biology and psychology will dictate that you do them - good or bad.
The childless woman is not constrained by such things and that is what makes you so invaluable to our families. You are free to lavish love and grace and care on my children without those gifts being attached to your own brood - what you give them or don’t, what time you’re taking from them or not. These are not considerations you must make. Your love is uncompetitive. It comes with no strings. Your cup is always full, and when you are with my children it spills for no other but them.
What a glorious gift!
You can care for my sick children without worrying about what you’ll bring home to your own. You can celebrate my children without comparing it to how you would celebrate your own. That might sound selfish to say out loud, but the reality of parenting is that it can often be a very selfish pursuit. Our children are the center of the universe to us and it is such a satisfying and comforting feeling to see another woman treat your own children the same way.
When you are in our home you share in our pride and amazement, and when you offer to care for our children while we are away I can be comforted in the knowledge that your love is reserved for them in that time and space.
In the heat of my frazzled parenting years, you are my sanity. In the confusion of the pubescent years of child-rearing you are the safe, soft place for my children to land when they don’t think they can turn to me.
My complete, unadulterated motherly love and support is and must be reserved for my children. Yours is free to be given to all.
More are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband - yes, indeed.
My love is a shawl to wrap tightly around my family and keep them safe. Your love is a blanket to be spread evenly and lovingly across many families. The favorite auntie, that best family friend, that wonderful neighbor everyone loves- your warmth cuts a wide swath and it is coveted.
I believe every woman is born to mother, whether she bears her own children or not. In fact, it is so innately ingrained in the human psyche that regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we nearly universally refer to the planet as a Mother, for she provides and nurtures at the cost of herself.
You are a mother, even if no one ever calls you such.
I wanted to thank you for what you’ve meant to my family, and what you undoubtedly mean to many others as well. I will only have the privilege of being a mother to two children, and maybe (if I’m lucky) a few more who make their way through my home along the way. You have the privilege of being a mother to many, without personal conflict or unease. It is your special gift to give and it is appreciated beyond words.
The childless mother is a blessing… and blessed indeed.