The Mary/Martha mother

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

"Don't make me stop this car," she would call back to the muffled sounds of anarchy in the back seat of our station wagon.

My "mom memories." Watching her struggle to call out the right name amongst my siblings, "Bruce/Rex/ Stuart/Glenn/Joy" was always good for a giggle as she would finally wrestle the correct identity and name of the child she was trying to speak to.

I was a born tattletale and would often run to her with some fascinating news. "Don't sweep someone else's doorstep until you've done your own" was one familiar response.

I think one of my favorites among her rhetorical questions was, "Just who do you think is going to pick that up ... clean that up ... put that away?" It never occurred to me that my actions or non-actions would affect her workload.

Today, "who do you think is going to ..." reverberates into larger ecological questions as I take the time to pick up some roadside trash or take some other action that might make a small difference in our world.

Moms do a lot of things that are not always Hallmark moment memories. Maintaining law and order in a large family wasn't easy. Getting all six of us to Sunday School on time must have been quite a feat.

In those days, the fashion de rigueur was dresses, black patent-leather shoes, and white gloves for girls, and button-down shirts with clip-on ties and suit coats for boys. I can imagine what an effort it was and how she must have felt when taking us to Sunday School and then going upstairs to the church service. It was her own Mary/Martha experience.

Mary and Martha were sisters, and they were friends of Jesus, according to the Bible account. On one occasion, Martha asked Jesus to please instruct Mary to help her instead of sitting around listening to Jesus preach while Martha worked. Jesus answered her, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41, 42).

Sitting in the peaceful surrounding of the church, listening to the service, Mom became the Mary listening at the Master's feet, after the rush and hustle of being a Martha, taking care of us.

When my family gets together, we often joke about the many ways we tyrannized each other, and we seldom remind ourselves about the moments of joy in our childhood. We expected Mom to be "Martha"; it was her job. It was our right to receive her many sacrifices for our sakes. Back then, we didn't appreciate the fact that she was the only mom on the block who went outside in the Michigan winter with a bucket of warm water and created an ice sculpture horse we could actually sit on.

Being a mom is more about qualities than qualifications. It isn't even limited to a certain gender. Mom qualities come to us from every direction. In fact at tea parties in England the one who pours often asks, "Shall I be mother?" before pouring the tea and passing around the cookies.

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a card store buying Mother's Day cards for everyone who had nurtured me. A single woman who served with me on a board (a thankless volunteer position requiring a lot of time and patience) was sent one along with my appreciation for how she had mothered the organization all that year. She called to tell me it was the first Mother's Day card she had ever received and how much it meant to her.

We can live balanced lives that reflect the responsible Martha and the receptive Mary. If we had one without the other, we would have dinner on the table but no love, or love but no dinner. All of us have to work together. Moms have a right to put take-out on the table and go outside and enjoy their day. It will help them be better moms - in the broadest interpretation of mothering.

In a profession or in raising a child, our ability to nurture and accomplish certain tasks is a form of parenting. We each reflect a divine Parent with both Father and Mother qualities.

A mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child,
because the mother-love includes
purity and constancy,
both of which are immortal.

Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)

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