I wrote these words when my now adult children were babies. My feeling reflects both the all-consuming nature of motherhood and perhaps its most poignant paradox: namely, the intertwined DNA and lives of mother and child that we are forced to untangle, against our strongest instincts, if we are to be considered a success.
The infant at my breast becomes the toddler on my hip and, all too soon, the man or woman next to me whose intellect and character I expect to improve our world. What mix of hubris and irrational optimism does it take to believe you can grow and nurture a baby human into a functional adult without screwing it up? Optimism is never overrated in a mother’s world, though it can be cock-eyed, such as when it leads us to believe our four-week-old will sleep through the night, or our five-year-old will behave perfectly in an expensive restaurant, or that our 16-year-old will navigate high-school heartache with minimal difficulty.
As women, we see the promise inherent in and we go all in. We care to a degree that frightens us as we learn to trust ourselves with the daunting responsibility for mostly risky business. We serve because we know that incalculable love is our real superpower.
A mother’s business is the world’s business, though you could argue we don’t behave as if we believe that to be true. What would it look like if all our public policies were infused with the selfless love and purposefulness of a mother? Might we worry less about winning and more about flourishing? Might we provide more to the youngest, most vulnerable in our flock? Might we pave all paths with basic needs like education and healthcare fully met? Might we answer every desperate call with the unyielding love and compassion that is the hallmark of the Golden Rule and a mother’s heart?
If my aspiration sounds like unfettered idealism, I say great! The opposite is unchecked cynicism, which surely offers no remedy. If a mother’s heart can nurse a sick child, can’t an army of us heal a sick world, one act of kindness at a time? Our power and influence are undeniable to everyone except ourselves. Let’s claim our power and unite our voices and lead, on matters small and large, temporal and everlasting, in our backyard or across the world depending on our opportunity.
Pro tip: Put your money on moms. We’re the safest bet this world offers.
These remarks were given by Joan Nesbitt, 2018 Missouri Mother of the Year® at the American Mothers National Convention in Washington DC.