Motherhood — nothing beats it

By  Dorothy Pilarski, Catholic Register Special
  • May 13, 2010
When I was a single, adventurous career woman travelling on business many years ago in Hawaii, I never imagined that an irresistible invitation to embrace motherhood would come to me on the footpaths of the Honolulu Zoo.

I was scheduled to deliver a communications seminar the next day, feeling a little smug about the fact that I was being paid to travel and work in Hawaii, as I lined up to buy my entrance ticket. The woman in front of me was surrounded by four, five or maybe six children. She had one in her arms, one in a stroller, and the rest were clinging to her wrist, waist or leg.

I was transfixed. She reminded me of the pictures you see of St. Francis of Assisi surrounded by all the little animals. She was calm and peaceful. The entire group was shrouded in a joyful and loving presence.

I assumed she must have been babysitting because I thought there was no way she could be enjoying her own children that much. Every woman I knew back then who had children was constantly frazzled with plenty of complaints. As someone on the career track, observing women on the mommy track was often disheartening.
I struck up a conversation and learned — surprise! — they were all her children. That left me defensive as I tried to explain the importance of my job and how I worked with groups as large as 1,500 people in cities around the world. The two of us connected. Call it Providence. Gwen helped me see how jet-setting from one city to another was robbing me of something very important. While standing in front of a large audience required courage, it didn’t require as much courage as dedicating your life to marriage and children.

Marriage and motherhood are gifts, sacred places that need protection and commitment. Children need more than just quality time; they need nurturing full time. Gwen helped me realize that.

I will never forget her. I jotted down her phone number on a copy of Anthony Robbins’ book Unlimited Power. She changed my life. I called her when I became pregnant with my daughter and then again with my son.
My passion for motherhood became a life-long experience. I was thrilled once I took the leap. I couldn’t wait to meet other moms who shared my fascination for this adventure. I started desperately to seek mothers, but my walks through town and to the park, and my visits to mother-and-tots programs, introduced me to a surprising number of nannies or caregivers. I began to wonder if women had abandoned the mommy track, had they decided some things were more important than mothering their own children?

My mom, who is filled with motherly wisdom, has told me over and over again: “You know there is something wrong with a culture when there are more people walking dogs in the park than there are mothers pushing strollers. Where are all the children? Where are all the mothers?”

I used to dismiss her as being too negative, but now I find myself cynically asking: Should we be giving Mother’s Day cards to nannies, day-care providers and grandparents? What has happened to sacrificial love?
I have come to conclude that the mother-child bond, once one of the most powerful bonds in the world, is not what it used to be. Societal expectations of a career have created pressures that cause many women to think it is normal to surrender that bond to a nanny, a good day care or a committed grandparent.

Now when I travel through the adventure of motherhood, I constantly probe women, relentlessly asking them: Are you planning to have any more children? Have you ever thought of staying at home? How about working part time? How do you cope with the separation from your children? Don’t you find it difficult to only see your child one or two hours a day? Do you really want your child, in its first few years of life, to be closer to someone else?

And more: Do you think it’s healthy to rationalize the crying and guilt you felt when leaving your child when you first returned to work? Have you really and fully explored other options? Is returning to work a necessity for you or is it self indulgence? Have you prayed about this? Have you asked God what He wants you to do?

My hope for women on Mother’s Day is that they examine the choices they’ve made and ask themselves: Have you cast a ballot for materialism or motherhood?

(Pilarski, a professional speaker and consultant, can be reached at

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