Women are amazing.  We do so much for so many – we should just automatically have super or wonder in front of our names.

During this past holiday weekend my family and I had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo.   Although the zoo is incredibly gorgeous and offers the opportunity to see rare species like the wonderful Panda, the most fascinating creatures for me to watch were the mothers.

If you’ve never been to the San Diego Zoo, it is hilly!  I can’t remember ever seeing so many double strollers in one place and these women were pushing their children in them up these great hills – at a steady pace too!  And amidst the stroller pushing there was hand wiping and snack grabbing and enthusiastic reading of the detailed information about the animals and birds and insects and reptiles.

Even in the bathroom there was a care giver reminding a young one how to read their body, “If you don’t feel the urge to go, you don’t need to sit there for long – there are bathrooms everywhere so we can stop again if you feel you need to go.”  One mom gently turned her children’s attention from arguing to minding their manners at the table where they were eating lunch.  All these mothers are raising the next generation of youth to be amazing individuals who care for one another and respect themselves and the world around them.

It seemed everywhere I turned there were mothers pouring their love and knowledge and respect and encouragement onto the children to give them an opportunity to explore and discover new things about themselves and the world….I could have sat and watched all day!

I marveled at how I had never really seen mothers in this same light before because when I was in the thick of toddler raising I just felt like everything I did was normal.  Now that my children are a bit older, I had the opportunity to see what an amazing feat it really is to be a mother.

And I would be lying if I didn’t share that part of my admiration for these women was also fueled by a few fathers who showed frustration and impatience that same day.  These fathers were trying to tackle some of the same things that women did so seemingly effortlessly or maybe better put, so naturally.  “Really?  You have to go to the bathroom AGAIN?” and another who said, “You need to go sit with your mother because I’m not going to put up with this.”

The whole day was truly moving and as we walked around I was thanking God for this sudden clear vision of all that we as mothers do and how beautiful and wonderful it is to see.  Even though I’ve of course always known we as mothers do more than people give us credit for, (its so easy to assume Mom will provide the love and comfort and food and education without giving value to it) by watching a sea of amazing women handle their children with grace, I just held so much more appreciation for us.

Being a woman who has compassion and wisdom and a heart full of unconditional love is a true blessing.  I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a mother and give all the best that I have to give to my children and hopefully it will be shared with other children as well.

And then as if it was the point of my entire experience, later in the day, as we were driving home, my son was contemplating aloud what he should study in college when he really wants to be is a fishing guide that would only require a boat. My husband made the comment, “What you really need to do is to find a nice woman who is a dentist so you can stay at home and go fishing all the time.”

A rush of thoughts came through my head….I suddenly realized that the tide has turned.

First, never before would I have imagined a man considering his wife’s intellectual abilities and skills as a wage earner to be an important part of choosing a spouse.  Thank God we are now at a point in time where women’s work, even if it is only outside of the home, is valued.  Progress.

And second, I was baffled at how little importance they placed on all the things stay at home moms or any mother for that matter do.  Did they not see value in anything that I saw today?  It was my time to educate.

In the car, I told all my boys that I am thrilled they are probably going to be the first generation of men where it could be more of a norm to have the opportunity to be a “stay at home dad.”  Fathers are such important people in our lives and how wonderful would it be for children and dads to have more time to spend together.

I then described my amazement at all the things I saw mothers do for their children today and how being a stay at home parent is difficult and demanding while describing some of the men who were struggling to keep up with the demands of their kids at the zoo.  I even pointed out (although it may not have been the best thing to do) how their own father and even my oldest son couldn’t make it through more than three quarters of the way through the zoo before they stopped and called it quits.  The rest of us, me included, kept journeying through in search of the Koloas and stopping to see the giraffes and rhinos and zebras along the way.

I couldn’t deny my son and husband’s thinking about the economic decisions to marrying a woman who is a dentist.  There was a practical side of my own decision to marry my husband too.  I’ll be the first to admit, a “must have” on my list was a man who was intelligent and hard working.  I needed to feel comfortable that my husband could help be a provider for the family.  I wanted a man who would not only provide financially but also provide a model of love and respect for others and even provide support in household duties and chores.  I choose the right man.

I see it as a positive evolution for men to be intentional in determining who is a good match to become their wife and base it on love rather than lust.  However, there was still a sinking feeling in my gut that these boys were imagining living the good life on a dentist’s salary rather than take any responsibility for their families’ needs.  I felt compelled to remind them of the responsibilities of a mother.

I pointed out that if my son’s plan was to marry a dentist so he could fish then he would also have to decide how he would raise his children.  If he valued being brought up by a stay at home parent then he would have to recognize he would have to put off his career as a fishing guide until the kids started school.  If you only have one child then it is only 6 years but if you have multiple, it could be upwards of over 8 years.  I cited research that shows usually the person who puts off their career to care for their children never quite catches up with earnings of their peers.  Their career is the one always on hold or considered more disposable than the other so he may have to wait.

It takes a village to raise children and children tend to reflect their parent’s happiness so I explained if he was comfortable and happy finding an alternative care giver for his children then he could start his fishing business right away. But women haven’t broken the glass ceiling because if a child gets sick, usually the parent with the lowest paying job takes the time off to care for them because it is a professional risk to do so and it makes more sense to risk the lower paying position.

My son half jokingly and half seriously said he would just take the kids on the boat fishing with him when they weren’t in school.  I let him know it would be difficult to change diapers, feed and ensure naps while he was fishing.  When would he read to them, give them a chance to work on fine motor skills with puzzles or large motor skills on a playground?  How would he have play dates to make sure his children developed strong social skills?   The car got quiet.

I am so thankful that I am a mother.  Our compassion, and love is so powerful – it fuels the world. I don’t always exhibit love and compassion – sometimes it’s impatience and frustration but I now realize just how much all the little actions of a mother’s love makes the world go around.  God’s grace fills us all!

Roles are changing or maybe more appropriately expanding.  I wrote an entire thesis in graduate school on the importance of women having an education so they have the ability to earn a living wage for their family.  I’m all for equality in the workforce, at home and in parenting – I think it is good for everyone.

I think we can all make the world a better place when we are representing our true selves.  We can’t expect the same parenting of a father as of a mother but both are important to appreciate.

For years fathers have received recognition of their role as financial providers but really they are so much more.  And for years the work of women caring and educating our children has been undervalued – it’s time to recognize more fully the work of mothers.

I heard a quote the other day that men can apply for a job with 40% of the qualifying skills and be offered the position whereas women are only offered a position if they qualify with 100% of the skills and education required.  We need more progress in recognizing the value of women.

Just as God Our Father loved the world so much that he gave us his own begotten son, so too did he ask a woman to be the mother of Jesus.  He knew mothers are undeniably necessary to  bring the light and love of God into the world.  If God can see all that goodness in us, we need to look for it in one another.  I saw it at the San Diego Zoo and I was awe struck!

May God bless all parents and fill us with grace to be loving, patient, and kind to one another, to the earth, to all God’s creatures, to the poor in spirit, to the meek, to those who mourn, to those who hunger and thirst for justice, to those who need mercy, to those who need a change of heart, to those who need peace, and to those who suffer persecution.  Lord help us all to be like the mother you choose to be the mother of your love, Mother Mary.

One thought on “Mothers at the San Diego Zoo

  1. I really enjoyed your thoughtful post! I felt like I was in the car with you and your family… 🙂

    A friend and I were discussing something similar this morning. In addition to most moms being the orchestrator, director and producer of our family’s lives, there are always unexpected needs that pop up that usually fall to us to handle—whether it’s the last-minute “Mom, I need a SuperBowl-themed costume for the school dance tomorrow” or being home to meet the hot water heater repair person.

    It is an honor and a privilege to be a mom, but as you well know, it comes with a very full plate.

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