May 20, 2016

Marriage, Motherhood, and the Mona Lisa

By Nicole King

There are days when I feel the urge to create—accompanied by the complete lack of genius that normally attends such urges.

I am a writer by trade. That is, when I do make money outside the home, I do so by writing. In this, I feel enormously blessed. I hold degrees in English and political science—hardly the best combination in the rat race of “getting a job.” And yet, I now actually have a job that pays me to do what I love to do—research and write.

But there are those writers who are endowed with special creativity: Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, Wendell Berry, to name a few favorites in no particular order. And then there are those of us who write, but who perhaps lack that wandering, roving, madly brilliant spirit that the world typically ascribes to any who bear the title “writer.” We can analyze, we can describe, and when we drink enough coffee and write long enough, we can even hit upon something profound every now and then. But Lord Byron, we ain’t.

I have always bemoaned my lack of creativity in my writing. I would love to be able to sit down and pen brilliant fiction, something that simultaneously entertains and enlightens, something that captures its reader with the beauty of its prose while ever so gently nudging across some kind of great truth. Something that compels the stay-at-home mom or busily working dad to stay up past bedtime reading.

Alas, no. Not a bit.

But perhaps I’m not so devoid of creativity as I have hitherto supposed. While editing recently, I had the pleasure of reading an insightful essay on the Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. Sorokin was a genius for many reasons, but in this particular essay, the author was discussing Sorokin’s neglected American Sex Revolution. In this work, Sorokin describes the personality and fate of the sex addict. (Not surprisingly, it’s not a pretty fate.) In the course of describing the deviations, Sorokin also beautifully describes marriage.

To Sorokin, marriage meant motherhood and fatherhood. Even if the couple did not actually produce children, marriage brought with it the responsibility of motherhood and fatherhood. “Furthermore,” writes Sorokin,

“the cultivation of mutual love and the task of educating their children stimulate married persons to release and develop their best creative impulses. For surely the mission of molding their own and their children’s personalities is as ennobling as the creation of a masterpiece in the arts or sciences. And regardless of education, social status, religion, or economic conditions, each married couple derives from a good marriage the fullest satisfaction of this creative urge which is in all of us. In this sense, marriage is the most universal and the most democratic school for the development of the creative potential of every human being.”

Motherhood as creative enterprise? Not the way that most of us think of it, certainly. Motherhood as a gift, motherhood as God’s calling, motherhood as one of the noblest of the professions, certainly. But motherhood on a par with painting the Mona Lisa, writing Pride and Prejudice, or composing a Pie Jesu? Somehow the day-to-day reality of changing diapers, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chauffeuring, and doing laundry put a damper on such thoughts.

Yet Sorokin was on to something. The greatest changes that God has wrought in me have been since I have married and borne children. In marriage, God gave me someone who loves me dearly and yet sees the world differently. My husband encourages me, upholds me, and challenges me to think in new and different ways. Why must we do things exactly as I did growing up? Is there a different way to organize or manage our household? Whom should we vote for, and why? How do we best use our gifts in our church body?

Even more so with children. How do we raise our boys as baptized children of God, while recognizing that there are still sinful natures in their tiny bodies that need direction? How can we encourage their gifts, while recognizing their weaknesses and teaching them to give those to our Lord? Or, to be rather more blunt, how do we both teach them to obey us (the FIRST time, without WHINING) without crushing their adorable little spirits?

But creativity can, and usually does, look rather more mundane than that. What can I make for dinner that will simultaneously be nutritious, toddler-approved, and ready in less than 20 minutes? How can I stretch our clothing dollar? What activities can my kids do that will be fun and also push their abilities? How do I get sidewalk chalk off of our white vinyl window frames?

The end result of these decisions, both mundane and profound, is the formation of little human beings. God ended His seven days of creating with man, His final masterpiece. How blessed are we to be able to partake in His creativity.


***

Nicole is a writer and the Managing Editor of The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, the quarterly publication of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. She is also the wife of Michael and the mother of two little boys and a needy German Shepherd rescue. When she isn’t writing or tending to children, she enjoys running, cooking, drinking coffee, feeling guilty about how said coffee is affecting the nursing baby, and pinning projects which she will probably never get around to.

Image source.

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