Although it is my prayer this notion is changing, all too often SAHM's (stay-at-home-moms) are perceived as giving up influence and advancement in our society. With the recent history of women's "liberation" and more and more women advancing to high places, it would seem that the woman who chooses to forgo these options to be at home with little ones is throwing away (or at least placing aside for a time) her intellect, influence, and effect on our greater world. I know this may be a generalization, and not all moms who work are doing so just for influence on our society. I know that some moms are in the workforce simply to put food on the table, and that is a noble thing. (Heck, even working to change society isn't a bad thing. Why do you think I teach Theology of the Body?) Yet after observing Avila, and seeing the influence I have on her little life, I am truly struck by the power of a mom.
Ever since she was a little baby, Avila has been an imitator, like most kids learning about the world. She would repeat things I say, copy things I do, and I would always catch her playing with her toys like I play with her. This still hold true - even more so - today. Of course she is her own little person with her own "little" personality, however, much of what she does has been modeled by me. Part of that is because I am around her the most, part of it is because I teach her to do those things, and part of it is simply because I am one of her parents and she wants to make me happy.
What all this teaches me is how much power I really do have. I have more power as a mom than I did as a teacher or I have as a presenter of the faith. I have more power as a mom than any other position I have ever held - almost so much power that it scares me. I have the ability to shape this little life into whatever I deem appropriate, and at 2 years old, I already see the effects of my influence on my daughter.
Pope John Paul II said that women possess a "feminine genius" - a special gift of receptivity, wisdom, and grace. In his letter to women in 1995, JP II says the following:
Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the "genius of women".
Recognizing the important role I have as a mother, I go about my day differently than before. I have, set before me, the realization that I am shaping the world through my children. I am affecting people I will never encounter by teaching my children how to behave. I am affecting the future by setting in them a solid foundation now. And I am affecting eternity by the measure of holiness I instill in them. Being a mom is not about what one gives up, or even about what one gains. Being a mom is about the lives that are forever impacted by the way we raise them. I know this calling is something I take seriously and if I am successful at nothing else, all will be well as long as my marriage and children come out better on the other side of their time with me. And no matter how the world perceives the vocation of "mother" it is my prayer that every mother out there will know how special, how influential, and how truly powerful she is.