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They don’t hold hands, swaying back and forth in an unbroken circle to summon ancient powers of parenthood.
Mothers hold other, tiny hands in the grocery store.
Mostly to keep those same hands from grabbing large, powdery bags of flour and dumping them on the floor.
They walk beside tricycles as plastic wheels rumble across pavement.
They wipe their own eyes watching the same tricyclist, now grown up, walk across the stage at graduation or down the aisle.
Motherhood is a unique role. One that can either be lauded as an act of selflessness, or left in the shadows of more important, exciting careers.
Mothers are described in so many different ways as to be contradictory:
At any rate, the idea of being a mother is as alien to me as official kitten wrangler or alligator wrestler.
In my opinion, babies should be born with detailed instructions tattooed on their foreheads instead soft spots.
While we’re at it, so should mothers. But in backwards type, so you can read the text properly in the mirror.
Short of going undercover — a type of nine month plus reporting commitment I wasn’t quite ready to take on — I decided to go directly to the source for some answers.
The subject of motherhood was definitely not a foreign concept for the Anderson County women I spoke with on Sunday, the national day of mother worship — Mother’s Day.
I asked several women about the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced as mothers.
Maybe there’s some super secret tip, I thought, like a perfect parenthood recipe I can file away in the back of my brain.
Some women took long pauses before answering that question, most likely because there were too many to list.
Jackie Shrout, mother of Adam Shrout, said motherhood is one of the hardest, but most rewarding jobs a woman can have.
Fatherhood, her husband said, is the same way.
And unfortunately, no instructions exist for either job.
“There’s no instruction manual for being a mother or a father,” Gary Shrout said.
Ann Masterson said it was giving her children independence.
Several women mentioned the support they got from their mothers.
David and Cynthia Lanius both spoke highly of their mothers, now deceased.
David’s mother raised nine children. Cynthia’s mother worked two jobs to support her family.
“I had the most wonderful mother,” Cynthia said. “She was not an educated woman, but she would work two jobs to provide for us.”
Maybe I could be a mother, too.
At the very least, I can learn something about what it means to care for another person. To put someone else’s needs above my own.
That doesn’t mean mothers should always be put on a pedestal.
But I do respect and value their profession. Because if there’s one thing I learned from my brief conversations, parenthood is more than just basic reproduction.
It’s a calling. Not that of saint, superhero or slave, but a career with a complex title all its own.
Next week’s column: The Way We Were at 17
Suggestions? E-mail staff writer Meaghan Downs at email@example.com.