I recently ran across a video clip of Margaret Thatcher in a 1995 tv interview, just 2 years after she stepped down as Prime Minister of Great Britain. The show’s host concluded the interview by asking Margaret Thatcher to jump on camera.
“It just shows another side of a human being, you know, because everybody jumps in their own way,” she said.
Margaret Thatcher replied, “I’ll tell you what it shows—it shows that you want to be thought to be normal or popular. I don’t have to say that and approve it. This has been my whole life.”
While the jump on TV may have given her a boost of popularity, it would have lowered the office of Prime Minister in the eyes of the people. Why should a former Prime Minister not jump on national television? Because she has won the respect of millions of people, and it does not befit her to jump. Undoubtedly the interviewer meant no disrespect, but Margaret Thatcher’s response, even with a smile on her face, was a reproach to the interviewer. Thatcher said the request was “puerile,” and implied that even to make the request was inappropriate. She was a former prime minister, and it would’ve degraded her office.
With Mother’s Day approaching, watching this clip of the Iron Lady got me thinking about the office of motherhood. What is the office of motherhood? In this age of feminism, where our culture claims to revere Woman, how much reverence do we actually garner? How much do we expect? How much do we require?
The office of motherhood is one of God-given authority and dignity. It is a calling and yes, an office. But God did not give us authority so we can whip it out and apply it generously when things are getting hairy. Rather, it is a mandate and a duty. It should be the underlying truth of who we are, an identity of authority and tenderness.
Of all the positions of authority in this world, there is no office that is imbued by nature with such tenderness and intimacy as motherhood. There’s a reason that we are moved to tears when we watch Planet Earth and see a mother elephant and her baby get separated in a dust storm. Look around at your children, whatever their ages. You carried them in pregnancy, or carried the burden of their marginalized existence in your hearts, in the case of adopted children. You nursed them as infants, stroked their applesauce-matted hair as toddlers. You read to them as children and listened to them as teenagers. At Mother’s Day especially, the tenderness is palpable.
But what about respect for the office of motherhood? We have to start by respecting it ourselves. In a culture that has lost its way, we need to demonstrate why mothers must be respected. And we start by exercising authority and cultivating respect within our own homes.
Nobody has ever imagined Margaret Thatcher to embody biblical femininity, but she did understand the duty required by her position. She understood that she represented something much larger. As mothers, tests of our character and personal threats to the dignity of our office will not be on national tv. Nevertheless, when someone asks us to jump, we don’t ask “How high?” We don’t dish out cereal for a screaming toddler who objects to oatmeal, nor do we scramble for an acceptable answer when our husband’s boss asks, “And what do you do?” We respond with strength and dignity: “I am a wife and mother.”
When we begin to embrace the duty of motherhood as an office, then we will stop cowing to our toddler’s defiance or our relatives’ disdain or our neighbors’ ridicule or—dare I say it?—our husband’s selfishness. What’s more, we will begin to live up to the office that we fill.
Instead of resenting the child who requires us to discipline him yet again, we will carry out our mission of correction with conviction and authority. Instead of resenting the media and the country that despise us for our bedraggled cohort, we will see ourselves in a long line of mothers who have raised a godly seed, doggedly serving out a lifelong term of service for a country unseen. We will see ourselves as stewards of these small citizens’ souls. We will see ourselves as guardians, standing up for every mother alive and the authority God gave her, instead of thinking we are only standing up for our own petty, sinful self and the failure of a mother we know ourselves to be each and every day.
This Mother’s Day, if you find yourself face-to-face with another year of failures, remember that your office is bigger than you. God has placed you in that role. Now grow to fill it.