Who Is On Call 24 Hours a Day with Rare Holidays and Time Off?

A recent YouTube video making the rounds features a fictitious interviewer posting a job opening. He gets a lineup of interested candidates, and we watch how the video interview goes. He tells applicants all about the requirements of the job (no time off, 24-hour-a day-job, no holidays) and they each are aghast at whoever would want a job like that. You know the punchline.

“I never could have imagined the wholly demanding and self-sacrificial nature of it all. Nothing about my body was mine anymore. Nothing about my time was mine. My days and my nights were his.”

Welcome to parenthood.

As a new grandmother, this year I’m having a new thought prior to Mother’s Day: What do you get your daughters for Mother’s Day? I never had to worry about that before—the children just focused on me—but now it is time to turn those tables.

Actually, I already have found the perfect gift for them. It’s a book called Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting (Herald Press, 2014).

In it, Rachel S. Gerber, mother of three sons, tells about her startling wake-up call to the true nature of parenting. “I never thought parenting would be easy,” she writes. “But I never could have imagined the wholly demanding and self-sacrificial nature of it all. Nothing about my body was mine anymore. Nothing about my time was mine. My days and my nights were his. It was all so disorienting.”

The blogosphere is filled with mothers and fathers airing such confessions. Rachel has shared such thoughts for several years now at www.everything-belongs.com. Her first son, Owen, was born in 2006. She now has three boys.

One of her stories about the first moment she and her husband, Shawn, are left alone in the hospital with their planned and much-anticipated infant made me chuckle.

“Congratulations again,” the nurse said. “What a cute little guy. The bassinet holds the diapers and wipes. And there are extra onesies underneath.” Then she turned around and walked out, closing the door behind her. In a panic, I shot my eyes up to Shawn. Wait! She just left us. Oh my goodness, she just left us! I wasn’t anticipating doing this quite yet. It hadn’t even been an hour since this little one had been veiled and hidden from me. Now I was the one in charge of diapers and changing and feeding?

I remember my own feeling of panic the first time a nurse left me to change my newborn daughter’s diaper as we spent three days in the hospital. They encouraged us to use cotton balls, of all things, not the ideal substance for cleaning off pasty newborn meconium from a tiny bottom. I worked and worked to get the sticky tar-like substance off and when an aide came into the room, I asked, “Do I need to get off every little bit?” She looked at me like I was the dumbest new mother on earth, like a plumber asking if he had to fix every leak.

Gerber assures us all that we all feel that way, first time out. And even the second or third time out since each new child is different, and the “experts” change their advice every five to ten years on how best to take care of an infant. Gerber (what a fitting name for a book which starts out about raising babies, right?) is an ordained Mennonite pastor, currently working (part time) as denominational youth minister for Mennonite Church USA in Indiana. She laments how her three boys quickly turn any sticks into guns—which contrasts with my experience raising three girls who spent countless hours playing Barbie, dress up, and “orphan.” (Don’t ask.)

Finally, Gerber nicely weaves her reflections on parenting into an exploration of Jesus’ walk to Emmaus right after his resurrection so long ago, making the book into a Bible study as well as a well-deserved rant on the difficulties of parenthood.

In checking out her book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own volume on this stage of parenting called Why Didn’t I Raise Radishes: Finding God in the Everyday (Herald Press, 1994). My girls loved for me to read the stories about them in that book well into their teen years (they didn’t care about the rest of the book, just the stories about them).

Gerber wrote in a blog post that no one tells the truth about how hard parenting is. I disagree slightly—I think there are truth tellers out there, but no one really listens or gets it until they are in the thick of it themselves. I do remember not wanting to hear middle-aged or older men talking about the wonders of parenthood when I was guessing they hadn’t changed a real diaper in years.

What do you think? Who raves most about the wonders of parenthood? Who rants most about the difficulties?

For a free copy of my book Working, Mothering and Other “Minor” Dilemmas (Word Books, 1983), write to me at or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Posted 5/8/2014 7:00:00 AM

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