Motherhood: Nurturing Power



Dreaming about the future eased some of the pain of a rocky childhood. Instead of worrying if my family would have food, if we’d be able to keep warm, or if my dad would be in a good mood when we saw him, I thought of all the things I would someday become: astronaut, doctor, lawyer, fireman, U.S. president. My present was rocky, but my future would be glorious!

There was just one job I knew I didn’t want: motherhood. All the other jobs in the entire world represented freedom and autonomy. Also importantly, they paid money. Lots of money. Not only was mothering’s pay abysmal, there was no autonomy whatsoever. A mother’s life was dictated by others’ needs, needs that weren’t often pretty, or–picture a screaming toddler, if you will–well communicated.

. . . just not as a nurturer!

I wasn’t remotely interested in shopping, cooking or cleaning. Nurturing was not my strong suit. The mere thought of constantly arguing with others–family, teachers and pastors, for example–for the benefit of unappreciative rugrats made me twitchy.

Mothers were overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. I recognized this in the abstract but didn’t really appreciate my mom’s sacrifices. It took becoming a mother myself to appreciate just how crucial one woman’s lifelong support had been to my confidence and successes. By then, sadly, my mom’s mental and physical illness made communication difficult. I could thank my mom, but I couldn’t be sure she understood me.

There was only one moment I felt sure she did understand. In the deep darkness of early morning, I made my way down her hallway to the room where she lay dying of cancer. “Mom,” I complained, “I’m just miserable. I’m having a hard time focusing on work. Being away from home is hard. It’s freezing. I’m exhausted caring for my son and I have to–“

Living thanks

I caught myself before I uttered the words, “mother you as you die.” I tried choking back a sob, failing completely as my mom scooted her head over and rested it on my lap. Even on her deathbed, even unable to speak, she was still trying to comfort me. “Thank you,” I told her as I stroked her short, wispy hair. “For everything.”

That moment epitomizes the work of motherhood for me. It might not pay anything, and it might lack the perceived prestige of other professions, but its impacts are as incomparable as they are enduring. When I thought motherhood was a job for other women, the powerlessness I perceived blinded me to the enormous power of shaping whole lives with love and fortitude.

Motherhood is no profession for the faint of heart.

What does motherhood mean to you?
What do you hope your children remember you for?

Deborah Bryan

Article written by

From researching killer whales in British Columbia as a teen to volunteering as a tutor in law school to running a couple of marathons and one barefoot half marathon, she carries some pretty remarkable memories close to heart. Her life day to day now doesn't include quite so many extracurriculars, but she is content within it.


Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a Guest Blogger of and is provided in order to offer a variety of thoughtful points of view. The opinions expressed on this Perspectives Blog post do not reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or As such, Dr. Greene and are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. This post is used under Creative Commons License CC BY-ND 3.0


  • Cheryl Greene

    Deborah, Thank you for being so frank. So honest. You made me cry.

    • Deborah Bryan

      I felt so matter of fact when I wrote it that I expected to feel the same way when reading it again today. Not so. I was not dry-eyed! Thank you so much for the opportunity to reflect further on motherhood’s might, and to be here. I am grateful.

  • Arlene L.

    Moms are awesome!!! Sounds like your mom was and no doubt you are too :)

    • Deborah Bryan

      My mom was quirky and sometimes frustrating, but much more than that, she was awesome. It makes me happy to think I’m living her dream her kids have it better!

  • Sandra Labhard

    Beautifully written. Now I need to find a tissue.

    • Deborah Bryan

      :) Thank you so much for reading!