By Pam Risser
I recently had the privilege of helping my oldest daughter and her family as she recuperated from the birth of her third child. As each of my daughters have given birth I have been able to spend the first week with them doing the cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, caring of older children and lots of cuddling of the newborn so that the new mothers could get the rest that their bodies needed. My mother did the same for me and all my sisters.
For generations, the transition to motherhood has been made easier by mothers helping daughters, aunts helping nieces, sisters helping sisters, women helping women. However, many young mothers in today’s transient and isolated North American society lack that kind of support. Many are not living out their adult lives in the community where they grew up, near their immediate or extended families, if those families are even intact.
When my husband and I served in Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee in the early 1980’s, I was able to observe the family culture of the K’ekchi’. A young couple usually lived with the husband’s family for the first year. When a woman gave birth, she was accompanied by the women of the community and traditionally, for the first 40 days after the birth, she was expected to rest while her mother or other female met the needs of the family. Wouldn’t we all love to have 40 days!
There are many reasons a woman may not have the help of a mother or other family member in the transition to motherhood. Our first child was born while we were serving in Guatemala. We were thousands of miles away from home. The missionary team was our family and they stepped up to the task of blessing us with their help and support at the time of the birth and the first weeks after.
In today’s world where many couples live far from family, it is important for us as a church community to stand in the gap. In the second chapter of Titus, Paul admonishes,
3“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live,
not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,
5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be
subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
The wording in these verses may make some women bristle, but the intent is valuable. How can those of us with more life experience make the knowledge and wisdom that comes with those experiences more available to those newer in the journey? How can we help strengthen marriages, support parenting and nurture spiritual growth? Perhaps a mentoring relationship can be formed, prayer partners or prayer groups, topical Sunday School classes or Bible studies, multi-generational friendships established. Women need women. Let us be intentional about finding ways to offer sister care across the generations.
Used by permission from The Burning Bush, Franklin Conference newsletter.