By:  Pastor Carolyn Sissom

May 12, 2012

(Written by Carolyn Sissom May 5, 1990 for an L.S.U. writing class)




Painting by: Mary Cassatt, “After The Bath”; The Cleveland Museum of Art


Motherhood, a word we so casually toss around in our everyday conversations is usually understood to mean “the state of being a mother”.  The only worthwhile word in that phrase is “being” which means existence of life; one that lives or exists; a human being.”  It is obvious that this description is far from adequate in the full context of motherhood.




Mary Cassatt in her painting “After The Bath” gives us a penetrating visual picture of motherhood.  Mrs. Cassatt was never a mother, yet she captures this state of being” and painted the soul of motherhood.


Psalm 113:9:  He makes the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children, Praise you the Lord.”


Mrs. Cassatt painted into this painting the mystery of the bonding of relationships surrounding motherhood.  It is a “supernatural” bonding between the mother and children, between their spirits and souls.  It is the miracle of nurturing that can only happen in a special moment.  This moment is capture on canvas in “After The Bath.”  The artist gives the viewer the gift of witnessing this miracle.  The children will soon be put to bed.  They will grow up.


As a mother, I remember these moments at the end of the day.  I would have been physically exhausted from endless chores, and frustrations; and with coping with the demands of young children.  Then there is a moment, a special time of tenderness, warmth and joy.  It is a time of unity, fellowship and understanding.


These moments equip the mother with the inner courage, hope and love that will be necessary to survive the future.  The teenage years lie ahead.  There will be a broken heart and temporary feelings of failure.  “What did I do wrong?” 


However, this moment of happiness, contentment, peace and pleasure portrayed so tenderly by Mrs. Cassatt makes the awesome task of motherhood worthwhile.





A woman, on whom “is placed the virtues of the race…..She is the torch carrier for morality from generation to generation”. (C.S. Lovett)  She is rejected, ignored and scorned by teenagers, patronized by young adults, and tolerated by middle-aged adult children.  Sometimes she is honored, other times she is used, abused and abandoned.  She is the carrier of life!




With a womb.  An egg.  Impregnation.  A body forms.  Fingers.  Ears.  Nose.  Knuckles.  She feels the baby’s first kick.  A miracle.  Creation of life.  Pain.  Delivery.  Birth.  A cry.  Breathe of life.  A child is born.  Motherhood has begun.


Nurturing.  Sleepless nights.  Colic.  Dirty diapers.  Baby powder.  Joy.  Completeness.  Contentment.  Expectation.  Dreams.  Prayers.


The first word.  The first step.  Measles.  Scattered toys.  “Mommy I love you more than the who-o-ole world.”  Speaking in paragraphs.  She waves the child off to kindergarten and off to the first pangs of independence.


She watches the child grow.  “Mom, who made God?”  Cries with her over hurt feelings.  “Mother don’t hold my hand anymore!”  Room mother.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Scout leader.  Sunday school teacher.  “Mama, why do other mothers look like teenagers?”  Carpools.  Swim meets.  Ballgames.  Homework.  Outgrown sneakers.  First success:  “Mom I made a ‘A” on my paper.”  First rejection:  “Mom the boys said I couldn’t play on their team because I am a girl.”  First failure:  “Mom I didn’t win the blue ribbon.”


Then braces.  Gut level truth.  Pain.  Birth of independence.  Rebellion.  Defiance.  “Mom I hate you.”  “Mom I hate myself.”  “But mo-oth-er, everyone else does it.”  “You’re square.”  “I hate life.”  “I have to have a….”


Make-up.  Boys.  Telephone.  Tears.  Proms.  Laughter.  Love.  Diet cokes.  Fads.  Testing.  Trying.  Pushing.  Resentment.  Each independent act and statement cuts the tie to the mother’s heart.


Graduation.  College.  Maturity.  “Thanks Mom!”  Marriage.  Another stage of motherhood has ended.  The job is finished.  The torch has been handed over.  The life process will be carried to the next generation.




Motherhood is feeling, loving, touching, smelling, seeing and hearing the growth of a child.  She did some things right.  She made some mistakes.  The fortunate mothers are the ones who are forgiven.  History and society will judge her depending on whether her child is a “vessel of honor or dishonor”. (11 Ti. 2:20)


She is free now to fulfill her life.  No more sweaty sneakers.  No more mounds of laundry.  No more clothes to pick up.  She is retired from active service.  Another identity.  Another beginning.


The memory of the pain of the teenage years fades as quickly as the memory of the pains of childbirth.  She remembers those special moments “After the Bath” when she read bedtime stories, said their prayers with them, tucked them in and kissed them goodnight.  “Mommy I love you more than the who-o-ole world.”  Yes, she would do it all again.  After all, without the pain and conflict, there can be no birth or maturing.


“Thanks Mom!”


Carolyn Sissom –May 5, 1990

Louisiana State University writing class

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