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The Jekyll and Hyde Nature of Motherhood

Nancy Ortberg, in her sermon "The Jekyll and Hyde of Motherhood”:

A transformation occurred in me with the birth of my children. I traded in that professional look for sweatpants. I found myself at the park with my children, looking at working women and thinking, I'd like to be doing that.

But the transformation went deeper than trading my business suit for a pair of sweatpants. There was something else going on when I had children. I knew my life had been invaded by God in a way in which I would never be the same. With the birth of each of my children, there emerged from within me this person I had never met, a person whom I liked very much—this loving, caring, nurturing woman. And I watched her, amazed.

There was another transformation that occurred. Another person emerged who was not as attractive, who was frazzled and angry and impatient. And I was in amazement as I watched her. It was a sort of Jekyll and Hyde split—a creature that came out of me who was wonderful, and a creature that I didn't know.

In Robert Louis Stevenson's book, Jekyll and Hyde, he starts his story with a quote: "I stood already committed to the profound duplicity of life, that humankind is not truly one but two. And that these polar twins should be continuously struggling. One of these polar twins, who was the Mr. Hyde character, bore the stamp of the lower elements in my soul."

I found that there was a polarity in motherhood. In the transformation a struggle emerged. …

In her book Ourselves as Mothers, Sheila Kissinger, a social anthropologist, writes:

Becoming a mother is a biological process, but it is also a social transformation, and one of the most dramatic that a woman may experience. The home is supposed to be a haven of love and good feelings. Thus it comes as a great disappointment to many women when it proves not to be so for them. For home is also a place where the ugliest and most destructive emotions are experienced, where there is disturbing interpersonal conflict, and inside four walls these raw feelings are concentrated and mixed together as if in a pressure cooker. She hates what she has become. Happy as a woman may be to have a baby, and although she may enjoy being a mother, she must now pay the price of motherhood: the total and virtual annihilation of self.

Lest you think you are alone in this struggle, the apostle Paul describes this internal struggle of the good and the evil in us: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good." In other words, I need restrictions to keep my behavior in line. "As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

I think Paul was a mother! He hits the nail on the head. There is a constant struggle inside of me where a good person responds to my children, and then this creature I don't know comes out.

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