There has been an interesting phenomenon going on recently with the COVID-19 situation and it’s got me thinking. It’s trendy right now to recognize first responders and “front-line” healthcare workers as modern-day heroes. Crowds of people cheering outside hospitals, social media memes, entire communities sending food, drinks, goodie bags to nursing units all over America. As a nurse myself, I have yet to work a shift that I haven’t received something as a free gift or been applauded as I’ve left by strangers holding signs reading “Thank you to our super heroes.” We collectively are so grateful for the kindness and gifts, and I am most definitely going to gain some pandemic weight, however it all is a bit unsettling. Me, a Hero?
I would never call myself a hero for doing exactly what I’ve been trained to do. The hero award DOES go to the medical teams in places like New York doing their very best in the very worst of situations. They are, without a doubt, heroes in my book! Give them all the credit, they are in a battle unimaginable to most and feared by many in this country. But little ole me, with all the PPE I could ask for, supportive managers, and ample staffing grids, performing care with the risks of exposure mitigated... I have a hard time seeing that label fit. I have cared for critically ill, highly infectious patients for 12 years; COVID-19 is just the newest punk on the block. Heroic, that’s hard to swallow.
In my thoughts, however, I began to see a parallel. I heard a quote that said “a hero is someone who responds when others are unable or unwilling to do so.” As a mother of multiples how often do we hear the phrase, “I could never do what you’re doing!” or, “You’re such a supermom.” Truly in the mom stratosphere, a title unchosen by us but always applied, is that of the super-hero mom. Many people cannot fathom more than one baby at a time, more than one toddler at a time, and survive! We hear it and know they too would, of course, rise to the occasion if multiples dropped into their world. But many mothers out there see you (ok, maybe not the mom of 12) as the epitome of what they desire to be. You are a hero in their eyes. And perhaps that’s what the general population has awakened to, things medical staff face daily. I'm not sure... but for both, in someone's eyes, a heroine is found.
On an average day, mothering our crews may not seem that heroic: washing dishes, refereeing disputes, putting in the 14th load of laundry, wiping away tears, holding little hands, wiping poop off the walls (just me?)... all in a normal day. We strive to instill things like integrity, servanthood, compassion, identity, and spiritual teachings, but we certainly do not see ourselves as heroes. It’s not all mundane. At times we must choose to love in the face of defiance, teach despite rebellious attitudes, guide lagging steps, and encourage discouraged hearts. Yet even in those moments we would not call ourselves heroes. We do the work of motherhood not for any award or title, but because it’s woven into the very fiber of who we are. We are a nurturer, comforter, guide, and yes, a rescuer. To those little eyes looking up at you, you are, in fact, a hero.
Andy Stanely said, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” Think about it for a moment. As much of a struggle life with littles can be, you are heroic in the eyes of your children. A simple word of encouragement to not give up, to make the right but hard choice, a silent moment with a hug during heartbreak may not make the news cycle, but it will for your kids. Famous people like George Washington, Noah Webster, and Theodore Roosevelt all performed great exploits that are forever recorded in history. Each one started as a small child who needed to be encouraged to take their first step, nursed back to health, needed their questions about life answered, their gifting's cultivated, their faith nourished. You know who did it for them; their hero, their mother. Who’s to say that the character they needed in the defining moments of their life is not a direct result of their mother’s care?
I’ve said many times, you can’t pour out what you don’t have in you. If that is the case, then the spirit of heroism is already residing in you! In fact, I did some searching into characteristics of heroes, and not just some anecdotal lists, but tried and true, research-based evidence of what makes up a hero (yes, I fully identify as a nerd, and I’ll link my source here). This is a list of traits I see radiating in each of you... yes you... the mother of your crew.
- Researchers found that people who engage in one-time acts of bravery are not necessarily that much different from other non-hero types. By contrast, those who engage in lifelong heroism share a number of personality traits like empathy, nurturance, and a need to live by a moral code.
- Heroism is defined by actions that are done in the service of others who are in need, whether it is for an individual or a group. These actions are performed voluntarily.
- These individuals recognize the potential risk or sacrifice they are making, and willingly accept and anticipate the sacrifice.
- Heroic individuals engage in these actions without any expectation of reward or external gain, only to benefit those whom they serve.
- One study gathered traits that make up heroism; here are a few: conviction, courage, self-sacrifice, selflessness, determination, helpfulness, and protectiveness.
- Heroes live by their set of values, and are willing to endure personal risk for protecting those values.
- Heroes tend to have above-average coping skills and abilities to manage stress.
- Researchers found heroic individuals were more likely to put a positive spin on a negative situation, and focus more on the good that might come out of the situation.
- Heroic individuals tend to possess an ability to overcome fear, and have a higher tolerance for risk. HA!!! #fearlesslifeystyle
Change the word hero to mother, and the validity of these facts remains true! To your children, to others around you, and even though you would never choose it for yourself, you are a hero. Hold those little hands tightly and teach them how to be what you are. Teach them that a hero isn’t always in a cape, or rushing into a burning building. Pour the best of you into them. You’re a hero. Someday those who call you mom will do great exploits on the earth and touch many lives, perhaps save some... like the hero they were raised by.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her saying: Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well (with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness) but you excel them all!”
Author: Tonya Flowers is mother to 3 sons, Lucas who's 9, and twins Wyatt and Timothy who are 4. She is a nurse, and serves FWMoM as our Chaplain.