12 May The Highest of Arts
by Carol Soelberg
In 1983 when my mother, Janet Andersen Ray, was Arizona’s Mother of the year, my seven sisters accompanied her to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, New York for the American Mother’s National Convention. I stayed home having just given birth to my precious daughter AmyLyn. My mother kindly assured me I was having the greater experience. Being a new mom is really hard work, and as much as I loved my baby girl, in that moment I wondered if it was really the “greater experience”! Twenty-seven years later I was invited to serve as Arizona’s Mother of the Year, and eight of my daughters accompanied me to the same place in New York for a similar American Mother’s Convention.This time, my sweet AmyLyn stayed home with her new baby! I assured her, now with complete confidence, that she was having the greater experience.
Having spent the past 47 years in a mothering role, I can say without hesitation that the role of nurturing the next generation of responsible citizens is indeed one of life’s greatest responsibilities, challenges, privileges, and opportunities. There is nothing perfect about a mother – the job is far too complex and constant to expect perfection – but if a successful society is to be perpetuated, it will be because of the imperfect but dedicated work of mothers!
In our circle of mothering, I watched sweet Andrew with Down syndrome require a tremendous amount of sacrifice from his family for him to be able to even eat and walk. There have been children whose family experiences included depression and divorce who required continual teaching that through love and forgiveness, confidence in self and family members can be restored. Even the death of a precious grandson created opportunities to teach children lessons in faith, endurance, and compassion. In each difficult moment, as life’s challenges and joys were shared in imperfect but loving homes, mothers were there giving an extraordinary effort to the ordinary tasks of every day living. It is in these moments of teaching, guiding, nurturing, and encouraging that the next generation of responsible citizens is born. And in this process, I am filled with grateful awe!
In a recent conversation with my daughters a verse by Henry David Thoreau was shared which said:
“It is something to be able to paint a picture, [or] carve a statue… but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look…To affect the quality of the day that is the highest of arts.”
That is what mothers do! Through all the mundane and exhilarating moments of motherhood, our greatest contribution is to affect the quality of the day by creating in our homes an atmosphere of love and encouragement.
We are affecting the quality of the day when we give children opportunities to serve and sacrifice. When we encourage self-improvement through rigorous practice, we are affecting the quality of a life. When we teach responsibility, integrity, and patriotic citizenship, we affect the quality of a community. Each of these attributes are perpetuated in the home by a mother and father who honor marital vows and give their best effort to creating quality homes and families. It becomes not only life’s greatest challenge, but also life’s greatest joy and happiness. And yes, it is the highest of arts.
Carol Soelberg has been with United Families International for over ten years lobbying at the UN, attending and speaking at World Congress of Families, organizing chapters, and serving as state chapter leader. She served as past President of UFI (2006-2008; 2010-September, 2013).