Voices > Soul Food

Still countercultural

A former feminist looks at the rewards of motherhood

Issue: "Welfare Reform on Trial," May 3, 1997

People who know me now probably think I'm a pretty normal mom. But it took several incarnations (the all-in-one-lifetime variety) to get me here.

If only they had been on the grounds of the United States Capitol in the spring of 1972 as I joined hands with hundreds of other earnest anti-establishment types to demonstrate against the Vietnam War by forming a chanting circle around our nation's seat of power. Another Mother for Peace organized the event, dubbed Ring Around the Capitol.

I was one of the few actual mothers there. Most antiwar activists had more important things on their minds than having children. But Samantha Sunshine was born in 1969 just as I reached the brink of my disgust with the status quo. As my little girl was taking in the wonders of the world, I was finding fault with it. Concerned about my child's future, I desperately wanted to build something better.

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I was in the right place-Washington, D.C.-at the right time. A lot of people were making a lot of noise about building a better world. I joined the clamor. Raised with no spiritual foundation, I knew no other options.

From antiwar activism I plunged into feminism. Fighting America's &quotimperialism" alongside guys who were downright imperialistic themselves, we antiwar &quotchicks" couldn't help but notice that even the counterculture was hopelessly sexist. As the Rolling Stones were singing &quotUnder My Thumb" to remind us where we belonged, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Ms. magazine were calling us out from under.

How ridiculous to think I could find fulfillment in motherhood! Dumping my daughter in day care, I went back to the university. There I became embroiled in the campus abortion wars, where I was a sought-after spokesperson. After all, who better to speak of a woman's right to abortion than a real and righteous mother?

But politics was only one side of my countercultural assault. Eventually, the others-drugs and promiscuity-dulled my political sensibilities. After migrating to San Francisco (the better to revel in &quotfreedom"), I tumbled quickly down the tubes, ending up as a welfare mother and drug addict, barely providing for Samantha and her little sister Jasmine Moondance.

So much for making the world a better place for my children.

Waking up from a blackout one morning, I finally realized it wasn't the world that needed changing, but me. I caught the first train I saw-one bound down another wrong track, self-realization. Fueling my journey by eclectic methods of self-awareness, self-help, self-improvement, and self-actualization, in the end I never reached the promised destination.

Self-fulfillment was a mirage.

Only as a last resort did I look for God.

He was there all along, of course, more real than all my delusions and desires. I just hadn't noticed. By the time I did, I was married to Tripp and the mother of five: Samantha and Jasmine, plus our three sons Joshua Gabriel, Matthew Raphael, and Benjamin Michael. With my sons' names, God lovingly left his handprints all over the fruit of our marriage before we actually came to know him-in 1987. In the decade following, he has found many ways to redeem my personal B.C. time. The communication skills developed in my counterculture years were retired for a while, then put into service to defend life, family, and home.

But best of all, perhaps because I've been through so many phases of motherhood, I've been able to completely embrace where I am today-as mother of the five children already named plus Zachary, Sophia Rose, Jonathan, Madeleine, Jesse, and Daniel, all of whom have arrived (we adopted our last two) during the past decade. [Jonathan, Jesse, and Daniel, all of whom have Down Syndrome, were shown on the Jan. 18, 1997 cover of WORLD.]

All too often, even Christians are taken aback at the size of our family. &quotHow can the Lord use you when you're so busy raising children?" they want to know.

But Tripp and I have no doubts that God is using us. As the first Christians in either family line, we see our home as a turning point, a chance to claim new territory for Christ. I draw inspiration from megamoms who've gone before: Susannah Wesley, mother of 19, including John (#15) and Charles (#17); Mrs. Edwards, mother of Jonathan (last of 11); Mrs. Finney, mother of Charles (seventh).

Surely-in terms of changing the world-God has placed me in a stronger position than I could ever have dreamed. Instead of quixotic efforts at shaping a better world for my children, my greatest task has now become shaping the world through my children.

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