Growing up, I saw myself as a teacher, artist, musician, writer and even a dancer. But not as a mother.
Motherhood didn't seem very rewarding or exciting. My mom worked long hours taking care of her five kids, putting dinner on the table every night and just keeping the household chaos at bay. I dreamed of bigger and better things.
Especially in my teenage years, when mom put fashion behind function and sacrifice above the spotlight, I failed to see the power of the work she accomplished at home. An occupation that required one to reach into a clogged sink to push leftover food particles down the disposal seemed far from desirable. So I chose an exciting career in the arts instead.
I carried out my plan, pursued an education, got a prestigious job as an art director and bought a grand piano and a sports car. I had it made! I remember driving to work in my new car one day thinking, "I wouldn't trade my life right now for anything!" Then I passed a young couple strolling through the park, pushing a baby in a stroller, and the thought came to me, completely unexpectedly: "Yes, I would."
Since that day, I've opened my own business, presented in boardrooms, seen my products on store shelves, rubbed shoulders with celebrities and even pulled down a six-figure income. I've also married the man of my dreams, given birth to four children and changed over 4,000 diapers.
What I didn't know then - that I do know now - is there is nothing better than motherhood, even during its least glamorous and most trying times.
What I didn't see throughout my teenage years was the size of my mother's heart or the honor it accumulated with each task, day and moment of motherhood. I didn't see the ways the addition of each child and the serving of each child made her heart grow larger and deeper and stronger and richer. I didn't realize that every time she cleaned up a child's vomit or listened to me rant about a problem at school, she was bedazzling her own soul with precious gems. I also didn't realize she was experiencing a joy in this process. I didn't yet understand.
What I also now know is there is no career more challenging than motherhood. I have a friend who tells his wife on his way out the door to work, "Bye, Honey, I'm taking the day off!" because he knows her job is, in reality, harder than his.
But there is also no career more rewarding than motherhood. I spent years working my dream job in a place many consider a dream world (Southern California), and I can tell you none of it - the honors, awards, money, excitement - compares to the rewards of being a mother.
Christie Gardiner, my colleague on The Living Room, wrote "All the disposable income in the world won't make up for the honor of powdering and diapering a bottom the size of your palm."
Beautifully put and so true! Nothing compares to the sweetness of a child's kiss or the joy of a baby's laugh. Nothing compares to watching your child march across a stage at graduation or down the aisle at a wedding. Nothing compares to the way your heart expands to take in and embrace a brand new person. Nothing compares to helping a child grow and develop.
Motherhood enriches us from the inside out. It is opposite to the superficial ways society seeks after riches and honor. It challenges us and makes us stronger. It also provides a profound joy that continues to blossom and radiate throughout a lifetime.
I wouldn't trade the opportunity, sacrifice, service, love or rewards of motherhood for anything.
Jana Winters Parkin is an artist, writer, and adjunct faculty at UVU. She co-hosts a popular podcast for women: "The Living Room" (bit.ly/TLRSHowiTunes) and spends every day possible exploring mountain trails. Contact her at