Tag: mothering

Thoughts on Mothers Day Part 2

So each week I have to send out an email to the sisters in my ward updating them on the events of the week and leave them with a spiritual thought to encourage them throughout the week.  Usually I try to get this out on Wednesday but we had an activity Thursday and I had the writing conference yesterday so I hadn’t gotten it out and it was Saturday.  (They are used to me being late on this.  Sigh…)

Now many of you read my recent post on Mothers Day and how the day challenges me.  https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/05/06/why-mothers-day-is-hard/ .

With those thoughts still swimming in my mind, I was tasked with saying something inspiring to women on Mothers Day.  This was quite the dilemma.    I hope you have all gotten the impression from this blog that I am not a disingenuous person and I am not about to put pen to paper on anything that is false or preaching doctrine I don’t believe or struggle with.

If I’ve learned anything in my life it is that honesty is the only thing that matters and the sharing of true experience is always more impactful than the privatizing of who we are and what life has taught us.  Sharing my heart with all of you through this blog and my friendships is my gift to the world.

Giving our heart is the only thing we really have to give.

So what should I write? What will be an authentic expression of my views of Mothers Day and mothering while also being helpful to others?  How can I write what I feel? Interesting question for a girl at a writing conference…

Here’s what I came up with. I’m immensely proud of it. I rarely can think of a moment when I have as effectively put my heart on the page:

“So Sunday is Mothers Day.  Please come and help us celebrate womanhood.  To be frank, sometimes Mothers Day can be a bit of a downer.  I’m not only unmarried but I’ve struggled to relate to the often ‘ooey goey’ version of womanhood that seems to be presented as the ideal at church particularly on Mothers Day.

I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  In fact, this week we were talking as a presidency about how pretty much everyone we know walks away from Mothers Day feeling inadequate, guilty or at least frustrated.  There are women in my life who refuse to attend church on Sunday because they are so wracked with guilt over their own perceived failures as women in Christ.

How can we fix this problem? I know Heavenly Father wants His daughters to be happy but does he accept our efforts when the standard seems to be so high and our output less than we wish it was?  Here’s something to think about:

“See that ye look to God and live.” The ultimate source of empowerment and lasting acceptance is our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They know us. They love us. They do not accept us because of our title or position (or I’d add marital, familial status). They do not look at our status. They look into our hearts. They accept us for who we are and what we are striving to become. Seeking and receiving acceptance from Them will always lift and encourage us.” (Elder Erich W.  Kopischke April 2013 Conf, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/being-accepted-of-the-lord?lang=eng)

So, tomorrow on Mothers Day let’s try to remember that the Lord accepts us for the women we are striving to become.  He knows our hearts.  He loves us.  We are His daughters.  Perhaps we can turn Mothers Day into a day of sharing and fulfillment instead of lost expectations and thwarted dreams? I’m going to try and I hope you will all join me.”

So how did I do?  Thoughts?

Why Mothers Day is Hard

So today I cried after church.  I cry a little bit after thinking about it.  Why you ask? It’s silly really but I missed my old singles ward and particularly my old bishop.  I almost always had a good relationship with my singles bishops.  Not anything too clingy but just they knew my struggles and I could go to them when I was hurting for advice and counsel.

I have found that to be almost impossible in family wards, both that I have been in.  They’ve been kind but not the sense of ownership and stewardship over me that I saw in singles ward.  As someone who doesn’t have much priesthood in my life I really miss that presence.  My father is really my only source for guidance and he is in California which sometimes works, sometimes not.

Today I wanted to talk to the bishop about Mothers Day.  Last year I went to the singles ward for Mothers Day and it was so fabulous and uplifting.  Mothers Day in family wards is rightfully a celebration of mothers.  Normally that is a good thing.  I also don’t think that everything should be about me.  The Moms deserve their moment in the sun.  No doubt about it.

Here’s where I struggle.  First, you hear on Mothers Day a million talks about how nurturing and motherhood is an innate part of womanhood.  This makes me feel like we all have to be what I call ‘ooey and gooey’.  I’m just not that way and it is certainly not natural.  I know God accepts me but that doesn’t stop me from bristling when I hear those kinds of talks.

Second, it is a fact of my faith that you must get married and have a family in order to reach the highest level of exaltation.  That is true for both men and women, so a righteous married woman is further down that path to be with Heavenly Father than me, a righteous single woman.  You can say no, no, you can make covenants later.  Well, that is later and they get to make those covenants now.  Sigh…

Third, I know the chances of me being able to have a baby on this earth are extremely small and the older I get the smaller they get, so the talks about how great it is to have children can be painful.  I’m not the most baby-yearning person in the world but it does hurt sometimes that the option probably won’t even be available to me.

Fourth, Mothers Day is a day where you have to hear over and over again ‘look what righteous thing you don’t have’ and I can only take so much of that.  We basically put motherhood on the same level as the priesthood; however, a man can progress in the priesthood through their own righteous activities; where a woman can only get so far.  This can be very frustrating.  It is true but frustrating.

Now, no need to panic.  I know the church is true but that doesn’t mean my life doesn’t feel discouraging at times.

So, today I felt sad.  Sad about Mothers Day and I wanted to talk about whether I should come next week to do my calling or go to singles ward again like I did last year.  I wanted to talk to the bishop and get some counsel on how to deal with this week every year.  When a meeting proved impossible, I felt sad.  I think that’s ok to be sad. Its part of life.

Luckily I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me and an earthly father who is ALWAYS behind me 100%.  Still, Mothers Day is hard and I miss my old singles ward and my bishop.  No getting around that.  Missing is a natural human reaction and I am oh so human.  I am not like Moroni and able to cope without both Godly and human support.  Sigh…

Btw- I have the best Mother a girl could have. Happy Mothers Day Mom!

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Interview Part 2

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my next entry in this trilogy of interviews, so I won’t keep you any longer.  Here goes…

Marriage/Courtship-

What do you think makes a good marriage partner?  I think it is just that, a partnership.  There shouldn’t be a sense of domination in any way.  Nor should one spouse feel overly defined by roles or responsibilities but the entire marriage should be a joint responsibility.

Too many people lump the decision of having kids and getting married together.   The two should be separate choices.  You should ask the question do I want to be with this person if we don’t have any kids at all?  Then you can say as a separate question will he be a good father?  That said, I really can’t imagine anyone that I would want to marry that wouldn’t also have the qualities of a good father but I think the 2 questions should be separate.

To me a good test of a relationship is will the person sit through something they don’t care for just because you are in it.  I’m not saying they have to love it but is your participation enough to count them in.  This is true for both people in the relationship.  He better get used to sitting through a swim meet and cheering and I can go fishing or do whatever outdoorsy thing he loves.  The other person’s happiness should make you happy most of the time (we all have our moments).

Another test- does the person make things fun that would normally be a drag.  For instance, I’ve always said I want to go dancing with my boyfriend.  I hate dancing, so if I can have a good time doing that we have genuine chemistry.  Maybe that’s silly but there you go.

Finally, the best couples I know have an intellectual chemistry which is tough to define.  Do you find the person you are with interesting? Not that they have to be interested in the same things per say but do they approach problems with a similar vigor, are you fascinated by the world?  Do you listen to each other in a complimentary way?  I could never be with someone who thought I was dumb or vice versa.

Why do you think so many marriages fail?  Actually in my life not many do.  Amazingly enough at 30 not one of my friends that I have seen get married has gotten divorced.  I have met friends after they were divorced but never seen the entire process from someone in my peer group.  Even in the Mormon church it seems highly unlikely that there wouldn’t be 1 couple.  None of my cousins or siblings have gotten divorced. Perhaps that will happen in this decade but so far so good.

I think when marriages do fail it is usually because of selfishness.  People begin to feel that their needs are more important than their spouse, and a partnership becomes 2 separate entities coexisting.  Every situation is different and some times people just aren’t compatible but I think usually there is some kind of selfishness involved.

How can you comment on marriage as a single woman who has never had a relationship?  Well, it doesn’t take getting shot to know it is not a pleasant experience.  Some things you can extrapolate as an observer of life and human nature.   I’m sure I will learn a lot when it is my turn but a girl can’t spend 3 decades and not develop any of her own ideas on the topic, so there!

I also have relationships that while not romantic have taught me something about how they work.

Family-

What is your ideal family?  I have no ideal.  I have never been a dreamer in that regard.   I’ve only had one time in my life (BYU) where an expectation lived up to lead up.  Most of the time it is best to take things as they come and be grateful for what you’ve got.

Will you be happy unmarried, without kids?  Yes. It has never been a big dream of mine to get married or have kids.  There are lots of reasons why but all I’ve wanted since I was a toddler (literally) is to be on my own, making my own life choices.  If the situation comes I will be happy and grateful but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being happy if it doesn’t.

If you did have kids how would you want to raise them?  What is important to you in parenting?  I believe that kids should be in the world but not of the world.  So, yes expose them to movies, literature, friends, education, but do it in a way that maintains their innocence as long as possible and allows them to have true fun.  I don’t think kids should be manipulated to be mini-parents.  They should be guided and counseled but also feel free to express their own views and ideas.  I want my kids to know that I like being with them and that they matter to me and to God.

I do love the homeschooling movement and feel if done well it can give your children the best opportunity to flourish.  You can communicate with your child in a way that no teacher can (as wonderful as they may be).  The argument against homeschool is always a social one but I feel this is silly because public school can be just as much of a social nightmare.  Any education requires monitoring by a parent and an active voice that makes actual learning the priority, not the grade received.

I love that with homeschool a parent takes ownership of how and what is taught to her child. She takes ownership of her child’s peer group, social activities and moral teaching.  Not that they don’t have those things, as some might claim, but they are guided by a parent.  There may be some who want to offer their children up to the alter of community good but not me.   It may seem odd for a single girl to have an opinion on homeschool but I think you will find there isn’t much I don’t have an opinion on!

(I will add that clearly homeschool doesn’t work for every situation.  I’m just saying that it would be my first choice if given the chance).

What did your parents teach you about parenting/life?  My mother continually teaches me to nurture others.  She is a very selfless person.  In fact, she even gave up her freedom of movement when restricted to bedrest for most of her 6 pregnancies.   This was a very difficult time for our family but she taught me that sacrifices are the most golden family moments.  Its like on my mission- the moments where I had given my all, were the one’s where I became a true missionary.  The moments in a family where you give all is when you are a true family.

My Dad teaches me each day to find joy in the journey.  I get stressed out with the details of life.  I put loads of unneeded pressure on myself and always have.  He has always been someone who can see a way out of stress and is a true optimist. He also has a zest for life that I admire and hope to emulate.

Friendship-

What do you think is a true friend? In the quest to save the family sometimes I feel we could focus more on friendshiping in the church.  Especially in the single-world friends have been a huge support for me.  As wonderful as my family is when I think of the trials of my life I can also see a friend who was there to see me through.

I’ve also had so many laughs with friends over the years.  A true friend loves and deserves love back.  A true friend sacrifices time to be with you.  A true friend has chemistry that just works.  A true friend listens when you need to vent and gives you frank counsel when required.  A true friend you could see every day and yet go years and still have that connection.  A true friend should not be work in the traditional sense.  It should be a happy work. (Its actually hard to describe a true friend, but you know it when you see it!).

One of the things I have struggled with in the last few years is maintaining an active social life.  It used to be so easy for me to gather people together.  Now it seems so difficult.  Even to have lunch with a friend can take weeks of planning.  I wish I had one friend I could call on a Friday night with nothing to do and do something.  That almost never happens.  People are just too busy.  Even getting people to come to book club or other activity can be so hard.  I’ve noticed I have more success with dinner parties or when hosting something for my swim group.  Not sure why but I’m trying to figure it out.  I love to entertain and would love to plan cute get-togethers.  After the year I’ve had I kind of got out of the habit. The Christmas Swimfest gave me a ton of confidence and I already have a Valentines Swimfest in the works.

It just sometimes feels that while friends are so important to me, they are less important for people with families.  There are exceptions which I am very grateful for and I understand the predominance family should take.  That said, it can still be hard and lonely to feel that everyone else has moved on to the next step and you are still in college-mode.  As much as I loved college nobody wants to be at the same spot forever.

Work/Adult Life-

What is the hardest thing to do as an adult?  Finding balance. It always seems that one part of my life is taking over whether it health, work, family struggles, exercising whatever.  Achieving balance is the goal of a lifetime.

In what ways has adulthood disappointed you?  This is such a good question for me because I wanted to be an adult so badly.  I would say the greatest disappointment is the mundanity of life.   I don’t know what exactly I expected but so much of life is routines and doing the same thing over and over again.  Even in the most glamorous jobs there is a fair amount of tedium. Its just part of adult life.

I also wish I had taken more advantage of time off as a young college student to explore or go places.  I think because my parents traveled I assumed I would be able to do that later, and I have been very blessed in that regard, but its hard!  Its hard to find the time, get off work, get ready, catch up when you get home etc.  Its something I should have enjoyed more when I had the chance.

I was also in a rush to finish everything.  I set a goal and I want to get it done now. This is why weight loss has been so tough for me because it is not something that can be done right in a few months.  It takes years, a lifetime really.  I don’t like things that take a lifetime!  Again, I should enjoy the journey more.

If you could have your dream job what would it be?  I think it would be cool to work in a political campaign.  I also love public speaking and think I might take a stab at politics some day. I feel I would be a good advocate for causes I believe in but I am sure the whole process would drive me crazy (again the waiting and the tedium are my struggles!).  Also, I think it would be great to teach college, especially at BYU.  I have pondered a PHD before but there are so few positions in the liberal arts that it does not seem like a good choice.  Still, it would be my dream job.

Are you disappointed to not be doing your dream job?  Yes but I’ve learned that how I work is much more important to me than what I am actually doing.  Working from home and being my own boss is worth any sacrifice- even working in accounting all day!  I get chills and feel nauseated at the thought of going back to ‘cubicle Hell’ as I call it.

My only regret in working alone is I don’t have the chance to mentor people.  I benefited greatly from mentors in my youth and I hope to someday have that chance as an adult.  I’ve enjoyed teaching in my ward the last 2 years and feel I have been a mentor to some of the younger girls (and I feel I mentor my younger siblings) but I’d like to find someone that I can really guide and mentor.

What is your greatest flaw?  Definitely holding grudges.  I grew up seeing the world in terms of bullies and victims.  That’s how I survived.  I learned that people who abuse do it again and I kept them in that spot forever.  There are still people from my life that I struggle with anger and resentment towards.  I know it only hurts me but it is tough.  I get better each year at forgiving and hopefully by the end I will be something like my Grandpa Richards who loved unconditionally.  That is my goal to be like him because he was so much like Jesus.  My relationship with Christ helps polish me each day and that includes grudges, resentments, fears and everything else.

Do you wish you were skinny?  I’d be lying if I said No. As I mentioned in my last post judgement has always been tough for me to absorb and unfortunately being fat carries tons of judgement.  I still feel great resentment at anyone who places a label on me because of my weight.  It would be nice to not deal with these judgements. However, I suppose society would just find something else to judge and I’d have to deal with it.  I do appreciate the strength my journey has given me and being heavy forced me to rely on God for praise because in a few moments that was the only place I could get it.  And maybe I do a little bit of good correcting prejudice and speaking out.  If that was the case, it’d all be worth it.

Well, that’s a lot.  Probably more than any of you care to read but it does me a great deal of good to say it.   The next entry will be on my views on the political and social issues of the day.  Should be pretty fun!   (I have had an interest in politics since I was in grade school and voted in every election since I turned 18.  It is very important to me).

Mormon Feminism

Today as I drove home from my work in Syracuse and I started listening to some old podcasts.  One of them was from Radio West an episode called Mormon Feminism.   It was a pretty good, well-rounded discussion and it started me thinking about my own unique viewpoint on the topic.

As everyone knows I have always had a strong sense of self and fierce independent nature.  (My first word was STOP if that tells you anything).  If I wasn’t leading I’d rather not play, if it wasn’t my idea it was never as satisfying.  Still to this day I would rather fail on my own account than succeed hanging on to the coat tails of someone else.

With this nature it is perhaps surprising that I found an acceptance of my Mormon faith so easily.  I have always believed.  Recently I read through my old journals and I could not find a period of my life where I doubted- sure I’d have a day here or a day there, a few questions, but never a real stage of doubt.   The scriptures talk about gifts of the spirit and I believe an accepting, faithful nature, coupled with my stubbornness, is my gift.

The only real confusion I remember having was understanding my role in the world and church as a woman.  As I have mentioned before on this blog the idea of motherhood was not innately appealing to me.  My mother had very difficult pregnancies and I had to sacrifice a lot for my siblings to come into the world.  As far as I was concerned babies were nothing but an overwhelming, confining trial.  I certainly wasn’t and never have been an ooey-gooey baby person.

I have also never felt I fit the Mormon definition of the ideal woman.  Often in young women or in some talks I’d hear phrases like this:

femininity “is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your … capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each … possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty. (President Faust)

I’m sorry but I never felt like I was delicate, charming, gracious, gentle or quietly strong.   How could we all be the same and what did that mean for little independent me?  I also wanted to know, if women were so special, why?  It almost seemed unfair to the men to make us more innately worthy so that men had to be given value?

It took me years to answer these questions (not that I have a perfect answer now but I’ve come a long way).  Again, I remind you that my faith in the gospel never wavered.  I just had questions and that’s OK.   In fact, it is encouraged by the church.  Elder Angel Abrea of the Seventy said it well:

“I’m sure that many questions have come to your mind. The truth is that you will not be condemned for wondering or questioning if you make a sincere effort to find the answer. Our mental powers have been given to us to use. Faith based on personal prayer, study, and obedience is more lasting than blind faith; it is more rewarding, and for sure it is better grounded.”

So how did I go through this questioning process?  Well, it started with formulating the questions when I was young and then at BYU  I started getting answers.  I read everything I could on the topic- both Mormon and traditional feminist authors (even read the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and found it very insightful).    In those college years I studied polygamy, read female pioneer journals, wrote a heated paper on the women of the Mormon Battalion (I remember my Book of Mormon teacher was shocked! Oh well!) and asked questions of everyone I came in contact with.

I also studied much on the reality of self and what makes a human being, whether male or female, interact successfully with others. But by far my most impactful experience was taking a class called the Political Economy of Women.  At the time it was taught by two dynamite professors named Valarie Hudson and Donna Lee Bowen (to read more about Valarie’s remarkable life check out her Wikipedia page).  They are both inspirational, amazing women.

In the class, we read a huge assortment of articles and books on every issue you could  imagine facing women.  Sometimes it was brutal such as the class on female circumcision where I literally left the classroom and threw up.   While painful, it was also eye-opening.

After such an awakening, we learned about a variety of the world’s solutions including everything from small micro-loans to domestic violence laws.  Through this class I gained a deep appreciation for the work being done to help all women live full, healthy, happy lives.

Finally, we discussed the gospel and its view of womanhood in great detail.  While difficult to summarize here I learned a lot about the eternal equality of men and women, the great need both genders had for each other, the value of Eve’s role in the Garden story, and the importance of stewardship in creating Zion.

Human beings are weak and find Zion-living very difficult.  This is why God gives us jobs to do while here and some of those jobs (or stewardships) can be carved along gender lines.  As anyone knows who has been, in the temple the differences between male and female roles are much fuzzier- because in the temple we are that much closer to equality or Zion.

While I found this knowledge comforting I was still left with a question about my own capabilities as an eternal woman.  I did not feel like a steward of all things womanly.  This thought nagged in the back of my head for many years.  On my mission I felt empowered by the sheer good I could do and how my nature was needed by individuals I taught.  It was the beginning of my understanding of my unique worth.

Then one day when I returned I read Acts 10:34-35

“God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him”

This scripture really hit home.  God and Jesus Christ accepted me.  Me, with all my idiosyncrasies and stubborn ways.  If I tried my best to follow His teachings, then He accepted me.

I made this discovery when I was going through a rough period.  I hated my job. For a time I felt worthless, like there was a black cloud over my life that I couldn’t remove.  With these sad feelings; however, also came an understanding that God had a plan for my life- that my life mattered.  When I quit my job it was not just a change of career but an acknowledgment of divine potential.  It was one of the best days of my life.

Over the years I have come to my own definition of Mormon feminism.  Feminism, to me, means being free, as a woman, to live whatever life you want.  If that means having babies, have babies.  If it means working, work.  Whatever you want to do as a woman, you should be allowed to do.  It is your choice.  Certain choices lead to different levels of joy,  just like the choice of leaving my job drastically affected my happiness; however, in the end it was my choice.  It is my choice to be faithful, my choice to embrace the gospel, and everyone should have that right.  Our national, state and local laws should support a women’s ability to make these choices; as well as protect her from individuals who seek to limit the freedom of women through abuse, unfair treatment or any other unjust action .  I am a Mormon Feminist!

Hey maybe my independent spirit isn’t so different from God’s plan after all and just maybe God loves me because of my unique nature not in spite of it?

PS- this was a hard post to write and feel satisfied in my phrasing.  I hope you get an idea for the questions I’ve asked and the peace I’ve discovered in my life. Love Rachel

Are We Not All Mothers?

Happy Mother’s Day!  First I want to start out by letting the mothers in my life know how much I love them.  When I say mothers I mean anyone who has successfully mothered me throughout my life.

I was lucky to be born to an amazing mother.  There are women who set mothering aside as a tangential part of their lives.  Not my Mom.  It is her whole life.  She has spent over 30 years of her life mothering children.  She had her first baby at 22 and now at 54 still has 2 children under 15 at home.   It is a career of mothering.

My mother’s greatest gift is her ability to nurture.  She is the oldest daughter in a family of 8 and from an early age she nurtured her siblings on a daily basis.  She taught them how to read, cook, and consoled both bruised shins and egos.  My mother knows how to listen and I can’t tell you the number of times I have turned to her just to have the peace of someone who will listen.

My mother is also a very interesting person.  Whether it be politics, philosophy, gardening or an immensity of other topics, my mom has a love of learning and is always up-to-date on the latest study, book or publication.  She certainly hasn’t let the stereotype of a housewife stop her from being a dynamic, well-read, ambitious woman.

Obviously this is my Mom and my Dad

Another great mother in my life is my sister Megan.  She has always been a peaceful influence in our family.  There are some people who seem to be blessed by God with an ability to love unconditionally, Megan is one of those people.  Despite frequent quarrels (and worse) between my brother and I, I can hardly remember a moment when the two of us (or anyone else for that matter) fought with Megan.

And that’s not to says she’s a doormat because she is not.  She is just a loving person that wants everyone to be happy. I think it says something that the minute she heard of my operation she volunteered to take care of me.  That is so like her.  She is the best!

My sister and baby Nelle

One more I can’t help but mention is my Grandma Wagner.  Both my grandma’s are wonderful but my Grandma Wagner has taken a special interest in my life that I appreciate.  She seems to always call to ‘check up on me’ when I need it most.  She is also a great listener and is honestly one of my best friends.  I can’t imagine anyone not loving her.

my Grandma Wagner with one of Kate's boys

I’ve always had a great need for validation and love in my life (I suppose we all do but my needs are more pronounced than some).  For some reason, I need to know that I am loved and worthy of love, and I need to hear it again and again and again.  It is strange because I am also very independent and self-confident.  I think everyone has a mixture of a need for both? There have been so many other women in my life, some which had no children, who have mothered me- teachers, church leaders, friends, cousins, aunts etc.

The dictionary defines mothering as to “Look after kindly and protectively”.  I’ve needed such kindness and sheltering in my life.  I still need it and am grateful for all that have given it to me.  I know I can be stubborn, independent and opinionated but thanks for loving me anyway!

I love this talk by Sister Sheri L.  Dew called Are We Not All Mothers?  I wish I could find a video clip but its worth a read- especially those who are feeling a bit lonely on this mother’s day.  We all have a role to play.  We all have someone to love:

“For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable for each of us does not negate our nature. Some of us, then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved and led.”