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…)
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 clearly I’m single but I’d like to use my blog for a second to defend what most of my friends do as their careers- be a housewife or a stay at home Mom. In recent years the term housewife has gotten more media coverage but not in a good way.
In fact, it has kind of gotten dragged through the mud. I’m afraid most people today think of prima donna’s who throw lavish parties and have cosmetic surgery. Between Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise and Desperate Housewives the term almost has no meaning any more.
When I was growing up I was fed a different impression. Women like Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show had 5 children and yet were lawyers with perfect bodies of course. Seemingly a woman could do it all (Growing Pains and Family Ties are other examples).
The admittedly charming movie Baby Boom showcases the 80’s version of the perfect woman. In the movie Diane Keaton is a powerful executive with no interest in a baby but she is bequeathed an infant by her distant cousin. Eventually she finds a job as a baby food maker that blends the powerful work life with motherhood perfectly. (It is a stream on netflix right now)
This was the illusion of the 80s- that you can find a super meaningful career and raise a family at the same time. The idea of being a stay at home seemed dull and unimportant.
Here’s the thing I wish the young me understood- Adult life is mostly boring, most of the time. I don’t care if you have the most exciting job in the world it still involves a huge amount of routine with the dull repetition of tasks. (Ask me about the days I spend entering data into a 27,000 item spreadsheet for hours at a time and I have a masters degree!)
I can’t think of a job where you don’t do the same thing every day. Think of someone like Angelina Jolie. She seems like a real glamorous person living an exciting life. Have you ever heard about how a movie is made? It is taping the same shot over and over again from different angles until it is perfect.
I am not saying you have to stay at home to be a good mother. How would I know about any of that? I’m a single woman. Every woman must make choices with how they want to live the life God gives them. Just understand that whatever you decide will be boring and repetitive a lot of the time.
Any time in your life you can have a career you believe in despite all the tedium and fatigue than you have it made. Most of the housewives I know can say, even with all the stress, they believe what they are doing has value and matters to the future of the country. Most people can’t say that about their jobs. Why do you think there are so many shows like The Office about the stupefying tedium of the corporate workplace? Its what a lot of people live. I lived it for 3 years and it was awful.
In this economy people are lucky to have any job without worrying about a dream job and indeed many women can not chose to be a stay at home Mom and must make other career choices. Regardless, most jobs are 80-100% boring, repetitious, hard work, so if you can find something you believe in and can do you as your career, you are a very fortunate.
Maybe the problem is most women in the past didn’t have a choice to be a housewife or not. The customs of the era insisted they stay at home and with rare exceptions most followed. I don’t think this is the case any more or it shouldn’t be. Most women today chose to stay at home and raise their children a certain way. And like I said to have a job that you believe in and have chosen is a very lucky thing.
In the past there may have also been a stereotype of a housewife as an indentured servant instead of a mother/wife. Hopefully this isn’t as common any more (although I’m certainly aware domestic abuse and violence still exists). At least nobody I know is treated so badly or forced to stay at home.
“the basic messages expressed in these blogs —family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things — are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap”.
I don’t have my dream job. I’d love to get involved in politics and make a difference in some small way to my community,and it may happen someday. However, my job allows me to fulfill my other more important dreams such as the open water swims. It allows me to work despite my pain (a HUGE blessing!) and to have the lifestyle I love. I consider myself very lucky and watched over in my career.
I think anyone is lucky when they can lead a life of their choosing that fulfills them most of the time.
“Her mothering influence has been felt by many hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and she has refined the role of nurturer to an art form” Julie Beck.
For years quotes like the above would make me groan and roll my eyes. To many of my Mormon friends this may seem surprising, even shocking. How could I have such feelings about the divine roll of motherhood? I believe there are several complicated reasons for my unique views going back to my childhood.
When I was 10 years old my mother and father announced they were expecting a baby. In my young years I was nothing but excited about such news. In fact, a number of friends mom’s had babies and I was excited to be part of the trend. My father must have approached the news with more trepidation because he knew what a pregnancy meant for my mom. While no doubt excited to have more children, my parents knew that having a baby meant nearly-full bed-rest for my mother. At the time my dad was working to start his own software company and I can’t imagine what the stress must have been like knowing he was about to be both bread-winner and substitute mom for three children. No doubt there was many a prayerful night pleading to have the strength for his family and this new treasured baby.
Being a selfish child it was hard for me to see my mother in bed- especially in the beginning when she had both morning sickness and bed-rest. However, there were many positive life-lessons that came from this first pregnancy. I have memories of my sister and I (at 8 and 10) cooking meals for the family during that pregnancy. I know that Megan used to make muffins of all kinds (she still does). I remember when my dad brought home 10 lbs of barbecued beef because we had said we liked it once! I remember when Ben got mice and they had babies in the middle of the night (that was the one event my mother got out of bed for!). I remember when I tried to make maui smoothie for my mom and the blender exploded all over the kitchen (thanks to a kind neighbor for helping us with that one!). I even remember Megan’s baptism with a pregnant Mom in Winter- she did attend that event.
Clearly we learned a lot about working hard, caring for a house, cleaning, and taking care of a baby. On the negative side I learned that baby’s were hard work. Hard work that took both of my parents away from my life (again selfish child). This was amplified by our move across the country to Maryland when Anna was a year old. So now I had to make new friends in a new place while still adjusting to a new sibling.
Somehow I made it through the tough middle school years and was ready to start high school. You can imagine my mixed feelings when in January of that year my parents announced another pregnancy. This is when my little brother Sammy was born. Once again we had to go through the experience of my mother being sick and bed-ridden, except for this time we had to do it with a 5 year old to take care of. It was a good thing my dad was an independent businessman who worked at home, or I don’t know how he could have done it. I give him a lot of credit for holding down our family during those times.
Still for selfish me, it wasn’t enough. In my eyes my parents weren’t around for my high school events the way my friend’s parents were- and I blamed it on the care of a baby. I am not saying this was the right way to look at the situation. My friends would spend weekends in DC exploring, take trips to the nearby beaches (something we never did the entire time we lived in Maryland), and visit historical attractions. This was very difficult with an infant and a 5 year old.
I also had a very independent, prideful streak (and still do to a lesser extent) that refused to admit to any of these feelings or discuss them with my parents. Instead, I became super active with my friends and felt my family were a bunch of people I couldn’t really relate too. Luckily for my parents I also gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon at this time so I didn’t rebel the way I might otherwise have. At the time, Ben and Megan seemed like the similar ones, who longed to be at home. I just didn’t feel that way. Like many teenagers I felt different, out of place, and even a little lonely. I wanted to get out and explore the world. I did what I could in little Middletown but deep down inside I wanted more. This is where I first latched onto the idea of going to BYU, and I never gave up on that dream. This is also the time when I wanted to move out on my own more than anything else (my mother says I was ready to move out when I was a baby!).
Adding to my feelings was a young womens program (fantastic in many ways) that in my eyes focused way too much on motherhood. I felt like every lesson was on motherhood and how wonderful it was. These lessons failed to describe the bed-rest, labor, nightly care, isolation, and hard work baby’s need. I felt like they were living some different version of motherhood than my family presented. I grew to resent these messages, even in Conference. I have never taken well to being told what to do and with motherhood I felt it was the only option presented for women in the church. Like if I didn’t like or want to have my own babies I was a terrible person. You can imagine the conflict this created inside me.
As I grew up my testimony of the gospel increased in every way except for motherhood. This kind of explains why I was less-than-thrilled when my parents told me they were expecting again the spring before I first attended BYU. This was my dream and now I was going to be abandoning my mother to pursue my dream. I knew the road would be rough and I was actually quite mad at them. I remember Ben being mystified at my reaction- How could I not want another beautiful baby? Again, it was a selfish reaction.
The next few months were very difficult on our entire family. My mom tried her best to be positive but with both Meg and I gone she struggled. I felt guilty and sad for my mom but I think there was a side of me that also felt relief- relief for being far away from the stress and pressure. In an odd way my first summer in college was a picnic compared to what I saw as the stress of home. I don’t remember feeling homesick at all. Strange, hah?
Somehow my mother made it through and our family survived. Of course, now I can’t imagine my life without my siblings. They are precious to me beyond words- partly because of the sacrifice paid to bring them into the world. All three pregnancies were crucible moments for our family- particularly for my parents and us three older children. I feel we are united together in a way the younger three are not. They have not faced such a struggling time, and I hope they do not have to.
Even with the deep love I felt for my siblings I still had issues about motherhood. This continued all the way through my mission. Even today I get annoyed when I feel like the message is shared without any hint at the difficulties. To make matters worse I felt guilty every time I would hear about how natural and wonderful motherhood was. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel that way?Why I am the only Mormon woman who wasn’t crazy about having kids?
After much thought and prayer I finally found the answer that worked for me. It happened after reading D&C 64:34 which says:
“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days”
I realized “I have a willing heart”, “I do strive to be obedient”. I may be different from other women but the Lord loves me for or in spite of those differences. He will help me be obedient in all I do including being a good mother if the time ever presents itself. He will help me use the skills and personality I have to build His kingdom in some way. I know that is true.
With this revelation and another spiritual experience I will not share, I stopped worrying about it as much. All that I need to do is maintain a willing and obedient heart, and if the time ever comes that I get married and feel a need to start a family, the Lord will bless me with His strength and mercy. I know that is true!