It’s Mother’s Day. It’s been a wonderful day full of special things and normal things. I have thoroughly appreciated the little love notes, flowers and gifts given to me by my youngest children, reflecting not only the love of my little ones but also the thoughtfulness of other women who teach them. This morning I snuggled in bed a little longer with my baby, aware for the first time in my life that such opportunities may be vanishing. I have enjoyed my husband’s efforts to handle the crying babies/toddlers in Church (today we had three of those) and to feed our hungry bunch without my help. We’ve had enough thoughtfulness to make it a special day and enough crying to keep it normal.
This year I find myself reflecting a little on my feelings about motherhood and how it’s changed over the years. As I looked around me in Church today I noticed the mothers who stand at the beginning of this, the greatest adventure they’ll ever embark upon. Their eyes are full of happiness and expectation and their ideals are high. I saw the mothers whose children are in various stages of leaving home. I’ve noticed that they say less, sometimes, in classes. It seems to me that they’ve learned a lot but have also learned how much they don’t know. While I know they’ve experienced victories, they’ve also experienced difficulties which I think may keep them quiet. They are the group I wish would talk more, for I feel that there is much for me to learn from them. I noticed the mothers who are now grandmothers, and in some cases great-grandmothers. I appreciate the kindness in their eyes when they look at me and my bunch. I find myself hanging onto their words. I still remember when I was expecting my 7th baby and one of them looked at me and said, “We had seven. You live after.” We both laughed, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve reflected on that statement when I wondered what on earth made me think that I could raise children.
I call myself a Mom in the Middle. By this description I mean that I am far enough into this adventure to be cognizant of the reality that children aren’t perfect and that there is no perfect mother. I’m in far enough to be completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of my responsibilities. I find myself looking back and forth between the young moms and the veteran moms while I try to find my way through the no-man’s-land in the middle. The middle is, right now, hard for me, but I am slowly finding my way. I am on the front lines of humanity, in the trenches. It is exhausting. It is discouraging. It is also exhilarating and motivating. Motherhood is so much simpler and more complex than I anticipated. I’ve learned that we need a lot less “stuff” than we thought we did, that I can do without most of the “gear.” I’ve also learned that the complexities of decision making are huge, that even the little things can set courses for individuals or upset the balance of the group. I’m at the point where I know a few things but still have SO much to learn.
Motherhood is the ultimate experience in delayed gratification. As I look around at my generation I feel like we were, in large part, unprepared for that reality. The need many have to feel good about ourselves as parents sometimes inhibits our ability to properly parent. I remind myself regularly that I am not in this for the short run. I am not in this for what kind of 3, 5, 10, 15 or 20 year old my child is. I am in this for what kind of parent they will be. I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve learned that, like my cherry trees, people bloom at different times. Different children make certain connections at different ages. They have moments of illumination on their own schedules. I can try to create an environment where these moments can happen, but I cannot force them. Sometimes I feel like the time is long past for certain lessons to have distilled in the consciousness of a child. Sometimes their “tardiness” creates new challenges in their lives. It is painful to let your children fall on their faces and experience the full measure of the consequences of their mistakes. It is painful to live the social consequences of these things. It is easy as parents to immerse ourselves too much in secondary causes which feed that need for recognition, gratification and accomplishment. It is painful to name your fears, face them, and press forward with what is right. Still, an honest assessment of today’s social culture screams that we must do it. I often think of the words of T.S. Eliot, “And right action is freedom from past and future also.”
As hard as it is, I cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life. I did not foresee that motherhood would reveal so many weaknesses in me. I am also convinced that I’ve discovered talents and strengths that could not have been unearthed in any other context. Nothing else could teach me as effectively about my need to have faith, to pray for charity, to really learn how to pray, to run to my Savior for refuge and help.
I am grateful for these words from Gordon B. Hinckley, “Never forget that these little ones are the sons and daughters of God and that yours is a custodial relationship to them, that He was a parent before you were parents and that He has not relinquished his parental rights or interest in these His little ones. … Rear your children in love, in the nurture and love them with all of your hearts. They may do, in the years that come, some things you would not want them to do, but be patient, be patient. You have not failed as long as you have tried.”
I cannot do this alone. I need God’s help. I also need the help of other mothers. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the women around me who are raising their children. I appreciate their examples, the kindness they show to my children. And their stories. Oh, how their stories feed me. I find strength in the honesty with which they share the ups and downs of being mothers. It reminds me that I am not alone, that there is much we can do to lift and help each other. I have learned about mothering from women who have more children than I do and from women who have fewer. I have learned profound lessons in mothering from women who have no children. I have learned from close friends and from women I’ve never met.
Patricia Holland said, “I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words, with meaning after meaning. We must not, at all costs, let that word divide us. I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children.”
I believe that this is an incredible time in which to be a mother. Right now my desk is piled with research from multiple disciplines which I am studying for the purpose of being a better mother. I am learning about marketing ideas to my children, about how to teach. I am learning about organizational management, communication and about leadership. Never before have such rich resources been available to us. Never before have we had the opportunity to communicate so freely with one another. Perhaps never has our influence been more needed, more potent. I am raising five daughters. Five mothers. It may be that the greatest gift I give them is to LOVE being a mom.
Thus, on this Mother’s Day my heart swells with gratitude for the privilege of being a mother, for the privilege of associating with other mothers (my own mother first among them) and for the opportunity to be a better mother today than I was yesterday. Let us lift one another, encourage one another, assume the best in one another. Hang in there! Together we can do it. I close with a favorite quote,
“We need to make allowances for ‘almosts.’ We can be very successful mothers if we are almost always attentive. We can create a nurturing, supportive home environment if we are almost always loving and patient. … We can make these allowances for ‘almosts’ because motherhood is not a matter of absolutes. If we have not completely met our expectations, it doesn’t mean we have failed…. it is quite possible to both fall short of and exceed our expectations of motherhood.” -Amy Hardison
I’m banking on that!
Happy Mothers Day to women everywhere. THANK YOU for all you teach me.