Today we’ll pick up where we left off with Elder M. Russell Ballard’s talk “Daughters of God,” about the eternal importance of motherhood. Last time, he talked about gaining appreciation for the work of motherhood and its eternal importance. Today, we’ll look at his thoughts on the challenges facing mothers.
There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.
Today, I think all mothers feel a lot of pressure to be perfect. We’re encouraged—conditioned, even—to believe that we can have it all, and we have to have it all NOW. We have to be perfect executives and liberated women; we have to be perfect mothers and homemakers; we have to take our children to seventeen hundred and fifty-three soccer games or they’ll be in therapy for fifteen years.
And once we’ve finally found a balance and (hopefully) mothers who are in similar situations, it becomes so easy to look at other mothers with different balances and different solutions and judge them. I’ve been on both ends of this and it’s so easy to forget what Elder Ballard ends on here: “What matters is that a mothers loves her children deeply and . . . prioritizes them above all else.”
I am impressed by countless mothers who have learned how important it is to focus on the things that can only be done in a particular season of life. If a child lives with parents for 18 or 19 years, that span is only one-fourth of a parent’s life. And the most formative time of all, the early years in a child’s life, represents less than one-tenth of a parent’s normal life. It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes.
Ironically, this talk was delivered on the same day that I designated to post for our last GWP, “Savoring the seasons,” when I hit on his first point here: we have to savor the seasons of motherhood. I said then that “when I look back at his short life, my chief regret is not enjoying him more, even during the difficult times.”
My mother expressed a similar sentiment recently when she said “If I could do anything over again, I would worry less about things that really didn’t matter, and just enjoy the wonders of childhood with my girls. I would be more patient, more loving, more generous. I would discipline with more understanding and love. I would read more stories and more scriptures to you. I would just enjoy the very fleeting moments I had with my girls.”
Like Elder Ballard, I’m impressed by mothers who can “live in the moment” with their children, appreciating the joys of each phase of their lives. All phases have difficult times, but focusing on these simple pleasures can help us through the difficult times, too.
Elder Ballard continues:
This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners. I am grateful that today many fathers are more involved in the lives of their children. But I believe that the instincts and the intense nurturing involvement of mothers with their children will always be a major key to their well-being. In the words of the proclamation on the family, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).
We need to remember that the full commitment of motherhood and of putting children first can be difficult. Through my own four-generation experience in our family, and through discussions with mothers of young children throughout the Church, I know something of a mother’s emotions that accompany her commitment to be at home with young children. There are moments of great joy and incredible fulfillment, but there are also moments of a sense of inadequacy, monotony, and frustration. Mothers may feel they receive little or no appreciation for the choice they have made. Sometimes even husbands seem to have no idea of the demands upon their wives.
Although I still feel like he doesn’t know all that from personal, excruciating, daily experience, Elder Ballard really captures the range of emotions that I’ve felt through motherhood, from the highs to the lows. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to act as though there aren’t any lows, as if motherhood is always peaches, cream and joy—and should we ever admit that it’s hard, we must not love our children enough.
Guess what: it’s hard. I still love Hayden, but becoming a mother when he was born is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was giving my life and my soul to God and to my family, and sometimes it’s still a struggle. The days with grumpiness, whining and tantrums are sometimes really crappy. (Ooh, I said crappy.) I still love him, and there are almost always one or two sweet, loving moments, even in the worst of days.
And the worst of days sometimes have little to do with whether or not he behaves—they’re the days when I wake up and know I won’t be able to entertain and feed him the whole day. They’re the days when even eight episodes of Blue’s Clues later, it’s still three hours until nap time and I can’t think of anything for lunch, let alone fathom a way to get through the next eternity without more televisionsitting. They are the days when I’m bored, unstimulated and left wondering if there isn’t more for me out there.
But y’know, I really don’t think there is. I think that any regular, 9-to-5 job has similar moments of boredom and frustration, the same feeling of running in place, the same monotony. And while 9-to-5s come with paychecks (and sometimes recognition) (and adult conversation, usually), somehow, I don’t think that in the long run, I’ll look back and think “Oh, if only I’d had a ‘real’ job back then.”
Back to Elder Ballard for just a minute:
As a Church, we have enormous respect and gratitude to you mothers of young children. We want you to be happy and successful in your families and to have the validation and support you need and deserve.
Hurray! This is what I want for mothers, too, and this is what I’m trying to do here with this talk and with MamaBlogga.
Keep tuned: we’ll look at his suggestions for finding that validation and support—and fostering it in your own home—in the coming days!