I have a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day. It is supposed to be a day to reflect on our sweet mothers, whether living or not, and on our own personal experiences of motherhood. Depending on the previous year’s events, some Mother’s Days are easier than others.You feel guilty after attending a church service where well-meaning speakers tell stories of their perfect mothers. The years when you celebrate the birth of a new baby are most likely to bring about happy memories. The years where you suffer a miscarriage or the loss of your mother can be difficult to endure. If you are going through infertility treatments and wonder if you will ever be a mother at all, while those around you rejoice in a new addition to the family, your heart may be breaking. I have experienced all of these scenarios: the sadness some events bring, but also the joy brought about by others. No matter what the circumstances, we are all mothers.
Some of you may say, “But I am not a mother.” I say, ‘Yes, you are.” If you have not carried a child in your womb or held a newborn in your arms as an adoptive mother, you are still a mother. D. Todd Christofferson explained it this way,”From age immemorial, societies have relied on the moral force of women. While certainly not the only positive influence at work in society, the moral foundation provided by women has proved uniquely beneficial to the common good. Perhaps, because it is pervasive, this contribution of women is often underappreciated. Women bring with them into the world a certain virtue, a divine gift that makes them adept at instilling such qualities as faith, courage, empathy, and refinement in relationships and culture.”
We, as women, have many opportunities to be a mother. A few of the definitions of mother are to bring up a child with care and affection, to look after kindly and protectively, or to hold a position of authority. None of these definitions requires that you give birth to or adopt a child to be a mother. We have chances everyday to love and care for others. We can be aunts, teachers, babysitters, cousins, and friends to those who need affection. Even in caring for the elderly, we can act as a mother figure by providing for their needs. Often, as our parents age, we return the kind of nurturing we received as a child from our parents.
While the world continues to progress and lean toward equal rights for women, I think it is important for us to remember that men and women will never be the same. Men will never be able to bear a child. That miracle is given only to women. Neal A. Maxwell said,”When the history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistice made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”
Many women choose to work outside the home in addition to their responsibilities as a wife and/or mother. That is admirable. But it is important to note that if a woman makes the decision not to pursue a career, that she not be looked upon as ”just” a mother. In her book, I Am a Mother, Jane Clayson Johnson says, “I see no justs when I read those words. Instead I feel something: Honor. Responsibility. Awe. Hope.” Jane Clayson Johnson was a renowned television reporter for many years and chose to leave her professional career to pursue her childhood dreams of being a wife and mother. Many people looked down on her for this decision but she found a lifetime of satisfaction and fulfillment in raising her family.
Being a mother is hard work. It often seems mundane as we get up each morning only to repeat what we did the day before. Making the beds, fixing breakfast (well, some mothers do!), getting the kids dressed and out the door on time for the bus, then feeding the baby, doing the laundry and the dishes, running errands and getting the baby down for a nap before the other kids get home off the bus, then home work, piano lessons, getting dinner on the table for daddy, and then baths and bedtime prayers. It wears me out just typing it. Finally, we might get a few minutes of quiet time before somebody has a nightmare or needs a drink of water. As we snuggle down to sleep, our minds keep us awake as we worry if we did everything we were supposed to that day. Every one of us will at some time or another feel like we have failed. Eventually, our eyes will shut for a few hours just in time to do it all again. In the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, “To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle-and all will-I say, Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.” Years later you will look back and realize you were not just doing things, you were creating traditions.
As mothers, we often feel like we are not enough. We have visions of being the perfect mom. We have dreams of a clean house with decorative pillows and curtains that match just like in the magazines we never have time to read. We plan to have freshly baked cookies waiting for the kids after school and a smiling face waiting with open arms to greet them. Instead, laundry piles on top of the couch and the pillows cannot be found. The smile is replaced with tired eyes from taking care of the sick baby all day. All you want is a hot bath—alone. Most of the time, all our children want from us is to just show up.
In her book, You Are the Mother Your Children Need: Believing in Your God Given Gifts,Talents and Abilities, Christie Gardiner says, “You are the mother your children need.” She goes on to say,”I know you worry that you aren’t enough. How could you possibly be? There are so many things to do right, and your list of ineptitudes seems overwhelming. But I have to tell you something, and I need you to listen: The woman you want to be.. The one who has within her every talent, gift, and ability to be what her children need? She’s already there.She is you!”
Growing up as the baby sister, I was often jealous of my older sisters. I would always try to sneak into their rooms and borrow their makeup or their clothes. Being five years younger, most of the clothes didn’t fit. And imagine my surprise when my sister’s lip balm turned out to be rub-on cologne. I was so excited when they started to be too busy to babysit and I got to take over their jobs. Twenty-five cents an hour was the going rate at the time and I was thrilled when I would get fifty cents an hour for my hard work. I loved babies. I loved babysitting and being given the responsibility of taking care of them. I had my favorites, but as I too got older, my interests changed.
I always thought that since I loved babies so much, I would be a wonderful mother. Little did I know that motherhood is different than babysitting. When you can’t get a baby to stop crying, you don’t get to hand her off to mommy and daddy at the end of your shift nor do you get to leave the throwup on the floor for someone else to clean up (yes, I did that). You don’t expect to be the mean mom who yells or says no all the time. Motherhood is a full time position. There is no paid time off, vacation days, or even a lunch break. Occasionally, you might get a date night, but the kids are still there when you get home. It’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing better than watching a 2 year old sleeping soundly. The point being, they are your greatest joy and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Why then do we find ourselves at wit’s end? Why do we raise our voices and throw our hands up in the air when they are disobedient? Why do we cry ourselves to sleep at night worrying about the choices they are making? Why do we get up everyday and do it all again? The answer is simple. We are mothers! And just like our mothers before us, it’s the most important thing we may ever be.
I had the privilege of being with my sweet mother for 51 years of my life. She was my best friend. She was the cool mom that everyone loved. She was the classy mom who had matching shoes and purses for every outfit. She was the mom who called everyday to see how you and the kids were doing. She was the mom who bought you new pajamas whenever you had surgery or a new baby. She was the mom who cleaned under the kitchen sink or emptied the junk drawer whether it needed it or not. She was the best mom. She was my mother and she taught me how to be a mother. As we watched her decline with age, she would often repeat stories over and over again. She loved to talk about our daddy. She was a widow for 12 long years without her sweetheart. They taught by word and example what true love was. I was just 38 years old when our daddy passed away from melanoma cancer. It was hard to watch my hero slowly leave this life. It was even harder watching my dear mother suffer as they said their temporary goodbyes from this earthly life together. It’s a strange part of life to have both of your parents gone. She was my mother.
I reached out on social media and asked mothers to fill in the blank to this sentence: “The best thing about being a mother is…” Answers varied from rocking a baby to sleep (my personal favorite) to watching them grow into responsible adults. I believe this response from T. Tierney Hendrickson sums it up,”The best part of being a mother is the daily experience of being an individual so bonded by the heart and soul to your children throughout all their experiences and stages. Sacrificing to be a true caregiver, advocate, role model and teacher, all the while learning, growing and being inspired by the uniqueness of the individuality of each child! The love and wisdom of it all and understanding , shapes us into our glory of grand-parenthood! It is the most excruciating, glorious, rewarding vocation, honour and blessing bestowed by God! The best part is reflecting at the end of the days and years with a heart full of love knowing that tomorrow will bring more adventure, greater joy, and more perfect love!” I agree that having a front row seat to their good times and bad makes us all better people. Everything about motherhood is both exhilarating and exhausting. But it is the love in our hearts that keeps us all going day after day.
One day a year, the world stops to honor mothers. Yet every day the mothers around the world continue to do the same things they did yesterday and will do again tomorrow. Whether they leave the house for another job or stay home, they do it not because it is expected, but because they choose to. Whether we have a dozen children or none at all #wearemothers.