We are all grateful for the women that we call Mother, but I am not sure that we spend enough time being Thankful to BE MOTHERS.
I want to point out first of all that motherhood is our divine calling, and it is something extended to all women- THAT includes those who have not yet had the opportunity to bear or raise their OWN children.
Sheri Dew, who was a member of the General Relief Society Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has never had the opportunity to marry and bear children, and she has expressed her thoughts on this subject much more beautifully than I ever could so I am going to read it to you.
While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.
Elder John A. Widtsoe was explicit: “Women who through no fault of their own cannot exercise the gift of motherhood directly, may do so vicariously.”
Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us. (Sheri Dew)
As women we are full of opportunities to mother others, let me give you an example from my own life.
Linda Lawrence, is a wonderful woman, who has just one child- yet she was a mother to all of us, her sons friends- I knew when I was sad I could go to her and she would give me one of her the Great hugs she is famous for, and I knew she loved me and cared about what happened to me- and that was enough to make it all better.
With or without children of our own- as women we are ALL MOTHERS- and we have a great responsibility. But when we are blessed with children in our home, the most important work that we can do is THERE with them-
We live in a difficult world where the family is falling apart-- Divorce is almost as common as marriage and people are more concerned with success than they are with their children. Children are growing up without the strong family influence so vital to their moral character- they are learning their values from TV and Friends instead of from their parents- and we, as mothers- hold the key to the whole problem!
Sister Virgina U. Jensen of the General Relief Society Board said this
It is my sincere belief that the most powerful protection against the deteriorating condition of the family is a faithful, righteous mother. In 1993 President Hinckley said: “I remind mothers everywhere of the sanctity of your calling. No other can adequately take your place. No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world.”
What a great responsibility the Lord has given to us- I feel SO HONORED to be a part of that- We are the ones with the power to change everything- for our children.
This power given to us is almost magical- we have the ability to mold and shape little minds- and to watch them reflect the things that we have taught them. Here is a moment I wrote about when my oldest was still small.
"My 4 year old, Ethan is quite a talker- as a matter of fact he rarely stops- (I can't imagine where that comes from) and so as he is getting older I am constantly seeing myself in him- Imitating me—sometimes its sweet, sometimes its funny, and sometimes I am shocked at what he has picked up- and embarrassed that it came from me!-But each time this happens, I am overwhelmed with the strongest feelings- because I am SO grateful that it is MEEEEE that he is copying, not some babysitter, or daycare worker- or the television.-- My husband and I are the strongest influences in his life and that is how it was intended to be."
In “The Family, A proclamation to the world", they are very specific about the roles of parents.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN????- Well also in the proclamation the first presidency states-
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
Wow, what a big responsibility- I don't know about you, but thats almost overwhelming to me! It is our SACRED DUTY, and we will be held accountable for that obligation. I feel so inadequate for this challenge the Lord has given to me- I look at my two small children and feel scared, there is so much evil in the world- how can I teach them everything they need to know- how can I prepare them for it all. But the truth is that AS MOTHERS we are blessed to be partners with the Lord. We are instruments in his hands and he can guide us to do the things that are best for our children. But when I get too overwhelmed with it all, I can find comfort in the words of President Hinckley given in a General Relief Society Meeting a few years back. He was speaking specifically to us mothers, and he says
To you young women with small children, yours is a tremendous challenge. So often there is not enough money. You must scrimp and save. You must be wise and careful in your expenditures. You must be strong and bold and brave and march forward with gladness in your eye and love in your heart. How blessed you are, my dear young mothers. You have children who will be yours forever. I hope that you have been sealed in the house of the Lord and that your family will be an everlasting family in the kingdom of our Father.
May you be given strength to carry your heavy load, to meet every obligation, to walk side by side with a good and faithful and caring man, and together with him rear and nurture and bring up your children in righteousness and truth. Nothing else you will ever own, no worldly thing you will ever acquire will be worth so much as the love of your children. God bless you, my dear, dear young mothers.
Then we have you older women who are neither young nor old. You are in the most wonderful season of your lives. Your children are in their teens. Possibly one or two are married. Some are on missions, and you are sacrificing to keep them in the field. You are hoping and praying for their success and happiness. To you dear women I offer some special counsel.
Count your blessings; name them one by one. You don't need a great big mansion of a house with an all-consuming mortgage that goes on forever. You do need a comfortable and pleasant home where love abides. Someone has said that there is no more beautiful picture than that of a good woman cooking a meal for those she loves. Weigh carefully that which you do. You do not need some of the extravagances that working outside the home might bring. Weigh carefully the importance of your being in the home when your children come from school.
I am very blessed to be able to stay home with my children-
I have people all the time who say- Oh you are SO lucky, I wish I could stay home- but we just can't afford it. And sometimes I just want to say to them- “have you ever tried?”- I do recognize that there are many women who must work outside the home to survive, for various reasons beyond their control- and I admire these women greatly-but for the rest of us, I bear my testimony to you that if you trust in the Lord and take that leap of faith- it is possible.
When asked what her feelings were on women working outside the home- A former General Relief Society president- Sister Barbara B Smith has said...
Sister Barbara B Smith (general Relief Society President): The decision of a mother to go to work outside her home is an individual matter. Some widowed and divorced mothers may find they have to work to support themselves and their children. For some women working is a right decision at a certain time; for others it is not. It is not a simple choice. This is an area in which a woman must be most thoughtful and prayerful. She must carefully weigh the economic advantages against the possible adverse effects on the family of her absence from home. She must recognize her vital responsibilities as a wife and mother and ask herself how these will be affected if she leaves the home for outside employment. She must explore all of the options and choose the activities which will permit the greatest good for those for whom she has primary responsibility.
I'm not saying it's easy. I KNOW for a fact that it isn't easy financially to stay home- We live on a cop's salary- so believe me- I know... I spend hours budgeting and planning every single penny we have. And I will NEVER be fashionably dressed, and I shop for groceries with a calculator in my hand- make a tube of foundation last three years and cringe when my kids need new shoes-
BUT, I am there when my children bring me a book and say “read to me” 5 times a day, I am there to sing them to sleep every night, and to talk about their latest "crush". I am there to take them on walks to teach them about Nature, I am there to answer every single one of the million questions, and if I teach my children NOTHING else, I will have taught them that I loved them enough to give up all the rest.
A Good chunk of mommys job is not to give orders but to listen...
There was a fantastic story in the Ensign called “Mother Come Home” Where a woman had planned and prepared her entire life for her dream of being a successful corporate executive. She finished graduate school and was offered a job with a major international company that would assure her success and wealth, but would be very demanding on her family. After much prayer she was guided not to take the job and eventually became a full time “stay at home” mom. let me just read you a quote from that
After four years with this company, I felt that I was not supposed to work outside the home anymore. After another long night of counseling with my husband and with the Lord, I told the company owner I would be leaving. This decision took a leap of faith because we still had bills to pay, including student loans, and we had recently welcomed another daughter, Aerie, to our family. But I had learned that I am happiest when I follow the Lord’s plan for my life rather than my own personal plans.
Three years after this difficult decision to leave my job, our daughter Aerie asked me, “Mom, if someone said you could have ten thousand million diamonds or your Aerie, what would you choose?” I told her, “I would choose my Aerie.” She went on, “If someone said you could have ten million hundred dollars or your Aerie, what would you choose?” Again I told her, “I would choose my Aerie.” She jumped up and down, crying with glee, “I knew you would say that! I just knew you would say that!”
It hit me then that I had chosen my Aerie. Had I taken the position with the large international company, I probably would not have her in my life. And she is truly a joy, as are our four other children.
My mother was Valedictorian of her high school class, and when she recently went for her 30 year reunion, people were shocked to find out she -by their standards hadn't done anything great-, they expected so much of her- expected her to have all these accomplishments and all these degrees- but she doesn't feel like them at all- She could have been ANYTHING- but she CHOSE to be a Mother-She says-
“I made my job successful, because that is what I cared about- so I put my whole heart and soul into it. What is the difference between excelling there- and excelling outside the home- where down the road no-one really cares.
“I did a little of everything”- and that was MY CHOICE, and I don't regret it, not at all- I can't think of anything I would rather have done.”
Now whether you stay at home or must work- you are NO LESS A MOTHER- If anything it is more challenging for those women who are forced into the workplace- for whatever reason... I do have great respect and awe for these women and their efforts to compensate for the time spent away from home.
Being a mother is difficult no matter how you look at it- We all have different circumstances, and different obstacles-
I had a conversation with a friend the other day who had had a disagreement with her husband over whose job was more difficult. She didn't felt like he understood how hard it was to be a mother- and he didn't feel like she understood how hard his job was -and how much he needed to relax when he got home- instead of sharing in responsibilities. Whether we work or not, I imagine we have all had similar battles- feeling like no one understands how difficult what you 43do is. I have found myself spending what precious time I have with my husband complaining about the difficulties of my day- and giving him a play by play of everything that the kids did- and how frustrating it all was- etc etc. It finally hit me that I was trying to prove to him that what I did was hard and important- I needed him to know that I was working hard.-- And I found myself doing it with other people too- Like I needed everyone else's approval for my work as a mother. I call it “Validation” when we constantly need others - be it our husband, friends, family, or even the rest of the world- to approve or validate what we do. We can never truly be happy when our happiness or sense of self comes from others.
In this conversation with my friend, we both realized, that it isn't anyone else's approval that we needed. We just needed to believe in OURSELVES and believe in what we are doing. As mothers, we have to find that strength within ourselves- and that can be harder than we ever imagined as naïve young women dreaming of what motherhood would be like. If you struggle with this, as we all do, I promise the Lord can help you. A favorite scripture we all know- 1 Nephi 3:7 reads, that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he hath commanded them. The Lord has blessed us to be mothers- he knows our individual circumstances, and if we go to him for support and approval we will find it. He will help us through the challenges that come our way- whether you are a single mom with two kids- trying to make ends meet- or a stay at home mom struggling to find meaning in the day to day menial tasks that never end.
We also have to accept some pretty basic things about Motherhood, like the fact that the world is NEVER going to view our job as important or worthwhile. We are going to sit in work parties with our husbands and have the other women turn their noses up when they ask what we do, and we say “I chose to stay home with my children.” We are going to have people filling out forms ask us for our job, and when we say “stay at home Mom” they are going to say “Oh so you don't work”? Its going to happen, again and again and again. And I won't pretend that these things don't STILL bother me, but what bothers me now isn't that it makes me feel small anymore. NOW, it bothers me that these women don't know any better. That they don't have the same conviction that I do, that a mothers place is in the home.
I have always wanted to be a Mother-
I was going to be the perfect Mom--
kids always dressed nice and matching- and hair combed-
A nutritious meal always on the table at 5
I would always have this sense of fulfillment and accomplishment
Fast forward to a few years ago----
Its about 6:30 at night
the house is a disaster- although I spent all day cleaning it
there are piles of dirty dishes- even though the sink was empty this morning and there is a stack of laundry that needs to be folded and another one that I SWEAR I just put away that morning
the boys need a bath and are chasing each other around the kitchen with their fish sticks and frozen corn scattered all over the kitchen table
My husband is at work and won't be home till the middle of the night and I am at my wits end-- It wasn't supposed to be like this!
Ethan has been arguing with me, and even though he has dumped every toy he owns on the family room floor I can NOT get him to clean it up!- I can't remember what he had said specifically but it was enough to make me VERY angry with him.
SO I call my Mom and I am just complaining and venting about how frustrated I am, and how much these guys drive me crazy and how tired I am and so on and so on and so on. -- and she stops me in the middle of my tirade and says-
Put everything down and go gather your children in your arms and read them a story- and I was like “WHAT” But Mom, I am so mad, and so on and so on... but she persisted, so I did as she suggested. And do you know what? It got better. The kitchen was still a mess, and the laundry still needed to be folded and the playroom was still a disaster. But I WAS THE ONE WHO CHANGED. My attitude turned towards loving and teaching instead of yelling and screaming.
What did I learn from this small moment? That I am NEVER going to be perfect, and that my kids aren't going to be perfect- but my kids don't care- they love me no matter what, and its BEING THERE that counts.
Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave us some words of wisdom when he said.
Yours is the grand tradition of Eve, the mother of all the human family, the one who understood that she and Adam had to fall in order that “men [and women] might be” 9 and that there would be joy. Yours is the grand tradition of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, without whom there could not have been those magnificent patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which bless us all. Yours is the grand tradition of Lois and Eunice and the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors. Yours is the grand tradition of Mary, chosen and foreordained from before this world was, to conceive, carry, and bear the Son of God Himself. We thank all of you, including our own mothers, and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high.
“May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient. If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for that guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you will show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Because She Is a Mother,” Ensign, May 1997, 36.
I bear my testimony to you, that motherhood is the greatest gift we, as women have been given. We need to cherish it and appreciate what a gift it is. We need to believe in ourselves if we choose to stay home and KNOW that what we are CHOOSING our children over success in the world. What a wonderful gift to have that choice to make! And I challenge you to sit down with your children and love them, read to them, sing to them, and play with them. Sometimes its okay to let the house go and just enjoy the little moments. Because they really do grow up before you can blink. I encourage you to get down on your knees and seek your validation from the Lord and stop allowing the world to make you feel small. We are mothers, and it is the greatest blessing in the world!