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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka LDS or Mormon). Twice a year, we have a general conference where our general authorities speak to the church. One talk really stood out to me at our general conference earlier this month–and really stood out to all mothers. I thought it was so great, I wanted to share some highlights from it. It is entitled Daughters of God and was given by Elder M. Russell Ballard.
“While women live in homes under many different circumstances—married, single, widowed, or divorced, some with children and some without—all are beloved of God, and He has a plan for His righteous daughters to receive the highest blessings of eternity.”
“… I surely know that there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.”
“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.”
“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. 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.”
“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.”
“We want you to be happy and successful in your families and to have the validation and support you need and deserve. So today, let me ask and briefly answer four questions. While my answers may seem extremely simple, if the simple things are being tended to, a mother’s life can be most rewarding.”
QUESTION 1: What can you do, as a young mother, to reduce the pressure and enjoy your family more?
- First, recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction. Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to rush past the fleeting moments. She said: “The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. . . . I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less”(Loud and Clear , 10–11).
- Second, don’t overschedule yourselves or your children. We live in a world that is filled with options. If we are not careful, we will find every minute jammed with social events, classes, exercise time, book clubs, scrapbooking, Church callings, music, sports, the Internet, and our favorite TV shows. One mother told me of a time that her children had 29 scheduled commitments every week: music lessons, Scouts, dance, Little League, day camps, soccer, art, and so forth. She felt like a taxi driver. Finally, she called a family meeting and announced, “Something has to go; we have no time to ourselves and no time for each other.” Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together.
- Third, even as you try to cut out the extra commitments, sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children. Avoid any kind of substance abuse, mistakenly thinking that it will help you accomplish more. And don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the time-wasting, mind-numbing things like television soap operas or surfing the Internet. Turn to the Lord in faith, and you will know what to do and how to do it.
- Fourth, pray, study, and teach the gospel. Pray deeply about your children and about your role as a mother. Parents can offer a unique and wonderful kind of prayer because they are praying to the Eternal Parent of us all. There is great power in a prayer that essentially says, “We are steward-parents over Thy children, Father; please help us to raise them as Thou wouldst want them raised.”
QUESTION TWO: What more can a husband do to support his wife, the mother of their children?
- First, show extra appreciation and give more validation for what your wife does every day. Notice things and say thank you—often. Schedule some evenings together, just the two of you.
- Second, have a regular time to talk with your wife about each child’s needs and what you can do to help.
- Third, give your wife a “day away” now and then. Just take over the household and give your wife a break from her daily responsibilities. Taking over for a while will greatly enhance your appreciation of what your wife does.
- Fourth, come home from work and take an active role with your family. Don’t put work, friends, or sports ahead of listening to, playing with, and teaching your children.
This is a summary of the talk. All “bold” have been added by me, as well as the bullets. To read the talk in its entirety, follow this link: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-851-37,00.html
I hope these words can offer you comfort and ideas for improving your happiness in your mothering. I have long recognized that one of the biggest challenges of life is to be content with where you are. “The grass is always greener on the other side.” When Brayden was a baby, I would always think things like, “once he is sleeping through the night, things will be good” “once he is crawling, we will all be much happier” and “once he is walking, it will be much easier.” While all of those things were true, I was looking to the future too much and therefore missing the present. Each stage of your child’s life has its perks and its difficulties. Some stages are easier than others, but none is without its challenges. One I learned to truly be happy with where Brayden was, I was much happier.
I am personally not a huge fan of the newborn stage. I know for some that is their favorite. Not me. I am more of a toddler person. I love the fun of toddler hood. I love it once the baby reaches one year old. With Kaitlyn, I really strived to enjoy her newborn months. Newborns are cuddly and so small. They don’t talk back. They are comparatively easy to make happy. Those first smiles and giggles fill your heart to overflowing. I truly enjoyed those sweet newborn moments.
Remember that while cleanliness is a good thing, your children will remember and care more about the memories made than how clean your house was. Yes, you want it sanitary, but sometimes things can wait. This is a challenge for me. I find myself often putting Brayden off so I can finish cleaning something. When I seize that moment to play tag with him or something, we have such fun, and the dishes always do get done. Enjoy your children and enjoy your position as a mother of your sweet little ones.