Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on Motherhood

Only 3 more days to enter the writing contest! Don't delay! Leave a comment here, with a link to your post.

Finally I am getting around to writing the post for my writing contest. No, my post will not be considered for the fabulous prize--a CD copy of my 2007 cookbook, plus all the glory of having won the contest. Only your entries, dear readers, will be in the running for such prestige. I do, however, seek to inspire you to ponder your own epiphanies on motherhood (and to share them with us.)

I started off feeling fairly confident that I would be a good mother. As the oldest of six, I had a lot of experience with mothering. I had been baby hungry for years, possibly decades, before I had Kimball when I was nearly 27. I'm sure that I had some neuroses even then, but I really began to question whether I was cut out to be a good mother when I had my second child.

I really struggled for the first six months that I had two little ones, 22 months apart. Looking back, it seems so obvious that I would struggle; Henry was colicky, Kimball was on the autistic spectrum (which we didn't know yet,) my husband was in graduate school full time while trying to support our family (and the Young Men's president at church, which is a demanding responsibility); I was working on a Master's degree from home (which I eventually dropped out of), substitute teaching once or twice a week, and a perfectionist. :) I learned during those months that I had a short temper, was easily frustrated, and was capable of yelling at my kids--things that I hadn't really imagined before. And it hurt. I wanted to be the perfect mother that I envisioned, and I knew that I wasn't her.

Thankfully, my transition to three children was much gentler. Jared bought a practice that was less than a mile away when Ian was two months old, so he was often home for lunch and didn't spend any time commuting. Ian was a perfect baby; by the time he was six weeks old, he was sleeping 10 hours at night without waking up to nurse, and a couple of weeks later he had upped that to 12 hours. We were starting to recognize that Kimball might have some special needs, and although it was an overwhelming thought, it also meant that we could get help. Nevertheless, I continued to be plagued with feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and inadequacy. I wondered if I was really cut out to be the mother to the big family that I had always dreamed of. I wondered if three boys would be our family.

One day in Relief Society (our Sunday church meeting for women,) my heart was heavy. The lesson was on motherhood and I was feeling inadequate. I was the RS President at the time, so I was sitting in the front, trying not to let my misery show on my face. The sister giving the lesson was praising her daughter-in-law as an amazing mother of five children, one of whom had Down's Syndrome. Her MIL talked about her unending patience, her constantly cheerful spirit, her unwavering faith. I know that we aren't supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but I was feeling worse and worse about myself. Why did I feel so easily overwhelmed with my three boys? Why did I lose my patience and yell at them? How could I conceive of having more children when I was such a stress case already?

Thankfully, the mother in question was present, visiting from another congregation that day. She raised her hand and said, "You are being far too generous. I have days all the time when I lose my patience. I wonder why the Lord would send me these children, who are so overwhelming to me at times. I struggle with feeling like I am a good mother."

I wanted to kiss her for her honesty. I wondered if all the mothers I admired felt the same way.

Suddenly, I felt the spirit wash over me. I sensed that Heavenly Father was comforting me, and in that moment it was as if I could hear Him telling me that I was a good mother. I also knew then that I could and should have more children and that He would help me become the mother that I wanted to be. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt this sweet reassurance from a Father who knew my pain and who loved me.

It has really been a process for me, but I have noticed in the years that followed that experience that I feel guilty and inadequate less and less. I do not think that this is because I have become the perfect mother. I do think that it is a blessing from a loving Heavenly Father. I have spent a lot of time studying what the scriptures and modern day prophets teach about motherhood and have spent lots of time on my knees asking the Lord for help and direction. I now feel that being a mother is just exactly what the Lord wants me to do and that He is making me into the woman that He knows I can become. I have taken greater joy in motherhood and found peace without finding the perfection I thought I needed. My house is still messy lots of the time, I still yell at my kids some (many) days, and occasionally I let my kids watch way too much TV. But I also know that the challenges of motherhood are teaching me things that I couldn't learn elsewhere. My children know that they are loved and valued. They know that I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His Church. And even if they need professional counseling when they are older (which my mother reassures me is inevitable,) my children will still be okay because of those things.

Now, I feel strongly about helping other mothers feel that they are enough. Every mother needs to know that if she is doing her best, relying on the Lord, and pushing forward to do better, that she is a good mother to her children. And knowing that frees us up to relish motherhood in more situations and on a daily basis.


Emily said...

Great post. Thank you. I have been struggling with the same feelings since my second was born (a year ago today). I hope that I will be able to feel better about the kind of mother I am someday, too.

Lynell said...

What a beautiful post. I think I just might have to enter your contest. Sounds fun and it is on my favorite topic.

Sonja said...

What a wonderful post! And example! It is SO incredibly refreshing to hear honest thoughts and feelings about motherhood and especially to hear how the Lord can guide and help us in this most important work.

It took me a few years to realize too, that motherhood (and life in general) is meant to be relished. Thank you for affirming that truth.

Rebecca said...

This is beautiful. So well written, I love your thoughts on this. We have had many of the same feelings and thoughts.

Thank you for sharing.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I really needed to read this today! Thanks for posting this and for being so incredibly honest. You and I have had a lot of similar thoughts and these thoughts have been even more on the forefront of my mind as I get ready to have our third. But deep down I know I am doing what the Lord wants me to do and therefore He will give me the strength to survive ... and to yell and get flustered a little less :) !!

Keli & Mike said...

Who took the black and white photos on this post? They are so cute! We're trying to find somebody to do pictures for us.

Sean, Spring & Paige Liberty said...

Hey my mom found your blog and sent me a link.
Wow..not too often that a post makes me cry. You are an outstanding person and mother...and writer! Thanks for making me feel just a little more adequate at the most challenging and important job I have. I hope we find some time to get together in the near future.

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

I just found your blog through Lei's
(My Many Colored Days.)
I just wanted to thank you for writing so openly and honestly and sharing your heart on Motherhood. I too believe that it is truly the greatest calling. I struggle so often with perfectionism but I'm learning to give it all to my Saviour and allow Him to guide me along this journey.
I look forward to reading more.

D&D mom said...

I love this post for it's honesty and encouragement... this is the right way for the Internet be used. Thank you. I was referred here by "mommy of three" and I'll be back again.

As a side note, I identified with all of your feelings except for the one about "I can have more children." I think three's the limit for me. :)