May 13, 2012

Motherhood is not for wimps

I went to bed last night dreading Mother's Day.

Tell me you know the feeling.  I really don't want to sit in church and hear glowing tributes to women I don't know while my children throw crayons, pull my hair, and kick each other in the shins.  I don't want to hear about how the speaker's family grew up reading scriptures, saying prayers, and having Family Home Evening so they all became apostles...because we're doing all of that, and our family life is mostly chaos.

If I am ever asked to speak in church on Mother's Day, I'll say something like this.

Before I was a mother, I imagined rocking sweet babies and reading stories and teaching about Jesus and baking cookies to eat after school.  I imagined a clean house, matching church clothes, playing in the park, and taking road trips.  I imagined helping with homework, and teaching the value of work, and never going to work.

Well, now that I am a mother, those naive plans have come true.  They just look a little bit different than I imagined.  I am often rocking my sweet baby in the middle of the night, soothing her sore mouth as she teethes, crying myself because I am desperate for sleep.  I read stories to my little ones, and can, in fact, recite several Dr. Seuss tales from memory, but I often do so while the kids are reading their own stories aloud, not paying attention to one word I am saying.  I teach about Jesus over the breakfast table and an open Bible, fairly confident that the splat of milk on my scriptures indicates total indifference from my children.  When I can handle the disruption and messes created by six helping hands, I bake cookies, but I end up eating most of them during nap time.

My house hasn't been clean in ten years.  I am not wistful about hand prints on every surface.  My kids cry about having to wear church clothes, let alone ties that match.  When we play in the park, my blood pressure spikes 30 points because someone is always missing/fighting/falling/crying.  Road trips are only possible because of my nemesis, the television.

I help with homework, but wish that didn't mean completing science fair projects at 10:00 p.m., giving lectures about doing your best, or endlessly drilling multiplication facts.  I didn't know that homework was the tip of the iceberg-known-as-school, and that being my kids' advocates in the educational system would become a part-time job.  I believe in the value of work, but I am constantly amazed at how children can make a simple task, like vacuuming a bedroom, take two hours.  While I am grateful that outside employment is not required of me, I laugh when I remember how I used to think that being a mother would be easier than having a full-time desk job.  Being a mother is NOT easy, and it's a job that demands much more time than 40 hours a week.

Being a mother is physically demanding.  There is never enough sleep.  There is never enough praise.  There is never enough help.  There is never enough time to accomplish all that is required.  There are far fewer rewarding days than troubling days.

Being a mother is emotionally draining.  I constantly ask myself things like: Am I doing enough?  Will he ever learn to make good choices?  How can I help her learn what she needs to know?  Does he have a testimony?  How did I miss teaching that life lesson?  Where did I go wrong?  Can I fix this?  Can I get some help here?

Being a mother is spiritually stretching.  In addition to the basic mortal tasks of feeding and bathing and clothing and teaching, I yearn to impart spiritual truths.  My children need to know that God is their Father and Jesus is their Savior; that they should choose the right, make and keep covenants, read scriptures, pray, serve missions, and marry in the temple; that they must love their neighbors, serve their fellowmen, be kind, be honest, and be a good example.  So of course I need to be doing all of those things, too.

Most of the time I fall short.  I'm not enough.  I can't do it all.  And I have guilt.  Lots and lots of guilt.

So am I glad that I am a mother?  Absolutely.  Do I believe that motherhood is a noble calling?  Yes.  Is it the hardest thing I have ever done?  Without a doubt.  Would I change the life I chose for myself?  No way.  How is that possible, you ask?

Somewhere, deep down, I know that I am doing God's work, and that successful families build successful societies.  I know that despite my desires for perfection, most of what I am doing is good enough.  I know that my life is just real life, and the messes and the mischief and the mayhem are not unique to our house.  I know that overall, this is a happy, healthy family, and we're going to be okay.

Zach reminded me of this when he presented the Mother's Day card he made for me.

I sure love these kids that made me a mother.  Today, that's all that really matters.

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