In high school, there were seven of us. Sometimes more. Not necessarily inseparable, we would spent most of our time together. We all had our dreams and hopes; aspirations that would take us far away from our farming community. Boyfriends, driving, dress shopping, eating, movies, homework, and couch burning (don't ask) filled our high school life. Over a decade later, we all find ourselves in different situations. Some of us are married, some of us are not. Some of us have children, some of us do not. Some are divorced, others are newlyweds. Some of us served missions, some of us left the Church. Some of us live far from that farming community, others never left.
As a freshman in college, there were six of us. I moved in with five girls who had gone to high school together, and as intimidating as it was at the beginning, I found myself immersed into their lives and readily accepted; needed. We began our college adventure with high hopes of the future. We looked forward to academic success and positive relationships. Study sessions, meal planning, boyfriends, jobs, ward callings, late night music-fests, and deep doctrinal discussions filled our lives. Almost a decade later, as with my high school friends, we find ourselves in different situations. Some of us are married, some of us are not. Some of us have children, some of us do not. Some have served missions and some have not. Some are far away from Utah and some of us moved back.
I try to keep up with these women --girls from my past that helped shape the character I have become. These women share some of the best memories of my life. We've cried over hurt hearts, laughed over silly movies, and angrily threw words at each other when misunderstandings refused to be resolved. We've seen each other bear testimony of Christ and His Atonement, and then we've respectfully acknowledged that similarities have shifted over time. We have seen each other marry and we've cried when one relationship after another doesn't work out. We've rejoiced in the birth of children and our hearts have broken for those suffering with infertility.
Over and over and over again, I find myself longing to see these women again. I'm sure most of them laugh at me when I send out the emails and plan again and again --one friend mentioned "We would never get together if it wasn't for Cheryl!" I know more than one person would rather I didn't try to plan reunions, as they would rather let the past slip into the past, but I cannot stop myself. I long to reconnect with these amazing friends, and regardless of their current lives, they will always be precious to me. I find each friendship I make to be important. Even the ones that slowly fade....I still remember them. Sometimes names will leave my memory, and time will dull the remembrance of experiences, but I will always remember what I've learned from the friendships I've had. Friends are important to me. They always have been. I'm sure they always will be.
Now, what does this have to do with motherhood?
Sister Sheri Dew said:
Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, Alma 13:2–4, 7–8 righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. (See Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102.) 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. (bold added)
The friendships I have created with other women, whether long-term or in passing, gives me a chance to exercise this idea of motherhood. All of us, regardless of whether we have children to raise, have this power of motherhood within us. I have four beautiful children, yes, but at the same time, I find myself mothering my friends. I don't mind a question, a concern, or a problem coming my way. I'm eager to listen and to help when needed. Nurturing my friends is as important to me as nurturing my children. Knowing they are happy and at peace with their lives is as important to me as it if they were my children.
This is not to say I'm good at it. I am a loud character --honest, yes, but very loud, too. I'm a talker --and I've had to learn how to listen rather than speak. I'm opinionated, and it's taken me years to know when to stay silent. I have said and done things I regret, but that has never lessened the intent of my heart. I love my friends --both new and old, and I hope all of them know that I do.
Having discovered this (very recently, actually), I have found the truths of Sister Dew's words to be very powerful. They don't only affect me, a married mother with biological children. They can be claimed by every woman who has ever lived, regardless of situation in life. I was reminded about this even more by a great blogger and friend, M&M. She left some great links on her blog about Motherhood, and what it means to be a mother --even if you do not have children to raise. For time, though, I will include the links here:
How do you feel about mothering in the realms of friendship? Do you mother outside of the "definition" of motherhood?
Tomorrow: Motherhood, Part II: Creating relationships without sharing labor stories