Friday, May 09, 2008

Motherhood, Part I: Mothering My Friends?

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


Amber said...

I believe that quote...that it really is the essence of who we are. And it is why I believe so many of my friends who struggle with infertility also struggle with feeling they are not fulfilling the measure of their creation. My heart goes out to them!

You nailed it - as women, we have a special gift to nurture, whether it involves our own children or friendships. And that is what has helped my friendships endure over the years!

Amanda said...

Great post, Cheryl. I'm looking forward to part 2.

Happy Mother's Day weekend to you!

Brooke S said...

C- you're great! And I don't have to ask about the couch burning - I was there... And I was there when your brother jumped over the burning couch.... the long way. LOL!

Anonymous said...

I suppose I kind of feel motherly towards my friends in that I worry about them and want to take care of them and make everything OK. But I do resist the motherly instinct to tell them what to do---a consideration I don't usually give my own children. :)

Janelle said...

Superb post Cheryl. I miss my college roommates too. Some blog, some don't but blogging is the primary way they are kept apart of my life from day to day. I will probably see all of them this summer. I have never felt motherly toward them, only sisterly. So that is a new concept for me. But love them I do!

m&m said...

I wish more of us as women could understand this doctrine of nurturing...that we are called to nurture ALL of God's children. I love this idea of mothering our friends...had never really thought of it quite in that light!

Jolene said...

I think mothering is part of our nature - we mother whether we realize it our not. I mother my children, my friends, my students and my husband. My husband's actual mother didn't really "get" the mothering, the nurturing and unconditional love that most of us do. It has been an eye opening experience for him over the last 15years to realize what a mother's love can feel like.

As the youngest daughter to a 78 year old mother, I find myself mothering my own mother. Sometimes she doesn't like it but I think that in doing things for her and caring for her I am only just now realizing and understanding the mother/child bond - even after birthing four children of my own.

Happy Mother's day to you Cheryl!

Julie said...

I like everything you said. I will say, however, that it's easy for us with bio children to say that everyone is a mother (I do realize that Sis. Dew is not in that category) regardless of their child situation. But I have dear relations who are not able to bear children who find it rather trite to hear someone say "oh, you're a mother -- all women are mothers." They understand the concept, but yearn for us to grasp that they are not experiencing motherhood in the way we are and in the way that really brings us the greatest joy -- the actual rearing of children. I didn't get this until one of my dearest friends experienced it. And now I understand so much more the need for empathy, silence, and a listening ear. The need to mourn with those who mourn instead of assuming that is the same thing as comforting those who stand in need of comfort.
That being said, however, I do believe the doctrine that we were foreordained to motherhood and that is innate in us.
And, I'm glad you keep us in touch with one another.

Cheryl said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. Did you read the links I left? They are written by women who cannot bear children and they are very, very powerful. The best part was a woman saying (in context): I have chosen not to waste my life being bitter.

My next post will address what you are saying, though.

Leslie said...

Great post Cheryl! I hope that I mother outside the definition of motherhood (to answer your question), because I hope that I am a nurturer to the people I love and cherish. I married when I was older than many LDS women and have had some struggles with infertility as well...during that time, when I wanted so badly to be married and be a mom, I found that the Lord needed me to nurture in other ways. I realized that I also couldn't be bitter about my situation and I couldn't keep questioning why the Lord wasn't granting me those blessings at the time I thought I needed them. When I accepted His will, I found fulfillment and happiness. No, I didn't stop hoping and praying for those things, but I did have peace and happiness in my life. No matter what, I knew that God loved me. I still know that and I know that His love for all of his daughters is more powerful and deep than we could ever know.

Sorry for the long comment here...I guess I just got going. I think I'll stop now...

Cheryl said...

Ha! I remember that one, brother was such a nerd. :)

Oh, no! Your comment is actually what I want for my next post. Just copy and paste it over there and it will work for both. :) Thank you for your words and for sharing your experiences. It is so appreciated!

You are all the best, you know? I love you guys!

Janelle said...

I wonder if I'm a mourner or a comforter. Thank you for pointing that out Julie.

Julie said...

Cheryl, I hadn't read the links (it should be illegal to post without reading the links first, shouldn't it?). I will now repent (and yet not retract my comments). And I am looking forward to your next post. Thanks for the great reads. They were perfect.

Cheryl said...

No worries! You don't HAVE to read the links...they just help when communicating...? :) No, you are right! No need to retract. Your comment helped me whilst-a-writing my next post!

Julie said...

Whew! And from now on I promise I'll read those. Actually, I can't make that promise. But I'll be more likely to!