A number of very personal experiences have happened to me over the last 6 months. Or so. Maybe 7? Anyway, they have happened, and they have brought me to a realization that I should have realized and perhaps have realized and probably did realize and will more than likely realize again in the future.
I am a mother.
Now before you stop reading, this isn't just another post about how mothers do so much and should be paid a bazillion dollars because they are such hard workers. It's not about how the ideal should or shouldn't be staying at home with kids. This post will not wax poetic about the ills of society or left-wing feminism and how it has destroyed a woman's perception of her role in the world, nor will it imply that YOUR choice is better/worse/more important than MY choice. It is just a simple disorganized post about how I came to the realization of what being a mother means to me.
I truly believe, deeply, in the bowels of my soul (although bowels always conjures up something gross in my mind, so just think really, really, really deep) that I was meant to be a mother. A wife (for sure), but especially a mother. (That's not to flippantly dismiss my role as a wife, which I cherish beyond reason --this post just happens to be about motherhood. If you were desiring an explanation.) My Patriarchal blessing talks about my motherhood. The fact that I have the opportunity to raise them as a stay-at-home-mom is not an accident. I believe that God keeps His promises, and I have seen, in my short life, that He has always done so. I'm grateful for this in so many ways...In fact, I have no words for my gratitude. It supersedes language.
My journey through motherhood, however, has not been easy, to say the least. I know this is true for pretty much every mother out there. Motherhood (parenthood, fatherhood) is not easy. I don't think it was MEANT to be easy. If it were easy, we wouldn't be able to have the challenges that would make us into the people God needs us to be, for our children AND for ourselves. Trials and tests and frustrations and such twist us, bend us, and (for lack of a better description) brillo-pad us into who we are meant to be. Motherhood, gosh dang it, has been my brillo-pad. But not in the way one would think.
For the last 9 years, I have looked at my children, my house, my situation and such as a Passing. "I just gotta get through the potty-training," I would say. "I just gotta be patient and wait for the time when the kids are in school." My favorite: "When all the kids are teenagers, then it will be easy!"
Don't laugh. I'm betting you think this way, too. Or did. Or have. Or will. This "just gotta get through it until we get to the good stuff" has been the mantra of my life. In every area, too. In weight-loss, job security, school, financial burdens. You name it, I have this mentality. It didn't really end when I turned 25 and realized that wishing to be "16!" or "18!" was a very wise course of action. I've always "waited it out," so to speak.
And then I read this (go read it).
And it stopped me --literally --in my tracks. Blew them away, actually. The train then rusted because I had to ponder for quite a while. At least a few weeks. Which is HUGE for me.
I came to the realization that throughout all of my mothering years, I was wishing and waiting and wasting. I kept looking for the answers to my Depression, my creativity, my intelligence outside of my home, away from my children and husband. Writing a novel, blogging, working outside the home (and inside the home) were the solutions. I kept saying, internally, deep in my subconscious:
You cannot possibly be validated unless that validation comes from the neighbors. The literary business. The blogging community. The world.
Ack! False! False! I know this line of thinking is wrong. It always has been wrong. Seeking for the praise of the world is just stupid, because:
1. Chances are, you won't get it. But if you do
2. It won't last and
3. It will feel hollow. Because it is. Hollow. Lifeless.
Look, I know many women will find offense to this (especially working mothers), but I'm not here to tell you that you were wrong (or are). My mother is a working mother. I have never doubted her decision to be one. But a mother can be working without seeking the praise of the world. A woman can be successful in a career without searching for personal validation without or beyond her home.
But anyway. Back to my point (I swear I have one).
After reading that article, I sat down (and stood up) and looked around my home. I had just done a very, very hard thing and quit my at-home job the week before. I thought about what had brought me to where I was, and very simply, it went like this:
I had four things taking up my time, counting my family.
In August, I let one of them go.
Suddenly, the three left swelled and filled up the extra time I thought I would have. And I still felt overwhelmed. After a time, I realized my family was suffering because of my overwhelming state.
So, I let another one of them go last month.
Now, within a short amount of time, the two left have taken over all of my time. All of it.
And now I'm considering letting the third thing go.
Which would leave only my family.
Now don't get me wrong. Even with all my talk about not wanting to please the world, I still believe that a mother has to take care of herself. Personal outlets are healthy and needed. This is why I would never quit book club, exercise, GNO's, dates with the hubby, vacations, and blogging. I need these outlets. But at the same time, I have had to have a serious conversation with myself and with God about whether I am truly doing what needs to be done in order to protect my family from all the crap that they have to deal with every single day. We have been told over and over and over that a mother is the cornerstone of the family and she is the glue that keeps it together (or at least she should be). Mothers who take their job seriously change the world. They always have. They always will. Because they invest their time and interest and love into children who will grow up and take that time, interest, and love and spread it around their communities. Mothers matter. They matter so much we could never attach a statistic to it (although we do) because it's so flexible and fixable.
And boy-howdy, I'm grateful it's fixable. Because I've been wishing my motherhood away without even realizing it.
So, I've taken some time, dear reader, lately, to think about things. To analyze, if you will, my life, my home, my situation. I've been monitoring my feelings very closely (something someone with Depression should always do, anyway), and praying deeply for guidance. I have come to some conclusions (don't you love lists? I love lists!):
1. I am the Queen of my castle. This is the place where I can make good changes.
2. I can decide how healthy or unhealthy my children are going to be (which will be another post!).
3. Being in charge of a home, a yard, a pet, children, and a husband is a huge responsibility. It's not easy. It's dang hard.
4. Supporting my husband in his schooling, work, and church callings is absolutely imperative.
5. My dreams of travel, gardening, writing, and happy children is possible within the realms of my own home. I truly can have a garden! I can turn off the TV and plant one. I can cut back on social blogging in order to play with my kids. I can travel with my husband. I can hike with my family. I can write during times of quiet (what are those??). I seriously can.
All of my dreams can come true within my roles of mother and wife.
During a very recent temple recommend interview, I told the Stake Presidency Counselor that I was happiest when I was with my husband and children. I told him I enjoyed my friends, my parents, and other relatives, but I was happiest when the seven of us were doing something together. Just us. This realization has catapulted me into my new resolve (which will probably falter over and over and over as time goes on):
I am a mother. I need to act like it. And I need to enjoy it. I don't have to love every moment, but I need to change the way I think and act to where my home is truly an oasis for my family. Where love and the Holy Ghost can enter in easily, without too much effort, and where we can feel safe. I want this for my family. I want this for my children. I want this for me.
And I actually feel kind of dumb that it took me this long to figure it out. Sort of. Because as my good friend Michelle L. told me: "Motherhood is a process." In fact, go read her journey.
That is all.