Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Personal Journey and Epiphany With Motherhood. Yes. It Is a Long Post.

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.


Julie said...

I loved this post. I'm definitely a "just get through this phase" kind of gal. But I completely agree -- the joy is in the process, the journey.


Cristy said...

Good for you Cheryl! I think most good stayathomemothers feel all you've expressed, learn it, re-learn it, re-learn it again... and hope that one day the hormones will level out so we can really learn it for real! :) PS, gained 3 lbs two weeks ago when they hubby was out of town, tried to eat healthy the next week and gained one more. Whoops. Not easy. Miss you at preschool!

Gio, Judi and Boys said...

Cheryl...loved your post. As you know, I work from home and finally feel to have the best of both worlds.
I still haven't mastered the "perfect" home yet, and doubt I ever will. However, I feel that I am making progress.
As women and mothers our first responsibility is to our children to teach them the gospel and to be there for them when they need us.
So many times in my life I felt like I wasn't doing enough or the right thing for my kids. However,
all that changed this past week.
When I say Robert stand there and talk in church and all 200+ of his friends be there, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride and gratitude. I realized that as a mother and family and ward family and village, that Robert was ready to serve a mission. I had done my job. It was also a way, a tribute to me too.
He was ready, and in some small way I had helped with that!
I too am like you. I am happiest with my family. I do some of the other things, because I need too, however, give me my boys and I am complete.
Now for the next two years I have to be a mother long distance. Italy is far away, and I still have a responsibility to Robert, and I won't let him down. But I will need to rely on my father in heaven to know better what to say and do for him.
Motherhood is special. We are special! We are blessed. I wouldn't change anything, execpt for having Robert here with me! But I don't think I would even change that, even as much as my heart is aching right now.
Thank you for the call today! I needed it and you are so sweet to have thought of me!

Kevin and Lisa said...

Good thoughts! Here's another one I heard not to long ago, that made me stop and think. A good friend said in RS "why don't I give my best to my children? I try so hard to be my best at my calling, at volunteering, at my job, and then my kids get the "leftover: me. That's not fair to them. They deserve every ounce of goodness I have to offer." All I could say was AMEN Sista'. So I too, am trying to be a better mom by letting go of certain things. So I'm right there with you. Go Girl!

Michelle said...

Awesome. I love you.

Gives wisdom to the words from Sister Beck:

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children [and I think we have to watch what will draw our minds and hearts] away from their home. Mothers who know...spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord's kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.

But it IS a process, and the balancing act is never done, just as trials are never done. I believe God is to be found in the struggle of seeking His guidance all along the way -- even every day -- as to what the balance should be.

I'm going through something very similar -- realizing how much my motherhood means to me. I am feeling things so deeply in my core about motherhood. Hard to capture in words, but it's powerful.

Thanks for the shout-out, too. ;)

Michelle said...

One more thing -- I don't think you should feel dumb because I think all of this is part of the process of growth. If we had it all figured out, it wouldn't be mortality. ;)

And I don't know about you, but every time I figure something out, something else gets thrown into the mix which means I have to re-figure things again. It's all a constant journey.

Kara said...

Thank you Cheryl, from the bottom of my heart Thank you.

Never A True Aggie said...

Agreed. I have been trying to live in each moment more and stop wishing for moments that happened or have yet to happen. It has been helping me to get more done and feel less stressed. I think some of this comes with age as well. I find the older I get, the better I feel about myself because I am letting more of the unimportant stuff go.

Alison Wonderland said...

You're right, of course, but it'll be a lot easier to do this, to enjoy the journey, when I get all of these kids out of diapers.

Oh wait...

Amanda D said...

I'm the same as you - just have to get through this then this will happen.

I heard Dr. Phil say once that a lot of parents are "growing children" instead of "raising children". I think about that a lot and I stop to ask myself if my behavior is raising kids or growing kids.

Great thoughts. I think I need to print out Sister Beck's talk and review. I was so inspired after I heard it!

Allen Family said...

I read the article, and I loved it. Such a wonderful reminder. Thanks for sharing!

Annette Lyon said...

Great post--on so many levels.

I'll be heading over to read Michelle's post as well as that talk.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Cheryl, this is a really, really good post. And it reflects what is truly our most important responsibility in motherhood: figuring it out! I love your process of studying, pondering, praying, and lining up your life with the principles you know to be true. It's just right. Thank you.