Monday, May 20, 2013

This is for Amber

Dear Amber, 

You told me that you hope to feel the joy of mothering one day --the joy I feel.  I want my words to mean something more than a random, selfish blog post, and so I'm writing it to you specifically, although I do feel you are not the only mother out there who feels this way. This is for you, and for them, and in part, for any other mother who does not feel joyful.

The joy you feel from mothering has already happened in your heart. It happened the first time you saw the positive pregnancy test with your first baby. From the moment of that life-altering news, your heart began to expand and imagine newer possibilities. A baby! Yours. Your husband's. God's! A human being created out of love and vulnerability. That was joy. 

Each child you carried and each child you delivered expanded the joy even more. Each newborn sigh, each contented laugh, each smile is embedded inside your heart forever. Nobody can take that away from you. Those memories are not only written in your mind, they are written in the folds of your heart.  That is joy. 

Motherhood is not joyful to me all the time. The joyful moments are small and insignificant, fleeting at times. Each day of my life is full to the brim of my insecurities, my failings, cooking, cleaning, tantrums, fighting, yelling, homework, chores, refusal to help, apologizing, forgiving, starting over, more fighting, more cleaning, more chores. Most days, I cry. Most days I ask Heavenly Father if what I'm doing is really worth it, if, in fact, my children really should have me as a mother...? Perhaps they would be happier else...where...? Many times I find myself thinking horrible things such as "I hate this!" or "Why did I ask for this?" or "This is TOO HARD!" Some days I hide in my pajamas on the couch and make my tasks more difficult by assuming if I ignore them, my fairy godmother will appear and make everything better. Those parts are not joyful.

But what is joyful are all the parts in and around and in between those hard times. It's the laughter, the prayers, the moments that join those memories already inside my heart. They are the glue that keep motherhood and wife-hood and family-hood all close together --those seemingly insignificant times that actually create a joyful life. 

True joy isn't found when there are no problems. It is only found when we experience the opposite of what constitutes happiness. Joy appears while problems are being solved, while in the midst of trials that seem to overwhelm and overtake. In fact, this is what separates the joy from happiness --happiness may be a sense of life, of self, of current feelings of contentment. But joy comes only after facing the sorrow and the pain, after coming through it, after understanding despair. True joy comes after knowing what we could have lost, what we did lose, what we could lose. 

I stand, everyday, with a choice in my heart. To choose anger or sadness, or to choose peace and joy. My brain functions make this choice very, very difficult --and in times past, almost impossible. Seemingly and simply impossible. There were times when I could not even bring myself to admit that making the choice to be a mother was the right one. Even when it was the right choice --even when it is. But I had so many things on my side. I had knowledge, I had faith, and I had Jesus Christ. It wasn't just about finding the right medication (I tried that) or the right diet (I tried that) or the right therapist (I tried 3) or even the right religious application (I read everything). It was a combination of knowing who I was, who I am, who I will be, and that my Savior already felt what I am feeling. It was realizing that my path to joy is the same path as the one to Heavenly Father, and the only way I could get there was to give Christ my pain and allow Him to heal me. That is how I found true joy. That was when I knew what joy felt like. Yes, the medication helped. But it wasn't the answer I needed.

And, Amber, this is still a hard road for me. I still face many dark days and trouble with the temptations of Satan. I notice, immediately when my joy is not full, and it almost always has to do with my inability to see past myself. Depression is a horrible disease. It breeds from secrecy and turns very easily into selfishness...

And what is motherhood, if not the exact opposite of selfishness? 

Motherhood is hard. It is gritty. It is meant to pull and stretch and teach the one who chooses to mother. There are so many who choose motherhood and give up. Our world is full of examples of women who have answered the call to mother but then decided it was too hard and so they either stopped having children, they stopped caring for their children, or they let the government take their children away. Why? Because it is hard! And they wonder, these mothers who didn't know --who didn't want to know --they ask, "where is the joy in this?" They cannot find it. They don't know where to look. 

Amber, you are not those women. You have joy and you know you have joy --and you know where to look. Look at your husband, see your children. Joy radiates all around you. You can feel it because of your testimony. You know motherhood is divine. You struggle, yes, you face darkness, yes, but you have faith. You have the knowledge. You have Jesus Christ. All of those reasons are what give you joy. 

There will never be a time in your life when you will have complete, undeviating joy. That is not the purpose of mortality. Society claims that if we are not in a constant state of happiness, then we are doing something wrong and must change our lives to get it. Luckily, we know society has it backwards and wrong. We know that choosing a life with struggle gives us blessings we could never have procured in any other way. 

You are blessed. You are loved. You are talented, beautiful, and amazing. Your husband and your children love you with a love so strong, you would be breathless to have it all at once. 

So, Amber, today, as you look at the messy house, as you hear mean words from family or friends, as you consider what difficulties you are going through, stop for a moment. Breathe it in. Breathe in the life that you chose, the one blessed by God. Smell that? Hear that? It is joy. 

You can feel it. 

Much love,


Ann said...


Amber said...

I feel like I need to write a big response... Thanks for caring about me. I'm to the point that I'm just sick of depression and that daily fight to keeping moving. I want to feel lighter, motivated, encouraged. But maybe this is just the burden I'm required to carry right now.

It's true that I have moments of joy. I love my children and my husband. It's going to be ok. Thanks, Cheryl for your example to me; and thank you for your realness

Grandma Rozla said...

That's a beautiful post and a tender reminder to all of us mothers and grandmothers who struggle to find joy:)

Cheryl said...

Motherhood is gritty...perhaps the best description I've ever heard! Loved this.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Positively beautiful! Thank you!