Emily has asked me to write about my perceptions and experience with motherhood and I am totally flattered and overwhelmed. At this stage of my life (with three kids five and under), being a mom is pretty much what defines me and I am glad to say that I am feeling okay with this. However, it has taken me a while to get to this point and I know that as Sister Goates points out, I am probably in the “childhood” phase of motherhood, so I really am just at the beginning of this experience. One of the reasons I like this blog and Emily’s enthusiasm for this topic is that it reminds me to keep making motherhood - and being the best mother I can be - a priority. Even though things can get really frustrating (for example, my way-too-small baby is currently in the throwing all of her food/spitting her drinks out phase – yikes!), when my kids are raised I want to feel like I did the best job I possibly could have done. I know that doesn’t mean that I’m going to have perfect kids. I just want happy kids that know their mom loves them. One of my favorite articles that helps me to remember to enjoy the small moments and not stress to much about little things is Anna Quindlen’s article On Being Mom.
I grew up in Cedar City, Utah, but joined the church when my high school friends sent missionaries to me during my freshman year at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. I grew up in a very scholarly/secular home with great parents and as you can imagine my conversion was a challenge for our family. However, things progressed, I met my husband in Utah, was married in the temple and we went along our happy way with school and work. When we married I was very career driven and did not “just” want to be a mom. When I’ve asked Justin about why he wanted to marry me when he came from such a conservative background, he says that he knew that I had great potential and that he had faith that I would realize what I wanted to really do as time passed. I wasn’t necessarily waiting until I had finished school or gotten rich (that still hasn’t happened!), to have kids, I was just frankly terrified at the prospect of being a stay-at-home-mother. On both sides of my extended family there had been sad stories of women that didn’t enjoy motherhood, felt forced into being moms, and suffered from serious depressions and so even though my mom had been amazing and sacrificed so much for me I was always worried that motherhood would make me feel trapped and when a baby was born my life would be over. I knew that I wanted to be a mom someday, but I was definitely scared to take the plunge. My good and patient husband wanted to make sure I was okay with being a mom because he realized that the decision to have children would affect me the most since my life would be changing dramatically to stay home.
I’m not really sure what made me change. Maybe it was quite a few callings in primary, or watching my amazing mother-in-law love being a mom, or maybe it was just getting a little older, but after about four years of marriage we decided to have a baby and got pregnant relatively easily. I remember going along and trying to push myself with full-time graduate school and a demanding work schedule and about 12 weeks into the pregnancy after a busy day I just began gushing blood and we went to the E.R. Being at the hospital was a surreal experience. It forcefully hit me that there was a life growing inside of me and that this little life might be cut short. They did an ultrasound to check to see if the baby was okay and at 12 weeks we could see her whole beautiful little body and profile. I remember at that moment thinking that if I lost the baby my heart would absolutely break. I left the hospital with the doctor’s nerve-racking prediction that if I could keep the baby for three more days everything would be fine. Even though I was an emotional wreck for a while I was able to stay pregnant and I think that this event really made me want to have a baby.
My little girl was an absolutely adorable baby, but very difficult and it was kind of a rocky transition. Everyone warns you about the exhaustion you will feel with a newborn, but until you feel it for yourself you have no clue about sleep deprivation! I remember worrying that my mind was going to go to waste, so I would try to always read while I was nursing and I watched tons of classic movies from the library so that I wouldn’t be “wasting” my time. I remember one night I was again concerned with being able to get my baby to sleep in a crib without being rocked and my mother-in-law sweetly told me that it wouldn’t be long before my baby would be all grown-up and I couldn’t rock her anymore.
Difficult things with my oldest did pass and I think I really began enjoying motherhood when I connected with other moms and set up reasonable expectations for myself. Playdates and other opportunities to really talk to other women in my position and those that have been through raising small children, helped me put things into perspective. I know that I am a result-driven person, so I would initially get frustrated when I’d look back at my day and realize that the only productive thing I did was shower. Now, I really try to focus on spending quality time with the kids. Not necessarily doing an amazing craft or anything special, just being together. Even though we went from being “established” with a steady job and home after our first child was born to graduate students again, the decision to have our two other children was relatively easy. Although we were poor it just felt like the right time to have kids and really the Lord kept providing ways that we could make things work financially. We have kept trying to be frugal, but I know that things worked out because we have been blessed for trying to do what we should.
One simple thing that we do that helps me enjoy being a mom is that we read a lot of books and I know that it has been an important way for us to feel close, even when they were very small. A routine has been essential to all of us to help us keep a happy home. I think that my kids thrive on knowing what to expect and then at the end of the day I know that the important things for our family have been accomplished and it makes me feel better too. Even though I am seriously craft-impaired, I have found a love for creating things and have really enjoyed sewing in the past few years.
I am glad that now I can sit back and feel happy to be a mother and very grateful that I made the decision to have children. I know that even though we don’t do anything fabulous in our daily routines, the things I am doing are helping to mold people who can be the building blocks for happy families in the future. I try to let my kids know how much I love them and love being a mom and I hope that my girls will value motherhood and not be scared to take on this life-altering responsibility. I hope that my son will see how important it is to support and honor women and will understand how critical father’s roles are in raising happy children.
The moms that I admire have many varied backgrounds. Some of the amazing moms I know have not finished college, others have PhDs. Some are exclusively stay-at-home moms, others work full-time. I think that it really comes down to having to teach our children to be close to the Spirit, because there is no one right way to be a great parent and I think that as times change parents are going to have to continue to adapt to raise content and competent children. For me an education was very important, especially in helping me mature and I have a difficult time giving my best to my family when I work so I am currently choosing not to work very much (I help a non-profit about 10 hours a month). But, for my children I cannot say that my choices will be best for them and I pray that they will be mindful of the Lord’s will for them when the time comes for them to make decisions about family and parenthood. I know that it is cliché, but I am so grateful for the gospel and its’ emphasis on the family, because I think without the tools and knowledge we can gain from the teachings of the church it would be so difficult to be a parent in these times.
That was really long-winded, but I hope that others will write about their experiences with motherhood because I know that there is a lot we can all learn from each other (and that I still certainly need to learn!). Emily, thanks again for the great blog!