I am sure you are surprised by the title of this post, as I currently am not pregnant nor do I have any children. I do however, have many amazing mother/friends and I have been thinking a lot about the concept of mothering and its role that it plays in our lives especially in our religious lives as LDS women.
I feel that I keep encountering women who for one reason or another are feeling a lot of self doubt, grief, frustration etc... in regards to mothering. But, I'm not talking about the every-day trials that being a mother brings, but more the deep ache in many a womens heart when she feels that she does not meet the task or is not in essence "good-enough" in the eyes of the Lord. I have heard all kinds of reasons for this, "What if I only have one kid and MAYBE two," "what if I have no children (me)" "What if I work outside the home" "what if I don't want to have my kids within 1 1/2 years of each other" "What if my only role in life is to birth babies and that is the extent of my existence".........
There are so many more comments you may have thought yourself, will think in the future or just anguish secretly inside.
I want to clear up some points of truth to all my amazing mothering friends:
1. Your righteousness is not predicated on the number of children you have. For example if you feel that if you do not have seven children then you are not following the gospel, then you are wrong. Just because you have one or six, all the effort, sacrifice and dedication you put towards your children will not be wasted or counted as naught. Your mothering to one child is just as admirable and exemplary as it is to many. And, if you can and are blessed to have many you are an admirable beautiful, women as are the many other women.
2. You must have children within 2 years of each other or else you are ...... Whoever decided on this concept needs to clarify that although it may be a nice concept and work for a few women it is NOT necessary to raise a strong, healthy, family and a prerequisite to having children. As women you need to listen to your bodies, and evaluate your mental fortitude and your financial resources in order to effectively make this decision. I believe that Heavenly Father is an extremely caring person and he wants you to be happy, and healthy. He wants you to enjoy and bask in the delight that each and every child brings to you. Do you burden yourself with the constant worrying of the next child? Instead focus on the one in your arms and you will know if and when the right time comes for the next.
3. Satan's plan is to destroy our happiness, when he does this he has succeeded. You must understand that as LDS women we are vulnerable within our minds. We are our own worst enemy, we plague our hearts with feelings of inadequacy, guild and perfection and when we do not meet these standards we feel as though we have a "God" supported reason to feel this, we do not. God does not want us to be unhappy. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOMETHING BEING DIFFICULT AND SOMETHING THAT BRINGS SELF-DEPRECATION. DO NOT, diminish yourself: 1- in the eyes of God because you are Less than perfect..... or 2- diminish yourself because our God-less world hardly values motherhood.
4. You always have a choice!!!! (I am not implying that you can stop being a mother, because you did birth them and it is now your sacred duty to care for them) This is a great concept. The GREATEST BLESSING GOD GAVE TO US IS AGENCY!!!!!!!! When you take your agency out of the picture, NOTHING in life will matter. Think of it this way when you put someone in a prison they will do everything in their power to escape all the while feeling trapped. But, What if that person was you, putting yourself in a pre-made God sanctioned box, in which every LDS women is to live her life by. I will promise you that you will spend the rest of your life trying to escape or feeling anger, sadness and frustration while sitting in the middle of it. This box I am referring to is the perfect LDS mother who has 7 kids, cleans the entire house, cooks three meals a day for herself, neighbors and friends, she is always kind, never raises her voice, stays home every day, and bakes cookies on the weekends. ...... now although this is actually very admirable for a woman to do, please be sure that if you are doing this, that you remember that you are choosing to do this and there is no invisible law out there saying that you must be this way or else eternal salvation will not come to you. Remember it is our differences, varieties, parenting styles, careers, hobbies, talents that make the LDS church as vibrant and beautiful as it can be.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Please give yourself credit for the sacrifices and love that you give continually on a daily basis to the babies you currently have (or don't have). I want to see that joy re-enter your eyes when you understand that God doesn't look at you with criticism, he honestly sees you more with love and admiration ....... and remember that for many of my friends this is your first or second baby. I have heard many older women say (whose kids are out of the house)"now that my kids are gone, I finally figure it out." Remember that it can take a life-time to learn how to mother and probably eternities, so stop CRITICIZING YOURSELVES FOR IMPERFECTIONS within the first few years, you are human like the rest of us.
6.The church does not teach that the ONLY way for women to obtain happiness is through mothering. BUT, the church DOES TEACH that mothering will be our greatest joy and role in life. I believe this to be true, I have talked to many women, LDS and non-LDS who admit that their children are their greatest treasure and many of these women are well educated, career oriented, home-makers, had past-careers, .... etc... currently employed. These are women who have "experienced the non-mothering world" and they still always declare their greatest love is their children. The church is acurate in stating this and that a womens natural role is to nurture her family (not ONLY role). Also, remember the quote "there is a time and season for everything" mothering at home, may be your calling now, that could change later in life or even now.
So, I don't know if this is helpful for any women out there, or maybe offensive, unsure... (and remember this is more my opinions/insight not gospel doctrine by any means ) but please stop trying to fit your "square" piece in a "round" peg and start realizing that your role in this life is not only to raise children but to obtain happiness from them and the world around you. Do not be the self-driven cause of your loss of happiness.... always remember your greatest gift from God is agency, so use it wisely and do not presume God to be a being who wants you and me and everyone to be of a singular personality or type, embrace your uniqueness & YOUR NEIGHBORS TOO.