As a kid I never wanted to be a mom.
I never even wanted to get married.
Instead I saw the greatest fulfillment in my life coming from traveling about, studying animals and writing for a magazine like National Geographic or Smithsonian.
This shocked other girls I knew. Their life’s dream was to find a husband, have kids, and be a housewife.
And I belittled that. (Shame on me.)
Now I’m where I never thought I’d be: three kids, a husband, and a stay-at-home life. I’ve given up (for now) the days when I traveled all over studying animals and I’ve given up the acclaim I used to get from peers. Some days that is hard to not have, especially living in a world that puts so much emphasis on careers and very little emphasis on children. I fall too often into the trap of feeling like I don’t contribute enough. There are days when my life feels unsung.
Yet I know my life is fuller, richer, and happier now having a family. The joy of motherhood and a happy marriage isn’t something you can explain unless you experience it yourself. People would tell me that, but I couldn’t believe them until now. Sad… I’m a writer with no words to convey that joy.
Last weekend, I listened to a man named Richard Scott give a talk on how much he loved his wife (now passed on) and how much happiness he gets from thinking of the future days when he can be with her and their kids in the next life. His tender words gave voice to my feelings of how invaluable the love of a family is. They were words I needed to hear. He gave a few examples and ideas to help me remember the joy more often:
1. Play with them. Some of us work. Even if we don’t, all moms need activities that are ours alone. Hopefully these things require creativity, a chance to use our brains. I still write and will always write because I need to do this for myself. But when it’s time to be with the kids or the spouse, it’s time to be with them. To focus on them. To give them our quality attention. Scott told a story about how he’d been gone on a business trip and instead of coming home and fixing the washing machine, he played with his kids. Later, in the middle of the night, he felt a tiny hand slip into his. He heard, “Dad, I love you. You are my best friend”. Those are the moments that are remembered and cherished when you are Scott’s age.
2. Tell them. I’m so quick to admonish and “teach” more often than praise. Rather, I need to look for more moments to tell my family I love them and express gratitude for them. Scott talked about how his wife would leave him notes in his briefcase to find when he had a presentation. He kept those and he treasures them now that she’s gone.
3. Little things matter. Scott talked about how he took the circles from a hole punch and how, as a joke, he wrote a note to his wife, one word per circle. He numbered them and put them in an envelope for her to unscramble and read the note. This little laugh ended up being a tender expression she cherished. When she died, he found them, all taped together and preserved in plastic in a private place where she kept her most important things. He also shared a story about how one Valentine’s Day he didn’t have money for a gift for her so decided to create a watercolor picture for her on the refrigerator. Only he used enamel paint instead of watercolor. She wouldn’t let him try and take it off because it meant something to her.
4. Serve together and for each other. As Scott says, self-centeredness and selfishness goes out the window when we serve in families and serve each other. I’ve seen this happen in my own family. My tendency to be selfish is lost when I’m serving and my kids get to see that everyday.
(He had other beautiful things to say, but these were a few that stayed with me. You can read the whole talk HERE at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint’s website.)
I know this wasn’t a writing post like I usually have, but families and being a mom has been weighing heavily on my mind. Maybe it’s because I had a birthday last Sunday and am feeling like I’m “getting up there” with not enough to show for it. Maybe it’s because my husband is traveling a lot this month. But Scott’s words cut to my soul and were answers to my prayers. You don’t have to agree with my very serious post today, but I just needed to give voice to those destructive feelings I get that tell me I don’t do enough. That being a mom and wife isn’t enough. Well, it is enough.
I won’t dismiss my mixed emotions, but rather accept them then also accept that it isn’t true. And when they come, I can do those things above to remember why I chose the life I did and feel the joy I feel that surpasses the days of unsung glory that sometimes come with being a mom. I will remember the greatest good I’ll do is what I do for my children. As Scott says, as a mother I’ve “been given divine instincts to help me sense my child’s special talents and unique capacities”. Only I can raise them the way I want them raised. My kids won’t always be little and there will be a time I can contribute to the world ina different way someday. Right now I’m here for them when they need me the most. I will stop discrediting my contribution to society by “just” raising these kids, these little people who will take it by storm someday. My contribution is not a meager one. They are magnificent.
Believe me, I should know. I’m raising them. :o)
NOTE: This post is part of a Mormon Blogfest going on. Go to Krista's blog for the full list of bloggers sharing their deeper thoughts on talks they've heard at an LDS Conference recently held.