Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Life Unsung

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.

31 comments:

  1. i think being a mom is the most important job anyone could have. we're influencing the future.

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  2. Thanks for your post Jackee. I cried through all of Elder Scott's talk (thankfully I was at home where no one could see =). Sometimes it is too easy to feel like our lives aren't adding up to what we had hoped for. For me, General Conference was such a wake up call. I'm thankful God loves me enough to admonish me and remind me how wonderful my life is.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I think a lot of stay at home moms struggle with the pressure of thinking they should work.

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  4. Being a stay-at-home mom is a tough thing sometimes. Especially when it feels like you could be doing other things that might be more noticeable and beneficial to the world. I like your take on this talk. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. It is something I remind myself every day. from a girl who grew up outside of the church, was determined to work overseas in an embassy and now stays home with two kids - I need to remember all the time how important what I do is.
    I have a note on my fridge that says - work on the most important things first. It warms my heart every time and makes me want to squeeze my two children to death.
    THEN i sit behind my computer and spend some time saying things like "five more minutes!" :D

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  6. I've said the same thing- I'm 'just' a mom. That talk was an excellent reminder to me as well to remember how important motherhood is. Sometimes we do so much for our kids physically- feeding them, bathing them, cleaning up after them- that we forget that we need to spend actual time with them. At least I do! Great post.

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  7. Awww you are a wonderful beautiful mum!!! Take care
    x

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  8. Like you, I never really thought about having kids. I did want to get married, but kids weren't part of my dream growing up. Am I ever glad that I figured out some things!

    I love writing. I love adventuring. But it's a whole different ballgame to look at my kids and know that I'm doing my job with them. And it's way more fun than getting rejection letters! Thanks for stopping by my blog:)

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  9. I love your take on his talk. I need to do what his wife tells him to do. Go play with the kids. I get so caught up in the home and writing and blogging. So I'm going to go play with my kids :) Thanks and nice to meet you!

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  10. You are my new internet crush. Love this post. (I sort of feel like we're kindred spirits because I am a plant scientist who worked in the non-profit sector)

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  11. I felt the same way you did initially - I figured someday I'd make time for a family - I had a lot of other important things to do first.

    Now I see it all so differently. (thank God!)

    I loved the points from that talk and that love puzzle she put together and saved just about made me cry!

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  12. Very touching post. Our reality doesn't always end up matching our dreams, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes life leads in wonderful directions we never imagined

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  13. Thanks you so much for your post. I love being a stay at home mom as well. It was definitely hard at first, and sometimes I still miss working, but I'm so thankful that I'm able to see my kids grow and learn. This was such a wonderful talk. I loved it.
    Nice to meet you! :)

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  14. As a teacher, I can tell you that there is no more important job on the face of the planet - or beyond it - than being a parent. You're doing a hands-on job of creating the future - not only for your family but for society as a whole. More people need to value and love and enjoy children at all their stages. If we had more of this the world would be a much, much better place!! Hold your head up, smile, enjoy and celebrate being a mom - you'll look back later on and be so pleased you made this decision!!!

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  15. We can't sing the song till it's finished. One day, your unsung song will float from the rooftops.

    I heard R. G. Scott's talk too. It was a real boost - along with the others.

    Have a wonderful week!

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  16. Your first few paragraphs describe me to a T- my dream was to be a photographer for National Geographic, and I studied archaeology in college. After graduation I married my sweet husband and we bought a house and had 3 kids and now here I am! Soccer mom extraordinaire. Elder Scott's talk was a beautiful reminder to me of how important it is to treasure what's most important in my life, and to accept that God has bigger plans for me than I could possibly imagine for myself. A song by Michael McLean says, "All I've ever wanted, all I've ever dreamed of, everything I hoped, and all the things I prayed for couldn't hold a candle to what I've been given- I've been given what I need."

    You said, "Only I can raise my kids the way I want them to be raised," but I would say that only you can raise your kids the way the Lord wants them to be raised- the way they were meant to be raised- that's why He gave them to you. :-)

    Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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  17. Hi Jackee! I love being a stay-at-home mom, too. It is incomparable to anything else. There are so many opportunities in life, especially for gifted people, but our best place in life is in the home.

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  18. You hit the nail right on the head, Jackee. I sometimes miss "my former self" and get bogged down with the craziness of life to see the beautiful people the Lord let me be a part in creating and shaping. We are truly blessed to be entrusted with these choice spirits. Thank you for your post!

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  19. I didn't think I wanted kids either. Now I can't imagine my life without them!

    Being a stay-at-home mom feels like a thankless job sometimes. Even though I sometimes miss being in an office and feeling a part of that "adult" world, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I'm glad I can be here for my family because those kids won't be at home forever.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

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  20. I always wanted to be a mom, but I also have a deep love for performing. There are times when I hurt so much because I wish I were up on stage playing a different role, but I have to do just what you said and remind myself how important motherhood is. I do love it and I would make the same choice of being a mom over having a career over and over again. Those pulls (desires) to do something else aren't bad. We just have higher priorities at the moment. I fully expect that when my kids are grown, I'll be up there on stage once more. :)

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  21. Jackee, this was wonderful. I think every stay at home mom has these same feelings. I even got a job one year because I felt so bad about not helping pay for my own student loans. That job lasted 3 months and I quit because the spirit confirmed to me that my children needed me more than we needed that extra paycheck.

    I loved Elder Scott's talk. I loved how personable it was, and it made me want to be the kind of wife to earn such praise from my hubby.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  22. What an excellent post, Jackee. I've been so blown away by the quality of everyone's posts in the blogfest. I especially like this line: "But when it’s time to be with the kids or the spouse, it’s time to be with them." That's something I'm still trying to figure out.

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  23. A beautiful post, Jackee! All the things you said via Scott's words are things we all already know, but tend to forget or take for granted in the daily grind of life. Thanks for the reminder!

    As for feeling unproductive or not contributing enough, guess it's okay to feel that way at times. Maybe that is what makes us strive to do things that will keep us fresh and appreciative of everything else?

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  24. I need to work on a lot of the same things that you do, which shouldn't surprise me. We have so much in common. That was a beautiful talk, and you did a great job of personalizing it. Thank you.

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  25. This was a lovely post and a pleasure to read. Thanks for that. :)

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  26. Well said! Hooray for us stay-at-home moms! :)

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  27. This is such a sweet post. I'm glad you've come to terms to this wonderful change in plans. Motherhood is a big job.

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  28. I think it's rewarding being a mother, more than it is tiring and frustrating at times.

    But I like having my feet in both worlds.

    This is a Mormon post. I'm glad Richard Scott's words resonated with you. For Jews, we don't know if there's an afterlife or not. That's why the here and now is so important. We don't know if we get a chance to fix any relationships or see anyone ever again. We'd better make it count while we're all alive.

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  29. I can't relate to this post because I am neither a mother nor married. But I can appreciate your sentiment. When it comes to life, I think, we have to find the greatness in the smallest things we do because it's those small things that have the greatest impact on what we leave behind.

    Though I think raising kids and caring for a family is a pretty big deal. :)

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  30. Phaa what should I say! I never thought i would be a mom and will take care of my little kid. I feel proud of myself when i do things for him. It's a great feeling dear! It's an achievement for a woman!

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