Monday, March 5, 2012

A mother's heart

Today, I went walking in search of the playground near my house. I took the long way, wandering down 7th East towards the school there instead of the smaller park. To my delight, I found a playground beyond my wildest dreams. They just installed it: a pirate ship—each turn of wood work gloriously crafted to make some child sure this is the real deal.
Yes. There is pirate candy.

Mostly though, it just looked cool. I walked around it and thought about how I could climb in it, but then what would I do? If I had a friend, I'd throw back a Jones soda and tell stories about the wind and how spring is coming. But I worried that there wasn't really much to do with the pirate ship besides just being in the pirate ship.

How very demanding that all sounds of me. As a child, I would have been far more capable of coming up with entertainment. I realized that I still am. I just need a child who will appreciate my efforts.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mother. The idea of it thrills me. I get so excited when I think I want to be a mother. I want to have a family. These thoughts are beautiful and good, but sometimes, when I think more about what that entails, I get worried. I start thinking about what I will do all day with a house of children. I worry about filling the time everyday. I worry about always drowning in a mess. I worry about my kitchen looking like this play one I found today.

I'm afraid of not being able to handle the day-to-day living part of it, so much so that when I think about actually being a mom, my focus shifts to these areas and the excitement I feel at the simpler thoughts evaporates from me.

When this happens, I think of this quote from a woman who has nine children now. This comes from her essay titled "To the Mother with Only One Child." 

"When I had only one child, I told myself over and over that motherhood was fulfilling and sanctifying and was filling my heart to the brim with peace and satisfaction.  And so I felt horribly guilty for being so bored, so resentful, so exhausted.  This is a joyful time, dammit!  I should enjoy being suddenly transformed into the Doyenne of Anything that Smells Bad.

"I loved my baby, I loved pushing her on the swing, watching squirrels at the park together, introducing her to apple sauce, and watching her lips move in joyful dreams of milk.  But it was hard, hard, hard.  All this work:  is this who I am now?"
This quote is comforting, because even for this woman, who is what we could call a good mother now, it was a struggle to make this change to all day care. Her days were long and hard, but she still felt moments of joy. Over time as she had more children, those long, hard days changed into more times of enjoyment, though the initial move may be very hard.

It's a shift to fill your entire day with the needs of one other person. But how glorious it becomes as you grow. It's a difficult balance to strike: realizing it's demanding, but stepping up with faith and cheer anyways.

I told a friend yesterday that I didn't feel like I was wanting the right things, meaning that my desire to be a wife and mother is sometimes shallow and overwhelmed by my worries about the less glamorous parts of it. She said, "Well of course! No one wants to be wiping butts all day." This bothered me. I suppose she was trying to make me realize that my worries are normal. But that wasn't what I needed to hear.

What I really want is to change my desires so that my focus is on the why and the beautiful rather than the how. The how is so important: you cannot give love to your family without being willing to give them the deepest acts of service, the "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26). For me, I need to focus on why those things are so important and what they say: the why, which is love—deeper and purer than anything else—for both God and His children.

After my frustrating encounter, I came across this quote from Kristen Oaks, an LDS woman who did not marry until her 50s.  
"I got a doctorate and became so involved in my profession that I forgot about being a good person. I would say to everyone in this room, always remember that your first calling is as a mother or as a father. Develop those domestic talents, talents of love and talents of service."
Her words validated the thoughts of my heart.

My dearest friend Kent once told me about a new mother who blogged. Her mom commented that all her daughter wrote about was pee and poop. The younger mother exclaimed, "You understand it now! That is my life." I love that this story was important to him. I believe it stuck with him because he understood the struggles of parenting, yet he has a much deeper conviction of the joys behind the struggles. He was willing to take it all.

For him it was so obvious that these things all fit together. Finding matching shoes, cleaning counter tops, and preparing food—all means to joyful moments of standing in holy places, creating praiseworthy projects, and partaking of the Bread of Life together. Those all sound pretty great to me. I can live with the means to get there if those are the ends.


  1. Hey Katie, I was just thinking about that one phrase, "filling my life" that you talked about worrying about when being a mother, and this blog by Joseph's friend Ashlee Mae came to mind. She is a mother of one in California (have you met her?) and she writes beautifully, as do you!

  2. I'm excited to read this. She is a great writer. She had an essay in the David O McKay contest the same year I did, and it was supremely beautiful. She read part of it, and we discussed it briefly.

    Thanks, Rachel!


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