|My Mom, Leah, happy with her first baby, Richard.|
Before my first child, Anna, was born, I would have nightmares. In these terrifying dreams, I would be trying to diaper the baby or swaddle her in a blanket and have no idea how to do it. The tiny infant would gaze up at me impatiently, and cry out, “Mom, don’t you know how to do anything!”
I would wake up, horrified. How could I possibly be a mother; I didn’t know the first thing about how to do it.
When Anna was born, I still didn’t know anything about taking care of babies. But I instantly knew I loved every bit of her perfect little pink body, from the tiny long toes to her fuzzy miniature round head. I didn’t know how to care for a baby, but I knew how to love, and that is the main thing, I learned.
With each new baby, I worried and wondered how I would manage with another child. As we walked into the hospital, fully in labor, I would tell Paul I changed my mind. Our family is just right as it is, and anyway, I could barely care for the ones I had.
But then, when that wonderful little being lay in my arms, I was filled again with that great love and I knew this was right. I was blessed to have this child in my life and all the other children too.
There’s joy in being a mom. When the children were little, early morning began with all the children piled around Paul and me on the queen size bed. Here’s an excerpt from my journal when there were just four little children.
First three-year-old Mark clambered over Paul, snuggling between us, announcing in his surprisingly deep voice, “I sleep, OK? I have good nap.” Then five-year-old Emily came padding in, eyes scarcely open. She climbed right in beside me, curling into a ball beneath my arm as if she belonged there. Soon baby David started to complain from his crib and Paul brought him in, the baby looking so like a fat sausage stuffed in blue blanket sleepers, we all laughed. In bed with everyone, David commenced climbing over our quilt-covered bodies like mountains, until all of us were wide awake and giggling. Seven-year-old Ann then appeared in the doorway, elegant though rumpled, appraising us all from beneath half-closed eyes before dropping into a ball at the foot of the bed. Before long Mark started begging for pancakes, and we all tumbled out of bed and raced for the kitchen.
The joy of motherhood is full and real. I could go on with stories of Saturday trips –“high adventure” we called them--traveling “wherever the hood ornament took us”; of working together in the yard and then going out for a “workers’ treat” of ice cream; of sitting at the dinner table talking and talking and talking, until David slid from his chair to lie on the carpet and continue the conversation from there.
But motherhood is also hard. There is the work, of course, which is not to be minimized. Though Paul is good to help, and most fathers are, there are always things that only a mother can do, or thinks to do. Henry Ward Beecher said once, “There is no slave out of heaven like a loving woman; and of all loving women, there is no such slave as a mother.” Mothers are up early making lunches, fixing breakfast, finding books, signing notes. They’re up late, tidying the house, helping with school projects, listening to teenagers. And in between, mothers are driving children to soccer games and piano lessons, and shopping for groceries to fill the magically emptying fridge.
And perhaps hardest of all, mothers worry. Mothers are some of the best worriers around. I myself am a world class worrier. I have been known to worry through most of the night because a child hadn’t completed the fourth-grade county report. Before the night was out, I was sure this act foreshadowed juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, lawlessness, and imprisonment. And of course, if these events came to pass, I had no doubt who would be ultimately to blame. Me, the mother, of course. My favorite cartoon shows a pro football player dejectedly heading for the lockers, having just lost a game. From the stand his mother leans over his head calling, “Don’t worry son. You couldn’t help it. It’s all my fault!”
We take a lot of responsibility on ourselves, and that is difficult even when things are going well. When they’re not, that responsibility becomes almost unbearable. One mother told me, despairing over children who had made poor choices, “If I had known it would end here I never would have become a mother.” Another sorrowing mother once asked, “Where did I go wrong? I tried so hard, and yet, look.”
So what do we do to be good moms, to raise our children in righteousness and joy? We can look at Heavenly Father’s example. (Remember that he also has trouble with his children from time to time.) We can never stop loving. In Jeremiah we read, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
If the mission of the church is to bring souls to Christ, mothers (and fathers too, but more about that in June) are the main missionaries. We are on the front lines as we strive every day to teach these spirits how to live, how to love, how to have faith. Certainly, we mess up. (Don’t ask me to tell you about the time I left David at a bathroom in Wells, Nevada.) And kids mess up too, and make their own choices, as they have every right to do.
But most of the time we do just fine. We do fine because we love our children, we love them more than we love ourselves, and we show that by the way we act.
So this is our day. Let’s celebrate mothering. Be thankful for your mother, and your mother’s mother, all the way back. Be thankful for the mothers of all the good people that have brought light to the world. Be thankful for all the mothers alive now, trying so hard to do right by their children. Be thankful for the young women who will be the mothers of the future.
And if you happen to be a mother yourself, count your blessings. Be happy now, remember happy times, and think of happy times to come. Tell yourself you’re doing fine. You are. Remember your Heavenly Father and Mother are by your side, supporting your every effort. They are pleased with you, for all your love and caring and trying. With God’s help and your own great love, you are doing great.
Have a happy Mother’s Day.