The “Weakness” of Motherhood
I turned thirty this week. My twenties were personally challenging for me. Unlike many twenty-year-olds, I didn’t get to go off to college, live in a dorm or “find myself”. My parents never thought to prepare me for college, searching out scholarships, saving money and I never considered that I would have to worry about it until it was too late. So I stayed home, went to community college, decided to go to beauty school to help pay my way through college and worked. Shortly before my twentieth birthday I met a boy . . . who only a few months later would become my husband. I moved out of my parents’ house into a home with my husband and continued school and work until our first little baby arrived.
When I grow up . . .
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. As a teen – that was my one sure future. I threw around thoughts of being a pop star – getting my face on TV through the 80’s “Star Search” or perhaps becoming an advertising executive like Angela Bower on “Who’s the Boss”. Through all of these possibilities – I held dear the teachings of the Church on the divine role of motherhood, and it continued to be my number one priority. So, when our little girl arrived – I put a hold on school and work to be there for her. She was followed by a second and a third child. In 2008, at the age of twenty-seven, I returned to school in earnest. I thought, “this is my time”.
I never really had the opportunity to be single, go to school, live my “own life” and “find myself”. I’ve been doing in while being a wife and mother – and it’s been hard – especially considering the pressure that society places on us women to be well – everything. We’re supposed to be independent, power women who are aggressive – yet soft, self-sufficient and still the perfect wife or mother. Educated, intelligent, great cooks, fit, beautiful, funny, multi-talented, career driven, maternal, kind, thoughtful, and so forth.
Burdened by the “Modern Woman”
In my twenties I became burdened, overwhelmed, and confused by these expectations. Returning to school I still worked hard to honor my family but I also thought my education and future profession a key priority. I wanted to be a mother but I also wanted to have a career, develop myself and do all the other things to be something beyond great. It was a lot of pressure and I was often worried, depressed and experienced a lot of anxiety in my attempts to figure out how to be both the modern woman and a stay-at-home mom. I spent my twenties in identity crisis trying to figure out how to do it all – and do it all well.
We live in a world today when everything is about “self”. How to become more successful, more beautiful, more talented, and so forth. Little is given on the importance of helping others or raising a family. Somehow we believe that if we sacrifice ourselves for our family – we’re losing out. Society would have be believe that my being a stay-at-home mom is hurting my family because we have less income, or that I’m not providing my daughter a good role model of being in the work force or having a successful career. A wife and mother couldn’t possibly hold or reflect the value of the independent woman, but rather is subservient, weak, less intelligent or capable. They are often overlooked, put down, or pitied by society because they are sacrificing their time and talents – and losing themselves in the process. These are lies.
So now, being older and slightly wiser I’ve found there is one lesson more important than any other I learned over the past ten years. What is it? It’s that while there are many things I can be when I “grow up” the most important thing I’ll ever be is a mother. I will not give up being a mother for fulfilling today’s standard of the “modern woman”.
Women who choose to sacrifice careers for being full-time mothers are not weak. They are not to be pitied by the working class. They are warriors and should be honored for their labor of love. Do I feel like less for choosing motherhood first? Sometimes I wondered . . . . in my heart I felt good – but somewhere along the way I became conflicted by listening to the messages of the world. I now realize that being a good parent has built me up in ways no career ever could. It allows me the flexibility to strengthen myself in a variety of ways – building skills in many different fields. The sacrifices I have made for motherhood have not been unrewarded. . . .
. . . the sacrifices that fathers and mothers make for their chidlren ultimately will result in the greatest possible happiness for those making the sacrifices. In all of human experience, there are no joys more tender, no love more sweet, no fulfillment higher than that found in the family. Those who honor the calling of righteous parenthood will find their souls refined, their heart purified, and their minds enlightened by the most important lessons of life. They will rise to far greater heights of happiness than those who engage in the narrow and ultimately unsatisfying pursuit of self.
~Elder Bruce D. Porter, “Defending the Family in a Troubled World”
I am so grateful that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that there is no greater call, no work more important than that of motherhood. Someday I will graduate with my degree and have a career . . . . but whatever successes I have by the world’s standards will never compare with the successes I have in my home by being a great mom. There is no career or path that can benefit society and the world more than by raising future generations in righteousness and love. Being a mother is not weak – it is not the easier path. The only weakness in motherhood is that we can be distracted and confused into thinking our role as mothers somehow make us less – when in reality it makes us more. I am proud to be a mom.
My friend Deborah . . . . another great mother.
See her complete profile on mormon.org.