Friday, March 14, 2008

Seeking Balance as a Mommy

This is my comment that got too long on Segullah's recent blog post.

First, I want to say that for me, those early stages of motherhood were the hardest. I'm willing to bet that even with teenagedom ahead of me, I will still say that later on in the process. Being physically exhausted, dealing with cute but completely irrational little drained me to my core on many, many days. And I've never been a fan of bodily fluids. :)

But I am having SO MUCH FUN with my kids now (three of them, ages 6-9). This stage of mothering involves a totally different mode, a totally different level of intrinsic satisfaction. I can see and feel the difference I make in their lives, and it's not just about their physical needs anymore. (I know there is more to little ones than just their physical needs, but it's not nearly as obvious as it is when they are turning into little people, becoming accountable, and all of that.) Does that mean I do nothing else but be a mom? No, I still have some things I do on the side, but I am constantly striving to remind myself that what comes "naturally" and what gives me my biggest ego boost is usually not what is most important.

I think we need to always, always remember that the Lord's servants have encouraged us to be educated and prepared and to develop talents. The trick is not to use that counsel as an excuse to do what we shouldn't do. And the real trick is really figuring out what we should and shouldn't do. And that, imo, will change at each stage of life.

I know from personal experience that the Lord can and will open doors of opportunity for us to keep our skills current-ish. I have seen that time and time again. But by so doing, He also has tested me and my heart and motives. In the end, I have had wonderful opportunities that I totally and completely loved, and have felt I should walk away from them. Other things I have felt ok about continuing. And I'm always, always revisiting these things with God, even on a daily basis. I can think of nothing else that is more important to me as a mom than figuring out that balance thing. And I think it is something we should revisit every day, and is something about which we should seek the Lord's guidance constantly.

I'll just say it. For each woman, of course the specifics will look different. But my opinion is that if we truly have our errand from the Lord, and we feel Him guiding us in whatever our balance looks like, then guilt should be gone and so should comparing, worrying about what others think, etc. (Theory is always easier than practice, but still, I think this is true.)

I also agree wholeheartedly with Maralise. The drive for external validation is something we should seek to root out of our lives, because in the end, these decisions are so critical, and that balance is such an important one, that the key to figuring it out and doing the best we can with that balance is to have our 'eye single to the glory of God' not to what gives us our biggest sense of personal satisfaction alone. I have found that God's plan for me is always better than my plan for me anyway. I just need all the help I can get and I think the more I am seeking to really do what God wants me to do -- and not just what I want to do -- will increase my chance of really hearing the Spirit and getting it more right.

Another thought: This opinion may not be hugely popular, but my view is that one of the reasons I think motherhood is so important in the plan is because of what it does to us as mothers. It causes us to really look upward and inward and rely on our eternal sense of value and worth and purpose. I think this also applies to seeking to know the place of education and continuous personal improvement and developing our talents in our lives. I think we should always be seeking to understand and consider the eternal impact and growth potential of our decisions. Some may criticize the martyrdom syndrome of motherhood, and of course we shouldn't be reminding everyone how much we sacrifice as mothers, but isn't sacrifice fundamental to our spiritual growth and part of our test?

In our traditional roles, men get to go out and be validated, and are tested by needing to remember that that validation is not what they should seek or care about most. Women see hubbies get that validation and often ache for it, but are invited to spend most of their time and energy nurturing their eternal relationships, which doesn't always have its immediate reward. In fact, the work we do is really a work that only fully bears fruit across generations.

And then those who are single (or who ache for parenthood and don't yet have that blessing in their lives) have their faith tested by aching for something that is so eternally important (having children) and not yet realized in their lives, and by trusting in the promises of God and seeking to do eternal good in their opportunities and responsibilities and roles.

So there are some quick thoughts on that I will likely write about more when I have more time to really think about it. :)


Tiffany said...

Great comment. I'm so glad you linked it. Just wanted to tell you that I have enjoyed your comments quite a bit as I have read them throughout the bloggernacle. When I read your name, I know I am going to read something worthwhile.

SilverRain said...

So many people assume because a woman is a mother—and a happy one—that it must be because she wants to be one and has always wanted to be one. Those women who have become mothers and don't enjoy it are so vocal that it has become the assumption that ALL of us either absolutely hate it or absolutely love it.

Some of us have found that we can learn to enjoy it.

M&M said...

Thank you for your kind comment.

I like to say that motherhood is a process. Thank you for your comment...I feel that it's so important to remember that motherhood is like everything else -- it's something we work on, pray about, and can improve upon line upon line, with the Lord's help!

Justine said...

Amen to to the post, and to the comments here! I love being a mother, and I don't want to be ashamed to discuss it. I also love writing, and know I can feel the Lord's love and Spirit endeavoring in both.

Thanks for your succinct writings!

M&M said...

Thanks, Justine. I echo what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

I am having fun being a mother too! My kids are 10, 8 and 4 (baby on the way). Completely difference experience than just one baby or a baby and a toddler. Mothers shouldn't judge SAHMhood based on just those couple years. It's like basing being a doctor on your internship or something.
Motherhood is something I have worked hard on for 10 years and I feel validated. I see problems that I have solved. Challenges I have met. I have to use my mind and creativity to be a good mother. And so much time, parenting my three children takes time.
In just 5 days I am facing the trials of a new baby and everything I dislike about it. The body that doesn't feel like my own. The lack of personal space. The postpartum depression. The 24/7ness of it, the hazy brain, etc. But these things don't last forever for me.
Eventually I feel like the real me and I haven't lost myself!
Motherhood has really felt "balanced" the past 3 or so years, actually!

Regarding teenagers, several women have been telling me lately (when I've admitted reluctance to embrace the infant thing) that it is SO much harder when they are teenagers. I wonder if:
1. They forget. They forget that when you do babies for the first time it is new and overwhelming and so physically and emotionally demanding. Sure, an experienced mom could go back and do it easily, but she's had the advantage of the experience.
2. They perhaps didn't have the harder trials until their kids hit the teenage years. I think the most difficult times of motherhood is when your children have certain challanges. Health, serious problems, sexual abuse, etc. This week I talked to a mom of a 3 year old who was abused. Worrying THAT much over your child is not reserved for the teenage years.
3. They didn't face their imperfection as a parent earlier, and come to rely on the atonement for their children's future. Giving up that control and leaving your children's future to Heavenly Father is a difficult process (and linked to having serious problems in their lives).
3. They have unrealistic expectations of teens. I guess because I had "rebellious" sisters, I don't expect teens to turn out well just because I have parented them well. I have a friend whose child is 15 and going through all the teen stuff and starting on the road to being rebellious. It is surprising her a little and is very difficult, but she has children down to age 3, and she still remembers how hard those first couple of years were, and so far she doesn't think this is harder. She's been reading a co-dependent book which she says has helped in dealing with her teenager, actually.

Cheryl said...

Well, I basically have to ditto everything Tiffany and sliverrain said above. Not only do I agree that finding the balance in motherhood can be a continual process, it should be! And m&m, I always shout hooray when you comment on blogs --especially those that could be somewhat confrontational, but you're "arguments" are so kind and respectful, the tension just seems to slip away.

Now I'm off to hear Sister Beck's CES talk. How did I not know about it?! Where have I been? Primary, I guess... :)

Katie said...

Thank you for this comment. I agree that we must be educated- I am a mommy of four about the same ages of yours- and some days are better than others- but the validation I get from them doing something I have taught them- makes the sacrifices all worth it... I love being a SAHM and feel very lucky that I am able to do it... on the other hand- I know that if need be- I have an education- and I am up for the challenge if I have to or choose to work.

Alison Moore Smith said...

I enjoyed you post, but it so confused me. My six kids are ages 4-20. I have no idea what "stage" I'm in!!

For the first time in 20+ years, though, I do NOT have a child in nursery or I know what stage I'm OUT of...

Amen to what Silver said.

Papa D said...

Late comment, but we are in Alison's situation - almost exactly. Our six are from 20-6, so we are about the youngest parents among the group for our oldest two, average age among the group for our middle three, and close to the oldest among the group for our youngest one. It's an interesting perspective to have on in college, two in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school and one in kindergarten.

Just an Amen to the post and the comments - with a caveat from the male (and historical) side of the coin. This is going to sound strange, perhaps, but women now are beginning to face as a group what men should have been facing for centuries, but too often haven't - how to properly balance occupation within the overall circumstances of life that include family. For MANY years, especially with industrialization, men unfortunately have had the ability to neglect wife and kids - by claiming that their wife would raise them while he provided for them.

When everyone worked on a farm, this arbitrary separation often didn't occur, and it still doesn't occur in situations of real poverty. "Traditional roles" are traditional; they are fairly new to the history of the world for the "common" couple. They appear historically in times and circles of wealth, when two incomes are not necessary to sustain life and relative comfort.

I sustain and honor SAHM's, but I also understand it's a relatively modern luxury that used to be reserved for only the truly upper class. It is difficult in so many ways specifically because it is NOT "natural"; it is something that must be accepted and learned and acquired - which goes to the heart of silverrain's comment, I think.

Sorry, but those who know me on other blogs know how long-winded I can be. *grin*

Papa D said...

I meant to say, "Traditional roles aren't traditional." Makes a big difference.