Happy Mother’s Day?
Recently there was a funny post by a well known author making its rounds on social media. It humorously addressed the seeming expectations of modern women to be the perfect mothers. The checklist included things like making sure all your children’s academic, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are taken care of, have a GMO-free diet, be eco-friendly, have a good body image, be socially conscious, all while dwelling in a multi-lingual home with a backyard, etc. In other words, to be “perfect,” which in this case, was defined by some unattainable social expectations.
Mother’s Day – that day of stress where mothers everywhere feel the guilt of not being “good enough,” whatever that means.
Full disclosure: I am not a mother. I have not given birth to children of my own, so I do not know what it is to hold my own newborn in my arms after hours of painful labor. Nor do I know the swing of extreme emotions that come with motherhood. I count myself lucky to have friends who willingly let me dote on their children, so even though I have not experienced the heartaches and joys of mothering my own children, I have observed my friends go through the emotional pendulum swing.
So I cannot write a blog post bemoaning the daily challenges of being a mother. I cannot talk about my own efforts and compare them to those of the past generation, or my own mother’s. All I can offer is sincere gratitude and appreciation for my friends, peers, and sisters – the women who are mothers every second of every day – for all that they do for their children. Even though you may feel lost in a constant daily tide of peanut butter and jelly faces and sticky counters, your efforts are not meaningless nor invisible. They are seen and counted by many.
One trend I’ve observed among mothers is that of comparing themselves to others – either their own peers or the generation that came before them. To that I quote President Ucthdorf when I say, “Stop it.” There is no value in comparing your own efforts to anyone else but yourself.
Perfection – the Struggle Is Real
Thankfully, we as gospelists know that the definition of “perfection” is not to fret and worry about expectations set on us by anyone other than God. We also know that perfection does not come spontaneously, or because of some set checklist. Rather, it comes “line upon line, and precept by precept, here a little and there a little…” (See 2 Nephi 28:30.)
Another way of phrasing that concept is to add upon ourselves a little bit every day. The only time the phrase “added upon” is used in the scriptures is in Abraham 3:26 where we are told that those who “keep their first estate shall be added upon” and shall have glory, here in this estate.
We don’t often think about this mortal existence as a time of glory. We think of it as a time of challenges, of trials, and to try to pass this test of mortality so that we can continue progressing. But “glory?” Not so much a concept you think of when you think of this life.
The next part in that verse in Abraham goes on to talk about what blessings are in store for those who keep their second estate – or are faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ in this life. “…they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
In 1946 the First Presidency said, “To lead them to keep their second estate is the work of motherhood, and ‘they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.’ Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 7, 11–12.)
Motherhood = Glory
Did you see that? Whatever phase of mothering you are at in your life, you are in a place that’s next to the angels. No, this probably doesn’t mean you’re perfect, or had a perfect day, or went through your day without feeling some level of frustration with your children for whatever reason. What it does mean is that by simply making the effort today to keep teaching your children the skills that they will need to navigate this life with skills of faith, revelation, and their own efforts, you are teaching them to keep their second estate, which in turn will add glory to you, and to them, “for ever and ever.”
There is no one right way to be a mother. There are as many different ways to parent as there are parents. Mothering doesn’t require perfection; it simply is about getting up each day and trying again. It’s about improving your efforts from the day before. When you add to your own efforts little by little, you are adding glory to yourself.
“…the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man.
“Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities.” (Julie B. Beck, “A ‘Mother Heart,'” April 2004.)
Happy Mother’s Day!
That is what it Mother’s Day means to me. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others, or thinking our own mothers were better at this mothering thing than we will ever be. It should definitely not be about setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves.
Mother’s Day is about celebrating our (women’s) innate desire to pass on our righteous desires and spirituality to the next generation. It’s about getting up and making the effort again today. It means that in the mess of making peanut butter sandwiches, cleaning up that mess and making another mess for dinner, there is love and goodness that our children will carry with them from day to day.
“[Women] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” [Matthew Cowley Speaks (1954), 109.]
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever current frustrating stage of dirty dishes, diapers, adolescent rebellion your children are in, you matter. What you are doing matters.