the joys of motherhood

Today I had the honor of speaking in my church's sacrament meeting for Mother's Day. The following is the talk I shared with my congregation. 

The Joys of Motherhood 
by Clarissa Earl

In the scriptures we learn that men and women are that we might have joy. Today I feel truly joyful. I am honored to have the opportunity to speak to you about the joys of motherhood. However, Mother’s Day hasn’t always been a happy day for me. I know it can be a difficult day filled with complicated emotions and heartache for many people. 

 Sister Sheri L. Dew has taught: “Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us. Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.” 

She goes on to say: “The subject of motherhood is a very tender one, for it evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches.” 

A few Mother’s Days ago, I was mourning the unexpected loss of my mother and the acute pain of her absence in my life. Another Mother’s Day not too long ago, I spent most of sacrament meeting crying out in the foyer wondering if and when I would ever be able to have a baby. Later that day I received a sweet video message from my stepsons that brought both joy and sadness to my heart. I cried a lot that Mother’s Day and they weren’t tears of joy. 

I better understand and know the joy of motherhood now, but it’s taken me years to get here. And I don’t automatically feel the joy all the time. Some days and seasons I really have to work hard to find it. The physical, mental, and emotional work of raising a child can be utterly exhausting. The responsibility of caring for a child is unlike I’ve ever experienced in this life. 

President Russell M. Nelson has taught that “Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny.” In the Family Proclamation we learn that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” So what does it mean to nurture? According to Sister Julie B. Beck, “to nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow.” 

My mother was a wonderful example of what it means to nurture. She was not perfect. She had her doubts, weaknesses, and struggles. But as her child I knew that my siblings and I were her greatest sources of joy. She helped each of us grow and develop into the people we are today. Now that she is gone, I'm even more grateful for my siblings and the strength we give to each other.

Henry will be one in just a few days. I remember after he was born marveling at all the women I knew who had given birth. I was in awe that I had joined their ranks and gone through the harrowing experience of growing and bringing a new life into this world. I thought a lot about my own mother and yearned to have her by my side. When I look at my baby boy now, it still baffles me that he grew inside me and that together, Dale and I are responsible for his continued growth and development on this earth. 

In the 2016 April General Conference, Sister Neil F. Marriot taught the following: 
“We build the kingdom when we nurture others. We must develop bedrock faith in the Savior’s gospel and move forward, empowered by temple covenants, toward exaltation. Love is making space in your life for someone else... Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a 'mother' before she had children. I believe that 'to mother' means 'to give life.' Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan.” 

I wish I had better understood these great truths about motherhood earlier in my life. It wouldn’t have take my heartache or trials away, but it definitely would have brought me comfort and a better perspective of my Heavenly Parents plan for me. 

During this first year of motherhood, there have been times that I’ve struggled to put off others opinions and deeply rooted cultural expectations of what it means and looks like to be a good mother. For me, finding joy in motherhood comes when I seek to understand and follow the Lord’s will for me and my family. 

Since becoming a mother, I’ve learned that we each have unique circumstances that help determine the right course for our family life. The only way to know if you’re on the right path is to seek the Lord’s guidance. Others can give helpful advice and share valuable wisdom gained from their own personal experiences. But at the end of the day, I’ve found that decisions regarding how to raise and support your family are best determined by counseling with your spouse and the Lord. Seeking His will and guidance together will bring you peace and assurance like nothing else. 

I believe mothering is most joyful when we understand who we are as daughters of Heavenly Parents. Sister Julie B. Beck has taught: “When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.” 

To find joy in motherhood you have to be humble. This first year of motherhood during a worldwide pandemic has humbled me in many ways. I’ve always been uncomfortable asking for help. I tend to be a stubborn introvert who feels like to prove my worth I need to tackle challenges alone. That attitude doesn’t work very well when you’re a mom. 

Speaking to the women of the Church, President Eyring said: “The wonderful day when the Lord calls you to an assignment as a mother...will also take an even more loving heart than you needed earlier. It will take faith in Jesus Christ beyond what has ever before been in your heart. And it will take a capacity to pray for the influence, direction, and comfort of the Holy Ghost beyond what you may have felt was even possible.” 

I know President’s Eyring's words are true. When you’re running on 4 hours of interrupted sleep, your baby won’t eat or stop crying, and it’s already time to make dinner again, exercising your faith and relying on grace is the only way you survive. I’m finding that I’ve never needed the atonement in my life more than I do now as a mother. I make mistakes every day and too often I’m so deep in the day-to-day struggle that I don’t stop and pray for the Lord’s influence and direction. I’m slowly learning to stop and seek the comfort and guidance that is there for me. When I do, I’m better able to appreciate the joy I feel when my son’s eyes light up and hands wave wildly when he sees me or the hilarious cackle he emits when he sees a dog or cat. 

To find joy in mothering, I often have to remind myself that this is only a season and that what’s hard now won’t be hard forever. There are so many wonderful moments that I don’t want to overlook. 

For those who are struggling and for whom this day is a painful reminder of hopes unrealized, relationships strained, or loved ones lost, I testify that our Savior sees you and knows your pain. Even though it may not feel like it sometimes, he never forsakes us. 

Speaking about mothers, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: “You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work.” 

In February 1988, when I was eight months old, my mother wrote the following poem that I hold close to my heart:

A Master's in Mothering
by Lorri Anne Fidler

There are no lecture halls, no text, no final exam
(Except perhaps the day when I stand before the judgement seat of Christ)
There is no syllabus, no curriculum, no grades.
My classroom is my home, 
With the arithmetic of budgets, 
The management of time, 
And the language of loving.
The Lord is my teacher.
I learn as I bathe you, as I clothe you, and dress you.
I learn as I read to you, as I feed you, and as I teach you. 
The course requirements include patience, love, and virtue, uprightness, faith, and hope
I work daily on my "thesis"of raising you
And pass tests as you succeed at life.
It is a day to day pursuit I take that I might receive
a Master's in Mothering. 

I believe my mother successfully achieved her Master's in Mothering. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to now pursue my own. I am very grateful to be Henry’s mom. I’m grateful to be a stepmom to Aiden and Brennan. I’m grateful for my mother and all she taught me. And I’m grateful to all of the women in my life who have and continue to mother me. Mothering is hard work, but it is also the source of my greatest joy.


No comments :

Post a Comment