I had to speak at church about motherhood and what it means to ‘have a mother heart’. Preparing for that got me thinking about this (often crazy) parenting journey that I’m on. I don’t often do this on my blog – but today I’d like to share some things that are an essential foundation in my life…
I am the last person who should be giving a talk about what it means to have a mother heart. I was not raised to honor motherhood, look forward to marriage. Or taught to be a nurturer. My parents wanted me and my sisters to be academic achievers and successful, independent career women. They told us “don’t go to BYU university because people only go there to get married to other Mormons.” My mum told me “returned missionaries are not good boys to date because they haven’t finished school or gotten a great job yet.” I entered marriage and then motherhood – woefully ill-prepared. I could write an essay on feminism and give a rousing speech on women’s rights but I couldn’t do those Mormon mother things like cook. Clean. Sew. Arrange flowers. Make jam. And I had no clue how to be part of a partnership. Or look after a baby. Or raise a family. I had no desire to do any of those things either. My life was all about ME. ME. ME. And me planning all the amazing ways that I was going to change the world. (I had a lot to learn.) I have been a mother now for 16 years and here’s a few things I have learnt ( while trying to have a ‘mother heart’!)
· * A woman with a mother heart is a woman with an enormous capacity for love. And you dont need to be a biological mother to have a mother heart. Some of the most nurturing, caring and compassionate women in my life, are not ‘mothers’ in the biological sense of the word. My childhood ‘Nanny’ Peka continues to be my greatest example of unconditional mother love. My bestest friend (you know who you are!) never had any children but is a mother to her extended family and the one that I always turn to for wise counsel about my own children.
*Some women seem to be blessed with a natural gift for nurturing and caring for others. I’m not one of them. I didn’t used to like children. And I certainly wasn’t interested in nurturing anybody. Our first child was an emergency preterm baby who had to live in an incubator for several weeks until he was strong enough to go home. I didn’t love him right away. I was more caught up in how sick, in pain and unhappy I was. Late one nite I was crying in my hospital room, feeling sorry for myself – when a voice, a feeling, prompted me to go and visit my baby in the neonatal unit several floors down. I shuffled through deserted halls of a sleeping hospital until I stood beside my tiny baby asleep in his glass box hooked up to wires and machines. I looked at him and my Heavenly Father – gave me a gentle reprimand. He said, this is your son. I love him and I have entrusted him to you. You’re his mother and he needs you to love him. Get over yourself enough to love this child. I committed myself then to ‘getting over myself’ and putting my child first. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to chasten me. My son is not a baby anymore, but he does complain sometimes that he wishes I didn’t love him so much. Because then maybe I wouldn’t be so protective of him!
*As a young mother, I loved my first child so much that I couldn’t comprehend having any love left over to love a second child. I didn’t understand then, that love is not a pie. You don’t run out of pieces when you’re trying to share it. The more that we love others, the greater our capacity for love grows. Through my love for my children, I have been able to gain a very small insight into how much God loves us as His children. Enough to create this earth for us, Prepare a plan of salvation so that we can all return to live with Him again, enough to give us Prophets and leaders to help guide us. Enough to hope great things of us. Only now can I begin to understand this kind of love – because this is how I feel about my children.
*A woman with a mother heart is a woman that is teachable. Christ taught that if we are to progress, we must become as little children, meek and submissive, willing to listen and learn. I thought I was a very clever woman – until I had children. And then I realized that I really didn’t know much at all about anything. Having a child was a huge wake up call for me. Me and Darren were responsible for a whole other person who would look to us for guidance. We couldn’t do it alone. It is such a humbling and terrifying thing to be responsible for some children – whether they’re your own or someone elses! As a parent I look to the Lord for guidance and my most fervent prayers are those asking for help to be a better mother. Within my extended family, in my community I am always looking for help with my parenting journey and at church, I am taught by women of all ages as they share their talents and their experiences with me. I look to my husband who is so patient and supportive of me as I seem to take forever to learn how to be a good wife and mother.
*But most of all – I look to my children who teach me everyday. About faith, patience, how to love better, how to laugh more, and how to forgive quicker. The other day we yelled at Bella because she was drawing in one of my brand new TELESA books that had just arrived from the printer. She ran and hid behind her bed, crying. I went to find her and she was sobbing, she said, “Im sorry Mama, I was trying to write your name in your book. It was a surprise for you. Everybody makes mistakes.” She kept repeating that “Everybody makes mistakes.”
* I make so many mistakes with my children – and at times I despair of ever being worthy of such choice spirits to mother. Satan wants us to be weighted down with guilt and discouragement but the Lord frequently reminds us that through the atonement, repentance and forgiveness is possible. Yes, everybody makes mistakes – the key is to learn and grow/progress from our mistakes. My children have taught me to be teachable.
*The world and sometimes, even your own family – will tell you that being a wife and even worse, a mother – is a boring, value-less occupation. In my experience, yes there are moments, days, that are boring and frustrating, moments that drive you nuts. But I testify that nothing else has given me greater joy than being a parent. I still can’t sew. Or cook very good. But through my calling as a wife and mother, I have developed many other skills and talents. Being a mother has helped me to be a better teacher, a wiser leader, a more creative writer. I know how to love others better. I have drawn closer to my Heavenly Father. And now I understand what our leaders mean when they say:
“There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so. Their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities.”
A woman with a mother heart can change the world then – one child, one person at a time.
Even if that one person is you.