Happy Mother’s Day! I know it carries different feelings for different people, but I like Mother’s Day. I try to reverence motherhood always, but I don't mind an extra excuse to remember, serve, and thank mothers.
I’ve been thinking lately about a common thread I’ve noticed in the lives of Mormon mothers. Not universal, but too widespread by my count: Why are so many Mormon mothers drenched in perceived inadequacy?
I realize how risky it is for me to even bring this up; a man with a handful of anecdotal evidence? Must be my massive ego. But I need only hear one woman berate herself for her shortcomings to hurt my heart, and after hearing multiple mothers express persistent despair and doubt about their contribution, I have to pause and ask, what is wrong?
Here’s my hang up. They seem to feel guilt for experiencing what as far as I can tell is the very definition of motherhood. The messy house. The delayed bedtimes. The piled up laundry. The arguing children. muddy footprints and toothpaste in hair and undone homework--as far as I can tell, this, all of it, is what it means to raise kids. And yet so many sisters seem to foster this feeling that if they were doing it right, none of these blemishes would be a part of their life. False! I don’t think any woman deserves to feel guilt simply for experiencing motherhood.
I think this problem stems from pressure both within and outside the church. Society has relegated motherhood to second-class status, filling even the most dedicated of mothers with a lingering fear that if they aren’t earning a law degree, selling art on Etsy, or climbing mount Everest, they aren’t making a contribution to the world. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for women doing awesome things. I really am. My wife Lisa makes more than I do, hour for hour, as an artist. I love and encourage such use of talent. But it always makes me sad when she feels unaccomplished for putting our family ahead of other things.
Where raising children should be lifted up and exalted as the most awesome and worthwhile pursuit of women (and men), Satan has successfully flipped the script, painting parenthood as mundane at best and a complete mistake a worst, falling somewhere in the center between the greatest and most deplorable things anyone can do with their lives. What a victory for him, and how easy it is to slip into that way of thinking! Rejecting Satan's lies takes conscious effort.
Maybe even more pernicious is the pressure from within the Church to be "perfect." I’ve noticed that very few people strike the proper balance between high expectations for self and rational acceptance of imperfection. And I’ve noticed too that women almost always err on the side of excessively high expectations for self. Simply put, they never get to feel “good enough.” Ironically, this feeling persists despite a consistent stream of messages meant to reassure women, even from the Church pulpit. Why the persistent feeling? Maybe it's because deep down they know, as only parenthood can show, that they really aren’t good enough.
Please don’t misunderstand my point, but maybe it’s time we stopped telling people, especially women, that they’re good enough. Maybe it’s time we all accept the truth: We are not good enough and we never will be, but because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that is okay! Because of him, we can be inadequate and yet not only escape the damnation but rise to exaltation.
This is a hard truth for many to swallow, but the reality is that it is actually incredibly liberating and empowering. I will be the first to stand up and say that accepting my weakness and relying on the Savior is hard. It goes against my very nature. But to whatever degree I’m able to achieve reliance on Christ, I’m able to shift focus from everything that I’m doing wrong (or not doing at all) to what I can do and my efforts are magnified by Christ. As Moroni was taught, "my grace is sufficient for all that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
God bless all the mothers and may they, especially the mothers of the church, find freedom from feeling guilt for simply being mothers and for experiencing motherhood. May they come to know what Eve learned, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which god giveth unto all the obedient.”
Did I miss an important point or get something completely wrong? Please share in the comments. I'm not exactly an expert on motherhood after all!