There has been a lot of talk about what a young woman’s priorities should be as she grows up to be an adult. I share my story in hopes that many young women will begin to change their perspectives so they will have an easier time realizing their full potential. As I said in my Twitter thread so many of the young (both men and women) think they know everything. When I was 21, I thought I knew everything too. Now, I’m old enough to know that I will never know everything.
My mom has always worked. My parents divorced when I was very young; it was a necessity. But even before that, she worked because we didn’t have a lot of money; jobs for both of my parents weren’t enjoyable or fulfilling, they were what you did to make the mortgage and make sure there was enough food to eat. Though most of my mother’s friends in our ward and my aunts did not work outside the home, I always imagined I would grow up to be like Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. I wanted to be a lawyer and wear nice clothes and live in a nice house and feel important. I didn’t give a lot of thought to being a mother someday. A lot of young women love babies or make name lists for their future children. None of that interested me. I found it weird and distasteful.
I did make some plans when I was a teenager: I was going to go on a mission. I looked up to my older brother and sister who had served. They were close together and came home at about the same time. I can remember listening as they spent a lot of time talking at our kitchen table about their experiences and noticing how much they changed for the better.
My mission plans were derailed by getting married. I knew it was the right choice. I was completely ready to get married but didn’t think much about having children. Western society has done it’s best to completely disconnect marital relations with procreation. Our religious culture is better but not as good as it could be. My brother and sister-in-law married when I was in ninth grade, so my sister-in-law knew me pretty well. When we got engaged, she told me that I needed to decide at that moment when we would have kids. If I didn’t, I might never have them. It seemed like good advice. I wasn’t rebellious. I knew what I was supposed to do, though it wasn’t a real desire. My fiance and I talked it over and put a date on the calendar in our minds.
That date hadn’t come when Julie B. Beck gave her April 2004 talk, “A Mother Heart.” I hated that talk. I didn’t understand why being a mother was the only thing women ever talked about in their conference talks. I was intelligent, a hard worker, a valuable employee. I went to the temple every week. I read my scriptures daily. All of these things were important and deserved acknowledgment. I resented Julie B. Beck and her talk so much that before the new General Relief Society President was announced during conference in 2007, I whispered to my husband, “as long as it’s not Mother Heart.” I felt sheepish when her name was called, but still felt like my feelings of distaste for the glory of motherhood were justified. I had become a mother in the interim but still didn’t feel the magnitude of my responsibility or my potential.
I’m not sure when my heart began to soften. I was not prepared for the lifestyle change that comes from taking care of an infant. I was now responsible for a tiny human who depended on me for its care and nourishment and could not be reasoned with. Up until then, I thought I had control over most of my life. Having a baby helped me realize I didn’t have as much control over my circumstances as I believed.
Being a full-time mom, especially to young children, is hard work. There is very little adult interaction and positive feedback during the day compared to a school or work environment. My husband came home and was always very appreciative of me, but nonetheless it was difficult. I wish young women’s classes talked about this stage of life more often, especially for those of us who don’t have it modeled in our own homes.
It is hard to keep kids busy and happy, prepare and clean up three meals a day and keep the rest of the house in decent order while trying to have some time to still be an adult. It can be isolating and lonely one moment and smothering the next. I can understand why some women feel the need to escape and get some normalcy back by having a part-time job.
It’s possible to persevere, thrive, and love being a wife and mom. I learned to cook really well. I kept a schedule of activities like storytime at the library and park days. I traded off with another woman in my ward so we could swap babysitting and exercise. I kept a budget and found ways to save money so that we could live comfortably on one income. I kept the temple and scripture study a priority so I could always have the Spirit with me.
I did not miss out on spiritual growth by going on a mission. The growth has come in different ways. Another key aspect of that growth is having more children. I understand our Heavenly Parents more as my capacity to love and serve grows exponentially. I will never say I’m “done” having children, even as it isn’t in our plans. I recognize God’s plan will always be better than anything I could plan on my own.
When my oldest daughter was about five or six, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She answered, “a mom.” Inside, I died a little inside. Shouldn’t my daughter want more for her life than giving birth? I struggled for a while with this, wondering if I should try to expose her to other ladies who had different careers than mine. But I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed. My little girl saw value in what I did, she loved me and thought that what I did was noble and worthy. She’s a teenager now and hasn’t really changed her mind. I’m no longer ashamed. I’m proud and doing my best to help prepare her in the ways that I wasn’t prepared.
When I read “A Mother Heart” these days, I’m not sure why it made me so angry. In fifty years, no one will remember what kind of employee I was or even if I was an employee. But my children will remember the stories I read to them, the things I taught and how I loved. Everything else is secondary. I’m lucky enough to spend the most time doing the most important things. Julie B. Beck taught truths I couldn’t see, but I see now as I better understand the Plan of Salvation and our time here on earth. I’ve learned to have an eternal perspective in regards to motherhood, to “know that 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.”
- “A ‘Mother Heart’” -Sister Julie B. Beck, April 2004
- “Because She Is a Mother” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 1997
- “Parents and Children” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2018
You can follow The Old Lady’s husband on Twitter at @TheOldManIsHere.