The theme for our Mothers’ Day service was to reflect on the blessings and struggles of being a Mormon Mom. Because my husband is in the bishopric and conducts in May, when the main speaker got sick I was the last minute substitute. So late Saturday night, I found myself pondering the highs and lows of raising kids and wondering what on earth I could share.
What became clear to me is that the usual Mothers’ Day rhetoric from the pulpit has never been helpful to me. You know what I mean. Mothers are saints. Mothers never complain. Her children call her blessed and her price is above rubies. It is easy to look at a child who is struggling and OWN their troubles, to feel that if you had just been a better Mormon or a better mom, then all trouble could have been avoided. It can be tempting to look at the mom who shows up to church each week on time with kids’ hair neatly combed and assume that she is livin’ the dream, that her kids don’t scream at each other over dinner, and that she doesn’t scream back. I’m always the loser when I compare because I am placing my dark truths next to what appear to be someone else’s shiny successes, which may or may not be real.
A few years ago I learned that some of the greatest blessings of Mormon Motherhood happen when women have been willing to peel back the veneer of perfection and allow me to see that we all struggle, even the “rubies.” When my oldest was 2 he had this amazing nursery leader, Nancy West. He began making spiritual connections to the world and seemed much more thoughtful. One night after a particularly sweet blessing of the food, Dave and I looked at each other and the light-bulb went on. “Nancy West!” we said in unison. Nancy’s spirituality and nurturing seemed so perfect and unattainable. She was one of the women I admired but felt I could never emulate.
Several years later at stake women’s conference Nancy and her husband led a session on family unite. They shared a case study of a surly teen and fractured parenting. At the end they revealed it was an actual slice of their lives. What wisdom I took away from that class. Not only did I gain lots of insights on how to be a unified family, I was touched by their humility and honesty. Nancy cared more about our learning than she did about promoting an image of perfection. Over the years many of my mothering burdens have been eased by the willingness of another to reveal their struggles and frustration and I am grateful for the boldness of women who will show their own weakness in order to give another strength. It reminds me of the wisdom in Ether 12:27 (forgive my slight alterations): “And if moms come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto moms weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all moms 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.”
As I go forward I try to be mindful of this. The woman I visit teach has three kids under the age of 4 and I can tell she thinks I’m way more competent and together than I am. Periodically I tell her my war stories, like when my second kid was 2 and painted her entire leg with black nail polish while sitting on my sister-in-law’s white down comforter. Or when my oldest was so hyper in junior primary that he wacked his mouth on the seat in front of him and his tooth popped through his lip. Good times.
Of course all of this transcends motherhood. My favorite friends are the ones who, when I come to them with my humiliations and heartbreaks, always say, “That’s just like me….”
What is your ward/community like is this respect? Do the women around you participate in your pain? Do you feel comfortable sharing your struggles? Or do you feel the need to keep your weaknesses private because you don’t feel safe?