Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"She is valuable, and I am not."

Sixteen years ago my newborn son was fussing on my shoulder. 

Bouncing him in the hallway outside of the class I was supposed to be in, I felt frumpy. 

I wore  stretch pants because I didn’t fit my jeans yet.  I also wore fresh spit up on my shoulder.  My husband was in the building elsewhere, wearing a nice, new suit. He was there as part of a mock trial competition at BYU law school. I was there feeling frumpy, discontent, and frustrated that, for one thing, I was missing out on the law students’ wives group. 

Just then a snazzy looking professional woman started walking toward me in the hall. She was wearing a pretty new suit and looked like a million bucks.  She was part of the competition as well.  As we passed each other, our eyes met for a moment. I had the distinct thought, “She is valuable, and I am not.”  I looked away in shame. 

My new little grand daughter Zia. She is one month old now! 


Where did I get that message?  Like from everywhere, for starters. Movies, magazines, TV, billboards, radio, internet, books, college professors, teachers who saw potential in me, other moms, you name it. 

There is this underlying cultural message that if a woman wants to be important and valuable she must contribute to society in some great way, make use of her brain, make money. Become a lawyer, a doctor, a professor, a famous musician.  

A woman is wasting her life away if she doesn't at least work from home so she can contribute to her family’s income and keep her brain alive.  These messages are lies. They also create  discontentment. 

I spent some years with discontentment as a young mother. 

I ached, I yearned to get out there and do something “important.” I told my husband, more than once, “How about I put on a pretty suit and go do something important, and you stay home to change diapers and clean up messes?”

How wrong I was. 

This is one of the reasons I stopped watching TV, reading beauty magazines, and even listening to most radio. I decided I didn't like feeling discontent with myself, my body, my family, my home, my clothes, and my life. 

I didn't like feeling that the only way to be valuable and beautiful was to have a dazzling career, have a size four body dressed to the nines, wear acrylic fingernails, and drive a Cadillac Escalade. Those were lies too. 

The more I watched and read those things, the more discontent I felt. The more I let go of them, the more content I started to feel in my own role as a full-time mother, in my own body, my home, my clothes, my family, and my life. I know God was happy with that shift. And so was I. 

I believed deep in my heart that motherhood was the most important career.  I loved and liked my children.  Yet it was a hard adjustment for me to move from getting A's on papers and tests in college, and getting a paycheck and praise at work, to getting to change diapers and trying to calm colicky babies.  I craved those feelings of accomplishment. Motherhood is mostly a thankless job when the children are tiny.  I also struggled with some hormone-induced depression off and on during my young motherhood years.  Thank goodness an herb called Vitex saved the day, and keeps things happy even now.  

Last week that 16-year-old son spent five days in Southern Utah at a leadership camp. I couldn't believe how much my husband and I missed him!  I thought about that lie I used to believe 16 years ago. I am happy to be wiser now.  

My 16-year-old son Adam holding his new niece Zia.

Now I know that the MOST important thing I can do in this life is to be a Christlike wife and mother. Not a perfect one. But a striving one.  I can do other, smaller things to contribute too. But the ripples in the pond from my one deepest mission are too valuable, too deep, too broad to pass off to someone else.  Because finding fulfillment as a young mother was a struggle for me, I have worked to help other mothers find it too.  This is one reason I started teaching seminars years ago to help mothers get organized. I knew that when mothers prioritize and put order into their lives, they can focus on what matters most, be better mothers, and even squeeze in time for other ways to contribute. 

Someone once said that motherhood is “the law of the late harvest.”  That’s for sure. 

You never know just how much your nurturing will pay off until your littles are older. I can say this because two years ago I sent my oldest daughter out of my nest, and I know first hand how fast those childhood years fly away. She has turned out amazingly well. In 1.5 years my oldest son will be on a mission for our church. I want to savor the days, the hours, the minutes that I have with him here. In my home. In my nest. 

I’ve grown to love my little nest.  

I love that I love being a mother now more than ever before. I am infinitely grateful that I committed to devote my full-time career to mothering 20 years ago. Nurturing in my nest has and is blessing my family.  

But mothering also blesses me. I didn’t realize how much until I watched my own daughter become a mother just one month ago.  Just like most of us as teens and young adults, she had a phase of self-absorption. I did too. 

The most amazing thing happened when little baby Zia entered my daughter’s life. It was like the flick of a light switch. She turned from being self-centered (just like I was) to being other-centered (just as I did) when that little bundle of heaven entered her life, entered her own little nest.

My daughter Malia and her husband Austin with their new baby Zia.
Having a baby sure turns your life upside down. But you wouldn't have it any other way.  

Motherhood has mellowed me. It has turned me toward God for those instruction manuals that didn’t come at my own babies’ births. I’ve been pushed to learn all kinds of skills, knowledge, and priorities I wouldn’t have before. Motherhood has helped to mother me into a better person.  

Me holding Baby Zia at a temple wedding recently of my daughter's best friend.
Zia only drinks mama's milk, so this is liquid gold in a bottle. :) 

C.S. Lewis said, "The homemaker has the Ultimate Career. All other careers exist for one purpose only-- and this is to support the ultimate career."   


1 comment:

Dana said...

Love that quote by C.S. Lewis! I'm sharing it on my facebook page right now.