Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Purpose of Motherhood

A mother taking a moment from doing her laundry by hand to love and comfort her child.


 “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?~Neal A. Maxwell

Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with a sweet lady I love dearly. Like me, she is a mother of many, and like all of us have from time to time, she was having a difficult time emotionally.


She pleaded with me to know what the meaning of motherhood IS. What is the point? Why do our children, our homes, our husbands NEED us? Do they really? Are we doing them any good? Are mothers actually necessary???


Her questions caught me off guard, mostly because I feel so passionately about the subject, and also because there was so much I wanted to say. In a moment, in that instant, how could I convey all that I feel and know about the divinity of motherhood?


After an afternoon, evening, and night of pondering and rolling her questions over in my mind, I feel I can now better share my heart and convictions on the subject.


More than Bearing Children

 "Women for the most part see their greatest fulfillment, their greatest happiness in home and family. God planted within women something divine that expresses itself in quiet strength, in refinement, in peace, in goodness, in virtue, in truth, in love. And all of these remarkable qualities find their truest and most satisfying expression in motherhood."

"Said Thomas Wolfe: 'There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful women in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.' Or, to which I might add, cuddling a baby, or leading a child in prayer, or counseling a strong young son or daughter, or comforting a tired companion." ~Gordon B. Hinckley
My friend has reached the end of her baby-bearing years. Like so many other mothers of large families-- me included-- she is feeling that giving children life is a huge part of her purpose as a mother. And now that is all over. She is not having more babies, and she is left wondering what there is to motherhood beyond that.

But motherhood is more than bearing children. While the sacrifices we make to bring children into the world are sacred and humbling, the days beyond are where the true journey of courage and sanctification live. 

When we wake up every morning to face a new day as Mother, we know we will be confronting messes, arguments, projects, crying, hungry mouths, and dirty faces. To many, this work has been labeled as menial, full of drudgery and unimportant. But it is the stuff of life! I know there are times when it feels overwhelming, even impossible to go on, but this process of serving in the most humble way is where the divinity of motherhood is created and refined-- day in, day out. Over and over again.

Elder James E. Faust reinforced this truth beautifully when he said:
"Do not be deceived in your quest to find happiness and an identity of your own. Entreating voices may tell you that what you have seen your mothers and grandmothers do is old-fashioned, unchallenging, boring, and drudgery. It may have been old-fashioned and perhaps routine; at times it was drudgery. But your mothers and grandmothers have sung a song that expressed the highest love and the noblest of womanly feelings. They have been our nurturers and our teachers. They have sanctified the work, transforming drudgery into the noblest enterprises."
"Homemaking is whatever you make of it. Every day brings satisfaction along with some work which may be frustrating, routine, and unchallenging. But it is the same in the law office, the dispensary, the laboratory, or the store. There is, however, no more important job than homemaking. As C. S. Lewis said, 'A housewife’s work … is the one for which all others exist.'"
Did you hear what he is saying here? Housework, homemaking-- whatever you want to call it-- is inextricably connected to the divine purpose of motherhood. 


This statement may shock some, and anger others. We live in a world that has turned serving our families in our homes into the lowest of the low, the untouchable, the most wretched work anyone must do.
"Homemaking skills are becoming a lost art. I worry about this. When we lose the homemakers in a society, we create an emotional homelessness much like street homelessness, with similar problems of despair, drugs, immorality, and lack of self-worth. In a publication called The Family in America, Bryce Christensen writes that the number of homeless people on the street 'does not begin to reveal the scope of homelessness in America. For since when did the word home signify merely physical shelter, or homelessness merely the lack of such shelter? … Home [signifies] not only shelter, but also emotional commitment, security, and belonging. Home has connoted not just a necessary roof and warm radiator, but a place sanctified by the abiding ties of wedlock, parenthood, and family obligation; a place demanding sacrifice and devotion, but promising loving care and warm acceptance.'" ~Susan W. Tanner
There are voices all around us, shrilly insisting that the menial work of home and family are the least important work a woman can do. But with all the conviction I have within me, I declare and testify that the work of motherhood is the highest, noblest, most important and crucial work that can ever be done, any time, any where. There is no mission higher, no calling greater, no ambition more noble than that of a mother who sacrifices and serves her family, day in, day out. 




No one anywhere needs us more than our children and husbands do! As Elder Richard G. Scott stated:
"The vital importance of teaching truth in the home is fundamental. The Church is important, but it is in the home where parents provide the required understanding and direction for children. It is truly said that the most important callings in time and eternity are those of father and mother. In time we will be released from all other assignments we receive but not from that of father and mother."


So what do we do when we're feeling worthless, depressed, overwhelmed, and defeated? As President Gordon B. Hinckley's father once told Him, "Forget yourself and go to work." One of the best cures I have found in my own life is to pull myself up and do some routine, menial work. The idea of drudgery is the intimidating thing! But when we get up and go to work to help someone else, we come away revitalized, renewed-- even full of purpose and energy.


But there is a caution to be given with this answer: it's also all in the attitude. The Savior never indulged in feelings of martyrdom, and neither should we! When we begrudgingly do housework, we are not serving our family. We are serving our own selfish needs to justify our anger and get everyone to feel sorry for us. But it does not work to make us feel better, nor for our family to appreciate us! Our efforts should be selfLESS, not selfish in nature. We only turn the cure to our unhappiness to poison when we work with an embittered heart.


If the idea of cleaning or working on housework makes you want to crumple up into a ball, and it's just something you can't make yourself do in that moment, then gather up your little ones into your lap and read them a small book. Or call a friend, a sister, or an aunt or your mother. Work on a project that you've been procrastinating. Go on a date with your husband. Most of all, PRAY for help, strength and renewal to do the ONE THING that the Lord would have you do in that moment of despair. Just DON'T give up!

Mothers Are Divinely Called

"Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is 'as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.'" ~Sheri L. Dew 
Our children, no matter the age, learn from their parents what adults, mothers, fathers, and families do and should be. We don't simply teach our children how to successfully become adults by what we say, but the more powerful lesson comes from what we DO. Their eyes are always watching, their ears are always listening. The impact of how we live says far more than any lecture or lesson ever could.
"Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security, her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world." ~David O. McKay  
Our daughters need mothers so that they can know how to be wives, homemakers, and mothers someday. Our sons need mothers in order to learn how to honor, protect, and love women. And most of all, children need mothers to lead them to Christ. With our selfless love and devotion to home and family, we are showing our children how Christ loves and serves all of us. 
We can give our children education, lessons, athletics, the arts, and material possessions, but if we do not give them faith in Christ, we have given little." ~Kevin W. Pearson
What we do every day is written into the hearts, souls and minds of our children. This is a daunting realization for any mother! I don't know any woman who is perfect, however. But when we have the conviction in our hearts that our efforts are supported and sanctified by God, we can begin to see the importance of our work as mothers. The Lord will NOT leave us alone in this noblest of causes! He sent us our children so that we could lead them back to Him.
Every mother should endeavor to be a true artist. I do not mean by this that every woman should be a painter, sculptor, musician, poet, or writer, but the artist who will write on the table of childish innocence thoughts she will not blush to see read in the light of eternity and printed amid the archives of heaven, that the young may learn to wear them as amulets around their hearts and throw them as bulwarks around their lives, and that in the hour of temptation and trial the voices from home may linger around their paths as angels of guidance, around their steps, and be incentives to deeds of high and holy worth.” ~Francis E. W. Harper 


Serving As Christ Served 

The Savior never put himself above others. He lead with love, always thinking of others before He thought of His own needs or desires. He washed the feet of His apostles, left His mourning to teach a crowd of thousands, relieved and blessed the fishermen who had been working all night without a catch. 

Even as He hung on the cross, dying, fulfilling the ultimate moment of His divine mission on earth, He was concerned about the welfare of His mother. Indeed, He even took a moment as He hung in agony to plead with God for the forgiveness of the soldiers who had lifted Him on the cross.

The selfless work we do in our homes is a blessed opportunity to serve as Christ Himself served. There will never be fanfare, applause, monetary compensation, awards, or accolades for the work we perform in our homes. But the true rewards of motherhood lie in the hearts of our children, grandchild, and posterity for eternity. Every diaper we change, every mess we clean, every late night talk we participate in is recorded for all of heaven to see. And as we serve, we become closer to God, refined and sanctified by His work.
"And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better." ~D&C 25:10 (the Lord is speaking to Emma Smith) 
As mothers, we are partners with God in bringing His children unto Him. There is no greater mission, no greater call, nothing more noble. And as mothers, we have more influence among the children in our own homes than we can have among anyone else. The impact of a mother in the home is immense, even though it may appear insignificant to the world. But to God and His plan for His children, it is an important key to His mission and purpose to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
 “God has implanted deep in the souls of parents the truth that they cannot with impunity shirk the responsibility to protect childhood and youth. There seems to be a growing tendency to shift this responsibility from the home to outside influences, such as the school and the church. Important as these outward influences are, they never can take the place of the influence of the mother and the father.” ~David O. McKay
No one else can do the work that God has called us to do in our own homes, among our own families. Our divine mission as mothers must stand as the highest of our purposes and priorities. It is the most important mission ANY woman can fulfill, and any others pale in comparison and impact. If there are ANY other missions, purposes, careers, or hobbies that are pulling us away from the divine work of motherhood, we need to put them in their proper places in our lives


I testify this is true, in the name of our perfect example, Jesus Christ. Amen.
"God bless you, mothers. When all the victories and defeats of men's efforts are tallied, when the dust of life's battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race." ~Gordon B. Hinckley


For more reading on this important topic, please see the links below:


There are also several more offerings of my own here on this blog under the subjects of "Motherhood" , "Manifesto", or "Mission" or at the tab labeled "Happy Mothers". 

With love,

9 comments:

  1. I have learned more about the character of my Heavenly Father from being a mother than any other way. I'm so grateful He has allowed me the privilege of these lessons. Thanks for sharing your (and other's) thoughts on this subject. Keep up the good work.

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  2. I can tell this was written from the heart with much thought and prayer. I am glad that my friend posted it on Facebook so that I can go share it with my friends on Facebook. Thank you for your time and effort in sharing these thoughts!

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  3. No wonder you love motherhood. You have researched, lived, and loved mothering. I'm grateful for the effort and all the great quotes and resources you have shared.

    I, too, believe that we have been lied to by society into thinking that motherhood is not worthwhile when really it is exactly where we can find our greatest joy and fulfillment. And it doesn't end. I continue to learn about being a mother and feeling needed as I enjoy my own daughters becoming mothers. It is a plan of happiness.

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  4. I have often thought about the attitude of motherhood. If I act as though life is a drudgery to care for everyone and their needs, they feel that negativity and even after all that I do, they still FEEL unloved. Once my attitude on motherhood and wifehood changed by doing things for my family because I love them and want to serve them, our home life became so much happier! My family FEELS my love through every folded shirt, clean dish, and vacuumed floor. They know I do it because I want them to be comfortable and happy.

    My son told me the other day he feels sorry for some kids that he knows because their mother treats them like they are a burden to her. I thought it was interesting that he would even see that from the kids point of view, much less that he would pick up on the her attitude as a mother. I was then happy that he is so astute to see things from a perspective of how we can help them. The difference is in the attitude.

    Great post!

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  5. That was so beautifully written. I always enjoy your thoughts on motherhood and your passion for it. It's so refreshing to find others who truly value this most important calling. Thanks for these sweet reminders and this wonderful message.

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  6. This was a beautiful post on a very timely subject. You have so many wonderful thoughts and quotes on motherhood. I would say that we are all mothers for eternity and I am busy enjoying my moments with my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Thanks for a wonderful well writted article.
    Hugs to you!

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  7. I grew up with a mother who believed as you do and have gained another mother who is also a wonderful example of a true mother (my husband's mom) . Now I am doing my best to carry on that tradition of being a true homemaker and mother: one who creates a place, first within herself and then in her surroundings, where the Spirit of God can reside.

    I hope all women who don't have children also remember THAT definition of motherhood. Each woman can help bring the light of the Spirit of God to all they meet. They can't help but do that if they have the Spirit within themselves. What better way of mothering could there be?

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  8. I so agree with you, Rachel, when you wrote:

    "No one anywhere needs us more than our children and husbands do!"

    It's a confusing message coming from all different directions, that pressure many women receive from modern society at large: leave home to teach others' children ("make a difference") and miss time with your own, etc.


    Really, if God is a loving God and he has a plan for us, can't we women trust in him and believe that his plan for us as women is BETTER than the worlds, even if it is *different* than the worlds? (Of course, this comment is not aimed at women who want families and for some reason, not able to, and other extenuating circumstances).

    We've just forgotten what God's plan is for us as women, at its heart, and where we fit into it. That's why this post is important, and the new book from the Relief Society.

    I'm grateful for the inspired people who put me in visiting teaching partnerships with other women, visiting stay-at-home moms so I could be influenced subtly by them as a young Mom. It's also a good thing that I just stuck to what the prophets said, instead of being caught up in the status quo. So grateful now!

    It is so true that a woman cannot be replaced and her kids and husband need her most. Her grandkids do, too.

    I know this because I grew up without one, effectively. One of mine passed away just after my birth and the other has never been maternal at all. She lives to golf, but enjoys the letters I send her.

    It would have been life-changing for me to have a grandma who was a "typical" grandma, baking cookies, letting me sit on her soft lap as she read books to me, and calling on the phone just to talk to me and listen to me.

    It would have been like heaven to me if she had taken an interest in my life! and ask me questions about my plans and activities.... and answer any I had. She could have told me about my parent and helped me understand them better. She could have shared her faith in God with me and helped me grow into understanding the world around me.

    I really missed those things I only learned about later when I became a Mom myself and saw my kids receive that special kind of grand-love.

    I want to give those kinds of things to my grandkids!

    (I guess it's these things it takes several generations for us to re-learn as a society, right?)


    When a friend asked me what I was going to do when my children were raised (as if then my life would finally begin!), I thought about it a little.

    I think I want to garden, and sew things for my grandkids...and bake cookies to send to my missionary grandsons and daughters, and write encouraging notes to my grandsons and daughters at college and help my daughters at their babies' births and have cousins camp once a summer and do geneology work and serve in the temple and serve a mission with my husband. Marjorie Hinckley is my hero and who I want to grow up to be like, given the opportunity!

    Those are MY dreams, no other "full time work" (paid or otherwise) would hope to compensate me the way the Lord does for me when I live His will for me in my life. It makes me so happy!

    I know many women have different paths, but I think this path would be so wonderful and I welcome it, when it comes my turn!

    For now, I am choosing to receive the joy each day that is mine as I raise my young children in this stage.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post! Gave me lots of room for considering what is important to me and what I want in life. God bless you!

    Eve

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  9. Thank you, ladies, for your wonderful comments! I am so encouraged that there are so many mothers who have such passion and reverence for motherhood. May the Lord bless you all in your missions as mothers! :-)

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