Saturday, May 10, 2014

In Defense of Mothers

I've written like four "mother's day" posts over the last week. I just keep thinking of different things I love and cherish about motherhood, about my own mother, about mothers in books, the role of motherhood in religion, and a billion other branches off that motherhood- tree.
But here's the gist of it all:
Mothers are important.
Fathers are important.
Children and babies and families are important.

I live in Utah now, which is- as I'm sure most people know- quite overrun with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons).
Mormons are all about family. In fact, with the exception of the doctrine of Christ's resurrection and atonement - I would say that nothing is more important to Mormons than family.
All of our doctrine and beliefs are centered around the family. Motherhood and fatherhood are divine, eternal roles. Children are an heritage of The Lord. Families can be together forever. And we are the most like and obedient to God when we are striving to protect, nurture, heal, and strengthen our families.
So that's the culture I've been living in for 7 years.

Sometimes it feels like everyone in the entire state of Utah is baby hungry.  And the fact that I got married at 20, and then was pregnant soon afterward is generally not frowned upon but applauded.
The fact that I'm now 25 with three young children is often a more impressive and enviable accomplishment to many of my friends than the fact that I've traveled to Africa, Asia, and Europe or that I got into a really good college, or ... I don't know. What else are people even impressed with these days besides babies?
And I love it. I love every day that I stay home with my boys, even days that are hard.
I was raised in a happy home, with a loving family, and was "brainwashed" from a young age to delight in babies, to relish in my potential as a woman capable of creating and rearing life, and to look with joy on the opportunity I have to be a wife and partner to my husband.
There is not a single day that I find myself thinking, "I wish we'd waited a little longer to have the boys."
In fact, most days I look at my gorgeous kids and think, "Okay, I'll start trying to get pregnant again two years from July, so my next baby will born..."

If you are my friend on Facebook, you probably had to unfollow my posts this week because of the insane influx of adorable baby pictures I've posted. (That is, if you hadn't unfollowed me already, because even before August was born- I was a little picture-happy.)
There are many people that I am "friends" with on Facebook that I haven't seen since high school or earlier, people I don't send emails or occasional texts to, people that -frankly- I don't even remotely care about. Sometimes one of their photos will pop up on my newsfeed and I find myself wondering what they think of me and my current situation in life- if they know or think anything of it at all.
I assume, generally, that they're jealous of me.

And why wouldn't they be? I live in a beautiful home with the love of my life, I get to stay home all day finger painting and going on walks to the park. I get to celebrate each change of seasons with forgetful and easily delighted children who are surprised by blossoms on trees and first snowfalls. I get to hide Easter eggs, make Christmas pudding, and sew tiny, adorable Halloween costumes.
I get to introduce a new generation to Frog and Toad, Corduroy, the Wild Things, and Curious George.
My kisses have magical healing properties, my snuggles are fought over, and there's someone to hold my hand every time I cross the street. I have a simpering, sighing baby asleep on my chest right now. Someday he will call me "Mama," and I'll probably cry. Someday he will tell me, unprompted, "I love you," and know what it means, and mean what he says.
And I will definitely cry.

My life is full. Full of meaning, beauty, and love.

It occurs to me that most of my non-Mormon peers (and some of my Mormon peers) are not actually jealous of my life. My beautiful friend Celia was recently mocked and shamed by a rude woman on an airplane for having three young children and being pregnant with a fourth. She wrote on Facebook,
"As I stood up to deboard the plane, the lady sitting across from me noticed I was pregnant. She looked at me, and her eyes went huge with horror and then disgust. She immediately turned to the passengers beside her and said, 'Just look at that girl! She's pregnant AGAIN! Four kids is just too many. Shouldn't she be happy with three and just be done!?' Several of them started whispering like teenagers, and I heard a couple of audible gasps. I was embarrassed, then ashamed and humiliated as people turned to stare at me, and it took every bit of my self control not to burst into tears. I then felt angry and defensive and made myself hold back a cutting response because that wouldn't do any good. People are entitled to their opinions. I just wanted to tell her, 'Be nice to me. You have no idea what I've gone through to have this baby.' "

Man. Maybe I've been in Utah too long, because I didn't know that people acted that way about babies.
I can't get over how rude and unacceptable that woman was, but primarily- I can't believe that this woman acted as though Cecilia was fulfilling some inappropriate and selfish desire of her own by having children.
I can't wrap my head around the assumption that one is somehow a burden on society by having, caring for, and raising little human beings.
Or, especially, that this woman who knows nothing about Celia or her family felt like she could decide how many children was "enough" for them.

Motherhood is important. Good women who raise strong, happy, kind children are a blessing to society and not a burden.

Children are a blessing, prayed for, hoped for, and beloved by millions of  men and women around the world.

And families are important. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The family is central to God's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

And the world wants us to forget this. The world wants us to think that parents are selfish, that children are inconvenient, and that happiness in family life is not only unnecessary, but unattainable.
And it's just not true.

I wish I could stand up in front of you- on a literal soapbox, perhaps- but all I have is this blog.

So I hereby figuratively stand up for mothers and say, Motherhood is a divine calling. There is no greater blessing on earth than to be a mother. Children need good parents to rear them in love and righteousness, and they are themselves blessings and gifts from God.
Happiness in family life is not only possible, but can come with relative ease when homes are founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ and maintained through faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, and work.
I am grateful every day for my mother and father, I am grateful for my children and husband, and I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother.
I did not get pregnant accidentally. I did not give up my dreams to run a home instead. I chose to be a mother, and it is the best choice I have ever made.

Happy Mother's Day, my friends. Now be kind to your own mom, and all the moms around you.
Raising children is hard work- especially if you're being picked on for it.

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Polly said...

I'm glad I was able to brainwash you so well. Bravo! Lovely post.

Nana B said...

Becky that is one of the best posts. I love being a mom, but I especially love being a grandma and great grandma. And I feel bad for people who treat women who make the choice to be mothers with distain, they must not have children or they would understand how wonderful it is. Always remember that children are God's way of letting us know the world must go on.

Unknown said...

This is beautifully written, Becky! I absolutely love it. I'm an atheist and I really, deeply appreciate the many times when I realize you and I think the exact same way about so many things, even though we come from different beliefs. Being a mother is unequivocally the best and most important thing I have ever done, and I feel so, so lucky to get to be a mama. I had Clementine at 19, on my own, and I never regretted it or wished it was different. The moment I found out I was pregnant marked the beginning of my real life.

Beautiful post <3 Your kids are so lucky to have a mother who loves them so much.

Jessica and colby said...

I wish she would have said it. People don't know her situation at all. What if she was being a surrogate for her sister? Who knows. I try to be less grumpy and judgmental because kids do what their moms do. It's already hard being a girl.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you don't know me, but thanks for posting this! I have five little people, and have gotten those types of reactions, here in Utah. The world is changing. Family is more of a liability than a joy to most. Thanks for sticking up for us!

Unknown said...

Way to state your honest opinion. I love reading your blog because you are so direct in what you believe. I just think it is amazing that you have a say in something and you let the world know. I love that your support women being strong and sticking to what they believe. We really need this in the world today. Go moms!

Casey said...

THIS POST IS INCREDIBLE! I feel like when people ask me what I think on a certain issue, I just want to point at your blog and say, "What she said." You are such an amazing writer. Thanks for writing this. It is so powerful!