A few years ago my husband and I took a trip to Brazil, where my husband had served his mission. We left our two toddlers at home with my parents. I loved the trip, and getting away felt blissful, but on the fifth night of the trip we were on a bus in Rio de Janeiro. A mom with her two young children got on the bus. As I listened to their laughs and their cries, I longed to feel the weight of a child on my lap, the weight of a sleepy head resting against my shoulder.
After our third child, we wanted one more. I was so very thankful for the three that I had and thanked God for them every day, but I longed to feel the weight of a baby in my arms. The weight of a breathing chest against my own.
A sacred weight.
I now have four kids. I feel blessed beyond measure. I feel gratitude for them deep in my bones every single day.
And yet, my gratitude notwithstanding, sometimes that sacred weight feels . . . weighty.
- Those moments when you just want some time to yourself but keep getting interrupted . . . heavy.
- The constant neediness of young children who rely on you for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, another snack, entertainment, health care, sibling mediations, finding a lost shoe, and a million other things . . . heavy.
- The unending cries of “Mom!” every day . . . heavy.
- The weight of endless decisions: How best to discipline undesirable behavior? Does my son need more encouragement or firmer boundaries? Does our family need more fun or more work? . . . heavy.
Sometimes the heaviness threatens to bury me in anxiety, in worry, in unmet desires and expectations, in exhaustion.
When muscles are built up through exercise and exertion, they actually have to tear first. They rip, then mend, rip, then mend. It can be a painful process, but when those muscles mend, they are bigger, stronger.
Motherhood has torn me wide open.
- It has opened my heart. My heart leaves the house every day as my little ones march off to school. I feel vulnerable, in a good way.
- It has opened my mind to new possibilities, new ways of doing things and solving problems. It has opened me up to change.
- It has torn away my need to be right, my need to impress, my need to prove my own worthiness.
The sacred weight of children has ripped me open and then mended me back together, and when I take the time to notice, I see that I am now bigger, stronger than I once was.
Sometimes it feels like the workout is too hard, and I am left feeling drained and depleted.
Other times, when the workout is just right, I feel confident and satisfied.
What is the difference between those days when the work feels depleting and when it feels energizing?
I find that when I treat myself as Christ would treat me—with kindness, forgiveness, love, and understanding—I feel confident and grateful. When I’m hard on myself, I feel anxious and overwhelmed.
Christ is here to help lift the heaviness of our sacred weight, whether it comes from motherhood or anything else. I’ve found that the best way to access His grace is to treat myself as He would treat me.
When I do this, I feel Christ mending me, making me stronger.
Jeffrey R. Holland has said to mothers: “You are doing . . . wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, ‘Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole’” (“Because She Is a Mother”).
Let's be unwaveringly kind to ourselves, mamas. We’re in the workout of our lives. We’re tearing, mending, loving, breaking, healing.
And we are strong.
When we forget our strength and feel weak, let’s remember that Christ is here to lift the heaviness of our sacred weight until only the sacred strength remains.