Carpe diem—“seize the day.” As I look into the smiling eyes of my infant son and experience the warmth of his vigorous, chubby little body wriggling in my arms, I feel the fulness of the moment and sense a glimmer of eternity. I say to myself, Seize the moment, seize the day, seize the joy. A scripture naturally comes to mind: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25). What a joy it is being a mother!
The sounds of my feuding preschoolers arouse me from my reverie. “She scratched me!” wails four-year-old Kendra. “She took away my dolly,” cries Brittany, age two. And before I can do anything, Kendra proceeds to bop her younger sister on the head. Soon there is crying, then there are attempts to get even, then more crying.
After pleadings and stern admonitions, I finally manage to placate each party and achieve a cease-fire. I breathe an inner sigh of relief, grateful for some reprieve. Then Brittany begins: “Mommy, I want more cookies.”
“Honey,” I try to explain to her, “you already had a lot of cookies today. You need to eat other food besides cookies to help you grow big and strong. How about some yogurt?”
“No, I don’t want yogurt; I want cookies. I want some, I want some now!” She starts crying ferociously, then screaming and then kicking. It seems impossible to reason with my little two-year-old.
Spencer, the baby, is crying too. He was patiently sitting in his swing, where I had placed him in my efforts to deal with his sisters’ crisis. But now he is no longer content by himself. I hurry over and pick him up. He looks into my eyes, and his pouting mouth slowly curves into a smile. I cannot help but give him a kiss on the cheek. Every baby is a miracle, I think to myself, a marvelous work of our Father in Heaven.
In the meantime, Brittany’s tantrum is showing no signs of subsiding. Kendra gets up on the couch and starts jumping. “Honey, don’t do that,” I tell her. “You might fall down and get hurt.”
“No I won’t,” she insists, continuing to jump without the least concern.
“Stop jumping right now,” I say, my voice rising.
Nearby in the kitchen, a mound of dirty dishes waits for me in the sink. The laundry is not done, the carpet not vacuumed, the bathroom not scrubbed. Toys are strewn haphazardly all over the living room and kitchen floor. A pile of unpaid bills sits arrogantly on top of the bookcase, exerting silent authority. All of a sudden, the negative aspects of the moment seem to outweigh the positive.
But it is really not so. I remind myself that I need to look beyond the temporal mists and regain my eternal vision of clarity. A house does not have to be perfect to be a home of joy, a child does not have to behave perfectly to love and be loved, and every moment of life does not have to be perfect to be of value. Too often, I realize, we fail to see the glorious reality of the simple joy that abounds in the seemingly mundane routine of day-to-day living. Instead, we tend to idolize the past, idealize the future, and devalue the present. We complain abundantly, we worry too much, and we appreciate too little. We forget Amulek’s exhortation to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon” us (Alma 34:38), as well as Alma’s counsel to “let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God” (Alma 37:37). What better way to show our appreciation to Heavenly Father for what we have than to embrace our lives, albeit “ordinary” and “unexciting,” with joy?
Motherhood is not always idyllic; nevertheless, it is one of the greatest and most glorious experiences I have encountered. I have no doubt in my mind that whether it is performed in this life or the next, it is the most important work a woman will ever do. Just as the worth of a child is immeasurable, so is the worth of a righteous mother, and so is her joy. Yet I am constantly aware of voices that say otherwise.
The teenage girl asks: “Why do you want to have another baby? Don’t you want a break from young children? When I finish college, I’m not just going to get married and have children. I’m going to have a successful career. I don’t want to be swallowed up, unseen and unheard, by the traditional roles foisted upon women.”
To her I want to say: “You have never looked into the eyes of your own child, and you do not know what a wondrous gift that is. In the eyes of a child you can see both time and eternity. Everything else pales in significance. You don’t believe me? Wait until you gaze into the eyes of your newborn; then you will know that what I tell you is true.”
The young mother says: “I can’t wait until my kids are older and off to school. I know I chose to become a mother, but sometimes I just feel so trapped. My whole life revolves around dirty diapers, crying kids, and unending housework.”
I hesitate to speak, for fear of sounding insensitive. I can understand those feelings. “But don’t you see,” I yearn to say, “that the present, unsavory though it sometimes appears, is in reality most precious and delicious? There is perhaps nothing more delightful than the sound of a little child’s laugh, nothing more earnest than a little child’s inquiry for knowledge, nothing more genuine than a little child’s hug, nothing more pure than a little child’s love, and nothing more sacred than a little child’s trust. Motherhood is not a burden to be borne; it is a privilege to be enjoyed. It is not a trial of endurance; it is a time of celebration.”
The older woman says: “You must be so busy now, so exhausted. Taking care of three preschoolers nearly killed me. It was hard keeping up with so many young ones. I feel sorry now for young mothers with a brood of little children under their wings. So many demands, so impossible to fulfill all. Oh, what trying times they were!” But as she holds my baby and looks into his eyes, there is no mistaking the sense of longing, of nostalgia, for times gone by when she held her own little one. I feel sorry for her when it is time to gently pry Spencer away from her arms, yet happy for myself that this is my season for motherly work and joy.
My little girls are now cheerfully singing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” (Children’s Songbook, p. 60). They do not sing the song perfectly, yet the innocence of their voices makes up for any imperfections. Their little brother sits contentedly on my lap, cooing with delight as he listens to his sisters. A sense of well-being pervades my soul. My children are my sunbeams, emitting celestial rays, beckoning me with the brightness of a glorious day. With a grateful heart to our Heavenly Father, once again I say quietly to myself, Seize the moment, seize the day, seize the joy.