I went into motherhood naively expecting a life of homemade cookies, bedtime stories, and endless snuggling. Although such things were part of my experience, I wasn’t prepared for the daily responsibility of rearing children.
At times, child rearing can seem like an overwhelming task, but I have found comfort in knowing that I am not alone—and not without support. In these times of conflicting viewpoints on child rearing and increasing forces working against families, the gospel offers help and direction as I try to provide my children with a solid base in life emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
When our first child was born, I immediately felt the need to protect her against any harm that might befall her. Before she could crawl, I baby-proofed our home against anything dangerous. I covered electrical outlets, locked up cleaning supplies, hid everything breakable, and picked up anything she might put in her mouth. However, as she grew, and as we added more children to our family, I found that I could only do so much to ensure my children’s physical safety.
My knowledge of the gospel assures me that there is someone who loves our children even more than I do, and I ask Him every day to watch over them. I may never know all the instances when those prayers have been answered, but I have seen them answered enough to know that my pleas for protection are not in vain.
One such incident occurred during a family get-together. Our son, Brandon, who was three at the time, went to see the horses in the pasture while I visited with my grandmother. Unfamiliar with horses, he climbed over the gate and ran over to a young, skittish mare and hugged the horse’s back leg. A few minutes later, my uncle brought Brandon to me. He was pale as he explained what had happened. “I have no idea why she didn’t kick him clean across the pasture,” he added. “Brandon could have been killed.”
I was grateful then for the physical protection that the gospel offers, and I felt an assurance that prayers I’d offered in our children’s behalf were heard. Of course, sometimes loved ones are physically injured. During those times, I am thankful for the healing and comforting power of the priesthood.
I felt that power after our baby crawled over to a vacuum cleaner that had tipped over and put his fingers into the swiftly turning brushes. By the time I’d grabbed his hand and pulled it out, the skin on three of his fingers was gone. Surgery was necessary to graft new skin onto his tiny hands, and a priesthood blessing offered immediate comfort for both my son and me.
The plastic surgeon told us that only seconds more and our son would have lost tendons and nerves and the ability to move his fingers.
Although I desire our children to be physically protected, I know they must have spiritual strength as well in order to return to our Father in Heaven. I am frightened by some of the challenges they will face in today’s world.
As I pray for their physical protection, I also pray that they will have the spiritual strength to avoid the dangers that would damage them spiritually and physically. Often, adherence to spiritual laws can keep us physically safe.
If our children are following the Word of Wisdom, the dangers that go with drugs and alcohol abuse are avoided. And if our children are morally clean, many physical and spiritual dangers inherent in those transgressions are avoided as well.
Strengthening our children spiritually is a daily task. We have been trying to become familiar with the scriptures as a family each day before school. With our younger children, we also read out of the children’s scripture storybook, but I am surprised at the concepts they grasp. It is a wonderful vehicle for teaching gospel principles and for providing opportunities for my husband and me to share our testimonies.
As we kneel in prayer before everyone leaves for work and school, I feel comfort in the scripture, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
Arming my children spiritually is sometimes challenging, though, and I need the reinforcement of other voices teaching my children. Those voices come from Primary teachers, home teachers, and others in our ward and family whom my children look up to. What a wonderful blessing it is to have others who share our values and beliefs and who can reinforce what we’re trying to teach at home!
Not only do I need others within the gospel network who work directly with my children, but I find that I, too, need spiritual nourishment if I am to be a wellspring for my family. Church attendance often fills my spiritual bucket. Even though it is sometimes difficult to concentrate on the speaker while my younger children clamor for attention, just being able to take the sacrament renews me. Sometimes the only adult scripture study I get during the week occurs during Sunday School. I am grateful for those who help feed my soul.
Gospel principles provide strength and direction to meet life’s unexpected challenges. Recently a grandfather and uncle died, and my children wondered where these beloved family members had gone. I was grateful then for my testimony of the gospel and the plan of salvation. Through the gospel, my family and I were able to work through our grief, and we found peace during a difficult time.
The gospel also gives me the emotional support I need as a mother to face the days that aren’t quite as joyous as others. One of my journal entries reads:
“Today was a nightmare. I walked in on Spencer and Christie, who had somehow opened a ‘child-proofed’ drawer with medical supplies. I gathered all the items and packed them in a box.
“I was taking the box to the basement when I noticed that Spencer had climbed onto the counter and gotten the butter down. He and Christie were smearing it all over. I dove for the butter and managed to de-slime the children. I finished running the box of medical supplies down to the basement.
“When I got upstairs, Spencer had found a roll of film and pulled the tab. Film was strewn all over the kitchen floor. When they saw me, they ran out of the kitchen. Next I found Christie in my room bending computer disks. At that point, I banished them none-too-patiently to their rooms, feeling that was the safest place for them.
“When I went in to check on them, they had emptied all the contents of their dresser drawers and the toy box onto the floor. Exasperated, I put them down for naps and called my husband in tears.”
On such days I need the emotional support the gospel offers. I love my children, and I want to be a mother. But when my own resources are spent, I need the added assistance I find on my knees in the seclusion of my room. My children may never know how those prayers have blessed them!
Many times I have found it therapeutic to socialize with my Relief Society sisters at homemaking meetings. I learn and draw strength from their experiences and realize that my children are actually quite normal. Just having my visiting teachers come over and offer adult companionship is an emotional uplift. I have found that unless I am emotionally recharged, it’s difficult to give my children the emotional, spiritual, and physical support they need.
Fortunately for me, the gospel is a gospel of service, and many times, just when I think I can’t handle motherhood a moment longer, someone leaps to my emotional rescue. Once I got a call from the youth in our ward asking if they could wash my windows. I was about to give birth to our fourth child, my husband was going back to school, and our windows were slimy. The youth came over and cheerfully went to work, even scraping off old tape left over from hanging holiday pictures. After they left I cried. I couldn’t believe what an emotional uplift just having clean windows was. Can clean windows make a better mother? I think they can. More than windows were brightened that day.
There are times as a mother that even after being recharged I cannot meet all the emotional needs of our children. When our second son entered Primary, he was one of the youngest in his class and couldn’t understand why he suddenly had to leave the treats and toys of nursery behind. He threatened his classmates with chairs and became adept at sneaking out of Primary. It was not uncommon to see him running down the hall with one or more of the Primary presidency in pursuit.
My husband and I tried everything and finally decided to pull him out of Primary. Somehow the Primary presidency found out about our decision, and each one talked with us individually about the love they had for our son. Then, on Valentine’s Day, when his older brother and sister brought home treats from school, my son was devastated because he was left out. As I was trying to resolve the matter, the doorbell rang. There stood the Primary Sunbeam teacher with a valentine and a plate of treats just for our son. His Primary teacher had remembered him! His behavior in Primary steadily improved.
There are many ways the gospel helps me as a mother. My own resources are finite, but there is always one I can turn to whose resources are infinite. When I put my daily tasks into the gospel perspective, I find peace, hope, reassurance, and help with even the most mundane tasks that help shape the little people growing in my home.