Motherhood: Choosing It Every Day

“Eeaah … EEAAH!”

I found myself yelling at the kids and the dog, at the washer for its creaks and croaks, at my husband and my dry skin, even at the shower for not staying clean. I was considered by many to be an example of motherhood personified. After all, I had talked at various wards and lectured at community and state functions about the joys of being a mother. And I had often sensed the eternal significance of my role. But now I was feeling like a failure and a hypocrite.

“What’s wrong with me?” I asked myself during one of those brief moments of solitude possible only after our six children are bedded and my husband is asleep on the couch.

Clearly, I was feeling out of control. And I had somehow drifted into a very negative state of mind. Slowly, I began to shift my thinking from complaints to solutions. I didn’t have a grouchy boss looking over my shoulder, setting my deadlines, timing my performance. I had a kind, loving husband and six healthy, beautiful children, and me! I could make my life whatever I chose.

But first I would have to put myself back in control—not the Church, the PTA, the community clubs, or even the children. So I began to reconsider the choices I had made without thinking and those I had allowed to be made for me.

I had always wanted to be a mother. I felt that God had given me the privilege of rearing these children, and I was happy I didn’t have to miss those growing moments, new words, and spontaneous hugs and kisses. In my enthusiasm to do my best, I had been baking, sewing, hair cutting, cooking, cleaning, washing, and PTA-ing—doing everything that seemed even vaguely related to being a mother. But I was “running faster than I had strength.” (D&C 10:4.) I was neglecting my own growth. As a result, I had less and less to give.

“What does it really mean to be a good mother?” I asked myself. Does it mean baking bread every day or sewing matching outfits for all four of your girls? No, clearly being a mother has most to do with tenderness and affection, with nurturing and teaching sound values, with conveying to children a positive attitude and a reliable sense of being loved. And it can be done well in as many different ways as there are mothers.

I realized then that I could be the most effective mother by creating a loving atmosphere in my own individual way, not by trying to live up to anyone else’s expectations of me.

As I considered how I could nourish my spirit and help myself bloom again, I made several very personal decisions. First, I realized that for me mornings are crucial to my sense of well-being. I began getting up with my husband before the children woke up, to exercise, put on my makeup, and groom myself. While doing that, I decided which things I felt were most important to accomplish that day. Then, feeling the master of my own day, I would begin the day’s activities. As I did this I found myself feeling more like smiling, more eager to receive visitors, more able to give willingly rather than grudgingly.

My second decision was to plan time to refresh myself, mentally and spiritually. Each day after lunch I allotted an hour or more of rest time. While the little ones napped, I could dream, explore, and learn. Rejuvenated, I could then more cheerfully devote myself to husband and family.

Even though the core of our family is the relationship between my husband and me, I had been filling every waking hour with never-ending chores for and worries about our children. I’d left very little time for my husband. Here, too, I needed to rearrange some priorities. I had to restore some balance to my life—my third decision.

My final resolve involved my own heart. No longer would I blame others for my feelings. Even facing gum in the carpet and “Mommy, I didn’t mean to, but I tore my new …” I must remember that I am to make the sun shine in my heart.

Once I made these major decisions, my feeling of being trapped seemed to dissipate. I have begun to appreciate once again the advantages of being a mother at home. I am my own boss. I set my own hours and deadlines. I create my own environment—including background music and home decor. I can dress to fit the activities of the day. I can control what food we eat and what system I use to manage my work in the home.

I now feel more keenly that I am exerting a positive influence in my home. Because I daily renew my sense of choice, I feel better about myself and about the life I have chosen.

[illustration] Illustrated by Fay A. Daley

Fay A. Daley, a free-lance artist and writer, is the Relief Society president in the Gurnee (Illinois) Second Ward. She is the mother of six children.