Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Staying Home: Giving Up the Praise of the World

The other day  I was leafing through the latest issue of BYU Magazine, which I receive because I contribute some pittance to BYU every year.  There is section called, Alumni Achievers.  It is filled with the accomplishments of some amazing men and women who graduated at some point from BYU.  It is great and wonderful and amazing, but every time I look through that section I am drawn to the women who are featured and think, "Wow, look at what she has done with her life."  I know nothing about the featured women, only that they are accomplishing big, impressive things.  Inevitably I begin to think about what I have done with my life, what accolades I have received, who would think I have done something impressive. That particular morning I woke up after pushing the snooze button a few times, sat (not knelt) on the edge of my bed to say my morning prayer, lumbered into the spudlets rooms to get them out of bed and because I was tired I bribed them with earning a special reward if they would get ready on their own.  I then laid back down in bed to enjoy a few extra moments of repose before I got back up, got breakfast of the table, changed into my exercise gear, fed my little family breakfast, got the kids to school before the bell rang and then headed over to the indoor track to walk for 30 minutes.  I was tired by the time I was done walking and so I came home and flipped through channels for a few minutes until guilt overcame me and I went to take a shower. I leafed through the magazine at some point between leaving the couch and getting into the shower and was feeling pretty useless by the time the droplets began to remove the smell of sweat and indoor gym-ness from my body.  I thought about those amazing women and what they are accomplishing and then looked at my morning and began saw all of the failings.  I didn't get up when the alarm first rang, I didn't make the kids a hot breakfast or even their lunches today for that matter, I had wasted time with the TV, I had so much cleaning and organizing that I should have done, I complained about my day when I saw a friend at the track, I can only walk, I can't even jog yet.  The list got longer and longer and I felt worse and worse.

Then a thought entered my mind...I had done a couple of things that were good and even if everything else wasn't as perfect as it could or should have been, I was up, I was moving forward and more than anything else, I am a mother and I got my kids fed, got them to school on time, gave them kisses as they left the car and told them I would see them after school and I did.  I am there for them, I am their mom and they can count on me to be there for them, to come if they get sick or hurt or have an asthma attack and need me to talk them through it.  I have paid for them to get a hot meal for school lunch on days when the morning is crazy or they just like the sound of the school lunch.  When they get home I will help with homework, make dinner, help them practice their instruments, give them chores and follow through.

A few years ago I felt very frustrated when my kids were a few years younger and home more of the time.  I felt like I never got anything accomplished during the day.  Even if I worked hard and got the house all tidied and cleaned up, it was all ruined before my husband got home from work and I was almost always embarrassed and tried to tell him the things that I had done even if it looked like I didn't do anything all day.  One day he said, "I can see you've done a lot today, but even if you didn't get all the housework you wanted to done today, you did the most important thing all day long and that is being a mother to our children.  Even if you didn't ever do any of the household stuff and just spent your time making sure the kids were safe and happy, that is enough."  He totally blew me away!  And yes, I have an amazing husband - seriously, who says amazing things like that?  The thing is I believed him.  I believed that being a mother to my kids is the most important thing I do.  I believe it is the most important thing I will ever do.  It is why I choose to be a stay at home mom.

I am a stay at home mom to 2 kids.  I am so lucky to have any children at all (seriously, they are both miracles) and I don't feel like I should augment my family through fostering or adoption at this point.  I have 2 kids and I am going to have only 2 kids.  Nearly all of my friends have at least double that number in children and some have a lot more than that!  So, sometimes I even look at my friends and the fact that they are mothering so many more children than I am and I feel badly about how little I accomplish because I only have 2 kids.  I have even felt pressure to find some work outside of my home now that both of my spudlets are in school all day.  I think about how nice it would be to have a little extra money to add to the budget and to contribute financially to our home, but then I change my mind over and over again because I decided to stay home so that my kids would always know that I would be there when they came home from school.  I will be here when they are sick and need to come home, I will be here when the asthma flares, or the project presentation requires a mom's presence or whatever.  I am here for whatever they need.  I am here for them.

Now, please let me say that my decision to stay home is mine.  Nobody else needs to make that choice and I also recognize that there are a lot of women who don't get to make that choice.  I really feel just fine to let everybody else make their own decisions for themselves and their families and realize that everyone has needs in different areas, etc.  

This leads me back to that magazine.  I will never appear in the Alumni Achievers section of my Alumni magazine.  I will never look impressive because of career accomplishments nor will I ever look impressive in terms of mothering feats. I will not win a Mother of the Year award or be someone that others look at and think they should ask my advise on motherhood because I just don't have enough kids to qualify me to be an expert.  In essence, I have forfeited and given up any worldly accolades that I may have sought because of the decisions I make to focus my efforts at home and on my 2 kids.  My husband has also given up worldly praise.  He teaches as a small university in Eastern Idaho, he also wants to be home as much as possible so that he can be a part of our children's lives.  He is a musician, an amazing musician, an amazing violinist.  His schedule at the University is extremely demanding (like he usually has only about 30 minutes a day for lunch and the rest of the time he is teaching) and he feels a deep sense of commitment to his students.  So, he doesn't spend lots and lots of time out in the world making a name for himself as a performer or whatever.  We have been talking about that lately and we have both realized that what really matters is doing what is right for our family, even if it doesn't seem very important in terms of the world and looking impressive.

It is hard to give up the praise of the world.  Some days it can be a little depressing.  But I think I am realizing that at the end of my life, I want to look back and feel like I made the right choices for my husband and children and that the accolades and rewards I really want can't ever be given in this world.

Addendum:  I just want to clarify one little thing...I hope that by posting this I have not let anyone believe I am dissatisfied with my life or what I am doing with it! :)  I LOVE being a stay at home mom.  It is so wonderful and just what is right for me.  I simply wanted to express a few things that have become meaningful to me.  I think just about every conscientious person feels at some time that what they are doing is insignificant, regardless of career choice or gender.   My experience that day when I was feeling down, I think, is very much like what a lot of people often feel like.  But at the end of that day I was able to recognize that I am doing what I am doing because I DO love it and because it is eternally significant to me and sharing that with the "world" is just my way of acknowledging that fact and hopefully giving anyone else who may have experienced similar feelings the validation that it is OK for them to feel that way too.


Dacia Alba said...

Oh, but I do look at you and think I want to be just like you as a mother! You have an amazing family and that says it ALL!! Love you!

beckystamps said...

You are obviously unaware of your inherent amazingness (which makes you an even better person than I already thought you were!). I am pretty sure that you have made the Achiever's List that really matters. Even so, the mom thing is hard in a world that insists on looking at things backwards and upside down. One very busy day when I was feeling especially ineffective, I hurriedly flopped my scriptures open and there was Alma 37:6 reminding me that even my very small offering can have a big effect. P.S. If I ever write another comment I will try to keep it to a maximum of two very short sentences.

Julie Davidse said...

Brava, Les! You are a wonderful mother, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember anyone telling me how many children I should have!! (Although, once g-pa told me I needed to have more children and I told him that he was the one who sealed me and David and repeated the words "multiply and replenish the earth" and I told him that I HAD multiplied, 2 x 2 is 4!!! No one knows your situation better than you, so you do what you know in your heart to be right. Good luck in your mothering! It's the hardest job in the world AND the most rewarding! Love you!

Angela said...

I’m so glad I found your new blog! Your post expresses beautifully many of the thoughts and feelings I have. I LOVE staying home with my kids and I am absolutely confident it is the right choice for me and my family. I feel truly blessed that our circumstances allow me to stay home; I know many women who would love to have this option. And yet despite my assurance that this is how my life should be I still have moments when I feel inferior. Moments when I am in the company of women and the conversation turns to jobs and careers and I feel ashamed that I am ‘just a mom.’ Invariably they will say something like, “Oh, you’re a stay at home mom. What do you plan on doing when all your kids are in school?” My typical response is, “I’m no sure, that’s still quite a few years away.” However, the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a job outside my home. I had a mother who never worked outside our home and it was a big deal to me growing up. I loved knowing that mom was always there (unless she was shopping or taking an Institute class) and I could call her at any time from school. Even as an adult I still need my mom and I call her all the time. I want my kids to have that. I want them to know without any doubt that they are my first priority. Speaking of which, I’d better end this and go see what mess they have made.

Kristen said...

I love this post! Your words really resonated with me. I rejoice in being a mother-- even in the times that it is exhausting and discouraging! I know lucifer recognizes the important role of mothers and works so hard to minimize our efforts. It is nice to read that I am not the only one who-- at times-- has to consciously remind myself that this is an eternal influence that I am striving to accomplish in my daily actions. I sure adore you! Thanks for sharing your insight.

Traci said...

Thanks for this. It's reassuring to know that you, who I consider to be an incredible woman and mother, have those feelings sometimes too.

Recently a friend of mine started a Learning Circle through powerofmoms.com (it's run by the daughter of Richard and Linda Eyre). Once a month we get together with a few fellow mothers/friends to discuss an article about motherhood from the website: sort of like a book club. I've loved it and I always come away having learned something from the other moms and feeling uplifted and reassured in my role as mother to my kids. Anyway, it's really easy and inexpensive to start a group if you want to look into it. And if not, the website alone is a great resource too.

Love you.