The Necessary Sacrifice

I’ve been thinking about this post for several months, while caring for my new baby and reading, every so often, the series of posts Segullah ran on working mothers.

It was, to be honest, a hard series for me. Every time I read about someone who was guided to apply for that job or do this career move I felt envious. I wish I’d gotten a graduate degree of some kind so I could at least teach a class or two someplace. I wish I felt good about doing that right now. But I’m swimming in the middle of kids, juggling a baby, a toddler, and three older kids, and I don’t have the funds or the time to do anything besides fantasize about some day returning to school and getting a teaching degree.

Because for me, motherhood is a constant battle to not get discouraged. The house is always, always messy. Except at one a.m. on Saturday, after I’ve spent the entire day attempting to catch up. The active child always needs my attention, the baby needs to eat and to be played with, the toddler needs to be kept from removing all the keys on the computer keyboard and scattering cold cereal down the stairs (that was just today), the other kids need me always to listen, and it feels like I don’t have enough time to do anything (yoga, scriptures, write) that would give me enough internal strength to handle all the demands on my resources and sanity.

I taught Relief Society a couple of months ago and it was fabulous. The Spirit was there, the discussion went well, I was funny and tender, and it was this adrenaline rush that reminded me how much I love teaching, and (let me say it) how good I am at it. I would love to do this all the time, I think. I know I’d hate grading papers (all my teacher friends tell me so), but I think I’d love to teach. I didn’t plan my life well enough, though, and so here I am without any marketable skill unless I go back to school, mothering like I’ve been told I’m supposed to do and feeling like I can never ever do it well enough.

So when I read posts about other women who are using their talents, the ones I feel like I’m squandering, I have this raw envy inside me. Because stay at home mothering is a sacrifice for me, and if I’m doing this, I want it to be necessary. If it’s not necessary for them, why is it for me? I want my time spent at home to be essential somehow. I want it to be vital to my children’s development that I be here, all day long. Because if it’s not vital, then what the heck am I doing here? Why don’t I go out and do something I’m good at, something I don’t feel like I’m just muddling through all the time?

It is this feeling, for me, that is at the heart of the mommy wars: whatever sacrifice we make for our children and families, whether it’s staying at home or sacrificing time with your children to work, we all want that sacrifice to be necessary. It’s part of the story we tell ourselves.

The envy comes when I extrapolate what’s necessary in my life and project it onto someone else: the lie that if this sacrifice is necessary for me and my family, it must always be for yours too. Because the core truth about sacrifice, documented in the scriptures and Church history, is that sacrifice is intimate, personal, unique to each person. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis sacrificed their lives, over a thousand of them, to keep their covenants. That was their choice, and God consecrated their sacrifice but also guided Ammon to get the survivors to safety so they would not all have to give up the same thing. The people who kept the law of Moses no longer needed to make the same sacrifices after the Savior’s coming; animal sacrifices were done away with, and the law changed. As much as we honor the Martin and Willie handcart pioneers, it’s worth noting that no one was ever allowed to leave so late in the season again. No one else was ever asked to sacrifice in that way.

Sacrifice, then, is unique and specific. The only common denominator is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. But what that looks like in practice varies from person to person, from woman to woman. For some women, it looks like giving up time with their children to go provide for their families by caring for cancer patients, teaching microbiology students, driving a forklift. For me, it looks like the bookshelves in my bedroom, which I stripped of actual books to make room for baby clothes, for baby #5, last spring.

I am working on the broken heart and contrite spirit. It’s a work in progress. I believe, in the end, that God can and will make sacred my offerings, my muddling through this season. And that I will have the grace to, at some point, rejoice in sacrificing, and not envy others because they have not given up the same things I have.

About Emily M.

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

53 thoughts on “The Necessary Sacrifice

  1. Emily–this was beautiful and profound. I love how you so perfectly articulated that sacrifice is an inevitable and necessary part of our lives on Earth, but that everyone has different sacrifices to make. Oh how I wish we could have some kind of “Freaky Friday” moment and switch sacrifices for a week–I miss being able to spend more time with my kids (and even cleaning up their messes)just as strongly as I missed working and going to school when I wasn’t employed and still married. And I really don’t mean that in a pejorative “my life is worse than yours so you should be grateful” way at all. It’s just that I wish we could spread our burdens around a bit–that to me is one of the hardest thing about sacrifices and life choices is the fact that we each have our own burdens to bear and sometimes bearing them for so long gets so, so tiring.

  2. Growing up I knew two things: I would graduate from college with a degree in English (with law school potential), and I would get married and have kids. I tried so hard to like kids. Babysitting was usually huge amounts of boredom and counting down the minutes until their parents got home. Playing with kids younger than myself made me feel crazy and I had little to no imagination. I give thanks every day that I like my kids because with their need to push the ‘angry button’ or the ‘frustrated button’ on me, oh man. So many time-outs for me in the bathroom.

    I knew parenting is a sacrifice, my YW leaders told me that all the time, but I didn’t know how far the boundaries pushed to make that sacrifice completely take my whole person. I feel like I’m in the beginning stages of a flaying, with my skin being peeled off as time goes, with new skin underneath to show where the Lord has healed/fixed/sanctified. Horrific example, but today has been one of those days. Well, the month really.

    The more I look at being a mother, I realize that whether I work (how lucky I am to even have that option!) or stay home, I am making a sacrifice. Just having children is sacrificing instant gratification – we teach them discipline and good behavior without knowing when or if it’s going to stick with them. We budget money so there is enough for food and future, without knowing if the children will be grateful we had self-control and second-/third-hand furniture. We put off things we dreamed of (traveling or going back to school) so we can be with them. We get up at all hours of the night because we care if they are crying from illness or cold or nightmares or hunger. We sacrifice having our hearts completely within us, laying it out for the world to see.

    Sometimes it’s amazing both what we give and what we get. What a sacrifice.

  3. Lovely. The tone of this piece is just marvelous. Oh, the image of your moving those books to make room for baby clothes. When we had Porter, I gave away a number of books including my Spanish books to the Spanish-language learning lab at the local university to make room for kid toys on the bottom shelves of all our bookshelves in the front room. (No more time for learning Spanish just for personal enrichment.) More recently, I was surprised to find myself pitching a complete fit when my husband told me that he was taking his 4th international trip for work (Jamaica, England, Guatemala and now–at this very minute –Mexico) while I stay behind and run the house / kids. I keep renewing my passport, but I haven’t traveled abroad since 1982. I finally got a grip of my emotions this time by telling myself, “Karen, you made a choice to quit your job in higher ed in order to be a more available parent. Be happy with your choice.” With kids, I’ve worked full time, part time, online and not at all. They all have their pros and cons. I’m always trying to tweak to find the right fit. (And not having kids until 36 afforded me more education and work experience, but I will be losing time as a hands-on, healthy or even alive grandparent on the other end.) Women have such diversity in their lived experience, but I haven’t thought about it in terms of how their sacrifices are unique and specific. God bless you, Emily, as you sanctify yourself before the throne of God through the choices you are making that are specific to your situation.

  4. Your comments are so poignant to me because I feel that sacrifice so acutely in my life right now, however, I, as many women, I suspect, didn’t wholly choose the sacrifice I’m making. The sacrifices I felt “prepared” to make to make were different from the ones asked of me. I never imagined that my life would be determined by chronic illness and infertility or that I would be miraculously a mother of two, not easily a mother of five. Coming to coming to accept and embrace my circumstances, sacrificing my stubbornness, my willfulness, my disappointment and sometimes even anger,–that the life I envisioned for myself was not the same that the Lord had planned for me has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I hope, too, that the Lord will forgive me for my weaknesses and short-sightedness I’ve shown in the past and accept that I am doing my best to accept his will and sacrifice my heart to his and make holy what he has given me.

  5. Emily, I remember and have envied that bookshelf full of books in your bedroom! I always saw it like a marvelous portal to marvelous adventures, anywhere you could ever want to read about. That truly is a sacrifice. Thank you for reading this. I too have felt the heartache of sacrifice that I don’t remember feeling with my first four babies. I have had to sacrifice my health, more during this recovery time than others, as well as any time I had planned to work at home, since between the four other kids and husband and baby #5 needing me, there is no time left any day to draw or paint. And I’ve been feeling the same way–”I sure hope this sacrifice is worth it, because otherwise, what the heck am I doing this for?” But then my baby will grin up at me, or laugh, and it reminds me that yes, any sacrifice I’ve had to make to bring these children here and raise them with love is worth the price.

  6. When I was going through infertility, I came to the realization that most of the time we don’t choose our sacrifices. The Lord chooses them, and our part is to offer up the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, to accept His will for our lives. That was a profound shift in thinking for me.

    I also believe that the Lord compensates us for our sacrifices, in His own time and way.I have a master’s degree in organ performance. I also have not really been able to practice heavily in years. The demands of parenthood and daily life make the consistent nurturing of those skills difficult if not impossible. I am generally very happy in my life. I enjoy being a mother (although we have our rough day and rough months and years), and right now I’m throwing almost my whole soul into homeschooling, which has been a great creative outlet for me. But I do still long to be a real professional musician again and to nurture my career. I feel embarassed at how much skill I’ve lost, and I wonder when I’ll ever have the time to devote to it again. I had dreams of all the workshops I’d teach and all the cool things I’d do with my education, even while being a SAHM. I don’t feel that master’s degree was for nothing, I feel there is a purpose for it somewhere in my life.

    A few years ago I head an excellent talk where the speaker shared the true story of a woman who had given up a career as a concert performer when she joined the church in order to get married and have a family. This was many years ago when it wasn’t as acceptable for a woman to combine career and family. She had been an organist who had won some awards as a college student and had been destined for a distinguished career. But when she gave it all up for her family, she basically dropped off the face of the earth as far as the music world was concerned. However, even though no one else knew of her, the Lord did. He called her and her husband on a church mission where her unique skills were able to be used, I believe part of her assignment was to set up a concert series at the Hyde Park Chapel in London. I have held on to this story! It touched me deeply realizing that Heavenl Father knows all of us so intimately. I have trusted since then that He will have opportunities prepared for me. I don’t know when they will come, but He knows my longings and some day, somehow, He will provide a way for me to nurture my passion.

  7. Emily,

    What a wonderful piece, one I wish I could have expressed myself during many of my own years of motherhood. I was also thrilled, after I read it, to realize that I know you…I have many thoughts in response, but too many to share. I’m glad you found a way to write this, to share your trust and talents.

  8. Thank you for this. It resonated with me so deeply, and though it didn’t change the stressors in my life, at least I feel like I can make to bedtime. I have a school aged child, a preschooler, a toddler and a baby. I know the sleep deprivation, the endless “Mom!” And I so wish I had some…ANY..personal time. Or extra money. Or even a date with my husband. Motherhood was always ,u dream,m and now that I’m in the trenches of it, it is requiring more than I ever imagined.

  9. This article really hit home with me because I too have struggled with this. For ten years I have worked outside my home when every fiber of my being just longs to be at home. So many times in my mind I have asked the Lord, “Why do I have to work, I really do not want to work at all….and here I am still plugging away. I am by nature a homebody, but our current financial situation requires otherwise. Many of my friend who choose to work seem drawn to me for validation I cannot give because I am somewhere I do not want to be and feel like I am missing so much. This summer was the first time I was able to be home all summer but it also meant no paycheck and it was a long hard haul to TRY (and often fail) to keep everybody entertained, fed and the house clean. I think my house was the messiest it has ever been! But I have come to realize that like you said, for each of us the mothering journey is hard, and the sacrifices great. I think the key is to focus on your own stretch of the road and enjoy the ride, even if it is not the road you planned on or the speed you had in mind. Comparison is the thief of joy- and that I think that is especially true in motherhood.

  10. How intimate and personal, indeed, is each sacrifice. Thank you for pointing that out, Emily. And thank you for underlining that truth, Sandy, in such a beautiful and kind way.

  11. There aren’t any easy answers, are there.

    But our lives as mothers aren’t static. Those long days watching Blue’s Clues with a toddler may feel eternal, but they too will pass. Our children move into different stages, and we move into different stages as women. When my mother found herself, at age 52, with an empty nest and a gaping new life, she filled it with different things than she did when she had children at home. She took piano lessons, she went back to graduate school (yes, at 52!), she joined a book group, and her life was soon as rich as it had ever been, only it was very, very different.

    I hate the phrase, “Women can have it all, just not all at once.” I don’t think it’s true—when you sacrifice, you lose things that you can never get back. But I think women *can* have lots of different things at different times. It’s hard to think that the bookshelf full of baby clothes will ever be useful as a bookshelf again. But it will. You are knee deep in the the most physically demanding part of motherhood, but it won’t always be like that. I’m not saying that to say, “So enjoy it!”. I’m saying it to say, Don’t despair. It’s not always going to be this hard. And there will be a time when you will be able to rediscover something in you beyond what you can see right now.

    That’s what I believe, anyhow.

  12. Beautiful post.

    And consider, some time, starting a preschool! I sent my sons to a preschool run by a friend of mine, and the kids had a magical experience in her dedicated basement preschool space with 8 of their good friends.

    http://www.startapreschool.com

  13. This is wonderful, Emily. I also love what Jessie said when she says, “It’s just that I wish we could spread our burdens around a bit–that to me is one of the hardest thing about sacrifices and life choices is the fact that we each have our own burdens to bear and sometimes bearing them for so long gets so, so tiring.” For me, that is the clincher. It’s that so much of motherhood, whether it’s ten balls in the air working motherhood, or feeling buried stay at home motherhood, is bearing the burdens ourselves. I can’t tell you how much I long for actual, present, community– the kind where I could watch a friend’s kids when she goes to teach a class and she watches mine when I go volunteer at the school and it’s effortless. Does that space exist?

  14. Jessie, you nailed it–we each have our own burdens to bear, and we can’t spread them around. I like the “Freaky Friday” idea. I think you’re right, and that if I were compelled to work full time (instead of the part-time just-for-fun adjunct work in my fantasy) I would deeply miss being with my children, just as you do.

    Tay, I love this line: “I didn’t know how far the boundaries pushed to make that sacrifice completely take my whole person. I feel like I’m in the beginning stages of a flaying, with my skin being peeled off as time goes, with new skin underneath to show where the Lord has healed/fixed/sanctified.” The sacrifice does completely take my whole person.

    KDA, your passport and my bookshelf will be full again sometime. I hear the Spirit tell me to be happy with my choices, too.

    AmyP, I love the list of what you have sacrificed: stubbornness, willfulness, disappointment, anger–along with your health challenges and disappointments. Yes, we don’t always choose what we’re asked to sacrifice, and I think that makes it even harder.

    Amy, amen on the sacrificing health and time for work/creativity (I know they are the same for you). And also amen on its being worth the sacrifice. My baby #5 is sweet, and my toddler is a hoot. To the degree that I see them instead of the mess I find greater meaning in the sacrifice.

  15. eljee, I love the story of the organist’s mission. I have been counseled in blessings to take the long view, and try to see the big picture, and your post reflects that same vision: there’s a purpose for the talents we don’t get to use right now.

    Kristin, thank you. And how do I know you?

    Michelle, you can make it to bedtime–go you! I want to be a cheerleader for you and me and all of us in the trenches together. We need to know we are not alone and we can do this.

    Thank you, Luisa. :-)

    Sandy, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story–the envy happens on both sides. I love that line, “comparison is the thief of joy.” I will remember that.

  16. Kristine and Sharlee, thank you.

    Heather O., yes. I like that acknowledgement that you do lose things you can never get back–I think that to say otherwise is a little pollyannaish. But it does help me personally to, again, take the long view and realize that when I’m 52 I will have some opportunities I don’t have now. Thank you for your kindness–you know about sacrificing dreams too, I know.

    Another Emily, I would be a truly dreadful preschool teacher. Props to those great women who can handle ten three-year-olds at once! I love my toddler (really, he is a joy) but I am not one of those women.

    Shelah, I don’t know if that space exists. That space where we are all honoring each others’ sacrifices and choices and triumphs and pain, and helping each other without the judging or comparing that’s so easy. There are some rare places where it does. I think it’s easier online than in person, actually. Maybe the community we create online can become a template for reality.

    Kjerestin, thank you too.

  17. Your words here are beautiful. Like you, I have felt that if I am sacrificing to stay home, I want it to be necessary. I have worked over time to recognize that we do not all live the same life, but I love your words for this- sacrifice is unique and specific.

    I am now at a point where I can do a little more (my youngest is in school now) but I still struggle to find the right thing to do for me and my family. I started back to school last year, and I worry about how many classes to take, and how it will impact my family.

  18. YES! And I really loved all the comments, too.

    I’m a mother of 4 hoping to get my youngest 2 potty trained someday soon and occasionally fantasizing about being a rocket scientist on the side (though I’ve never heard of anyone hiring one part-time). It would take calamity to make my working necessary, so I’m torn about wanting to spend time doing something I’m good at because I can’t actually see it working out in any but the most dire of situations and I’m particularly untalented at the housekeeping/homemaking that will probably occupy my time for most of the foreseeable future.

    Though all our situations are different the feelings expressed really resonate with me. Thank you all for sharing.

  19. I’m rather fascinated by what Shelah said. Does that actual, present community exist? It’s something I have discussed with my sister at length. It seems that in many ways, the more we modernize, the more we lose that sense of community. I think that Relief Society is supposed to provide that, but unless we are living close together and interacting daily, it doesn’t. I don’t know that Shelah was talking about communal living, per say, but sometimes I feel like I would love that. I currently live overseas in a fabulous ex-pat community that comes pretty close to that ideal. Sometimes I long for my homeland, but in many ways I never want to leave because the feeling of community is so present here. How can we cultivate that wherever we are?

    Sorry – I think this is a totally different discussion. Maybe Segullah can tackle it some other time.

  20. Thank you so much for this post. It felt like reading my own inner thoughts, only much clearer and better written, and with a deeper understanding of sacrifice. I needed that perspective right now.

  21. I think my mom felt a lot like you are feeling now. She had six kids over a span of 16 years, so she was raising kids for a long time. She managed to go back to school, get a Master’s and PhD and then have a twenty five year teaching career as well as writing countless books. She didn’t even start this process until she was nearly 45. So the lesson I learned from her is that if you stay healthy and live long enough, you can do it all. It doesn’t have to be concurrent, consecutive works just as well. Hang in there. Her sacrifice was worth it for me and her example has helped me to pace myself and enjoy each stage the best I can. I am back to work after a 12 year break to raise kids. Some days I love it and others I wish I was home with that small child that would climb on my lap and trap me so that nothing could get done that day.

  22. This puts words to my feelings of the past few months/years. I went to law school and had my first baby during my last semester. I took the passed the bar exam, but never worked. Now I am a mom to four kids.

    So often it is hard to see if what I am doing makes any difference. In school, I could see the fruits of my labors. I studied hard and got good grades. I worked hard and made it onto law review. I wrote and published two scholarly works.

    As a mom, I clean, cook, dry tears, do the laundry, walk the kids to school, make snacks, read books, play games, do puzzles, cook more, clean more, and on and on. And then the next day…it starts all over. It is hard to see any progress. One day when my oldest was maybe 2 or 3 I found myself in tears over the kitchen sink thinking, “This is my life. There will never be another day where I don’t have to do dishes and laundry. This is my LIFE!?”

    I dream of working and finding satisfaction in doing something that shows I am accomplishing something. Yet, I realize what I would miss–naps when I really need them, mornings at the gym, and all day access to my sweet children.

    I think in the end, that is sacrifice. Knowing either way you will miss something, but being willing to pay the price of what you are called to do. Motherhood was a very literal calling for me and, for this season at least, I need to learn to make it a more willing, rather than begrudging, sacrifice.

  23. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a sister I visit teach, just last month. We were talking about service and how hard it can be at times. She added that the “hard” part of service, is what makes it so grand. If it didn’t cause us to stretch and yes suffer even, would our offering mean as much? Service just wouldn’t have as much worth to us if it came easy. I often look back on all those long days raising my sons…I learned my greatest lessons that still serve me now, during the hardest times of it all.

  24. I really love this post and the insightful comments, especially eljee’s “most of the time we don’t choose our sacrifices.” Amen! After three quicker-than-expected pregnancies and nearly a year of my husband’s unemployment, I can agree that my sacrifices were not of my choosing.
    Maybe that’s when I get envious of other people – when I feel like they DID get to choose theirs. I am also muddling through this season of toddlers, hoping that the other side is a little less tiring.

  25. Roo- I think it can exist. My best friend and I have been dreaming about it since college, and I know that if we ever managed to live in the same place, it would work for us. I think it does exist for some people who happen to fall in with the right people or have a super-close family. But for me, I tend to keep to myself, and I have no one to blame but myself for feeling like I can’t dump the kids and take a walk for an hour when I really need to recharge. I think it used to exist more often, especially when extended families lived together. My sister lives with my mom, and sometimes I think that except for the lack of privacy, they both have the best of all worlds.

  26. I remember reading that Brigham Young didn’t want the pioneers to even use the word sacrifice because of being blessed to actually have membership in Christ’s restored Church and having the gospel in their lives. In his opinion their hardships paled in comparison to what they had been blessed with. A prophet’s perspective of “sacrifice”

  27. I think Shelah is right. This is profoundly wise. And beautiful Emily. I honor your sacrifice, and your heart. And I loved the allusions to fellow sister-writers we love, who are sacrificing in their own ways. xoxo

  28. This was beautiful beyond words. I wish my calling was different or that I could be more satisfied with it as well. The reality is most of us struggle with the life the Lord gave us as it rarely turns out like we all – in our fairytale fed little girl world -thought it would.

    I am grateful beyond measure for parents who quickly learned, after their oldest daughters divorce, that life is not a fairytale and insisted we all pursue an education. Some of us did pursue education and some didn’t but at one time or another my sisters and I have all worked for a variety of reasons.

    On another note, I wish we could find a way to end the mommy wars. The war causes so much pain…

  29. Going back to the Martin and Willie handcart companies, does anyone know if hey were actually sent out that late or was it their one decision? Brigham Young didn’t know they were coming. Everyone’s heard the story of the Martin Handcart Company survivor sitting in a Sunday school class years later and listening to those who hadn’t been part of the handcart experience criticizing the decision the handcart companies made. Long story short he said that was how they became acquainted with and profoundly came to know God. Until this post I hadn’t considered that both when I was in the throes of raising children and now agonizing over an adult child’s choices, I haven’t seen those as my handcart experiences to deepen my personal relationship with my Father in Heaven. Instead my focus has been on how I want things to be different. No more – now it’s on Him

  30. As a mom who has made it through that stage, I say to you…keep going. It’s hard work, with very little external rewards. Yes, the house is always a mess, and the kids ALWAYS want more than you think you can give. But someday they will grow bigger, and they will need you in different ways (not less, just different). You will have that time to go and do some of the things you long to do. When my last one started school, I had to figure out…what was it I wanted to do? I started substitute teaching. Then I started a small music group that I teach at the school, and this year I even auditioned for a play that will be put on during the day for school children. My kids still need me, but there is some time to figure out what I want to do with my life…since there is still a lot of it left.

    Good luck.

  31. Can it be called a sacrifice if it’s not a choice? Or is it just a trial or hardship then?

    I’ve been thinking about this since I read it yesterday. I love this post and can see how well it rings true for so many of us.

    I am a working woman, but I am as yet unmarried and without children. So maybe that’s not a sacrifice as much as a hardship (speaking only for myself, of course), but I find myself often telling myself a story that it must be necessary. That my experiences must be molding and shaping me and the world around me and will be the better off for it.

    The disheartening part is feeling like even if that story is true (which I’m not convinced it is), I’m not sure I’ve really done anything in place of mothering (the thing I have longed to be doing) that has been of great service to anyone or even anything that has necessarily brought me to profoundly know God.

    So until the chance for mothering comes, I hope I can do better at consecrating my time and talents so that they do feel necessary, or at least worthy and valuable.

  32. This, Emily. This exactly. And I’m intrigued by what Valerie was saying- it’s so hard, seeing that difference between hardship and choice. I mean, I _made_ this choice. I _continue_ to choose it. I continue to want to choose it. And yet…that doesn’t diminish the hardship of it, and even laying the other options on the altar haven’t made, for me, that feeling of sacrifice any different. I spent half a decade unable to conceive, and staying home anyway, out of illness, and now, only slightly healthier, and with more children, I still long for that other life, which, due to said illness, would probably not have happened with any lack of children. I figure, someday I’m going to have to come to grips with the realization that I will no longer have children at home, and can do the three thousand things I said I would do when I had no more children at home….and yet suspect that I will find my time filled elsewhere instead. I worry about that, and block out chapters in my mind, hoping to write them down someday, hoping my words will not dry up again.

  33. The choice/sacrifice comes in the giving over of one’s heart to God’s will–the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Otherwise it’s just a hardship. Choosing to offer our heart and spirit is what turns something from a trial to a sacrifice.

  34. Valerie,

    I’m also single and childless, and I agree with eljee that even if you don’t choose to be in a certain situation, you have the power to make it a meaningful sacrifice by offering your will and heart to God.

    As far as whether or not it’s “necessary” for you to be in your current situation, there are times when my life has gone in an unwanted direction that I have definitely felt, in retrospect, was a necessary detour, but there are many other times that I have felt that I was just spinning my wheels while everyone else had more opportunities to do meaningful work.

    I believe that one of the greatest miracles of God is that good things can come from bad situations, and that includes value coming from a life that may not feel meaningful.

    However, I would suggest that you not try to base your self worth on some day having a chance to be a mother or on some day realizing that all of your experiences were “worth it” in some very concrete way. Instead, I like to remember Luke 12:6-7, which says that even sparrows are important to God. To me, that means that God thinks I’m worth remembering and caring about *now*, and the miracle I need is not for my life to become important to Him, but for me to learn to see the value He already sees in me, even if the rest of the world or the rest of the Church doesn’t think I’m very important.

  35. I hope it does not seem like I changed the conversation by mentioning my current state in life. I meant for it to still be the same conversation.

    I think my feelings very much echo Emily’s last paragraph:

    I am working on the broken heart and contrite spirit. It’s a work in progress. I believe, in the end, that God can and will make sacred my offerings, my muddling through this season. And that I will have the grace to, at some point, rejoice in sacrificing, and not envy others because they have not given up the same things I have.

    But I am still intrigued by the question of whether it can be called a sacrifice if it’s not a choice…

  36. Some time ago I heard an interview by Sister Kristen Oaks (Elder Oaks’s second wife, who married him sometime in her late 40′s; she had never been married), she talked about that time on her own and said that “the waiting is sanctifying.”

    I’ve thought a lot about this. Women wait a lot . . . in many capacities. Wait for the missionaries to come home (hopefully this is changing), wait for men to propose, wait for the babies to come, wait for them to grow up, wait to go back to work, etc. etc.

    I think Sister Oaks’ point is that waiting, when we endure humbly, faithfully and with as much fortitude as we can (which will vary from day to day) then the Lord changes us in deep ways that we can hardly even begin to imagine. Whether we see our current situation as trial or sacrifice or some combination of both, the Lord can use either circumstance to release a masterpiece from raw marble. But oh! How the constant hammering and chiseling and sanding hurts!

    The comments here are lovely, profound, honest and uplifting. I feel grateful to be a part of such a community of women giving all they have to realize a better future for our world. It gives me strength to face my own set of challenges today. Thank you!

  37. I agree that is exactly the heart of the mommy wars. (That and economic policies which seem inequitable.) Great, articulate post.

  38. Valerie,

    It sounds like you’re saying that if a difficult situation isn’t a choice that it somehow doesn’t “count,” in some way. Is that accurate? Can you expand more on that?

  39. Valerie, I don’t believe there’s any difference between a sacrifice that begins with our agency and one that begins with our circumstances.

    If we believe in a God who CAN intervene in our lives, and yet He does not intervene in the ways we might hope, then we have a choice: accept His will or continue in our hearts to insist on our own.

    Choosing His way over our way, to me, defines sacrifice. This is THE sacrifice, tearing away our own will and replacing it with His. When we can truly, to our core, say as the Savior did, “Thy will be done,” we have offered on the alter of the Lord the one sacrifice we can truly offer.

    It doesn’t matter whether this choice comes to us by agency or by circumstance, “my will or God’s” is always the same choice.

  40. I am 50. I spent 28 years as a stay at home mom to five children. Three with special needs, although don’t they all have special needs. Now only one remains home. I gave up a scholarship to law school because of Pres. Benson’s talk. Now all those years later I realize that although I learned and failed and succeeded in many things, I lost too much. My 22 year old self obeyed and I should have prayed and waited upon the Lord for an answer for me instead of an institutionalized answer. I now believe that God never intended for me to lose myself in mothering. I should have kept the books on the shelves and put the baby clothes and toys in a basket on the floor. There were years I felt so invisible while my husband succeeded in the workplace, at church, and at home, that I felt estranged from myself and from any spark of divinity that filled the woman I was in college. So while I agree that we should submit to God’s will, we should also ask the question and really know the answer. Two of my grown daughters work as professionals and mother their children in creative ways I never imagined. One daughter chose to be a SAHM. They all came to the choice without the guild of “Mother’s go home.” They all turn to their Heavenly Parents for guidance. I wish I had done the same. At fifty so many of the opportunities available in my twenties are forever lost, but others do arise. I live on the brink of my second career without the confidence I had at 22. Although, I was involved in my community, volunteer work, at church and with my children, I didn’t take enough time to be involved with myself and my dreams. Tearing away from our own will in sacrifice should not mean tearing ourselves. I admire so much the words of the younger Mormon women who look on each other with so much more compassion than my generation of Mormon women. I wish I realized that my Heavenly Parents were more interested in nurturing me and encouraging me than in hammering me and chiseling me. I focused too much on the refiners fire than the shadow by day and the pillar by night. i am glad that women like Emily and the other thoughtful commenters are the future of our church. Bless you all

  41. Well said, old mom. (p.s. 50 is not old :) Every person can (and should) ask and expect an answer about God’s will for them. In talking about tearing away our own will, I certainly didn’t mean losing ourselves utterly. I wasn’t even referring to motherhood.

    I was thinking of all the hard things in life, all the times we might question God’s will–when we lose a loved one and ask why God didn’t interfere to save them, when we experience financial hardship and wonder why God doesn’t lead us to more resources, when we suffer from a chronic illness and ask why he doesn’t heal us or guide us to a solution, or when the Spirit really does guide us to do something we’d rather not do.

    I’m confident in loving Heavenly Parents who nurture us and cheer us on. I know they’re there helping us through every dark valley, holding us up when we sag, encouraging every baby step, rejoicing in our joy. But, in their love, they don’t always remove every burden at the time or in the way we might think we want. And they sometimes do ask us to do things we don’t think we want. That’s where faith comes in. And sometimes letting our own will go does hurt. So, absolutely, let’s make sure we’re doing it for God’s REAL will for us.

  42. I don’t know about that, but thanks for giving me the chance to say what I really meant. And also thanks for your thoughtful, generous voice in the conversation. I’m so glad you spoke up.

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