On Mother’s Day I listen to the talks praising Motherhood, I take home my geranium (does anyone like the smell of geraniums?), and leave feeling unworthy of the Mothers I’ve just heard about. I’ve always wanted to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day, to give a talk that doesn’t make me feel guilty and inadequate. But I have never been asked to, so this year I’m blogging instead. I was going to rant about Mother’s Day. The rant is still in me, but I’m trying to get away from that and think more about the women I honor, my mothers and grandmothers.
My Grandma Bishop raised eight children in a small white house with one bathroom. Eight children required frugality, a habit she still keeps. She plays Scrabble, sometimes with herself, and has beaten me every time I’ve tried to play her. And every so often, she writes letters.
This particular letter arrived on a day I had been feeling grumbly about mothering. Nothing specific wrong, no major catastrophes, only that general feeling of fatigue as I thought about all the weeks and months of potty training and laundry ahead of me. I had recently listened to Elder Bednar’s “tender mercy” talk, and I was wanting a tender mercy of my own. It came. Grandma wrote: “I just wanted to write and express my love to you wonderful grandchildren who are accepting the great responsibility of being parents and taking it seriously. It is a marvelous thing for me to see you sweet, wonderful mothers staying home”“nurturing, teaching, and guiding your children and bringing them up in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I did not feel like a sweet, wonderful mother. I felt like an imitation mother, going through the motions without really knowing what I was doing. But I appreciated the way she validated me. It would have been easy for her to pass judgment, to say something like “I raised eight children without disposable diapers or a DVD player, so buck up!” Instead she recognized and honored the difficulty of choosing to be a mother. I needed her words that day. I felt her strength and love.
Easter Sunday my children sang “We Will Follow the Lord” for my family. It’s a song written by my husband’s mother, who passed away three years ago. My children do not remember her well, but we have taught them some of her songs, and they love this one. Scott danced with big leaps and arm-wavings as he sang; Norah twirled her yellow Easter dress. My family, including my Holdaway grandparents, watched their joy.
“As for me and my house, as for me and my house, we will follow the Lord.” I sang along, watching them dance, holding my breath a little from the sweetness of it. They were singing my mother-in-law’s song on Easter, and it made us all aware that she was not with us, but that one day she would be. My children couldn’t articulate this, but they could sing her songs.
And my Grandma Holdaway, watching them, said in wonder when they finished, “What if I missed that! Oh, what if I missed that!”
Although Grandma has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there’s nothing blasé about them to her. She does not get tired of watching them dance.
When my first baby was born, Mom arranged his room during my too-early labor and recovery. She helped us get home from the hospital. She got us settled. And then she left.
I wanted her to stay with me that night, to help me figure out how to change and feed this stranger. But she didn’t. She gave me a lot of help, and then let me figure it out. Through the next weeks and months, she helped me, tending and going with me to the doctor. But she also let me figure out what I was doing on my own. That’s my mom’s gift: to support me and let me go at the same time, to balance her assistance with the ways I need to grow.
This Mother’s Day I want to get away from my wallowing in motherhood insecurities. I want to ponder on the gifts from these strong women: respect and honor, delight in my children, sweet remembering music, and, most of all, the confidence that I really can join with them in mothering. I want to listen to my kids sing “Mother, I love you.” I believe them.
How have you been strengthened in your mothering by other women? How do you handle Mother’s Day frustrations or feelings of inadequacy? What’s the best Mother’s Day talk you’ve ever heard?