This Sabbath Revival post was published March 14, 2008 by Kristen
“I do not want to frighten you by telling you about the temptations life will bring. Anyone who is healthy in spirit will overcome them. But there is something I want you to realize.
It does not matter so much what you do. What matters is whether your soul is harmed by what you do. If your soul is harmed, something irreparable happens, the extent of which you won’t realize until it will be too late.” —Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life,1969
I’m still a new mom. I have a 20 month old, and a second one due in two months. Heck, most of the world would say I’m still a newlywed, since my husband and I will celebrate our third anniversary this summer. What this means is that I’m still adapting to the various roles I have, and figuring out how they all fit together, and where “Kristen” still is in the midst of them all.
Today is a post about the mother-identity in me, and in us. The honest truth is, being a mother does not fill all of my needs. There, I said it. It’s true. Being a mother is wonderful, praiseworthy, glorious, fills me with love, helps me develop more Christian/Christ-like attributes. But those aren’t all of my needs. That is why I edit. I work as a freelance editor for several companies, and while some of the motivation is definitely for the money, I can say without hesitating that even if I got paid absolutely nothing, I would still do it. This is why:
As a mother, no one tells me, “Gee, that was one WILD day you had—your daughter unlocked and opened the door of the lab restroom while you’re trying to give a urine sample, in full view of everyone else in the waiting room! Way to handle a difficult situation with poise and patience.”
Or, “Holy Cow, you have not slept in 3 weeks because your daughter woke up every 2 hours, all night long? You know, you really do sacrifice a lot for her.”
And the list could go on. Simply stated, it is impossible for anyone except the angels in heaven to give me feedback about my life as a mother, and, validate and encourage me to keep on with it. There are no witnesses. And so, I have realized with quite conflicting thoughts that working (in my case, as an editor), in many ways neutralizes the need I have for someone to pat me on the back at the end of the day and tell me what a great job I did with my daughter.
The conflict? How could my ego-stroking be anything but….selfish? And why do I feel so great about it when it seems to contradict many gospel principles? As an editor, I feel intellectually stimulated, I feel like I am exercising my mind, and I get feedback from someone!! It’s also a lot of fun!
The temporary conclusion I have come to is that because the “fruits of my labor” are good, then this must be a good thing. The gospel does teach us to judge things by their results. The results of me working? They far outweigh the negatives.
Because I get to edit, I am so much happier as a mother, I feel stronger, more capable, patient, and don’t look to my husband desperately every day to affirm that I’m doing okay, despite the many mistakes I may have made. I feel like I do a much better job as a mother, because I’m not getting burned out by having all of my mind and energy consumed with the tasks of one role. I look forward to each day with Shaelynn, and the attention and love she gets from me is more focused, directed, and sustained.
I think that on a subconscious level, the subculture of the Church (I’m not saying “gospel,” mind you!) has sent me the message that since motherhood is the most holy, divine role a woman can have as an eternal being, that it should be her sole role, that it should not be shared any other attentions or activities. And I’m not alone in thinking this. Very frequently, I hear LDS women apologize about what they do/like to do, or sheepishly confess that they would like to work part-time, for their sanity, or would like to do things with their time besides be a mother. Gasp!! Is that okay? Part of me screams, yes, of course it is!!! And another part of me conjurs up images of a few friends, married 10 years with no children, who love working all day, and have no desire for motherhood.
Fathers, on the other hand, are sent the message that they are to be providers of the family, and also fathers. Unless a man is self-employed, he is going to be getting affirmation, feedback, and intellectual stimulation from his work on a daily basis as he fills his divine role as provider. So what does that mean exactly, that these results of working are a necessary evil that fathers must “put up with,” and that mothers are to avoid? What are your thoughts?
Sigh. I have the feeling this will be a discussion with comments such as “It’s different for everybody,” and the like. I have to admit, I really feel there’s more to this question than that. But if we can start with at least that, that’s okay too. Where is the balance? How can you tell if your soul is being harmed?