Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On the Trenches of Motherhood: "Is This Really All I Do?!"

So, my mom saw one of my high school English teachers in town about a week ago. My teacher asked about how I was doing these days, and my mom showed her pictures of both my kidlets. "Oh. Last time I heard about Jami she only had one . . ." she said. My mom also mentioned I was becoming Hypnobabies certified to teach childbirth classes from my home. Her response - as my mom delicately described it - suggested disappointment. "Jami was such an intellectual . . . "

After I had that conversation with my mom and my kids were down for their naps, I got motivated and wrote this post about ways I try to keep an active mind as a stay-at-home mom. Because I often find stay-at-home motherhood to be quite compatible with having an active mind, thank you very much! And, I really do enjoy using my energy and mental faculties to create a home for my family, just as I like it to be.
But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I understand why my old teacher thinks what she does about me wasting my intellect. I've had some similar thoughts myself in darker, trying moments.
 When Lincoln was about five months old, I remember calling my mom and sobbing over the phone. "Is this all I do? Is this all I'm worth? All I do is change diapers all day long. And I'm so tired. I'm so sick of poop. Is this all I do? I'm just so tired. I'm so tired."
Discovering that new mother self after a new baby comes into your life and changes everything you think about, love, and do every moment of your life can be stifling, and exhausting, and makes you want to scream out to the world - I love my baby so much and why on Earth did I choose this for myself?!
Adjusting to two has been easier than the adjustment to one was for me, but I still have my moments. Like last night for example. Last night was a rough one for me. Atley decided to stay up - all. night. long. At one point I burst out in tears and asked Squire through the salty outpour, "Why won't she sleep? I'm just so tired! I'm so tired. She needs to sleep! I need to sleep!" This night followed a day - mind you - that was filled to the brim with work, and gardening, and cleaning, and cooking, and tending to my kids and I was just absolutely beat. But, none of that changed the fact that after a night like last night, I still had to wake up, feed my family, and face a kitchen with piles of dishes stacked about three feet higher than the level of the sink, and several loads of laundry to boot. My fabulous husband decided to neglect his studies for an hour to help me conquer the dishes pile so that I could reasonably function without another nervous breakdown this morning, bless his soul. Being a stay-at-home mom and managing a household is so much work. And it never ever, ever, ever ends.
Lucky for me, while Lincoln was napping and Atley was having her late afternoon meal today, I was able to finish up a wonderful book that helped me to put my late night, busy week, and the disappointment from my old English teacher about my life choices into a more eternal perspective.
In her book, Covenant Motherhood: Reflecting the Role of Christ in Our Lives, Stephanie Dibb Sorensen described a time where she wasn't feeling fulfillment in the trenches of motherhood. She writes,
"I was so tired, and every time I turned around, there was something or someone that needed to be cleaned. I remember an inner dialogue that would often surface: Seriously? I am a bright and intelligent woman. I have a master's degree, for heaven's sake. I am blowing noses and vacuuming Cheerios and scraping spit-up off of car-seat buckles. Is this seriously how I'm supposed to spend my life? Maybe I am exceptionally shallow or slow. . . or normal. I'm not sure, but while I know there are some mothers out there who find joy all along the journey of motherhood, I struggled to find meaning in what I was doing day in and day out. I admire those other mothers; I really do." (pg.35-36)
She went on to explain that she loved her kids. Though she wasn't feeling fulfilled in her role as a mother. She began to seek out Heavenly Father's help in coming to love what He loves. The following is her description of what came to her in her pondering:
"I learned that Heavenly Father cared a great deal about how I felt about motherhood. He wanted me to see it how He sees it, so He started to show me. One afternoon, I was sitting on the floor in my daughter's room, changing her soiled diaper. I removed it, cleaner her, and fastened on a fresh diaper. The following scripture came into my mind: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). It dawned on me that Jesus Christ was in the cleaning business. A crucial part of His mission was taking things or people that were soiled and making them clean. In that moment, I felt a flow of love and revelation - clusters of thoughts and ideas that started to fit together like a puzzle. My job was a reflection of His. It could teach me about Him and make me more like Him. This was life-changing information." (Covenant Motherhood, pg.36)
She elaborates on this point by explaining:
"My simple service of cleaning in my own home and with my own family mirrors His greater mission. It makes me love Him more, know Him more, serve Him more, understand Him more, and even become more like He is. And when I think of all the times I sin and repeat the sin or fall into new ones, I realize that I am not much different from my children and their messes; nevertheless, Jesus Christ cleanses me over and over and over again because He loves me. Cleaning equals service, and service equals love." (Covenant Motherhood, pg.40)
Motherhood is a reflection of what Christ does for us in our lives. And through our routine tasks, we reflect the role of the Savior in our homes with our children. Serving, and cleaning, and caring for children reflects the Savior's role. What could be a greater or more meaningful role than that? I love how Stephanie says here:
"So often I am tempted to discount the impact of things that take up most of my time - the logistical duties like cooking, bathing, and laundering. Maybe Alma could read my mind and was speaking directly to me when he said, "Now ye suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold . . . the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." (Covenant Motherhood, pg.87)
I know that's true. I forget it sometimes in my moments of crazed exhaustion, and when my work for the day is literally stacked up taller than me. But this work of motherhood is God's work, and everything I do and sacrifice for my family helps me to become who God would have me be, and to love doing what He loves to do, and ultimately, hopefully bring those little souls closer to Him.
What is God's work and glory? ". . . to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." And as mothers, that is exactly our work and our glory, too.
The more we come to understand that the daily work we do in our homes and with our families is really God's work, the more we can appreciate and joyfully accomplish those things that we do day in and day out. Ms. C may see my choice to be a stay-at-home mom as a disappointing waste of my intellect, but God certainly doesn't see it that way. As I've said before and remind myself often - we are building Cathedrals mamas
For anyone out there who is having a hard time with in the trenches of motherhood right now, I highly recommend Stephanie Dibb Sorensen's book, Covenant Motherhood. It will put into perspective for you the grand role of motherhood (and all the daily little things that entails) in God's plan in a totally relatable and enjoyable way. I know it did for me today. Thank you, Stephanie! Your book was uplifting, enlightening, funny, unpretentious, and perfect. 
Now good night all. My heavy eyelids are hoping baby girl sleeps a little more tonight than she did last night . . . Back to the trenches I go!  :)

6 comments:

  1. What a wonderful reminder. I love being a stay at home home, but there are times I think, "why did I do this again?" I never thought of what I do in quite these terms. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting , Melanie! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. It was fun visiting with you at playgroup today P.S. :)

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  2. One thing that I love most about you Jami is that you inspire so many people while you are in the trenches of motherhood. You are also one of the most productive stay-at-home moms I've ever seen! Thanks for your uplifting and inspiring posts!!

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    1. Adrian - Thank you for your comment and compliments! You are too nice! Also, I have to tell you that when I told Squire about your comment about how productive I am, we both glanced at the massive laundry pile stacked on top of our washer and the pile of dishes sprawled out over our kitchen island, and laughed. ;) I'm glad this post could lift your spirits a bit today. Talk about a productive mama - thank you for all you do Prez!

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  3. Thanks for your kind review! Sounds like you are doing a great job as a mom!

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