Monday, July 1, 2013

The Only Thing

My entire life, I've wanted to be married and have kids.  In first grade, I remember walking down the hall of my school in my Brownie uniform and deciding that having fifty kids sounded about right.  When I was in high school at a math and science school, I was not afraid to tell my friends that I wasn't really planning on having a career outside of raising my kids.

I wasn't entirely sure how it was going to work out; I don't really do well with those sorts of logistics.  I did know that I wanted a college degree.  Yes, I definitely wanted a mission.  But I just knew that soon after the mission, I would meet the man I was going to marry.  I needed to get married quickly of course because I was settling for no less than five children and I didn't want to have them all at once.

My whole life, I made quiet little plans about that future family of mine and those five children.  I never spent my time worrying about wedding details - as my high school roommate and I agreed, we could get married in a towel for all we cared, as long as it was modest.  I assumed my fiance and I would make the wedding plans together so I never concerned myself with colors or locations or times of year or flowers or really anything much.  However, I did make plans for the stuff that came after the big to-do.  I wanted to learn how to cook and to clean and to sew.  When I was a teenager and worried about the typical "the world is a bad place, why bring children into it?" scenario, I decided that I was going to make it a life goal before those children came along to seek out the best books and the best experiences so that I could show them the beauty and the magic of the world that they lived in.  So, I worked and dreamed and planned for that dear little family I was going to have.  I prayed for my future husband; I prayed for my future children.

In the meantime, I was going to a math and science high school and getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering and serving a mission in Taiwan.  But those things were meaningful ways to pass the time until I got married and had my family.  When leaders felt the need to teach lessons about the importance of not postponing marriage or putting undue emphasis on careers, I just smiled.  That lesson was not for me - I wanted a family more than I wanted any of those other things.

Years passed.  At some point during my PhD, I started to feel something change.  I would look over my library of children's books and want to just throw them all away.  I stopped praying for that elusive husband and those equally mythical children.  I started saying "If I get married" rather than "When..." and got annoyed when other people corrected me.  I started to get offended at lessons in church that talked about how marriage and family was the most important thing we can ever do.  Once, I even stood up and walked out in the middle of a Sunday School class...which I never do...ever.

What had happened?  Well, part of me simply needed to create a life for myself that didn't entirely rest on something that was supposed to happen several years previous (according to all my life plans).  The other part of me struggled to know how I could have gone wrong.  I had always wanted and dreamed and planned for the things that my faith and church taught me that I should be wanting and dreaming and planning for.  Except it hadn't been realized.

That day that I walked out of class, I went and sat in the chapel and had a very serious talk with myself and with God.  Was I actually mad that the church lessons focused so much on marriage?  No.  Did I wish for them to stop?  No.  So, what was I mad about?  Why did I feel like I couldn't breathe when I got in those lessons?  Why did I panic?  Answer: I was walking down a path I had never planned on and I had no idea what I was doing.  And significantly, if I believed that The Plan was motherhood and I wasn't a mother, where did I fit into the faith and church I had believe in and embraced my entire life?

I came to this conclusion: Motherhood is something that only women can do.  Even with all our medical advances, only women can bear and give birth to children.  This is a calling that is distinct to them.  The importance of willing mothers, of good mothers, of kind mothers and good mothers cannot be emphasized enough.  There are children who need to be born, children who need to be loved, children who need to be taught.  Essentially, there are children who need mothers - women.

But caveat: somehow, along the line somewhere, in the emphasis on mothers and motherhood, I somehow mixed up the words.  I had started to believe that motherhood was the only thing women can do.  I had started to believe that my worth, my chance to make the world better, my value in the Church was dependent on my being a wife and mother.  Things as simple as the bumper sticker several years before, I had happily stuck to my bike, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home," now stung and wounded my soul.  I somehow convinced myself if I couldn't be a mother, then it didn't matter what else I did, I would always be failing or lacking in some way.

Honestly though, when did being a good person, a kind person, a person who wants to make the world a little better EVER count as a failure?  In what world would there be no use for someone who has talents, dreams and the heart to make a difference?

It never has and never will, anywhere.

Motherhood is something only women can do.  It is not the only thing that women can do.  The world and the the church need women for everything they are and everything they have to offer.

I'm grateful to be a member of a church that helps me remember how important and eternal families are.  I'm also grateful to know that God does not require me to wait until eternity (or some unknown future) for my plan to begin.  I can make a difference.  Now.  


  1. Great post! I think you are amazing and are always doing wonderful things. I am glad I know you!

  2. Fantastic post. I've felt and thought all of these things, and you've written about it beautifully. You're awesome. :)

  3. I love you and I love the fact that we had that amazing conversation after that day in Sunday School. I miss you!

  4. Spencer and I had both given up on getting married. The few years before I met him, I came to the realization, that even if I wasn't going to be one to marry, I was just grateful that I knew I'd be okay on my own. You have a wonderful life and you're a fabulous friend. I am glad you've come to the realization that you have. Though, there will still be tough days ahead, but so long as they're not every day, you'll manage and hopefully happily enjoy the life you're blessed with.

  5. It's funny, completely unrelated to your blog tonight, I mentioned to Sarah that one of the biggest problems I've had with the Church is the feeling that we can only be something if we get married and have children. While it's certainly a blessing, I think it forgets what matters most and that's being grateful for the things we have and doing our best to do as the Lord would have us do.

    I have to remind myself of my blessings when I drive two hours a day for work, or work late, or barely have time to sleep 6 hours before needing to wake up only to have a 7 month old crying at 2 in the morning because her pacifier has fallen out. It's amazing how when I see those things I fail to see the home we are able to create, the jobs we do have in a difficult economy, or the amazing smile and blue eyes of my little girl. Not to forget an ever patient wife, who laughs at even my "funniest" jokes. Of course, there's also my in-laws and siblings who are there supporting us as we raise our little minion. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. I love you! (And I love what you have to say in this post too!) :)

  7. Beautiful post. Thank for sharing your testimony of the many and wonderfully faceted roles of women. Life is full, with so much to do and love, in whatever path we are following. Love you!