A few weeks ago, I gave a Relief Society lesson in another ward. As a counselor in my stake Relief Society presidency, a lot of my calling involves speaking (and listening) to the sisters. After my lesson, a woman took me aside and voiced her pain (no…her anguish) regarding the unrighteous choices her teenage and adult children were making. As active Church members, she and her husband tried to do all the “right things” in raising their kids. But they were not “reaping the rewards of a righteous posterity.” Tearfully, she said, “Julie, I was always told in the Church that 1 + 1 = 2. But it doesn’t. A lot of times, 1 + 1 = 3.” I felt the Spirit prompt me to tell her, “Ann, you were supposed to tell me this, so now I can tell you that you are a good mom. I know the Lord is pleased with your abilities and efforts.” A look of relief briefly came upon her face. She felt the Spirit too. How thankful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who knows the pain and anguish of parenting!
(Unfortunately, there is another component to her story. She also expressed the difficulty she and her husband felt among their ward “family.” She felt scrutinized and judged guilty of “bad” parenting because some of her kids didn’t “turn out well.” But that’s a topic for another post.) As LDS moms, I’m sure we’ve all felt like “bad” mothers when our kids make less than perfect choices. How many times have we heard the admonition, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home”? (Surely, a divinely inspired statement!) However, in our quest for perfection, we tend to think of our children’s choices as unmitigated truths about our abilities, success, or failures as moms. If our kids choose wrong, then we’re wrong. Period. Yes, we moms are the primary influence (negatively or positively) on our children. But there’s that pesky principle called “free agency” which applies to parents and (darn it!) to kids. One troubled mom confided to me, “I didn’t like Satan’s plan until my kids became teenagers. Now his plan sounds good! I wish I could force my kids to make righteous choices.” (Well, the line forms to the left…many of us moms feel the same way.)
Time and again, I’ve pondered, prayed, and anguished about my calling as a mom. Comparing myself to other moms was detrimental to my emotional health. Comparing my kids to other kids, increased my insecurity as well. Here’s the good news: when I let my Savior determine my success as a mom, I found a consistent inner peace and new found confidence—in myself and in my kids. How grateful I am that Christ is my ultimate judge; not myself, nor anyone else. He’s truly the Prince of Peace—my inner peace!
Please forgive me for sounding like a braggart; I’m trying to make a point. I have two grown sons and two grown daughters. They have all served full-time missions and were married in the temple. (These two factors seem to be the measuring tool we Church members use in determining our worth as parents.) Regardless, here’s an extremely significant truth I’ve learned: As a mother, my finest hour occurred when I unconditionally and purposely loved my children when they disappointed me or caused me emotional pain—not when they made me proud! (Well yes, the temple is up there too as a finest hour!)
It’s so easy to love our kids when they do everything we want them to do. It’s not so easy when they don’t; that’s when our potential for ultimate love is generated–if we consciously choose to seed and nourish pure love. True love is effortful and purposeful. Thus, I decided that maintaining healthy, loving relationships with my kids (during the hard times) was more important than rigidity. Furthermore, rules and rigidity are not always compatible. Rigidity can at times, undermine our parental rule making. (But that topic is for another post.)
As a youth, I often heard our church leaders tell us that we were a “chosen generation” and saved for the “Last Days.” As the clock ticks toward Christ’s Second Coming, I have no doubt that our generation has the most formidable challenge ever in raising kids in this highly technological and sexualized society. Kids have more independence at younger ages more than at any time in our world history. Their access opens the door to crucial decision making that will inevitably lead to some wrong choices. For our generation of moms, it’s not so much if our children make mistakes due this type of exposure, but when. Can we lovingly and courageously lead and navigate them through their pain and difficulty of consequences and repentance—while nursing our own pain and disappointment? I know the Lord has confidence in our ability to walk through this searing fire–if we turn to Him for help and wisdom. Otherwise, I don’t think we’d be serving as mothers in Zion during this millennial era.
What do you think? How do you define yourselves as moms? I’m betting we’re doing alright as mothers—better than we think!