An open letter to two real moms

First of all, let me set the scene.

Wallflower

Imagine you are at one of your first dances. You’re standing on the sidelines and there are hundreds of people mingling all around you. You try to look alert and available and smile at people, but no one–no one–wants to make eye contact with you. After you manage to smile at a few boys, they come over and say hi, ask you a few questions about yourself, then half smile and walk away. You do that for two hours, and in the end you danced with a small handful of boys, but the rest of the time you just sweat bullets and tried not to run and hide in the bathroom.

That’s what it feels like to be an unknown author at a book signing.

Tonight I signed books for Ladies Night at Deseret Book. This is an actual picture from my phone of all the people there:

DBnight

Notice that none of them are looking my direction. It’s okay. If I could throw my name in a hat and win a dozen cinnamon rolls or free books and DVDs, I would have done that too. I don’t blame them.

Okay, so the two moms.

Mom #1 came over to my table, browsed through my book, and said, “Too bad I already failed as a mom. My son’s about to go to jail.” I tried to be encouraging and tell her how my book testifies that parents are not responsible for their children’s agency and should not feel they have failed when children wander. I told her that many general authorities have taught that our covenants have power to reach out after and rescue our struggling children. She just looked at me, crossed her fingers, and walked away.

Mom #2 came over and looked through my book with another lady. Someone else had asked me a question, so I only overheard their conversation. She opened to the table of contents and scanned the list of chapters.  It looks like this.

Introduction: Motherhood Testifies of Christ
Chapter 1: Jesus Christ Creates
Chapter 2: Jesus Christ Teaches
Chapter 4: Jesus Christ Provides
Chapter 5: Jesus Christ Cleanses
Chapter 6: Jesus Christ Defends and Protects
Chapter 7: Jesus Christ Loves and Sacrifices
Chapter 8: Jesus Christ Forgives and Shares Burdens
Chapter 9: Jesus Christ Saves
Chapter 10: Grace and the Covenant
Chapter 11: The Eternal Influence of Covenant Motherhood

And I heard her say, “I want a chapter called Jesus Yells,” and she put it down and walked away. Do you know what I wanted to do to both of these ladies? I wanted to shake them and then give them a hug. But I didn’t. On the way home, I thought about what I wanted to say to them. This is obviously too late, but here goes.

Dear real moms,

I get it. Motherhood is hard. We mess it up all the time. And even when we think we’re getting it right, our kids sometimes choose wrong. Hard. Really hard. But I can’t help but wonder… did you hear the same general conference that I did today? Because there are some powerful truths that were taught that you might have missed because you were so busy believing that you are failing.  Here are just a few I remember off the top of my head:

  1. President Packer testified of the power of mothers’ prayers. Sure that means prayers for our children, but I also think it means prayers when we need help being a parent. God will honor those prayers.
  2. Elaine Dalton declared that our daily contributions matter and that keeping our covenants will call down the powers of heaven to bless us.
  3. Craig Cardon said over and over again that Jesus wants to forgive us when we make mistakes, and He will do it seventy times seven times. He said the Savior allows for improvement over time and doesn’t demand immediate perfection.
  4. Elder Ballard told us the parable of the tomato plant and testified that we have unlimited potential. Even when we feel wilted, the light and power of the gospel can nourish us and give us life.
  5. President Eyring taught that our simple acts of obedience and service (hello, motherhood) can help us feel closer to the Savior.
  6. Elder Scott counseled us to recognize the good in others, not their stains. Mom #1 and Mom #2, recognize the good in yourselves, too, and stop staring at those stains.
  7. Elder Cook testified that we can feel peace even in times of disaster and chaos (that means every day from 4-8 pm at my house).

Those are just a few of the things I heard today from men (and women) who we sustain as mouthpieces for our Father in Heaven. I don’t care if you never read my book, but I hope you know that you are not failing if you are trying. The good you do every day is not cancelled out by raising your voice or a child’s bad decision. There’s the Atonement for that. Use it. Believe it. Rely on Jesus Christ. He loves that you are a mother. He loves you. I think you should love you too. That is all. I hope you like the rest of conference tomorrow.  Good night.

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28 thoughts on “An open letter to two real moms

  1. I’m sorry all those women are too blind to see what they missed by not buying your book.
    I’m also sorry I haven’t bought it yet but I keep forgetting to send you a check for a signed copy and it just seems easier to wait a month until I see you.
    I’m also sorry I laughed out loud at the “Jesus Yells” comment. It sounds like she could really use your book to recognize her own divinity as a mother. She also sounds like someone I could be friends with.
    Better luck with the next book signing. People will recognize the importance of what you’ve written.

  2. I can imagine it must have been disheartening not to have people buying your book at the signing, when you worked so hard on it. It sounds very good though from the chapter headings, and I know it wouldn’t have been published if it wasn’t. I bet even Sheri Dew had experiences like this when she first started writing her books. Motherhood is very hard, but those were some good thoughts you listed from conference. That is one of the reasons why we have the Leaders speak to us, so that we can get through the tough days of motherhood, amongst other things. Keep smiling and good luck with your book in the future. I’m sure there will be more books too. :)

  3. They need to make bright yellow stickers that say “guilt-free” and stick them to every copy…..or “will give you warm fuzzies”…..”Holy Ghost Approved”…. I felt so capable and that things were doable after reading it.

  4. Oh how I wish I could have been there (that’s actually home for me). I can’t wait to get a copy of your book. We can’t be reminded enough about how sa red and crucial our role is as mothers. Thank you for pointing out all these possibly obvious, yet very crucial pieces if spiritual nourishment from today’s sessions. We need to hold on to these — they do get you through the rough moments.

  5. Absolutely spot on. But you’re way more eloquent than I would have been. I LOVED today’s conferences. My stand out speaker was Stanley G Ellis!

  6. Okay, I just barely stumbled across your blog like 3 seconds ago, but I saw your book on the sidebar and instantly thought “OH! I need to buy that for my best friend whose daughter was born TODAY. And for my friend who had a baby in February! And what a great present for any of my mommy friends! And I want one too.” And I was on a totally different post than this one, so it wasn’t even like a pity “no one came to say hi at your book signing?!” buy :-)

    I would love to come to a book signing at some point if you do another one. I just avoid going out during Priesthood session as the overwhelming women crowds scare the pants off me. If I was in this store when this picture was taken, I’d have been curled up in a ball on the floor trying to teleport to my happy place!

    (Although… I too would like a chapter called Jesus Yells. But He didn’t yell – He corrected lovingly. Which is why He is our pattern and what we should aspire to be, even if we aren’t there yet. I guess I just answered my own request. Rats.)

  7. Steph–Talk about interesting experiments in psychology and sociology. Not to mention enough people watching to provide blog fodder for MONTHS. (PS–The sections on parents whose children had wandered or were struggling were some of the most powerful sections in your whole book.) Your book is fan-tastic, if I do say so myself. I also heartily believe that people would walk by and not make eye contact even if it was JK Rowling herself sitting at that table. ;)

  8. Stephanie, I cannot WAIT to read your book! I am sorry it felt like that at your book signing….but you are much farther along the book writing path than most of us…..you have actually WRITTEN your book and it is published! But I guess it is good to know that even if we got to that point, there will still be times in the process that we feel that way. If I had been able to come (kind of a long trip from CA), I would have come right up to you, told you how much I LOVE your blog and appreciate your willingness to stand up for truth and write down your experiences. Hang in there!

  9. “The good you do every day is not cancelled out by raising your voice or a child’s bad decision. There’s the Atonement for that. Use it. Believe it. Rely on Jesus Christ. He loves that you are a mother. He loves you. I think you should love you too.”

    Someone should make a printable of that.

  10. I would have something like that first mom said; “too late for me” even though I don’t have a child going to jail. Mostly too late for me because my kids are mostly grown. I missed the boat (or was rather way too early) to take advantage of all the parenting ideas now available on the internet and in books. (oh there were parenting books then, but I had no money to buy them) Besides I’m too apt to see what I did wrong when reading how-tos, rather than what I did right. It is the curse of many of us to choose to be hard on ourselves.

    • Sara, with all due respect (because you know I do respect you), that’s an unfortunate choice. Life is a lot less miserable when you’re willing to see what you do right, and there’s plenty of that. I know you, so I know there is plenty of good you do. And I’m not trying to sell my book to you, but I promise it’s not a how-to book. I hate them. :)

  11. Love the advice, and at least we here reading your blog get to be encouraged by your advice for the two discouraged moms. Congratulations on your book signing. Did you want to stand up, wave your hand and say, “Pick me!” like I would’ve?

  12. I just submitted a request to my county library to order it. :) Of course, I already own my own, and have bought/shared several. Who knows, maybe some other Minnesotans would stumble upon it, as well, and love it as I have.

  13. Stephanie, I would LOVE to buy your book! One of these days I hope to. But for now, I read your blog. And I think you’re wonderful and amazing! And I’m sorry you had that awkward experience!!! But thanks for sharing it, because if popular blogging and speaking ladies like yourself experience things like that, then all the truly invisible ladies out there who know that what YOU say is of value – can be assured that not being noticed doesn’t diminish THEIR value, either! ;)

  14. And, to round out comments by women named Rebecca/Becca:
    Selling 10 books at a signing is HUGE. And distracting anyone from the possibility of cinnamon rolls is nearing impossible. Also, yeah, sometimes we (and moms like us) say the Wrong Thing out loud (and yay for you for Not Doing the Same), and sometimes we don’t accept the help that is sitting right in front of us, on the table in front of the lovely authoress. But, you know what? Sometimes we do. And those 10 buyers? They’re going to be so, so glad they did.

  15. if I had commented on every blog post of yours that I have read and been uplifted and inspired by, you would have heard a lot from me by now :D The messages you post are always timely for me, and always uplifting and encouraging. I am excited to read your book (I haven’t bought it yet but I will) and I know it will be wonderful.

  16. Just wanted to let you know that when asked what I wanted for my birthday a few weeks ago the only thing I could come up with, and fast, was your book. I’ve read it, loved it, and plan to read it again and share it and recommend it and most importantly hopefully apply it! Your insights are amazing and what EVERY Mother needs to hear. Thank You!

  17. Just went to Deseret Book on Thursday night with my mom and sister. (No crowds, so nice!) We picked up 4 copies of your book. Had I been at your book signing, I may have embarrassed you by standing on your table, shouting about my excitement for Covenant Motherhood. (Probably would have been disqualified from winning the cinnamon rolls.) I just think every mom needs to hear the message you share so well in your book. I feel like a better mom when I read it. And it’s totally guilt-free. So glad you wrote it!

  18. I just wanted to say thank you for this post.sometimes I feel like second mom and want to read about a yelling Jesus lol. I have been looking forward to your book since last year. I started searching the scriptures for women and learn my role in womanhood/motherhood. Thank you for putting yourself out there, for your book, your blog, and book signing. I wasnt there but can understand those feelings and appreciate courage that thanks!

  19. Steph, I have been reading your book and I would have loved to have been at your book signing, but I live not in Utah. Come to idaho and I will ignore the drawings for free stuff and come visit you at your table! :) I must say though, that I feel often like the first woman who came to your table. I know I have failed, not because I am hard on myself, but because I have failed. I did not teach my child when he was young. I did not stand up for him when my he was faced with the barage of unfair comments from his father. I was weak, stupid and selfish. So, yeah, when some of us say we failed, we can honestly say we did. Our leaders have plainly told us that we will be held accountable for our children actions that are due to our not teaching them. I did not teach, and I will be held accountable. Yes, I do feel that when my son refuses to embrace the gospel that it is my fault. I did not teach, so how can I expect him to hold dear what I hold dear. How can I expect him to respect women when I did not act in a way that deserved respect? Yes, I am to blame because I did not teach correct principles. This is NOT a matter of being too hard on oneself, but a matter of looking at the facts and not covering it up with feel good stuff.

    I am enjoying your book because I feel the spirit in it and it makes me whant to do better for the remaining children I still have a chance at teaching. I have a lot to overcome and not a lot of hope that I will make it. Your book at least fills me with some feelings of diviness for the duration that I read it. Thank you for that.

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