A must-read essay on motherhood. Really. Read it.

This is an article by Sheri Dew that was published on Mother’s Day in the Deseret News.  My mother sent it to me.  She happens to be on the board of directors for the American Mothers Association and had the privilege of hearing this talk in person.  It is a good talk.  A fantastic talk.  It’s worth your time to read it.  Sheri Dew wrote this, not me, but I pasted the original Deseret News article below for your reading pleasure.  Tell me if it doesn’t just ring with powerful truth when you read it.

My friend Kieth Merrill, an Academy Award-winning director, says there is a reason we rarely find strong mothers in movies today.

“If you’re a screenwriter, and you understand drama, and you want to plunge your characters into conflict, you have to ‘lose the mom,'” he says.

“Mothers go missing in movies because leaving them in the lives of characters in crisis makes sustaining conflict difficult. Mothers listen and resolve problems. They are selfless and love without conditions. You want to stir up trouble and make it believable? Better keep mom out of it.”

Mothers do everything Kieth describes, and more. The subject of motherhood is a tender one that evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches. This has been so from the beginning. Eve was “glad” after the Fall, realizing she otherwise would not have had children. And yet, imagine her anguish over Cain and Abel.

Some mothers experience pain because of their children; others feel pain because they don’t have children; and yet others live with the nagging feeling that they could or should have done better with their children. As women, we can be hard on ourselves.

I found myself thinking about this wide range of emotions last week as I addressed the American Mothers Convention in Salt Lake City. It was inspiring to meet women from different cultures and backgrounds, all united as champions of motherhood.

That night the 2011 Mother of the Year was named: Ernestine Allen, a beautiful woman representing the District of Columbia.

Ernestine is an educator, a counselor, and, with her husband, an Elder in The Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church. When the Allens’ youngest son fell victim to a violent crime, they responded by establishing the Bereaved Parent Support Group.

Ernestine’s oldest son Ronald said that his mother, the tenth child of eighteen, learned early how to share.

“That is where we get our giving personality,” he says. “My mother has done it all her life because she loves to encourage and empower others. And through our toughest time, the passing of my brother, she was the glue that held us and our faith together.”

This son’s tribute says it all.

I have had the joy of working with women and their families on almost every continent. From one culture to another, I have seen exactly what he described: When mothers are strong, their children — regardless of the challenges they face — tend to be strong. When they’re resilient and filled with faith, their children are likely to be resilient and filled with faith.

It was no doubt curious to those at the American Mothers Convention that an unmarried woman without children would be invited to address them. But I care deeply about motherhood precisely because of my life experience. The doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member, are clear: that the family is ordained of God and that there is no pursuit for a woman more ennobling than motherhood. Period.

My faith means everything to me. So as the years have marched by and my hopes and prayers for marriage and motherhood have as yet to be answered, I have wrestled with what motherhood means for all women.

Why do I feel deeply about mothers? Because I know exactly how it feels to NOT have the privilege of fulfilling the foundational aspect of a woman’s divine nature–which is bearing and nurturing children. For a woman of faith, nothing fills the void of not having children. Nothing.

So as a tribute to the highest, noblest calling a woman may receive, I share five truths about mothers.

Truth #1: Motherhood is a sacred trust from God.

The destiny of mankind is in the hands of mothers. This is not hyperbole. The proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) is more than a formula; it is reality. Mothers not only perpetuate the human race, they raise up the next generation.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happens in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?” (Ensign, May 1978, 10-11)

God has placed the well-being of His children in the hands of mothers.

Truth #2: We tend to define motherhood as maternity, but the word “mother” has layers of meaning.

Eve was called “the mother of all living” before she ever bore a child. Mother is the word that best describes the essence of who we are as women. It defines our identity, our divine nature and the gifts with which we have been endowed.

In reality, all women are mothers. We all need the nurturing touch of the mother who bore us and the “mothers” who bear with us. One of the greatest blessings of my life has been the privilege of learning from marvelous women — beginning with my mother and grandmother, but including others who have taught me things I would have never grasped on my own. They have made all the difference.

Truth #3: Mothers can do more than any others to cure the problems that exist in our society.

While serving in the General Presidency of the Relief Society, the women’s organization of the LDS Church, we hosted Mrs. Jehan Sedat, the widow of Egyptian president Anwar Sedat, at a luncheon not long after a mass shooting in a U.S. high school. During the luncheon, the conversation turned to this horrifying event, and one man opined that the problem was with the failure of law enforcement agencies.

Mrs. Sedat immediately countered him: “No, the problem is with our homes. Too many mothers have abdicated responsibility for teaching their children what is right. What happens in society all begins with mothers.”

There is no better place to teach integrity or compassion or the virtue of virtue. Perhaps that is why President Gordon B. Hinckley called women the “one bright shining hope in a world that is marching toward self-destruction” (One Bright Shining Hope, Deseret Book, 1)

Truth #4: Satan is real, and he has declared war on women.

The adversary understands full well that those who rock the cradle are strategically positioned to rock his diabolical empire. Thus, today his destructive myths about women and mothers abound. Here are just three:

Myth #1: Men are more important and have all the power, so if women want to have influence they should be more like men.

Myth #2: A woman’s value is based solely on size and shape.

Myth #3: The only worthwhile validation comes from outside the home, and thus, motherhood is a waste of any talented woman’s time.

Too many women have bought these lies. Our culture is disintegrating at the speed of light, and regrettably, the female gender is doing its share of the damage. Sleazy women who flaunt their indiscretions jam the airwaves and monopolize magazine covers.

Other distortions are equally troubling. One prominent magazine annually publishes its “100 Most Powerful Women” cover story. Almost every woman mentioned is a politician, entertainer or CEO. I mean no disrespect to any of these women. What I dispute is the distortion that in order to have influence, a woman must have money, fame or a title. That is a lie!

External validation has short-term value at best. It’s difficult to hug an award. No one from the office will call on Mothers Day to thank you for changing their life. There world’s praise pales when compared to the joy of family.

Truth #5: Mothers have more influence than they realize.

Women are the leaders of leaders. Who has more influence on a man than his wife? Or on children than their mother? The word that best describes leadership by a woman is mother. Is there any influence more enduring than a mother’s shepherding of her children along the path towards exaltation?

One of my sisters just finished chemotherapy. Two days after her final treatment, while still battling nausea, she insisted on running a 5k with her two daughters and son-in-law. I thought she was crazy, but she not only ran the race but won a medal in her age category. (We like to tell her it’s because there wasn’t anyone else in her age category.)

Within hours, both daughters had posted Facebook tributes to their mother. Imagine what she taught them that day about courage and about running the race of life.

Mothers are always teaching, often in simple ways. As a youth, it was not uncommon for Mother to wake me in the middle of the night and say, “Sheri, take your pillow and go downstairs.”

We lived in Kansas, in “tornado alley” (think Dorothy and Oz), and that meant a tornado was nearby. It was scary, but mother always calmly reassured me, “Everything will be okay.”

I learned early to listen for her voice. To this day, when the pressure becomes too intense, I call home to hear mother say, “Everything will be okay.”

After 9/11, First Lady Laura Bush described something similar: “I called my own children immediately to reassure them,” she said, “and then I called my own mother, just for the comfort of her voice.” (WashingonPost.com, 21 September 2001)

A mother’s voice is unlike any other because a mother’s influence is endless.

On this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to my mother and to the other “mothers” in my life whose collective influence has been life-altering. And I thank Heavenly Father for giving his daughters the most ennobling gift of all: the privilege of motherhood.

————-

Sheri Dew is the President and CEO of Deseret Book Company, a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board, and the author of “Are We Not All Mothers.”

What kind of blog is this anyway?

I get a fair amount of spam comments on this blog.  In fact, I probably get more spam than I get real comments.  Let me check. Yep, totally.   28,956 vs. 6,872.  Wow.  (WordPress has an awesome spam filter.) A couple have jumped out at me lately.  Besides the fact that most of them are ridiculously-translated, nonsensical comments trying to redirect me and my readers to their trashy website, sometimes I wonder how they ever expected anyone to click on their link anyway.  Check out a couple of my favorite recent spam comments:

Yeast infection for you! it the best thing that can happen to you

asinine hazy idea, grace! thanks. i look out for number one.

In the beginning just remember it was darked and then someone smiled! try this:You’re just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you! :)

Um, wow.  What inviting comments.  Can’t wait to “meet” those folks. <—sarcasm

Then there are things that “regular” people are looking for.  These are things that actual people have typed into Google or other search engines that have somehow landed them on my blog.  While it’s sometimes hilarious to see what people are looking for, it’s slightly unnerving to realize that something about my blog and its content has selected it as an answer to their search.  And they clicked on it.  I can only wonder how helpful or disappointing their visit was.  I mean, seriously, look at this list.  What does this say about me?

angry mom

example of urology limerick poem

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boogers bedroom

baby terrorist

an angel measuring something

old lady diapers

kidney leisure ultrasound

what do ships, railways, mines, cars, and government exist

you lover her not me quotes

self help books internet addiction

my husband wears the worst jeans

Apparently, I’m not nearly as classy as I thought I was.

What are some of the funniest comments or searches you’ve seen come across your blog?

And p.s…. Any volunteers for Find-A-Friend Friday this week?  I haven’t heard back from my randomly selected guest, so I need a back up.  First come first, first serve.  Thanks!

GCBC Week 6: “LDS Women Are Incredible!” by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Happy Mother’s Day!  It’s a day to be honored for doing honorable work.  One breakfast in bed or homemade card is not enough to thank mothers for all the work they do day in and day out, but it’s a lovely gesture that helps us know our work doesn’t go unnoticed.  So while the talks at church (and this talk here) gush about all the great things that women and mothers do, suppress the urge to feel guilty about what you wish you did better (No, really.  Stop it.), and celebrate all the amazing things you do.  Celebrate your remarkable role as a woman and mother in the kingdom of God.  You really are incredible.

“LDS Women Are Incredible!” by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Share your thoughts in the comments below.  If you’re new to GCBC, check out the club here.

Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Alyssa

I love it when I can introduce you to someone I’ve actually met in real life because I can confirm that they really are as cool as they seem “on paper.”  (That comment in no way implies that people I have not met are less cool than they seem.  That would be a really dumb thing to say.  Just the law of witnesses here.  Anyway…)  I happen to know that Alyssa is a bonafide in-the-trenches mother because several attempts to have lunch together have been thwarted by things like fevers, plumbing disasters, kids who peed their pants at preschool, etc. . . . you know, real life stuff.  I turned on my sarcasm radar, but it was inconclusive about her real feelings about this survey.  Decide for yourself.  Also known as “Wonder Woman” on her blog, and rightly so, here’s Alyssa:

Hi!  My name’s Alyssa, but around the blogosphere I go by Wonder Woman.  My husband, “Superman” and I have been married for almost 8 years.  We’ve got 3 kids: two boys, 5 & 6, and a little girl who just turned one.  We live in the heart of Happy Valley (a place I thought I’d never be happy living) and lead a life full of rainbows and unicorns and bubbles.  And the occasional tantrum, dirty diaper, chaotic FHE, and bag of chocolate.  Ours truly is a blessed life

My husband I grew up in Kansas where we met and fell in love. He was the first boy I ever dated and despite looking really hard while I attended BYU-Idaho, I could never find his equal. We married, moved to Utah, and started having children.  How original, right?

What’s your favorite part of motherhood?  Spontaneous hugs and kisses and “I love you’s.” Without question.  I also love being surprised by my children and what they can do.  (Mimicking, mastering technology, learning to read, and the like.  I don’t particularly like being surprised by toilet paper unraveled and dirty underwear hidden under the bed, but motherhood’s about taking the good with the bad, right?)

What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?  Dealing with tantrums.   The whole discipline aspect.  I’m not as good at it as I thought I was.  I think I’m too concerned with my children being happy and not worried enough about them being obedient.  I would also subcontract the dishes.  I LOATHE the dishes.

Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.”  (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)  Visit Europe. The good parts, not the scary or impoverished parts. Be rich enough to pay for someone else’s groceries at random.  I don’t really need to be rich I just want the power to grant and crush other people’s dreams. Also, be cast in a telenovella.

Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?   I am musical.  I love singing and playing the piano and listening to all kinds of good music.  I’m pretty good with little kids. I’m also excellent at responding to questionnaires about myself. Keep reading and see for yourself.

What are you loving lately?  Big Bang Theory, Parenthood, and the gorgeous weather.  And I’m really, loving this survey.  Its clever and inclusive.  Gives me a chance to self reflect and dig deep.

Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why? “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”  Elder Marvin J. Ashton said this.  This is my favorite quote because . . . . . . . it speaks to my soul.

What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend?  If you’re going to be my friend, you can trust me to be dependable.  If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.  I will probably be about ten minutes late, but I will be there.  (Or in this case, I had the survey completed, but I sent it to Steph pretty late on the deadline day.) Also, I really {heart} pop-culture. I can name the last people booted off American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, tell you about Steve Carell’s last episode, and what fashion faux pas Helena Bonham Carter has committed lately.

Desert Island Question.  If you were stranded on a desert island (most moms would actually crave this) and could only take 3 items with you, what would they be?  Chocolate, sunscreen, and a laptop with wifi.  So that I could fill out more surveys.

If you were awarded an “honorary degree” in something, what should it be and why?  Blogging, with a minor in filling out surveys.  Tell me I’m wrong.

Let’s say you’re dying in your sleep tonight.  What would you eat for your last meal? Anything from the Olive Garden, with a Diet Dr. Pepper. Also, I’d order a glass of water from the Fountain of Youth.

What homemaking job/task gives you the most satisfaction?  Vacuuming.  Without question, vacuuming is the most satisfying activity for me. The floor is so clean when I’m done!  But really, it’s probably because before vacuuming I have to wipe the counters and table, sweep, pick up dirty laundry, toys, shoes and scrape soggy cereal off the floor.  By the time I’m done vacuuming, I’ve actually cleaned most of the house.   So now that I think about it, I actually HATE vacuuming because there’s so much prep work.  Thanks, Stephanie.  Now I despise the only chore that gave me a sense of satisfaction.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be and why?  Bruno Mars “Amazing.”  Because, DUH.  I’m aMayzing.

Tell us about your blog:

The aMayzing Wonder Woman  It’s about me.  Mostly random, occasionally profound, and often sarcastic.  But always aMayzing.

Thanks, Alyssa!  I’m thinking next week we just ought to continue the interview since she’s clearly so attached to this survey.  What do you think?

Being a good mom is a lot easier if you’re a good wife.

I mostly use this blog as a vehicle to talk about motherhood.  Today I’m going to switch gears just a little bit to share some thoughts I’ve had recently about marriage . . . except it’s not really switching gears since marriage and parenthood are so connected.  One of the most important things we can teach our children is how marriage is supposed to work.  (Heaven knows the rest of the world won’t teach that!)

“Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but eternal joys as well. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through many generations.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, p. 10.)

Even harder than teaching about good marriage is modeling it.  Good marriage takes hard work.  It almost always takes work, but sometimes, when the cares of day-to-day living start to wear on you, that work can seem even harder.  Essential, but hard.  I have learned that when my marriage is healthy, I’m so much better equipped to deal with the other challenges I face.  There is a lightness and a sense of safety that comes from knowing that “all is well” on the home front. On the flip-side, when I let disagreements fester or small problems go unresolved, I find myself more easily overwhelmed in all my other pursuits.  There’s a heaviness that holds me back and makes it harder for me to be successful as a whole.

Recently, some of the stresses that my husband and I have been facing individually have led us to realize how much we need each other.  We need one another’s strengths to face our own weaknesses, plus we need blessings from the Lord that are sure to come if we are paying more attention to our marriage covenant.  I don’t want to cause any false alarm because I have always been certain of my love for my husband and my gratitude for my marriage, but, like all important things, Satan works hard to cause distraction.  We’ve just been busy.  We’ve dealt with big things in both of our roles.  We haven’t done things to damage our marriage, but we’ve waded through a short phase where we just kind of got too busy for each other. Even the greatest of seeds, when ignored, won’t give good fruit.

“Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully.”  -Elder Russell M. Nelson

In short, we’re stupid if we think we can handle life’s challenges alone.  And even together, if we don’t have the Holy Ghost, we’re alone.  We need the teamwork.  We want it.  So we’ve chosen to cling to each other, and we’ve been thinking and praying and talking about the things that are important to us and to our family.  Even just that much makes me feel so much more grounded.  At women’s conference last week, I attended a workshop where the speaker said, “Whenever I feel distance between myself and my wife, I know I need to repent.”  It struck me that rather than focusing on what needs to be done in a marriage, things will always move toward resolved when we’re each focusing on what to be.  Trying to keep my husband’s welfare and happiness as a top priority has made me happier.  It really has.  It gives me strength to deal with the same things that have been there for months and overwhelmed me, but I feel stronger because he is my partner.  We both feel better, not because life is any easier, but because we know we can lean on each other.

I just wanted to share some of the articles I’ve studied recently that I found to be the most helpful. They have great reminders of the basic nurturing that is easy to forget.

“Enriching Your Marriage” by James E. Faust

“Nurturing Marriage” by Russell M. Nelson

“Oneness in Marriage” by Spencer W. Kimball

“Coping With Difficulties in Marriage”  (The Ensign interviews Val D. MacMurray, twice a bishop, and [then] assistant commissioner for LDS Social Services.)

I also collected some favorite quotes from these articles and a few others and made little signs (ha ha ha, here I go with my signs again) to hang on the mirror in our master bathroom.  We both want to stay focused on what matters most, so I created these little “Marriage Mirror Messages.”  If you want to print them out and use them, you can click here to download the file. Please note:  I am not a graphic designer.  I just know how to type.

I wondered if this post might be a little bit too “dirty laundry” to put out there, but I can’t imagine that we are any different than any of you, and we all need reminders sometimes about what matters most.  I know that my own personal journey in the past week or so has helped me feel full of the Spirit and reminded of the great blessings that I have, not to mention the great blessing I’m married to.  I guess I just hoped it might do someone else some good to remember the same things.