Recently at a sporting event, I was seated next to a beautiful, gregarious woman. We got chatting about our lives, and she asked what I did. I told her I worked in Los Angeles and asked what she did in return. The response came back, “Oh, I’m just a Mom.”
She said it like an excuse. “Just” a mom.
Obviously this stranger had no idea that though I am a single working woman, I have deep respect for women who are “just” moms, and will likely someday join them. It made me a little sad that in our exchange, she felt the need to equivocate her motherhood.
On Mother’s Day, it seemed appropriate to discuss why a lot of Mormon women want to “just” be mothers.
Women in the LDS Church are taught that motherhood is a divine calling and responsibility. By today’s standards, that sentence sounds almost chauvinistic.
So, men have careers and the Priesthood and women stay home with babies? Isn’t that unfair? Don’t you believe women are smart, that they could have careers, start companies, make a difference in the workplace?
Yes. We do believe every one of those things. Women are absolutely capable of thriving in the workplace, which is precisely why I respect those who sacrifice in that arena to become mothers.
The emphasis Mormon doctrine places on women being mothers is not meant to diminish their capability as humans but rather to embrace the most innate and important capability women have—our ability to love and nurture. Because motherhood is the purest form of selfless love and the greatest opportunity to nurture, Mormon doctrine holds that there is nothing more honorable, more respectable or more impressive that a woman could do than raise children.
I am not arguing that the only good mothers are stay-at-home moms. The last thing this childless 20-something wants to do is judge any woman’s method of motherhood. But whether a mother works or stays at home, motherhood requires giving up a lot of the independence and public praise that single, stroller-free women enjoy.
A past Prophet of the LDS church, President David O. Mckay, taught that “No other success can compensate for failure inside the home.” It’s a simple, poignant truth that I think does a lot to explain a Mormon’s outlook on family.
So, how many Moms do you have?
I also thought today would be a good time to answer this perpetual question.
I was raised first and foremost by one mother, married to my one father. She is a Nurse by profession and a mother (times five) by choice. She is a social butterfly who knows a children’s song for virtually every occasion and kept our kitchen perpetually stocked with baked goods.
She dressed me in things like this when I was young,
and things like this six months ago.
Yes, my mother organized a tie-dye activity on our most recent family vacation, followed by having both adults and children wear our creations to Disneyland. No one got lost.
In addition to my birth mother, growing up in the LDS church meant that I was raised by a community of mothers. Women who were teachers, writers, actresses—some who were full-time moms, some who worked outside their homes, but all whose dedication to their family trumped every other aspect of their life.
I was spoiled to have spent each Sunday in my Young Women’s program being told that I was beautiful, that I was a Daughter of God, that I had infinite worth. I attribute any confidence or self-assurance I possess now to the steadying love of the women who raised me.
I want to make it clear that not all of these “mothers” had children. But they did each possess what recent Relief Society President Julie Beck calls a “mother heart.” While not all women will bear children, in Sister Beck’s words, “there is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish.”
I see mother hearts all around me. I see them in my single friends who give of their time and means to serve those who have less than they do. I see them in my 20-something friends who’ve decided to have babies when they could have had perfect stomachs for a few more years. I see them in my childless Creative Director who brings me an Easter basket when we’re working Easter Sunday, even though she is an Atheist Jew.
I am the product of the Mother Hearts in my life. I guess next time I’m asked the question, “how many Moms do you have?” I’ll say, “lots.”
Mother, sister and I at my sister’s wedding.
I hope that today, we can each remember to show our mothers a little extra love. I believe that while motherhood may require a sacrifice of money, recognition, or a more glamorous lifestyle, it is not a sacrifice of ability or intelligence. It is a choice to dedicate those abilities to another kind of profession—one that greatly needs talented women.
In ten years, I may not become an award-winning Creative Director. I may not have a perfect wardrobe or be the head of a Fortune 500 company.
In ten years, I may just be a Mom. I hope that when I tell people, I don’t include the “just.”
Happy Mother’s Day, to all the Mother Hearts.
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”