Mom: one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Each language throughout the world has some term designated for motherhood. For me, the word is accompanied by feelings of safety, warmth, comfort, work, tenderness, and love. When I first became a mother, trying to live up to the title was overwhelming. It still is! Every day, I strive to be the best mom I can be, and as I do that, I am changing into who the Lord would have me be. How has motherhood changed me? Here are four of the ways:
I am learning to love
I think we come to Earth knowing how to love. But something amazing and miraculous happens when you become a parent. You learn that love has infinite depths, beyond anything you ever imagined possible. I think every parent knows this, and understands the Savior’s love a little better with each passing year. With that increased understanding comes an awareness of agency. Oh, agency. It is so SO hard to allow my children to choose their own path. I want so badly to protect them and keep them safe from any spiritual harm that will come. But I know better. I know that the only way to truly love them is to let them choose, but emotionally it hurts. When they come home, I can be their safe place. I can be that example of unconditional love. They make mistakes (and much more of that to come, I am sure), and I have to learn to love them anyway. They shut me out (again, pretty sure that teenage years will be full of this), and my only recourse is to love them more. Motherhood is a labor of love. LABOR. It is work. It is a choice that I choose every day to love my children even in the moments when they are the least receptive to it.
I am learning to see my own gifts, talents, and faults
Motherhood shows me my gifts and talents. One example of this is the interpretation of child language. Though it seems a small thing, the ability to understand my child when no one else in the world can, is a gift from my Heavenly Father. As they have grown, I have understood their needs and their excitements when they can’t/won’t express them adequately.
Children have a way of making me see the very worst of myself. My impatience, intolerance, pride, ignorance, and so many other weaknesses all become crystal clear. Sometimes I am tempted to drown in the sorrow and fear of it all, but I must remember that by seeing my weaknesses, I can overcome them, through the Atonement. In Ether 12:27 from the Book of Mormon, the Lord teaches, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
Kids have a way of saying just the right thing to stretch a parent. Things like: “Mom, why aren’t we helping that person?” or “Mom, is the computer more important than playing with your kids?” See? Stretching, growing.
I am learning to do hard things
Let's face it. Children are gross. Children are hard. My two boys stink like....well, like boys. And they try my patience. Oh, do they ever. I have learned more about overcoming obstacles from them than I would have ever imagined before becoming a mother. When I just cannot get up and make one more lunch, or do one more load of laundry or clean one more disgusting bathroom, somehow, like almost every other mother out there, I still get up and do what has to be done. I am a stronger person, a better friend, a more complete daughter of God because of these two children God has entrusted into my care. One step at a time, one day at a time, through hard things, eventually I become who I am made to become.
I am learning to trust in the Lord
Learning to trust the Lord is one of the hardest things I am learning. It is so scary to send my little ones into a world full of craziness. I have to trust. Holding a crying child when they have been picked on or slighted is so painful. Yet still I trust. I know that someday I will send these two boys on missions, to college, to their own homes with their own wives, and the only thing I will be able to do is trust the Lord to care for them.
I spent six weeks in the hospital during our second pregnancy. During that time, medical experts gave me very dire statistics about our child’s probable future. During those weeks, I had to truly learn to say, “Thy will be done.” The Lord showed me that He loved my child more than I did, and that He would do what was best. My job was to trust. After that little boy was born, we were told that we should not have any more children. That declaration has changed me forever. Not only by helping me to deepen my trust in the Lord’s timing and will, but also by my introduction to many women whose motherhood has been delayed for this lifetime, or whose motherhood comes through another. As we have been involved in the adoption process for almost five years now, I have come to understand even more the need to trust in the Lord. My heart aches for those who have not yet had their hopes realized. It is so tempting to turn to anger, jealousy, and bitterness. It takes so much strength to choose hope, faith, and trust, but choosing these is one of the most valuable things that motherhood has taught me.
Being a mom is hard. It is tired, stinky, endless work. It is glorious, joyful, warm, loving work. The Lord knows me. He knows my children. He understands when I need to grow, and when I need comfort. This experience called motherhood is helping me, every day, to understand my Savior, and His love and devotion, a little better.
Anna Bigelow is the wife of an amazing, loving husband, and the mother of two loud, rambunctious, wonderful boys. She has been blessed to stay at home with them, and loves (almost) every minute of it! Her life is full of fishing, hunting, camping, mud, sports, unmentionable smells, and lots of laughter. She wouldn't have it any other way.