In January of this year, Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts was silenced on the floor of the Senate for criticizing the attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell explained that she was warned that she was violating a rarely used rule, and that rather than quitting her speech, “she persisted.” See the full story here. Since that time, countless articles, memes, and tweets using the mantra, “Nevertheless, she persisted” as the battle cry, have been created. I have read many of these, and have been inspired by the stories of women who have overcome great barriers and obstacles and done amazing things–inventors, scholars, scientists, etc. But, when I think of great and amazing women, the people I think of the most are not those who have found cures for diseases or pioneered surgical procedures. The women I think of are those who, despite their challenges, have found a way to give their all–and sometimes more–every single day, to their children. I’m speaking, of course, of mothers.
I have known a lot of incredible mothers in my life. They come from different backgrounds, believe different things, and face varying challenges. Some have lots of children, some just one or two, and still others have yet to give birth. But, they all have a great love for the children in their lives–even when those children grow up and have children of their own. And, most importantly, they persist. No matter what obstacles they face, they persist. Because they must.
Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. It takes more patience and understanding than I ever realized it would. Some days it seems like I’m going to be in this phase of life forever. And yet, some days, I find so much joy in motherhood that I long for these days to last. This paradox is the crux of motherhood. And I am grateful for it. So, today’s “Thankful Thursday” post is for the mothers I know who, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, persist.
To the stay at home mom of young children, who sometimes feels so isolated and longs to talk to ANY adult, as she wipes faces (and bums), cleans up messes, and ignores tantrums, all day, every day, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mom who works all day outside the home, pumping her breastmilk in a dark closet somewhere, and THEN goes home to wipe faces (and bums), clean up messes, and ignore tantrums, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the new mom, who feels like her baby is NEVER going to sleep through the night, that she will NEVER feel like herself again, and that she will likely NEVER be on time, ever again, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who is depressed, for whom getting out of bed is a struggle, and who feels guilty all of the time for not being the happy, vivacious mother she always wanted to be, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the anxious mother, who can’t help but worry about everything–including about how much she worries–and wishes that she could just “let it go” and enjoy the journey, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the single mom, who is so exhausted from doing it all on her own, and wishes that she had a partner to share in the burden, but then wonders how she’ll ever have the time to FIND someone to share in the burden, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mom with a sick child, who feels like she lives at the doctor’s office or the hospital, and whose days consist of giving medicine, holding her child’s hand, and offering up prayer after prayer, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who has not yet given birth, who feels like it’s never going to be her turn, and who yearns to experience pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who grew her family in an unconventional way, after years of heartache, fertility treatments, and many tears, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who, after hours spent in tearful prayer and contemplation, decided to give her child to another mother, and then suffered through unimaginable heartache because of that choice, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother whose children have all left home, is struggling to remember who she was “before,” and misses the noise and the chaos of a full house, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mom who has lost one of her precious children, who secretly weeps when she sees another mother’s child hitting the milestones HER child should be hitting, who has a hole in her heart that will never be filled, and longs for the day when she can see that child again, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who is battling an illness herself, who feels guilty that she can’t meet her children’s needs, and whose pride is wounded when another has to help, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who has to spend so much time helping a sick or wounded spouse, that she then feels guilty that she can’t meet her children’s needs, and her pride is wounded when another has to help, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother who has had that role thrust upon them for various reasons, and has gracefully accepted it, despite the inconvenience or feeling like she was not really prepared, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
To the mother whose child’s body or mind doesn’t work like the bodies and minds of other children, who have to grieve over and over again as they live this reality, and who feel overwhelmed with the task of raising this child, I see you. Thank you for persisting.
I know that I have probably not described every single challenge mothers face, nor every mother, but I am certain that every mother has faced one or more of these obstacles. I know I have. And I know that at some point, I will experience even more of these challenges. I am so grateful for the mothers I know who have gone before me and for the ones who are in the trenches with me now. I am grateful for their examples of faith, determination, and courage.
When one embarks upon the journey of motherhood, they take upon themselves this burden not just for those few, formative years, when their children are young. Indeed, this burden does not end when their children are teenagers, or even when their children have children of their own. This burden of motherhood is one that lasts forever. How grateful I am to have taken this burden upon my shoulders.
Jeffrey R. Holland gave an address called “Behold Thy Mother” in which he talks about this very concept. He says,
“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.
“A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: ‘How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’”
So, to all mothers everywhere, keep persisting. Keep trying. Keep learning. Keep working. If you need to fall apart, that’s okay. But get back up after. If you feel overwhelmed, that’s okay. But don’t give up. If mothering is truly God’s work–and it most certainly is–then you are assured of His help, for “the Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it” (Thomas S. Monson).