Thursday, April 24, 2014

Contributing to Society

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post that got under my skin. Yet I read it on the anniversary of my little sister's death (you can read about her in my post, Mackenzie Day), so I didn't feel like blogging about it then. Yes, death is tough.

While reading the first section of the article, A Letter From a Working Mother to a Stay-at-Home Mother (and Vice Versa), I thought, "This is great! I love that she's recognizing stay-at-home moms for all that they are and all that they do for their families!" But then I became annoyed at the second part of the article.

*Before I get to my annoyance, please let me say that I absolutely agree with the phrase the author wrote about work-outside-the-home moms, "I know you love your children just as much as any other mother."—I know it's true.

I also want to clarify that I totally understand that there are some situations in which a mother has no choice but to work outside the home. I have such empathy and compassion for mothers who struggle financially. I know how a mother's heart breaks when there is seemingly no answer in sight to the financial difficulties she is facing, for I have faced that same situation so many times in my life.

Yet my husband and I have always been blessed to find solutions that have allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and still meet our family's financial obligations. Those solutions have always involved sacrifice, but those sacrifices were absolutely worth it for me to be able to stay home and care for every one of my children's needs! And my husband completely agrees. :)

All of that said, here's the paragraph from the article that riled me:
"I know that sometimes you feel guilty about not being there all the time. But WM [working mom], I know this. You are setting a wonderful example to your children. You are showing them that a woman can have a career, contribute in some way outside the home, and still be a loving mother. You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want to do in life. You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love."
Even now, as I read through that paragraph again, I can feel my insides clenching. My fight-or-flight response has kicked into high gear!

You see, I believe that motherhood is the ultimate career. Raising the next generation is the greatest contribution to society that a woman will ever have the wonderful opportunity to be a part of. What continually frustrates me is to see, time and again, that women somehow feel that raising children isn't enough. I truly can't fathom that train of thought!

This sentence, "You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want in life.", made me want to shout to the world: Yes, women can do anything they want in life. Women are strong, capable and smart! But who will raise the children of those work-outside-the-home mothers to become their best selves? Who will spend the quality time and extra energy on those children in exactly the same way as their mothers would? No other caregiver will love a child as completely as her/his mother does, and anyone that thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. No one could ever fully fill the void in a child's life when their mother isn't there on a consistent basis.

*Disclaimer: I know there are some women who are not fit to be mothers. I'm referring to women who don't fall into that sad category. Also, stay-at-home dads are a wonderful option when the mom isn't available, and I wholeheartedly prefer them to day care, or nannies, or babysitters, every time! But I still believe the mother is the best option for her child, day-in and day-out. Also, I completely understand that no mother can be with her child 100% of his/her life. I'm referring to when a mother consciously and continually chooses to have a career (or other interests) outside of the home full-time, when she could find an alternative and make the sacrifices necessary to be a stay-at-home mom.

What I wish work-outside-the-home moms would think long and hard about is this:

What message are you sending your child when you leave to go to work? Are your actions showing your child that you love her/him more than anything? Or, are you silently and unknowingly saying, "I love you, but I love my job more because I leave you every day to go to work." Have you thought about what your child honestly thinks of your decision to work outside of your home? Because no child will willingly say something to their beloved mama that might hurt her feelings.

Yes, please think about your child first...not about your career and where it will take you in the future. (Again, this is not directed to women who have absolutely no choice other than to be employed outside the home.)

To continue, I cringed when the author praised work-outside-the-home mothers by writing, "You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love." For I believe every mother should give her strength, endurance, dedication and tenacity to her children...she should not give precedence to her career. Every child deserves to have 100% of their mother's very best qualities on a daily basis!

Instead, I fear many of our world's children receive their mothers' leftovers (I'm not talking about food!), because no one has endless energy or time. Every person has a set amount of give that they can share with the world. If mothers are continually giving the best parts of themselves to the outside world, there isn't much left to give to their children.

In his talk, Of Regrets and Resolutions, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has beautifully taught us the importance of cherishing our loved ones every day of our lives. He said,
"Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love. 
"Men in particular sang this universal lament: they “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill of … work.”3 Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends. They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them." (He took quote 3 from from Bronnie Ware, in Steiner, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”)
I think President Uchtdorf's example need not apply only to men, as it can absolutely apply to women with children who work unnecessarily outside the home on a regular basis.

I simply feel that if all women could actively internalize the immeasurable importance of stay-at-home motherhood, not only would they feel better about their decision not to work outside the home, but the children of our world would be happier, healthier, emotionally content, more intelligent, and feel secure in their lives. That might seem like a lofty list, but I believe it's entirely achievable.

Yesterday morning, I took a break from writing this post to get ready for lunch with my friend. I was stunned to hear the news story of a 15-year-old boy who hopped a flight to Hawaii inside of one of the rear wheel wells of the airplane, and he miraculously survived! My first thought was, "Why on earth did he do that?! He could have been killed!!" Yet, I wasn't surprised when I heard the suspected reason for his trip. It turns out, the young man was simply trying to get to his mother in Somalia. Wow. It pulls at my heartstrings to think of how much he must have missed his mother...enough that he would risk his very life to be with her again! That stowaway's sad story is the perfect illustration of just how much children need their mothers—no matter how old they are!

In the end, children grow up and move-on in their lives. When compared to overall lifespans, mothers have the opportunity to raise their children for a relatively short period of time. And if a child dies while still on the younger side, a mother has even less time with her baby. (I say baby even though I know children grow up and are no longer technically babies. Every mother's child will always be her baby, no matter how much time passes.)

If only all mothers would remember that they have the rest of their lives to work in their chosen career, I feel they would be able to make it through the long and tiring child-rearing days at home—with a happier spring in their step! :)

After speaking with so many elderly adults, I'm convinced that our numerous employment years will seem much l o n g e r than the time we spent raising our children. Also, depending on how long we live, please ponder the fact that retirement can roughly be the same length of time we spend raising a child to young adulthood! Seriously, wow.

We would do well to remember President Thomas S. Monson's sage advice (emphasis added):
"If you have children who are grown and gone, in all likelihood you have occasionally felt pangs of loss and the recognition that you didn't appreciate that time of life as much as you should have. Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future. 
"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly." (Finding Joy in the Journey, General Conference, October 2008.)
Yes, fellow mothers, let's dearly appreciate the fact that we have been given the greatest opportunity to be employed in the most extraordinary (albeit unpaid) profession there is! Let's enjoy every moment we have with our children, for we have merely 6,570 days (i.e., 18 years)—give or take a few—with our beloved babies in our homes. Remember, there is no turning back the clock of childhood. Thus, let's not hesitate to daily give all of our very best bits to our children!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Not Be Sissies!

On December 22nd, 2013, I sat in my ward's Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Class enjoying the discussion. At precisely 12:43 p.m., I heard this most wonderful phrase,
"Mortality is not for sissies."
I know the date and time of this event because I promptly wrote it down in my smarty phone's note app. I chuckled a little inside as I rolled his words over in my mind. Then I thought, "He's totally right! Mortality is very hard!"

*Oh, and just to clarify, my church's definition of mortality is: The time from birth until physical death. This is sometimes called the second estate.

Some days mortality is fairly easy, but there are many days when we have to have a lot of courage and gumption just to make it to bedtime! No, friends, mortality is most definitely not for sissies! :)

Several weeks later, I asked the brother who said it if I could quote him. He said, "Yes." Yay! So, thank you, Mike Kaminske, for your wonderfully insightful words, I have truly enjoyed pondering them!

Since that day, I have seen so many crazy events happen in our world. Some happenings are truly unbelievable. I never could have predicted where our global society has ended up in a little less than four months! And as I've written before (see my blog post "Paramount Parents"), I truly believe that many of our society's problems come from a lack of good, strong, righteous parenting.

And even though I am one of the strongest advocates and supporters of the family—and all that goes into it—I understand that parenting is a tough job. Parenting might just be the toughest job ever!

Well, might I add, Mike Rowe's Dirty Job episodes—that show him working as a sludge cleaner and a sewer inspector—might take the grand prize in terms of the toughest jobs. To me, parenting looks like a walk in the park compared to those disgusting jobs! Eww, gross! But I digress...

Thus, I decided to create a new typographic design that blends Brother Kaminske's ideas with my own. By the way, I was very deliberate in choosing a brick wall as the back drop...

As parents, we must always stand strong and firm in our beliefs, and absolutely do what is right. We must look for, and highlight, the wonderful... the lovely... the happy!... the kind, and the good in the world. We must not agree with, nor condone, behavior or beliefs that are contrary to what is best for our children. We must continually try our very best...not only for our benefit, but especially for our precious babies' benefit! :)

Each day, we parents have an amazing opportunity to choose and lay the "bricks" that will build the "walls" of our children's childhoods. In turn, those initial brick walls will provide the basic structure that "house" our children for the rest of their lives. (Metaphorically speaking, of course!) Each of our children's subsequent life events become the "additions" to their "houses".

Before we can lay those essential bricks, we must be sure that the "foundations" we've created for our children are level, thick, stable, and waterproof. For it doesn't matter how carefully a brick wall is crafted if the foundation isn't built properly.

Once we're sure the foundation is built correctly, we must choose expertly-crafted bricks to protect our children from life's dangerous storms. We must pay close attention to each and every brick, and smoothly connect them with the proper amounts of accurately-mixed mortar. Yes, friends, our glorious task is to build our children's brick walls solidly enough to withstand the sorrows and disappointments they will inevitably experience.

But we also want to create walls that will bring feelings of joy, satisfaction, success and love to their houses! For there is nothing worse than a perfectly-built, cold, sterile house! Yes, we also need to create beautiful walls of warmth for our children!

As we work, we would do well to ask ourselves, "Have I chosen the best bricks for my child's house? Have I laid my child's bricks precisely and solidly enough to last his/her entire life? Have I taken the necessary time to properly mix and smooth the mortar, so there will be no gaps or holes in my child's walls? Is the mortar I've chosen strong enough to hold everything together? Will these walls sustain the warmth that's necessary to create a loving and happy life for my child?"

Or, after we've already built several walls, will we discover that our children's foundations are cracking, leaking or crumbling? Will we find that we've chosen improperly made bricks? Will we be careless in the way we lay those bricks and mortar? Will the endlessly harsh, worldly elements—that continually beat on our children's souls—seep through the mortar? Will the walls we've built suck the warmth out of our children's rooms and make their houses feel stark and empty?

I want to build my children's walls with excellent care. I want to be able to look back with fondness on my children's childhoods and see that I paid the utmost attention to how their walls were constructed. I want to be a present parent! I don't want to entrust the building of my children's walls to an apprentice or a subcontractor!

Yes, there will be extended family members, friends, teachers and church members who contribute to the building of my children's walls, and I am grateful for their good influence, but I want the majority of the construction work to be done by my husband and me.

Thus, let's be the valiantly strong parents that our children need and deserve! Let's not be sissies! :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Inspiring Pick-Me-Up

Last Thursday morning (March 27th, 2014), as I was getting ready to do our dishes and clean our kitchen/living area, I decided to turn something on to keep my mind entertained. Surprisingly, I wasn't in the mood for "Frasier" which has been my go-to show for the past several weeks. (I love that I'm only 80 episodes into the series! That means I still have 184 hilarious episodes left to watch! Yippee!) Instead, I felt spiritually impressed to turn on one of my top-three favorite Roku channels, the Mormon Channel.

I randomly chose the section, "Conversations," and selected the interviewee, Gary Ceran. I didn't know anything about his story, but the Mormon Channel's description sounded totally intriguing. Here's the link to "Gary Ceran—Episode 13," and the description of the show:
"Early in the morning of one Christmas Eve, Gary Ceran's life was drastically and forever altered. On this day, a terrible traffic accident took the lives of his wife and two of his children. Learn how Gary Ceran dealt with this tragedy on a personal level."
I was enthralled as I listened to Mr. Ceran's story. There were times during the program that I was stunned, saddened, and even cried a few tiny tears. But in those same moments I felt sadness for his situation, I absolutely felt the Spirit (Holy Ghost), too! I was continually inspired during the 84-minute episode, and by its end, I felt a spiritual rejuvenation that I hadn't experienced in several days.

After the program ended, I pondered what I heard. I decided to listen to the entire program again, so I could really internalize what Mr. Ceran is trying to teach the world. I got a lot of work done in my house that day! Yay!

Thus, I decided to share the Ceran family's story with whoever reads my blog. :) I won't divulge the amazing and nearly unbelievable twists and turns that Mr. Ceran has endured in his life, but I will share some of his amazing quotes with you. I imagine these quotes will be handy for those of you who don't have time to hear the entire episode—you'll still be able to be positively influenced by a few nuggets of his wisdom. :)

*Oh, and I listened to sections of the program over and over so I could write down each one of these quotes, so you'd better enjoy them! Ha ha. Just kidding! Ultimately, I'm just grateful to have these for my own personal reference. (I edited them just the smallest smidgen of a bit for readability's sake.)

Gary Ceran: "...Some people would expect you to ask, 'Why?' The thing is, most people—when they ask why—they ask why rhetorically, with a clenched fist. It's why with an exclamation point, and not why with a question mark. When you really ask why, the Lord tells you why."
Gary Ceran: "You start to say, 'Heavenly Father, you've seen what I will do in this experience, and you know that I will be faithful. You know that I will trust you. Why do I need to go through it again? Is there something that I haven't done? Is there some way I haven't proven myself?'"
 Ruth Todd: "Or didn't learn the last time?"
Gary Ceran: "It's like sooner or later you think, 'Heavenly Father, please help me to get a clue, so that I don't have to do this anymore!'" (On a personal note, I can SO relate to this set of quotes!)
Gary Ceran: "Part of what you realize as you go through those experiences, and as you feel that incredible peace 'that surpasses all understanding,' when the Lord comforts you—and you feel encircled about in the arms of love of 10,000 people on each side of the veil—you come to realize how incredibly ridiculous it is to shake your fist at heaven. Because all you can say is, 'Why are you trying to make me more like you?' And it's the reason why we're here!"—to become more like our Father in Heaven! (That last phrase is mine.)
Gary Ceran: "It's only if you know the mighty grief that you can know the mighty rapture. Every bit of sorrow stretches out places in the soul for joy. You come to have a depth of feeling that's SO incredible in everything. It's not just that you know sadness that other people may not know, or the same type—or whatever, but you come to feel gratitude..."
Gary Ceran: "Part of it is just trusting in the Lord—just knowing that He loves you, and that every problem will ultimately end."
Gary Ceran: "It's been an extraordinary experience when you understand how the Lord shapes you, and molds you through those experiences and teaches you a depth of joy that you couldn't know without them."
Now, if those wonderful quotes haven't convinced you to listen to the program, I'd like to list the subjects I feel this interview covered, or at least touched on (these are in no particular order):

loss of a spouse
loss of a child
priesthood blessings
becoming a better person
overcoming adversity
having a righteous influence on others
enduring to the end

Again, here's the link to the "Conversations" program, "Gary Ceran—Episode 13." Enjoy!