Written June 13, 2017
Last night I said goodbye to my two oldest until Christmas. We took L~ out west to begin establishing residency for scholarship purposes. She will begin college in the fall. A~ stayed out west for the summer to live with L~ until her own classes start back up in the fall, and then she will move the two hours south back to Provo.
My mom heart says this is a good plan. This plan will help L~ acclimate and transition. This plan means L~ doesn’t just get dropped off at her university in the fall, completely alone, totally away from her family for the first real time in her life. This plan is comforting.
But this plan? This plan doesn’t mitigate the effects of having to say goodbye to another one of my kids. Aside from keeping her at home for college, which we couldn’t do (because she is a very determined and independent person) and wouldn’t want to do (because I remember the joy and growth that come from striking out on one’s own), no plan could protect me and my mom heart. I find myself struggling with this in ways I don’t remember struggling when we dropped A~ off for her freshman year.
For the past 19 years, I have devoted my life to being a mother. I know I haven’t been perfect. I know I have screwed up over, and over, and over. I know I’ve had expectations that were, at times, too high; patience that was, many times, too short; and love that wasn’t always expressed in the ways they needed to receive it. All of that notwithstanding, I have devoted the past 19+ years to being a mom. I gave up a career before I was able to work long enough to really begin establishing a career. I gave up my budding dream of law school when it was just that – a budding dream, an absolute love of one college law class that made me want to get into the field of communications law at a time, it would turn out, that communications law would be turned on its head by the advent of the internet – because I knew I wanted to be a mother, a stay-at-home mother, and the time and monetary investment law school would take seemed counterproductive and foolish in light of that goal.
I knew that I wanted to be able to accept responsibility for how my kids turned out as adults, whether good or bad. I didn’t want to wonder if things would have been better had they spent more time with me and less time in day care or with a babysitter. I didn’t want to be able to blame anyone but me (and, to a lesser degree, my husband) if they seemed to be failing at life. At the same time, I didn’t want to have to give daycare workers and babysitters credit for shaping my kids into good people, for doing what I felt was, ultimately, my job. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be the mom. I wanted the buck to stop with me (and, you know, their father). I knew from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do because: 1. My own mother was a stay-at-home mother and I always wanted to be able to be there for my kids and be the influence for good like she was for me and my siblings; and 2. I grew up being taught that this is what God wanted me to do, if at all possible; that being a mother would be, and is, my highest and holiest calling, and I believed it. I still believe it.
But right now? I’m struggling with this idea. I’m struggling, just a bit, with a God who asks me to give up pretty much every independent, individual aspiration of my life and pour it all . . . ALL . . . into loving and raising these amazing people who I then, ultimately, have to give up as well. It doesn’t feel like there is a lot of justice in that. It doesn’t feel fair that I have to sacrifice the very things for which I have sacrificed so much . . . sleep, time, emotions, energy, health, aspirations, independence, quiet, financial security (for a time) . . . and the list goes on.
But I don’t regret it. I don’t regret one moment of it (except for all the times I messed up along the way). I don’t regret the sacrifices. I don’t regret the lost career opportunities. I don’t begrudge the time and energy lost. It was time and energy well spent, and I know that. I KNOW it. I wouldn’t change any of that. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t go to law school. I wouldn’t keep working full time after A~ was born. I wouldn’t change any of it except for the many, many parenting moments I wish I could do better, do over.
However, right now? In this moment? I feel like all of my sacrifice and obedience deserves some kind of happy ending, and this doesn’t feel like that. This feels like more sacrifice. This feels hard, and sad, and a little bit lonely. This feels like heartbreak. This feels like God expects too much from women.
I know I’m wallowing in the moment. I know this isn’t actually the end, so I shouldn’t expect it to all be wrapped up neatly with a magical sunset and a surge of happiness. I am still their mom, and I still have plenty of screw-up mom moments with them ahead of me and, hopefully, plenty of good mom moments as well. I know I am blessed to be their mom forever, and I could never say the same thing about being a public school teacher, or a journalist, or a lawyer (not that being any of those things is bad). I know that being a mother is my highest and holiest calling, even if I don’t fully understand why it is I am the one, by virtue of my gender, to make so many unheralded and often derided sacrifices.
Yet, as I wallow, I can’t help but think of the Savior of the world who made sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice for those who derided Him. On the cross he made what we consider the ultimate sacrifice, but prior to that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he made a sacrifice I can’t begin to comprehend.
I know my sacrifices pale in comparison, as does the loss I am feeling.
I know He understands my struggle, and I know that He loves, truly and purely loves, women, including me, even though I am feeling a little bit set up and robbed by God at the moment.
I know he counts my tears.
I know that someday I will have a better understanding of all of this.
I know that, along with a Heavenly Father, I have a Heavenly Mother who probably also feels great loss as she sends her children off to the school that is mortal life.
I know how blessed I am to be a mother – to be the mother of my children. I don’t know how motherhood can be so painful and be such a blessing at the same time, but it is. I know it. I’m living it. I love it.
And I know Christmas will come.