Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reflection on Mothers

Yesterday as I was sitting in Relief Society, I reflected on how I am grateful for the mothers in my life for different reasons this year than in past years.

I have always been grateful to Scott's mother for whatever part she played in making him such an incredible person. But now my gratitude goes much deeper. I am grateful that I have felt her attending me in spirit over the last few months (she passed away when he was 13, and I have never met her in person, at least not in this life). I attribute at least some of my strength and acceptance last summer to her, to feeling her presence with me, and to feeling truly how much she loves and accepts Scott for who he is.

I am grateful for Scott's step-mom, for her acceptance of our situation as well, for her willingness to ask me about it and listen to me without seeming uncomfortable or judgmental; for reading No More Goodbyes immediately at our recommendation, for telling me she was proud of me when I told her about the anonymous letters I sent, for letting me know that she was praying for me and putting my name on the temple roll, for sharing what Scott and I are doing with her own friends. I am also grateful to her for raising children who are not blind to true love and tolerance, who have been incredibly supportive of Scott when his biological siblings haven't.

I am grateful to my mom, for teaching me that sometimes the leaders of the church make decisions based on "desperation rather than inspiration." But I am also grateful that regardless of how much I heard her complain about this or that regarding church policies, both general and local, I still saw her example of faithful church attendance and service, and I felt frequently of her spirit and testimony. I believe that without this background in my life, I either would be having a much harder time staying in the church right now, or I would be less flexible and less supportive of Scott and gay rights in general.

I am also grateful for the opportunity God has given me to be a mother and also a mother-figure in the lives of others. When I took a full time job teaching in a high school, I struggled at first with making that decision. I had an infant and a toddler at home and had always planned to be a stay-at-home mom. But early in our marriage with 2 young kids, Scott lost his job and was trying to start a business; we had no money, we were both home getting on each other's nerves, and so I took a leap and applied for a job. I actually applied to be a substitute, assuming that August was too late to find a teaching job for the year. Within a few days, a local high school called, saying they had just had a math teacher quit, and they were scrambling to fill the position before the school year started--would I PLEASE come interview. They wanted me full time, and I tentatively accepted, but was stressed at doing so. Within a couple of days, Scott and I attended the temple, and I had a strong thought come to my mind, "Your children will be fine, but someone else's children need you." I had never before or since been so sure of a message directly from my Heavenly Father.

I shared that experience with an LDS parent of one of my students a couple of years later, and she cried and said, "My daughter needs you." I shared that experience again with a lady a couple of weeks ago, a lady who was one of the administrators who hired me, that has since been a principal at another high school and is now retired and helping to mentor teachers in her spare time. (She has been coming once a week to help me remember and learn some techniques to keep my hellish algebra I classes under control.) She also felt the spirit of my experience 11 years ago as she and I reminisced of the circumstances at that time.

Yesterday in Relief Society I shared the experience with the sisters in my ward.

The lesson was given by my "favorite" teacher (or rather, the one whose lessons I am afraid to attend) and it was the same lesson that Abelard had the opportunity of listening to during Priesthood yesterday: "Responding to Persecution with Faith and Courage" (lesson 32). My experience, fortunately, was nothing like his.

The teacher began her lesson with this thought: “At first I thought this was not a good lesson for Mother’s day because it seems so depressing, but then I realized it is actually very appropriate as I thought about how the role of mothers and of women is being attacked by the adversary and the views of the world."

She enjoyed emphasizing this quote from the lesson: "All Saints! Profit by this important key--that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, bonds, temptations, afflictions, bond, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world of that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and floundering, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell."

I have this problem that I always read into what she says, even if she does not specifically mention people like me supporting gay marriage. :( And I sit there uncomfortably staring at my hands in my lap.

Anyway, another thing she began to focus on in the lesson was about how more and more women are finding it necessary to work outside the home. "How sad that is for them, because I know they would choose to be home if they could. But if they attend the temple and do what is right, Heavenly Father promises to bless their children."

At this point I raised my hand to agree, that God has indeed blessed us and our children as I have followed a path of working outside the home. But I hope that I also got the subtle message across that it is not always a sad situation, that sometimes God needs us somewhere other than home.

This is another issue that goes back to a quote from Joseph Smith/Elder Oaks early in the history of my blog, something to the affect of “We teach general principals and let the individuals govern themselves.” People assume that because the leaders of the church say it is best for children to be raised by a stay-at-home mom (which I do not disagree with—I am grateful that my mom was home with me and I believe that is often the case. I see first hand as a teacher the results of children that are neglected by their parents) that it is undeniably the best thing for everyone.

I, however, don't think it is the best thing for my children. I guess it might be if their mother were someone other than me, but there is a reason that I teach high school and not elementary. At the time I took the teaching job, I was literally going crazy dealing with little kids. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but I am not as patient as they deserve me to be. I am painfully reminded of this fact every summer when we are home together for 3 months and I pretend to be a stay-at-home mom. Let's just say that in August we are all very glad to be going back to school!

At one point Scott met with a member of the stake presidency (7 or 8 years ago) as they were interviewing men in our ward to assist them in calling a new EQ president. He was somewhat chastised for working from home (at the time) and tending the children while allowing me to work outside the home.

Why? Why are we criticized for doing what we feel is right for us, regardless of whether it is the "church" norm or not.

So, as I was saying, I raised my hand in Relief Society and shared my personal experience in the temple, and how I have seen that impression come to pass over the past 11 years I have been teaching. I mentioned how every situation is different and what is right for one person may not be right for someone else.

Later another lady thanked me for sharing my experience. She is a nurse and said she always felt guilty leaving her family to care for the family of others.

A few years ago, I would have sat there quietly and felt guilty. This time I decided to be vocal about how we each need to follow our own paths and do what is best for us and our families.


Pieces of Me said...

Good for you Sarah!!!! I am so glad you spoke up. About the only thing that gets me more riled up than the gay issue is when stay at home moms thumb their noses at moms who work without fully understanding the circumstances.

Like you I received a confirmation that I should be working and my children would be ok. I have been blessed like you to have a job that lets me create a nice balance between work and family life. Too many people in the church think there is only one way to peel an apple, when in reality their are many, and each way needs to be right for the person peeling the apple.

AmbiguouS One said...

Maybe the children who need your help are not only in high school ;) After all, we are all God's children.