A Mother Heart.

I had to speak at church about motherhood and what it means to ‘have a mother heart’.  Preparing for that got me thinking about this (often crazy) parenting journey that I’m on. I don’t often do this on my blog – but today I’d like to share some things that are an essential foundation in my life…

 I am the last person who should be giving a talk about what it means to have a mother heart. I was not raised to honor motherhood, look forward to marriage. Or taught to be a nurturer. My parents wanted me and my sisters to be academic achievers and successful, independent career women. They told us “don’t go to BYU university because people only go there to get married to other Mormons.” My mum told me “returned missionaries are not good boys to date because they haven’t finished school or gotten a great job yet.”   I entered marriage and then motherhood – woefully ill-prepared. I could write an essay on feminism and give a rousing speech on women’s rights but I couldn’t do those Mormon mother things like cook. Clean. Sew. Arrange flowers. Make jam. And I had no clue how to be part of a partnership. Or look after a baby.  Or raise a family. I had no desire to do any of those things either. My life was all about ME. ME. ME. And me planning all the amazing ways that I was going to change the world. (I had a lot to learn.) I have been a mother now for 16 years and here’s a few things I have learnt ( while trying to have a ‘mother heart’!)
·                 * A woman with a mother heart is a woman with an enormous capacity for love. And you dont need to be a biological mother to have a mother heart. Some of the most nurturing, caring and compassionate women in my life, are not ‘mothers’ in the biological sense of the word. My childhood ‘Nanny’ Peka continues to be my greatest example of unconditional mother love.  My bestest friend (you know who you are!) never had any children but is a mother to her extended family and the one that I always turn to for wise counsel about my own children.
             *Some women seem to be blessed with a natural gift for nurturing and caring for others. I’m not one of them. I didn’t used to like children. And I certainly wasn’t interested in nurturing anybody. Our first child was an emergency preterm baby who had to live in an incubator for several weeks until he was strong enough to go home. I didn’t love him right away. I was more caught up in how sick, in pain and unhappy I was.  Late one nite I was crying in my hospital room, feeling sorry for myself – when a voice, a feeling, prompted me to go and visit my baby in the neonatal unit several floors down. I shuffled through deserted halls of a sleeping hospital until I stood beside my tiny baby asleep in his glass box hooked up to wires and machines. I looked at him and my Heavenly Father – gave me a gentle reprimand. He said, this is your son. I love him and I have entrusted him to you. You’re his mother and he needs you to love him.  Get over yourself enough to love this child. I committed myself then to ‘getting over myself’ and putting my child first. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to chasten me. My son is not a baby anymore, but he does complain sometimes that he wishes I didn’t love him so much. Because then maybe I wouldn’t be so protective of him!  
             *As a young mother, I loved my first child so much that I couldn’t comprehend having any love left over to love a second child. I didn’t understand then, that love is not a pie. You don’t run out of pieces when you’re trying to share it. The more that we love others, the greater our capacity for love grows. Through my love for my children, I have been able to gain a very small insight into how much God loves us as His children.  Enough to create this earth for us, Prepare a plan of salvation so that we can all return to live with Him again, enough to give us Prophets and leaders to help guide us. Enough to hope great things of us.  Only now can I begin to understand this kind of love – because this is how I feel about my children.  

 *A woman with a mother heart is a woman that is teachable. Christ taught that if we are to progress, we must become as little children, meek and submissive, willing to listen and learn. I thought I was a very clever woman – until I had children.  And then I realized that I really didn’t know much at all about anything.  Having a child was a huge wake up call for me. Me and Darren were responsible for a whole other person who would look to us for guidance. We couldn’t do it alone. It is such a humbling and terrifying thing to be responsible for some children – whether they’re your own or someone elses! As a parent I look to the Lord for guidance and my most fervent prayers are those asking for help to be a better mother. Within my extended family, in my community I am always looking for help with my parenting journey and at church, I am taught by women of all ages  as they share their talents and their experiences with me.  I look to my husband who is so patient and supportive of me as I seem to take forever to learn how to be a good wife and mother. 
        *But most of all – I look to my children who teach me everyday. About faith, patience, how to love better, how to laugh more, and how to forgive quicker. The other day we yelled at Bella because she was drawing in one of my brand new TELESA books that had just arrived from the printer. She ran and hid behind her bed, crying. I went to find her and she was sobbing, she said, “Im sorry Mama, I was trying to write your name in your book. It was a surprise for you. Everybody makes mistakes.” She kept repeating that “Everybody makes mistakes.”
   * I make so many mistakes with my children – and at times I despair of ever being worthy of such choice spirits to mother. Satan wants us to be weighted down with guilt and discouragement but the Lord frequently reminds us that through the atonement, repentance and forgiveness is possible. Yes, everybody makes mistakes – the key is to learn and grow/progress from our mistakes. My children have taught me to be teachable.
    *The world and sometimes, even your own family – will tell you that being a wife and even worse, a mother – is a boring, value-less occupation. In my experience, yes there are moments, days, that are boring and frustrating, moments that drive you nuts. But I testify that nothing else has given me greater joy than being a parent. I still can’t sew. Or cook very good. But through my calling as a wife and mother, I have developed many other skills and talents. Being a mother has helped me to be a better teacher, a wiser leader, a more creative writer. I know how to love others better. I have drawn closer to my Heavenly Father. And now I understand what our leaders mean when they say:  
There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so. Their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities.” 
      A woman with a mother heart can change the world then – one child, one person at a time.  
      Even if that one person is you.
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17 comments

  1. I totally love this post! I gave up a career teaching three years ago to stay home with our girl. People warned me I'd be bored, unhappy, upset…these have been the most amazing, fulfilling three years of my life. I'll never regret a minute of schooling and single-life experience I've had, but nothing in the world has made me more fulfilled and happier than being a mother. I'm so glad you shared this with us, Lani, and I have so much respect for you as an amazing family woman and writer ;)! Love this post so much!

  2. Thank you Elizabeth. I can totally relate to your comment. I was a full-time English teacher until our third child was born. When i decided to stay home fulltime, people were horrified. My parents especially! People talked about me with pitying glances and voices…stuff like 'wasting her talents…her potential…feel so sorry for her…blah blah. All of the criticism came from other women. Many of them my 'peers and colleagues.' Im an ardent feminist and it never ceases to amaze me that so many women are so willing to criticize other women who exercise their agency and CHOOSE to be fulltime mothers at home. To me, feminism is about working to ensure that women everywhere have choices, can do what they want to, pursue what paths they want to. And one of them is to be a mother fulltime. I dont criticize or demean women who work fulltime and parent, so I dont see why i get so much flak for my choices. Many women cant afford to be at home fulltime with their children. Many others choose not to. I dont place any of those options higher than the other on the scale of 'what makes a good mother/woman'! Ok, enough ranting now Lani! lol. Appreciate the feedback Elizabeth.

  3. WOW..like WOW..did you read my mind and wrote this post to make my mind up for me? WOW..and yes, I think I've made up my mind now. thank you Lani the great 😉

  4. I second the WOW! This is a great post Lani! It's personal and I thank you for sharing it. We all have our personal stories and a lot of what you shared mirrored my own personal struggles. Thank you for the reminder!:)

  5. Lani, that was a beautiful post – glad to hear your testimony and the blessings of being a mother. I swear your mom and my mom could be related, cause she told me the same thing growing up. Yes, it got me teary-eyed – I can just imagine you giving that talk in church. Yes, some of the best talks/speeches I heard are those from the heart and from your own experiences. My mom passed away 5 years ago, and there were times I wished I had learned as much from her as I can….now that I'm married I'm learning through experiences – even everyday simple ones. Thanks Lani – you are an inspiration – and I thoroughly enjoy your writing – keep up that wonderful talent!

  6. Best advice/testimony I've read in a long long time…Lani you have wonderful gift of knowing exactly what to say and write which people like me and a million others can easily relate to…Motherhood is indeed a demanding job which many of us fail to truly appreciate….KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!

  7. I LOVE this post too!! LOVE your replies here too!! Can relate to 'other' people – especially women – funny that!! who seem to place such little value on a 'mothers job!' How sad for them to have that view!

  8. Lovely post Lani. I am all too familiar w/ the kids saying how they think and feel, and then I realize, I was wrong. I know I'm not a bad mother, But just like Bella said, "Everybody makes mistakes." And my kids love me still. They teach me how to love unconditionally every day.

  9. Lucky those in your ward that got to hear your talk … You should be in "Time Out For Women".. Im going to get a petition going and send it to the ladies running that coz I would hella love to hear you speak and pay for it… You just have such a way with words and I love learning through your eyes… thanks again oh great one lol …

  10. This is by far one of my favorite posts from you Lani. I also had to give a talk in Church a little while ago on this same topic. Sister Beck gave an amazing talk and sharing your personal experiences as a Mother helps us appreciate our rolls as Mothers even more. We may live in different countries, speak different languages but as Mothers we are all united in our "Motherly duties" to nurture, love, protect, and guide our children and families so they grow up to be influential people in the world who love their families and have a testimony that there is a living God. God bless you for all you do for your family and for us (your readers).

  11. Thankyou for this post Lani, I don't have children yet but it made me think of my own mother and the way she has raised and nurtured me, and I am more grateful for her, you have reminded me of the blessings that I am often too selfish to remember at times Thank You xx

  12. Thank you so much for the thoughts everyone. I was very hesitant about posting this one up publicly. My husband teased me that half my blog readers would unfollow me as a result – but i felt strongly enough about this one to risk it. Really enjoyed reading everyone's experiences and thoughts on motherhood and family

  13. Thank you for sharing… I seem to be reading the right blogs on the right days. This is so powerful and speaks volumes to me as a new mother – who seems to be having countless ME! ME! ME! moments as well. Bless you!!

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