One of the greatest pieces of motherhood advice finally clicked for me in the middle of the night.
I was nursing my sixth child. He was still nursing two to three times a night, even though he was reaching the age where most babies learn to sleep for much longer stretches of time. I didn’t want to do the traditionally accepted ways to get him to sleep on his own, and since he would fall asleep for several hours between each feeding (and sleep in his crib), I continued to get up and nurse him when he cried for it.
One particular night, as I nursed him, I was crying silently to myself. I was frustrated with the sleep deprivation, frustrated with the advice I was being given by well-intentioned friends and family, and I was frustrated he couldn’t just sleep all night for me on his own. I was praying, and then I remembered these words:
“And it came to pass.”
The scriptures do not say, “and it came to stay.” Things and time pass on!
I realized that nursing my son at night would not last. He would grow up, time would solve the issue, and once again, I would get my sleep. I knew this to be true from experience!
I mean, hadn’t I already watched five other children grow from babies to toddlers to children to pre-teens? What’s a year? Honestly, I asked myself this question: “What is one year of sleep deprivation in the face of a lifetime?” I had chosen to nurse my child when he wanted/needed it. I needed to choose a better attitude about it.
It didn’t solve the sleep deprivation, but it did stop me from complaining about it. And when that year was over, I was grateful for that moment of clear inspiration, because the time certainly passed. Whether I was complaining about it or not, it still moved on.
Isn’t that the funny thing about time? It doesn’t care how we feel about it and it doesn’t care about its reputation. Time just keeps on going, never really noticing what’s going on around it. Do you think time cares if you’re complaining or rejoicing?
You can be throwing a tantrum or patiently sitting –time couldn’t care less. So, the question becomes less about whether or not time passes or stays and more about what we are going to choose do to with our energy within that time.
It’s hard for me to be patient. I come from a long line of worriers, and we like to worry about the things we cannot control. In my efforts to overcome this tendency to worry, I read this quote by Erma Bombeck: “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” Worrying over the things we have no control over doesn’t do anything but give us anxiety, ulcers, and a false sense of control.
The same could be said about complaining, I think. Many, many years ago, I would make frequent phone calls to my husband’s cousin. We lived near each other, and we were both experiencing many of the same things in life, so we got along rather well. But it wasn’t until she told me she would no longer speak to me about certain subjects that I realized I would often call her just to complain.
There were a few specific shared acquaintances that drove me crazy and I would use her as my gossip outlet. I didn’t even realize that had been my pattern until she pointed it out. None of the things we complained about were fixed. The time we spent complaining about these people didn’t provide solutions, but rather, it was just a toxic gossip-fest.
She recognized the pointlessness of it all –but even more important, she recognized how quickly the Spirit withdrew. I was embarrassed I didn’t notice it as quickly as she did. I felt bad I had spent so much of our time complaining.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a fantastic talk on another word we use for complaining –murmuring. In “Murmur Not,” he said that there are reasons why people murmur:
In pondering these and various other examples of murmuring, several other things become obvious.
First, the murmurer often lacks the courage to express openly his concerns. If the complaint concerns a peer, the murmurer seldom follows Jesus’ counsel, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matt. 18:15.)
Second, murmurers make good conversational cloak holders. Though picking up no stones themselves, they provoke others to do so.
Third, while a murmurer insists on venting his own feelings, he regards any response thereto as hostile. (See 2 Ne. 1:26.) Furthermore, murmurers seldom take into account the bearing capacity of their audiences.
Fourth, murmurers have short memories. Israel arrived in Sinai, then journeyed on to the Holy Land though they were sometimes hungry and thirsty. But the Lord rescued them, whether by the miraculous appearance by quail or by water struck from a rock. (See Num. 11:31; Ex. 17:6.)
Strange, isn’t it, brothers and sisters, how those with the shortest memories have the longest lists of demands! However, with no remembrance of past blessings, there is no perspective about what is really going on.
If I could apply this to the phone calls with my cousin, I would say that I fell into at least the first category, if not the last three. We may not have been murmuring about church leaders, commandments, or prophets, but we were gossiping and murmuring against family members and friends.
In fact, looking back, I realized (not for many years) that I was the catalyst (the toxic one, if you will) that created those conversations. I was looking for validation and support, but instead got caught up in the addiction of complaint.
Elder Maxwell also said,
Damage to ourselves is sufficient reason to resist murmuring, but another obvious danger is its contagiousness. Even faithful father Lehi, for one brief moment, got caught up in the contagion of murmuring. (See 1 Ne. 16:20.) Similarly, when Moses lapsed, very briefly, it was under exasperating pressure from rebels. (See Num. 20:7–12.) No one knows how to work a crowd better than the adversary.
Instead of murmuring, therefore, being of good cheer is what is needed, and being of good cheer is equally contagious. We have clear obligations to so strengthen each other by doing things “with cheerful hearts and countenances.” (D&C 59:15; see also D&C 81:5.)
This reminded me very much of how easy it is for me, as a mother, to fall into the trap of constant complaining. Motherhood is really hard! And as mothers, we need support in friendship. We influence each other, and sharing our complaints is one way in which we bond. We need a way to be able to express the difficult things we face. But if we aren’t careful, that complaining can quickly turn into something far worse.
In fact, I’ve seen that sometimes, complaining about motherhood is akin to an Olympic sport! Whoever can prove their lives are the hardest are the proverbial winner, complete with the accolades of all the jealous moms who wish their lives were somehow… worse? It just doesn’t make sense, but it shows the power our attitude can have upon our lives and how we view them.
So, applying Elder Maxwell’s teachings, how in the world can we avoid falling into the trap of complaining about things that are usually solved simply by the passage of time? How can we avoid complaining about things we can’t control? How do we avoid complaining and gossiping with favorite cousins on the telephone?
First, we need to know that all things come to pass. Will this still be a problem in a day? A month? A year? 20 years? If it’s not something that will even exist in the foreseeable future, then why complain about it? Sometimes we just need to deal, struggle, and patiently make our way through the tough challenges we are given. We don’t have to do it with a constant scowl! (Here’s a great blog post I read about choosing to find joy instead of the anger.)
Second, we need to know that complaining about something we can’t control will not solve it. If we can’t solve it, if worrying will only harm our mind and not change anything, then we need to let it go and use our energy to focus on the things we can control.
Third, we need to learn how to seek validation and support in healthy ways. I have a very close friend who I communicate with often. She is my very best friend because she brings out the best in me. When we complain to each other about difficult things or people in our lives, we are both very quick to validate the feeling in each other, but then to shift the energy to something productive.
We remind each other to see the good in the situation or person, we remind each other what we can and cannot control. We call out anything that isn’t true, and we turn most circumstances into something humorous so we can laugh at ourselves and our own worries. We don’t dismiss each other –but we don’t excuse ridiculous behavior. In essence, we validate, shift focus, and support. This is a great example in how we can communicate difficult things!
And honestly, this is how Heavenly Father works with us! When we pray to Him with our problems, He doesn’t tell us we can’t complain or that we’re being stupid. But He doesn’t dive-in and start complaining with us. He validates our feelings.
He lets us know that He loves us. He forgives us when we repent. But then He helps us shift focus. He helps us work through the problem. He gives us a lift. And in the end, we feel so much better than if we had chosen to just complain, whine, or murmur about the problem, because He validates, shifts our focus, and supports us.
So, dear reader, remember that hard things come and go. How we react to those things can make them harder or they can make them easier. Don’t give into the pressure to gossip, murmur, complain, or be the “worst” winner. And if you find yourself talking to your favorite cousin or up late at night for another nursing session, remember these words: “And it came to pass.” Because it will, you know! It will pass.
Cheryl S. Savage
Cheryl S. Savage has one incredible husband and seven sensational kids. Since earning her bachelor's degree in marriage and family studies at BYU many years ago, she spends her time raising the kids, teaching piano lessons, voraciously reading, traveling, romanticizing, writing, and learning. She and her husband have moved their family from coast to coast, but currently reside in Kansas.