When we were a young couple just starting out our family, things were easily overwhelming. We had our first 4 children by the time the oldest was 5 years old. Running errands or taking care of tasks was always difficult even when my husband and I decided to “divide and conquer” with one or two each in tow.
Nights were often sleepless and there was an endless supply of diapers to change. We couldn’t afford a babysitter or a date and certainly not both in the same month! There was school to finish and jobs to find. And while all of this was going on, I was desperately trying to learn how to cook, clean, teach, and play.
But there was also joy. I remember the evenings where my husband and I would just sit together on the couch and watch our children all play together. We’d give each other that look that said we understood a little bit of heaven and wished this moment could last forever. There were Saturday mornings when all the kids came in our bed and we wrestled and watched the babies go “4-wheeling’” over all the bodies giggling and hiding in the blankets beneath them.
I figured motherhood would always be like that and was prepared and felt experienced. So I was surprised when things changed after the first decade of motherhood. By then we had 6 children. Suddenly my husband and I found ourselves experiencing our first freedoms as parents. If we took a cell phone with us, it was okay to go for a solitary walk together in the evenings—alone!
Instead of loading all the kids up in car seats in our van just to go return a movie before we were fined late fees, I could just hop in the car and drive the few blocks and get it done in half the time with none of the hassles. Most astoundingly was that sometimes we actually had money for dates and the babysitters were free and built-in!
The first time we left our kids alone for a real, night-time date where we would be gone for several hours, I admit I was worried. And coming home, I expected to face a disaster and to have to put everyone to bed. Instead, we were greeted by a quiet house that was all locked up and put to bed with blinds closed and lights off. There was a note on the kitchen table written by my oldest daughter that said:
Mom and Dad,
We couldn’t remember where we were reading in the scriptures before bed so we just read a chapter in Alma. That reminded us of an Article of Faith. So we recited it. We put the boys to bed at 8:30 and we went to bed at 9:00. We hope you had a good time!
I didn’t worry so much after that. They had even cleaned the kitchen.
That’s not to say that it’s always perfect now, either. Not by a long shot. The kids don’t play so much together now and the differences and contentions between the boys and the girls are exaggerated now that we are in the pre-teen/teen years. At least one daughter is already starting to display estrogen flare-ups that leave me utterly bewildered and overloaded from time to time.
It’s hard to keep up with the soccer games, dance recitals, voice lessons, cub scouts and after school activities. And there are still sleepless nights and yet more diapers I am changing.
But even with all of that, it’s still so good. I see them struggling to learn empathy and responsibility and respect as they change from children to adults. I see them turning to the Lord to make their difficult decisions and finding their own sweet testimonies. They are discovering talents and going after dreams by setting righteous goals. It’s very satisfying and such a source of rich and profound happiness.
I can see how motherhood is like Godhood. Ultimately he is our father. And when I want my children to get along and help each other, I better understand what he wants from me in my interactions with my fellow men and how he loves them and knows them just as much as he knows and loves me.
I can see how managing my family with love and kindness through tireless service is making me more like the Savior. It is hard work. But each time I am willing to make the sacrifice, I also receive a portion of those joys and blessings that are there for those who are willing to do his work.