Friday, July 25, 2014

That's Not Me

Imagine that you belong to the Church of Sportsball. Every month, you are constantly told how good at basketball you are - that EVERYONE is. "We were born with a natural ability to dribble and bounce pass," says one. "Since you have within your divine nature the inherent talent to play basketball, you should aspire to being the best basketball player you can be," says another. "I never fail to be struck by the way that our members, old, young, and even children seem to have an instinctive interest and ability in basketball."

But you take a look at yourself and think, 
"Man, I'm 5'3", I'm totally uncoordinated, and to be honest, I'm not all that fond of basketball."

How would you feel if every week you heard that all Sportsball members are naturally good at basketball? Would you still feel like you belong there? If you were absolutely convinced you were supposed to be in the Church of Sportsball, what would you think about yourself?

This might seem a little incongruous coming from a stay-at-home mom, but mothering is hard for me. Nurturing is hard for me. It does not come naturally at all. I have gotten better over the last 9+ years, and I do absolutely adore my children, but it is a struggle each and every day. I know some people will say "well that's just motherhood" and it is, but there are people who take to it more easily than others.

OK, I'm not quite this bad.
There are lots of things that come naturally to me. Math, languages, reading, computers, organizing people - all these come to me pretty easily, and because they are things I'm naturally inclined to, I tend to get excited about them. And you don't have to be an adult to identify your strengths and what comes naturally to you - I just did an activity with my Girl Scout troop where they had to do just that. The girls were excited to talk about what they were good at and what they enjoyed.

The thing is, the LDS Church is constantly saying that women have specific innate qualities. Replace "members" with "women" and "basketball" with "mothering" and the above quotes are actual quotes made at General Conference about women. All women have the talent to mother. All women are naturally nurturing. Women have these natural abilities, and that's just the way it is.

For me, someone who doesn't feel like she has this natural ability, it is really hard to hear these messages over and over. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me. And for years, I prayed, and I asked why this mothering nurturing thing isn't instinctive like everyone tells me it is. I asked why I'd been skipped over in the pre-mortal Earth Travel Pack line. And I thought that if I prayed harder, then He'd change my heart, and I'd be totally into this motherhood thing.

That's not how it works, though, and in reality I was just sending myself into a depression. Once I finally realized that there was nothing wrong with me, but instead there was something wrong with the blanket statement of the Church, I made peace with myself.

And you know what? Once I wasn't caught in the vise of depression and focusing on why I wasn't what the Lord's representatives were telling me I was, I felt like I was much more able to work on this nurturing thing that wasn't coming naturally at all. I feel like even though it's still hard, I've figured out how to make it work for me. As a result, my kids and I are happier with this mothering gig than we have been in years. Just call me the Muggsy Bogues of motherhood.
Lack of stature? He worked around it.
We all know how harmful stereotypes hurt people, but we don't think about how positive stereotypes can be harmful too. Instead of saying "All women are natural mothers," can we start saying "Some women are natural mothers, and some have to struggle at it"? Instead of saying "Women are inherently nurturing" can we start saying "Some people" (because my husband's a killer dad and nurtures the heck out of our kids) "are inherently nurturing and for some it's a goal to achieve"? By recognizing people as having individual strengths and weaknesses instead of painting groups with a large brush, we can avoid inadvertently making someone feel that they do not belong.

The one thing we all inherently are? We are all inherently loved by God. Let's make that the only inherent thing we preach.


  1. Love this. I have found I am one of those who find mothering to be easy and fun. Sometimes it's hard for me to look beyond my privilege and remember not everyone has the same talents as I do, and they have to work SO. DAMN. HARD. at it.

  2. Any time we address a collection of people as a group, we can be on shaky ground, except for one person, the Lord. Neither is the man without the woman or the woman without the man in the Lord. (I make that scripture quote without looking it up. Please forgive me!) You have a GREAT team, Saathei! I hope you continue to proceed appropriately!