Last summer, while at a gallery opening I was handed a book called Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations. It was for me to read and enjoy and maybe . . . possibly . . . if I liked it . . . mention it on my blog(?!)
When I got home, I took off my shoes and put the book in my library of books I hoped to read sometime before Armageddon. If time dripped from the sky I would catch all those minutes in a tin bucket and use them to sit and read. Until then, it will take me a quarter century to get through a book . . . if I like it. I don't read anything that doesn't flirt with me in the first paragraph.
Then I thought if I put more books in the bathroom maybe I would read faster. Bathroom breaks are priceless to a mother with a constant shadow of one-year-old proportions. I am not too embarrassed to tell Daddy I've got to take a bathroom break-- and hide away in the bathroom for twenty minutes. For all he knows I've got a pregnant system in need of patience in the restroom arena. While really I'm just relieving my bladder for thirty-nine seconds and reading for the remaining 19 minutes, twenty-one seconds.
And that is how I started reading this book.
It is a series of interviews and photographs of Mormon Women who have had remarkable lives and made incredible choices. A book about the most common women having uncommon lives. (Doesn't that explain just about everyone you know?) But it is also an answer to the question that lingers among the members of our church, as well as the non-members of our church: What is it like to be a Mormon woman?
Which was somewhat coincidental you see because I've been wrestling with this whole concept of motherhood as it pertains to being a Mormon. I had hoped to forever hide under the umbrella of being a wife and mother--two roles our church claims as next to divinity--and nothing else. I wasn't interested in being a wife, mother or friend/or a wife, mother and Primary President/or even a wife, mother and blogger (I always said I'd quit blogging when I became a mother). I didn't want anything to complicate what I could control here at home. Besides, these two roles kept be busy enough with questions and quandaries, how was I supposed to gladly add to the confusion by also taking on other relationships/causes that required attention? AND I thought, somewhere in this battle of my brain, the church would surely back me up on this idea--that wife-hood and a motherhood (or the quest to be thereof) were all that was required of a Latter Day Saint woman.*
I skipped the first interview**, then the next and the next until I found the interview of my favorite writer of all time Emma Lou Thayne. Of course so many of her thoughts expressed were translated into my heart, helping me read what I already felt. Mostly about being a wife, mother and a writer. From my interpretations of her chapter, she was saying that all three were connected. Her need to write made her a wife and a mother. Her being a wife and mother made her a writer.
She says, "I never felt like I was neglecting my family. I always said I can love you with all my heart but not with all my time, I've always felt life was a both-end thing rather than either or."
So then I was hooked.
But twenty minute installments haven't pushed me through this book nearly as fast I could hope. It takes me several days to read one interview, because I like to equally think about each life experience. The only common thread made obvious to me so far, regardless of life status--married, single, rich, poor, culture, race--is that each woman has been directed by Heavenly Father to be more. More of what they thought they could be. More of what they thought they had energy or time to be. More than what they thought life would give to them.
It is still uncomfortable for me to open up to the possibility of being more of what Heavenly Father needs me to be. My nature will always wish to live on an emotional farm, one far away from duties outside of wife and mother. (Heck, I'd also like to live on a physical farm too). But then I think about my mother who sits on the city council.
My sister in law Megan who is the PTA president.
My friend Sue who is heading up a civic board for our downtown area.
My friend Laura who runs a boutique.
My best friend Wendy who manages special education at our local middle school.
My neighbor Janna who spends part-time counseling women with severe body issues.
My aunt Judy who helps run a weekly health clinic to the uninsured.
My other sister in law Lisa who performs with a comedy troupe on weekends.
If they can do it . . .
. . . so can I?
Book: Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations by James N. Kimball & Kent Miles
Get it: Amazon or Deseret Book
Book review: Meridian Magazine
*If you would like to hear what our church leaders have said about motherhood you are welcome to read this talk by Julie B. Beck (a talk I printed out and placed on my night stand for permanent study!)
**The first interview I skipped has been one of my favorite so far--Carol Gray from Sheffield England.
If you end up getting this book email me and let's chat?
I have really enjoyed the comments pertaining to this post. I appreciate the thoughtful discussion and despite popular opinion, I like to hear opposing views. It makes me feel like my words are at least worth feeling.
Lucy always tells me to be more bold on this blog and I have yet discovered how to be bold without losing artistic prose, but I do want to explain a little background to this post-something I should've mentioned in the drafting of it. I will try to do so boldly:
I am lazy.
(Or selfish, but let me say lazy because it sounds less depraved.)
I never, ever really believed my church would back me up on the whole being "a mother, wife only" idea because inherently we are asked to do so much more by nature of being covenant women.
Let me be more bold, we are asked to work hard as Mormon women. Hard work is hard for the lazy. I am lazy. So in my laziness, I hoped to be able to twist the ideas I was hearing from the pulpit to back up my "a mother, wife only" idea. But because this was not truth, it hounded me.
Blogging/writing for me is hard work.
I want to hide from it sometimes. I ask Heavenly Father if there is something else I can do for Him instead. He lets me know in resolute terms to keep going. Blogging/writing is my more.
Let me be more bold, I am not currently asking Heavenly Father to give me more, but to help me be open to what is already being asked. I can wish all the responsibility away, but publishing my thoughts (as uncultivated as they sometimes are) and being a wife and mother is what is being asked of my time and talents right now. Reading this book helped me to identify similar patterns in other women's lives--many of them just as skeptical as I am.
I say skeptical, but also I am lazy/selfish.
In listing the ladies in this post who are also doing more, I meant to illustrate their inspiration to me.
Let me be bold: I was not comparing myself to them, I was showing my appreciation for their willingness to heed to personal revelation. I do not endorse comparisons.
They received their calling, and I must to. So if I don't fight it, my byline looks like this:
Wife, mother and blogger/writer.
And if, on a gray day in January I pray and find out it is no longer my calling, I have to be willing to let it go.
Let me be more bold: every woman has something more to them. Even if they fight it like I do. And if they fight it like I do, they are in for a world of frustration. Like I was, before I read this book.
But I will say this, when I write posts like this and listen to other's voices and ideas. I really, really, really love blogging/writing. And it is so worth it.
So thank you.
p.s. I think Sister Beck's talk was mostly aimed at me, Mothers Who Don't Know Because They Are Lazy. If her sentiments didn't sit well with you, perhaps you are already a Mother Who Already Knows--I think that is plausible.