Motherhood is relentless. Occasionally, it drags us to our limits. One morning last year toward the end of a long winter, I was so tired. I was awakened by my 3–year-old Clark, who literally pulled apart my eyelids and shone a flashlight directly into my eyeball. My reaction was not reverent because it woke up my one-year-old Natalie, which also triggered my morning rage. One of my potty-trained boys pooped in his nighttime diaper. And when I staggered from my bedroom down the hall into the kitchen, I found an opened tub of yogurt smeared across the kitchen floor. I’d been awake for less than ten minutes and already my dread of the day was heavy. I stepped across the yogurt, looked out the window, and saw almost a full foot of new snow on the deck. If I had the energy, I would have fallen into a heap on the floor. With my left retina burning, I began to fantasize about running away to an exotic beachfront location and sleeping in a large, luxurious hotel bed BY MYSELF. But the day called. I took a deep breath, grumbled to myself, and reached for the paper towels (and probably a handful of chocolate chips).
These are the moments where it can be a challenge (understatement of the year) to have a glowing testimony of what we have been taught about motherhood. The First Presidency once stated: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.”
The sleep-deprived, stretch-marked, unshowered side of us reacts with a tad of bitterness to such a claim. And yet, deep down inside of us there is something that knows this is true. Motherhood is divine. Now, I have only been a mother for 6 years, 3 months and 2 days—which I believe probably means I have changed 11,410 diapers-- but I am slowly gaining a conviction and understanding of the divinity in this role I have chosen. I thought I understood it before I had children, but then-- well, I had children. And I learned that I had a LOT to learn. This is what I’ve figured out so far:
1. President David O. McKay said, “Let us also teach girls that motherhood is divine, for when we touch the creative part of life, we enter into the realm of divinity.” I always thought that the creation part was mostly tied to the fact that we have uteruses and stuff, and our cells divide into lots of other cells that grow into babies, and voila!, we made a person. But remember last Fall at the Relief Society broadcast where Elder Uctdorf taught us that creation “is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come?” Well, it dawned on me (recently) that motherhood is simply creation in slow motion. We constantly mother, but it seems mundane and ordinary (in slow motion), and we don’t realize how truly powerful it is. We are literally shaping souls like clay. There are a lot of annoying details, but we are working a miracle by building children into people and instilling inside of them all of the knowledge, skills, testimony and power that they will need to make successful choices. Elder Richard G. Scott explains it like this: “As a mother guided by the Lord, you weave a fabric of character in your children from threads of truth through careful instruction and worthy example. …It is your sacred right and privilege.”
2. All those ordinary details—the diapers, the messes, the snot, the sippy cups and the tears—are really the main ingredients in what we are trying to accomplish. They are symbols of our constant, undying commitment to a cause (or a child) we believe in. They are a recurring reminder that we are still participating in this divine partnership. My Stake President recently taught, “It is in the messy chores of life that we express love.” I know it is possible—likely, even—to feel God’s love in the middle of those messy chores. Especially if we ask. (I wish I had time to talk about Mary and Martha, and how important it is to take a pause from our chores and just listen to the Savior.)
3. We have the opportunity to make our homes sacred, safe, and sanctified like the temple. Can you think of anything more divine than that? You’re the temple matron in your own home, doing all you can to make it a place filled with the Spirit of God. President Eyring urged us to be teachers there: “A wise parent would never miss a chance to gather children together to learn of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Such moments are so rare in comparison with the efforts of the enemy. For every hour the power of doctrine is introduced into a child’s life, there may be hundreds of hours of messages and images denying or ignoring the saving truths.”
That enemy also lies to us. Whenever we believe we’re a failure or that we’re doing nothing of great significance, I think he laughs. Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Because mothers are essential to God’s great plan of happiness, their sacred work is opposed by Satan, who would destroy the family and demean the worth of women.” There is great power in motherhood, even in the dreary details, and our reach is crucial and eternal. The errand of angels IS given to women. Yes, there are diapers, but there is divinity. So carry on, ladies, carry on. (And there’s nothing wrong with an occasional exotic beachfront getaway.)
Stephanie is a mom of three who blogs for fun, posterity, and therapy. She seeks for the divinity in motherhood; she tries to share it when she finds it, and tries to laugh when she doesn't. She loves naps, long walks, good shoes, milk chocolate, a little sarcasm, fun trips, Latin music, scriptures, sunbeams, her patient husband, and children (especially when they're sleeping). Her blog is called Diapers and Divinity, where she is currently hosting a General Conference Book Club.