Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Motherhood Part I--Why Kids Can't Wait

No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother. There is no more noble work than that of a good and God-fearing mother.
~Ezra Taft Benson

I have been thinking about this post for some time, and I have a lot to say, so I'm dividing it into several posts:
Part I (this post)--the importance of being a mother--ie, not delaying childbearing
Part II--why mother should be in the home rather than working outside of it
Part III--thoughts on family planning and full quivers
Part IV--for those who cannot have kids (due to singleness or infertility)

I would like to begin with a list of links to talks given by prophets, apostles, and other church leaders about woman's divine role in God's Plan. I quote from them liberally here, boldfacing phrases that I find particularly significant, and occasionally adding commentary of my own. All italicized/indented parts are quotes.
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. [link]
Does it get any more clear than that?!

Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in heaven.
Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, "We'll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we've obtained a few of the material conveniences," and on and on. This is the reasoning of the world and is not pleasing in the sight of God. Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And, husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing children.
Yes, blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice. ~ETBenson [link]
I just want to say that, as someone who assumed that children would come quickly and easily, I have had a rude awakening. If you want children 'someday' I would encourage you to pray about making that day today. You may think that you can plan children when you want them, but there is a good chance that it will be more complicated than you think. It may take you months or years to get pregnant, even if you are aware of your fertile times and 'doing everything right.' You may get pregnant easily but then miscarry. You may miscarry several times. You may not be able to conceive at all. If you are unable to have biological children, the adoption process can take years. Once you do have a child, you may find you are fertile again within weeks, or you may be like me: not ovulating again for nearly two years. And so I say again, you cannot really plan your children, which I think is all the more reason to be willing to welcome them now rather than later...because you just never know how long it will take or what will be involved.
Women find true happiness when they understand and delight in their unique role within the plan of salvation. The things women can and should do very best are championed and taught without apology here. We believe in the formation of eternal families. That means we believe in getting married. We know that the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. That means we believe in having children. We have faith that with the Lord’s help we can be successful in rearing and teaching children. These are vital responsibilities in the plan of happiness, and when women embrace those roles with all their hearts, they are happy! Knowing and defending the truth about families is the privilege of every sister in this Church.
Because families are eternal, we cannot afford to be casual or complacent about those relationships. Much of the great work of this society in the past has been centered in helping Latter-day Saint women strengthen families, with emphasis on improving our nurturing skills—homemaking skills, parenting skills, and marriage skills. Families mean work, but they are our great work—and we are not afraid of work. This is what we do best; no one does families better than the sisters of this Relief Society. ~JBBeck [link]

As President McKay said, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home," and so I would add that no other success can compete with the fulfillment of parenthood. You cannot fully understand until you have children--maturity does not come with age, it comes with parenthood. Hubby and I have had several discussions with childless friends, and regardless of their age, we observe in them a twinge of selfish immaturity...I think it is because they have never engaged in the full selflessness required for parenthood. It IS a big job, it IS overwhelming--often so--but it is so worth it!
Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,” in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.” Faithful daughters of God desire children.
n the scriptures we read of Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, and Mary, who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them. Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child, the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection. Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality. There is eternal influence and power in motherhood. ~JBBeck [link]

If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up [a] worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.
~Spencer W Kimball

Prophets have admonished us to forsake the world and turn our hearts to Jesus Christ, who promised us, “In this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full” (D&C 101:36; emphasis added). Said President Spencer W. Kimball, “If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up … a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit” (“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 6). How often are we so focused on pursuing the so-called good life that we lose sight of eternal life? It is the fatal spiritual equivalent of selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.
As sisters in Zion we can be obstacles to the adversary’s conspiracy against families and virtue. No wonder he tempts us to settle for earthly pleasures rather than to seek for eternal glory.~SLDew [link]
It is precisely because the daughters of Zion are so uncommon that the adversary will not leave them alone.
We salute you, sisters...[you], more quickly than others, will understand the possible dangers when the word 'self' is militantly placed before other words like 'fulfillment.' You rock a sobbing child without wondering if today’s world is passing you by, because you know you hold tomorrow tightly in your arms.
So often our sisters comfort others when their own needs are greater than those being comforted. That quality is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity! I thank the Father that His Only Begotten Son did not say in defiant protest at Calvary, “My body is my own!” I stand in admiration of women today who resist the fashion of abortion, by refusing to make the sacred womb a tomb! When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this. ~NAMaxwell [link]

Before the world was created, in heavenly councils the pattern and role of women were prescribed. You were elected by God to be wives and mothers in Zion. Exaltation in the celestial kingdom is predicated on faithfulness to that calling.
Since the beginning, a woman’s first and most important role has been ushering into mortality spirit sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.
I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations. Beguiling voices in the world cry out for “alternative life-styles” for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood. These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda...
I am aware that many of you often find yourselves in circumstances that are not always ideal... I recognize that not all women in the Church will have an opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality. But if you in this situation are worthy and endure faithfully, you can be assured of all blessings from a kind and loving Heavenly Father—and I emphasize all blessings.
Solutions for you who are in a minority are not the same as for the majority of women in the Church who can and should be fulfilling their roles as wives and mothers... Too often, I fear, even women in the Church use the world as their standard for success and basis for self-worth. ~ETBenson [link]


I just want to add a little note here in response to a couple of comments...
It is true that not everyone should have babies immediately after getting married (and neither I nor the church condones having babies outside of marriage). For some couples it might be appropriate to wait a little while because health or emotional issues or whatever need to be resolved before they can be good parents. This is why I said that people should "pray about making that day today" and to "be willing to welcome [children] now."
We are not put here just to be baby makin machines ☺ but we should be willing to have children on God's schedule--whatever that may be--rather than trying to call all the shots ourselves.
I confess that (having heard/read these kinds of quotes) I was pretty judgmental in my teens when I saw girls just a few years older than myself get married and then wait 2 or 3 or 5 years before having kids. Then I got married and in spite of our best efforts I did not have a baby for over 3 years--I learned that what people see on the outside is rarely a good indication of what is really going on, and yes, I learned to not be so judgmental. ☺


Mallory said...

Oh, how I would love to email a link to this post to my sister! But, she would be so mad at me. I always give her grief for not having kids yet. It may be a choice to be made between the couple and God, but God has also made His opinion on it pretty clear already. It always makes me feel good about my decision to start a family young when I read these quotes!

Becky said...

Great quotes and great message!

sara said...

I love how everyone is the exception to the rule. I'll be 30 this year and most of my friends are either having their first baby or haven't had any children. Some of this isn't by choice. Some have done it on purpose. And some should probably stay childless. I love Sister Beck. I think she's kind but she sure doesn't hold back.

Carrie said...

Not everyone is ready to be a parent when they get married. Although I agree with these quotes, I think it is important for other people to never pass judgment on another couple who has no children, even if YOU think they should.

My husband and I waited two years before trying to conceive and it had nothing to do with selfishness. Although I do understand the point that you were trying to make, Jenni, I have also seen a great deal of selfishness with people who didn't wait to have children and are very bad parents, though not necessarily b/c they had children.

It is vital to not misunderstand the words of the prophets and inspired leaders. Pray for guidance, and ask the RIGHT questions and only then will you know what is right for your family.

Mommy Bee said...

Those are absolutely valid points Carrie, that's why I said that people should "pray about making that day today" and to "be willing to welcome them now." I realize that for some couples it might be appropriate to wait a little while. I know that sometimes there are health or emotional issues that need to be resolved before they can be good parents.

We are not put here to be baby makin machines ;) but we should be willing to have children on God's schedule--whatever that may be--rather than trying to call all the shots ourselves.

I confess that (having heard/read these kinds of quotes) I was pretty judgmental in my teens when I saw girls just a few years older than myself get married and then wait 2 or 3 or 5 years before having kids. Then I got married and in spite of our best efforts I did not have a baby for over 3 years--I learned that what people see on the outside is rarely a good indication of what is really going on, and yes, I learned to not be so judgmental. :)

alisaterry said...

I think the key here was to make sure that the reasons we put off having children are the right ones.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. The day my husband & I got married we started to plan our family. I was 27 when I got married & never knew it would take 14 months after we were married for me to finally conceive. It was the most longest trying time for us. If we would have waited who know's how much longer it would've been. If the Lord Blesses you to have children, do it. I would have 14 if I can. I grew up an only child & I want a big family. My husband is 9 of 9. I don't know how many the Lord will bless us with but I'm open to whatever it may be.
When people wait & wait, and when nothing happens when they want it they will be very dissapointed.
I want to know why do people get married and don't want children either yet or at all?
Is it just for the sex? Have sex now without any responsiblities of taking care of kids?
Along with pleasure isn't the point of sex is to have babies?

Carrie said...

To respond to Keya, I did not want children when I got married b/c I was not emotionally ready. Some may say that I shouldn't have gotten married until I was, but being married to my husband was what I needed to grow ready to become a mother.

Many people do need time in their marriage to solidify their bond, especially with so many growing up in broken families. It takes time to work through those issues and hormones and sleepless nights do not necessarily help with that. Heavenly Father knows and understands this, which is why having children is a very personal and private decision.

I never told anyone about our infertility and I know there were people who thought that we were being selfish for waiting, and I did not care to enlighten them about my private pain.

P.S. Jenni, I was mainly responding to Mallory's comment. I still love you!

Jennifer said...

Mallory, not to seem rude but I don't think it's anyone's responsibilty to tell SOMEONE ELSE when they should have kids. Of course we all have our own opinions on the matter, and people take the words of the prophets differently (I'd also love to see more quotes from our most current and modern prophet on this matter).

I think it's best not to assume or intervene with another couples plans because it's really none of our business.

Besides, maybe they have been praying about it and they're answer was "NO, not right now."

Kelly said...

What a great post! You are so right.

We decided to let the Lord send our children in His own time and to be open to whatever He sent. It took us a few years to get there, but once we put it in His hands, it brought us so many blessings!

Now we have a houseful and each one of them is SO amazingly special - I'm so glad we didn't listen to "conventional wisdom" and miss out on this!

Thanks for sharing such a well written and well documented discussion!

Bethany said...

I'm so happy I found your blog! So far I've only had time to go through the "Motherhood" posts, but I plan to read more past posts. I always feel like I'm in the minority on this topic, so it's nice to find others who feel the same way.

I had a honeymoon baby and it drove me nuts that people kept telling me I was crazy and that for a marriage to be good you needed more time with just the 2 of you to get to know each other better. It makes me sad that people think that way.

I love how you said people should "pray about making that day today." I realize couples have their reasons for preventing children, some which I think are valid and some that I don't (though my opinion doesn't matter because it's their private decision). I just hope that every couple is constantly working towards being ready to have children.

Jessica said...

Five months after we were married we felt very strongly that it was time for us to have our first baby. Several people thought we were nuts since I was only 20 yrs old and we were headed back to school, but we felt that this child was meant to come at this time, so we followed the prompting.
Fast forward four years and I am very glad to have both my kids! This past year was very hard for us with extended unemployment and the accompnaying emotional rollercoaster. Some would say it would have been easier without kids, but I can't imagine how we would have gotten through without the comic relief of a 3 yr old and a 2 yr old. I am so glad we had these two when we did!
There are many blessings to be had when we are willing to follow the Lord's time frame in building our families instead of the worldly one.

Christa said...

Great post! I feel very strongly about being open to having children. I guess I always looked at marriage as the beginning of starting my family. I don't understand what it is that drives people to marry, maybe that is why so many marriages end in divorce. I got married because that was what was necessary for me to do what it took to have a family with my husband. I didn't marry him because he gave me butterflies, or because he made good money, or because we had been dating for so long. I married him because I wanted him to be my husband...which meant starting a family. We had our twins a year and a half after we were married.

Marriage is not about getting to know each other better...or testing the water, that's why we dated. It is about starting your family, and if you're ready to do the fun part...then you should be ready for the responsibility.

saskia said...

I married the best man ever and had 3 kids, and God told me to have another, I fought it, so did he- but we never told one another the Lord was telling us this. I ended up pregnant, what a blessing she was, we needed her.

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