This subject has been on my mind a lot lately. I was recently asked if I felt like I was losing a part of myself when I became a mother; I think I was asked this because of all the responsibility you have as a mother and the personal priorities you surrender. I hadn't given it enough thought to answer the way I would've liked. So, now, after thinking about this and re-reading many things that go along with this, I think I'm ready to give my answer.
Answer: Absolutely. Yes, I do feel like I'm losing a part of myself. But it's a very good thing. Just as I've lost a lot of myself since leaving high school, and going to BYU, and getting married. Isn't that why we're here on earth? So that we can be tested and tried and give up our natural man so that we can become more like the author who created us? Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.(Matt 16:25 and Luke 9:24)
C.S. Lewis said, "What we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves', to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be 'good'. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way-centered on money or pleasure or ambition- and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do....The more we get what we now call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become....He invented--as an author invents characters in a novel--all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him....The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether."
And how do we lose ourselves? "By denying ourselves of unselfish interests in order to serve others."(Dallin Oaks, member of the quorum of the twelve apostles) And then Elder Oaks said this about the sacrifice parents make for their children: "Mothers suffer pain and loss of personal priorites and comforts to bear and rear each child. Fathers adjust their lives and priorities to support a family. The gap between those who are and those who are not willing to do this is widening in today's world. One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. 'Dogs are less trouble,' they declared. 'Dogs don't talk back, and we never have to ground them.' We rejoice that so many Latter-day Saint couples are among that unselfish group who are willing to surrender their personal priorites and serve the Lord by bearing and rearing children our Heavenly Father sends to their care...None of this service asks, what's in it for me? All of it requires setting aside personal convenience for unselfish service. "
Now, is this a hard thing to do? Of course. Very few things in life, that are truly good, are just handed to us. We have to work hard. I have to admit, there have been times when I felt like it's too much. Too much to handle. My work days run from 630am until 8pm(13 and 1/2 hours), with no breaks in between because two of my children don't nap. It's too hard and exhausting, teaching the children to be good and kind to others. It takes up too much time: reading books, making breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks and cleaning up after it all. It takes too much energy to play with them and be a good mom, all the while keeping up on the dishes, reading my scriptures, doing the laundry, the bills, exercising, the sweeping, the messes, baths, getting children dressed and undressed, the accidents and the list goes on and on. There have been a few times, when I've had an especially hard day, that I'll think, "Why? Why, Lord, am I doing this? I've forgotten and it's so hard? I don't have the energy." And then, like I always do, I pray for help and strength. And I always get it. Always. "In the strength of the Lord I can do all things." (Elaine Dalton, the general young women president said this and it has become our family motto). He wraps his loving arms around me and I feel like I could run a marathon or move a mountain, because I know He is with me all the way, that He loves me, and that I am doing His work. This is where He wants me to be, and this is what He wants me to be doing. And He wants me to do a really good job, the best possible. And I love Him. And so I get off my knees and go to work. I get over my little pity party, and move on, and try and be better and stronger. And you know, I've found that those little pity parties that I occasionally have, are getting rarer; farther apart. And in fact, it's been quite awhile since the last one, if I can remember correctly. And it's because of Him, and His strength and goodness and power.
Being a mother has changed my life, and I'm SO grateful for those changes. Unselfish service has given me a better understanding of life, and of people in general. The relationships that I have with my family and friends are stronger, and especially the relationships I have with my earthly parents and my Heavenly parents and our Savior. As President Hinckley said, "He who lives only unto himself withers and dies, while he who forgets himself in the service of others grows and blossoms in this life and in eternity." And so, If I could go back, would I wait longer to start having kids rather than the one or two months we waited from the time we were married? Absolutely not! I love my husband more than words can express, and our love has grown so much stronger and brighter since we've served together in our roles as mother and father. And, I love my children, and I would never take back any of the time I've been able to have with them; and in fact, when I think about the future, I get sad, because I know the time we have together will decrease. But at least I have the assurance that families can be eternal, and for that knowledge, I am very grateful. Grateful for temples, and prophets and the sealing power, and that Scott and I were sealed together in the temple and that our children were sealed to us for eternity. Family is everything.