Happiness and celestial glory are goals of all devout Latter-day Saints, but sometimes it’s difficult to feel very happy or celestial on those occasions when you’re up to your elbows in dirty diapers or stepping on crumbs as you walk across a just-swept kitchen floor. Some women put up a front of perfection while secretly suffering from feelings of anxiety and discouragement. Perhaps they think sharing these feelings will reflect incompetence for the whole world to see.
It’s sometimes hard to remember that each of us has many more strengths than weaknesses. By sharing experiences with both our talents and shortcomings, we can give support and reassurance to each other. We can also sometimes learn that the grass on our own side of the hill is pretty green after all.
Feelings of frustration and discouragement often occur when a woman is feeling a lack of control over her own life. Sometimes, if responsibilities are overwhelming and no one seems to notice, some may feel that the quickest way to get a reaction is to whine, mope, or complain. These are not the best methods to feeling better or getting help. Women (and men!) can take charge of their own attitudes by working to avoid negative feelings.
Avoid unhealthy comparisons.
Though my friend Kristine has a very busy schedule, she never looks rumpled. When I first got to know her, I noticed that her hair, make-up, and outfits were always stylish and well-coordinated. She enjoyed looking her best and wouldn’t even go to the mailbox without wearing lipstick. By contrast, I didn’t care to fuss with make-up and any outfit I chose would be a mess by 9 A.M., so I reasoned “Why bother?” She chose bright, flattering styles while I preferred subtle tones in comfortable cuts. Next to Kristine, I felt like half of a makeover story. I was the “before” to her “after.”
For a while I tried to keep up. I bought more contemporary clothing and tried somewhat clumsily to do the make-up thing, but it just required more time and energy than I was willing to expend. I soon came to the realization that comparing myself to her wasn’t fair to either of us.
She had the right to her own unique style and I could admire her many qualities without having to match them. She appreciated me for who I was and wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me (as far as I know) so why was I so concerned? Do not shortchange yourself with unfair comparisons.
Preserve your own sense of style
After becoming a mother, there is no reason to give up those aspects of your personal style that are important to you. My cousin Lisa loves to wear high heels. They’re not practical for chasing four kids all over town, but she feels prettier and more confident while wearing them. Whatever it takes to boost your self-esteem and expand your smile, do it.
Don’t feel you have to sacrifice those little things that are important to you in order to fit society’s image of a mother. This, of course, does not mean that you have to be on top of every fleeting fashion trend so that you can be the “stylish” mom, or that you should sacrifice qualities like modesty and thrift; it just means it’s OK to let your style be an accurate reflection of your personality.
Recognize your talents
You are truly one-of-a-kind! You have much to share and contribute to the world around you. Don’t fall into the trap of admiring others’ talents while ignoring your own.
Maybe you are not the sort of mom who has freshly baked cookies waiting when her children come home from school; a smile, hug, and a prepackaged snack create the same feelings of love for a child. If you prefer helping with homework to working in the classroom, that’s OK! It’s a waste of energy to feel badly about the way you are. Granted, there’s always room for improvement and striving to multiply your talents is wonderful. The problem comes when comparisons keep you from even wanting to try to do better. When they just discourage you, they are unhealthy.
Embrace your own weirdness
My young son Atherton approached me one afternoon and asked, with all sincerity, “Am I weird?” My first reaction was, “No! Of course not!” Then I decided to be honest. “Yes, Honey,” I said. “You are weird. I am too. We are all weird.”
I went on to explain that we each have unique likes, dislikes, and characteristics that help us to stand apart from everyone else… and that’s great! I gave him some examples: I don’t like my waffles to touch the syrup until I’m ready, so I put the pieces in a circle around the edge of the plate. “Wow, that’s weird,” he said.
I also mentioned that I have a friend who doesn’t like donuts and another who dislikes chocolate. His dad takes thirty minutes to iron a shirt for work (Atherton thought that was normal) and seeing a dog in a car grosses me out (I think of “dog smell”).
He looked interested so I continued: Our adult friend Sam hates to lose any game, even to a child (once he debated with my five-year-old little girl over whether she had cheated at the game Memory). I reminded Atherton that he likes to organize the shampoo bottles in the shower and that not every kid does that.
After all these examples, Atherton began to understand. He got a kick out of hearing about the weird things other people do and kept asking for more examples. The point is to recognize that our “weirdness,” or rather, our uniqueness, is what makes each individual interesting. This individuality is what makes it worthwhile to get to know people.
Even more important than recognizing our own weirdness is embracing it! The key to self-satisfaction and appreciating who you really are comes by focusing on those positive qualities that make you, well, you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone else is better; they aren’t, they’re just different. Talents really are evenly distributed among us. Some may be more obvious and recognized by society like singing, playing an instrument, playing sports, etc., but others are just as valuable.
Do a spiritual self-check
A member of our stake presidency gave a wonderful talk about the importance of daily scripture study. He promised that faithful daily reading and pondering of the scriptures would make the reader a kinder, gentler, and more cheerful person. I’ve always remembered this. Whenever I feel the occasional stinky mood lasting longer than it really should, I pause and do a self-evaluation. “Am I doing the things that I know I’m supposed to be doing?” I remind myself that Heavenly Father can bless a faithful, willing servant more easily than a slothful one.
Our daily habits are more likely to include thoughtful acts, gentle words, and a loving attitude if our spiritual needs are met. The closer we are to the Lord, the easier it is to create a peaceful atmosphere where love and kindness flow freely. This big, sometimes overwhelming job of maintaining a heaven on earth for the family falls squarely on the shoulders of the mother. As mothers, we set the emotional tone for the whole house. Have you ever noticed this? A mother can never be in a bad mood by herself. If mom is grumpy, everyone is grumpy. Sometimes this doesn’t seem fair; but if we realize the power we have to influence so many for good, we can use this responsibility to the benefit of the entire family.
Focus on the positive
While striving to make improvements, don’t forget the skills and talents you already possess. If you aren’t sure what they are, sit down with a notebook and pen and list five things that you like about yourself. If you can’t think of that many, ask someone close to you for help. Others may admire aspects of your personality that you never realized you had. Keep this list handy for those days when you feel discouraged. Remember that everyone’s list of talents and priorities is different but equally valuable.
Focus more on what you can actively do to change your attitude in order to feel better. Attitude is often a personal choice, independent of financial status, physical appearance, or family situation. By focusing on the positive in your own life, recognizing and counting your blessings, and doing what is necessary to progress spiritually, you can feel true joy the way Heavenly Father intended!