As much as we love our children, many women—myself included—think back on the days before they had children when they could spend more time in the scriptures, more time at the temple, more time pondering and meditating and communing with God. In our current phase of life, it’s very easy to say, “My relationship with God was better before because I could do X, Y, or Z, but now I just don’t have time.” Or, even more dangerously, “God thinks less of me because I am not doing X, Y, or Z as much as I used to.”
But as one viral Instagram video taught me recently, that’s not a fair comparison.
The text from the video states, “When you are loving your children, you are loving God. When you are serving your children, you are serving God. ‘I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me.’ When I decided to find Christ in the faces of my children and make every task to care for them an offering and a prayer, it changed everything.”
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As a mother to a toddler, I think about the verse in Ecclesiastes 3 a lot: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I have to remember that my current season of life will look different than any of my past or future seasons, and they’re all good in their own ways. Right now, our family is in a season of wrangling a young toddler. Our newlywed neighbors are in a season of starting their lives together. And our friends with teenagers are in a season of guiding their children through all that comes with those challenging times.
I think God also takes those seasons—especially the physically exhausting ones—into account when it comes to our gospel living. I believe that Heavenly Father will recognize the quality, not quantity, of time I spend on my knees in prayer because my 2-year-old is trying to make his own toast and almost caught the kitchen on fire. And I’ve seen God bless me just for making the effort to open up the scriptures at the end of an especially exhausting day—even if I fall asleep after a verse or two.
In a 2002 general conference address, President Henry B. Eyring gave powerful counsel for anyone feeling overwhelmed by their Church callings. I think the same counsel can apply today to mothers and fathers who are feeling overburdened or overtaxed as parents, so I’ve changed a couple of words in his quote to reflect that. That quote now reads, “You can have the utmost assurance that your [parenting] power will be multiplied many times by the Lord. All He asks is that you give your best effort and your whole heart. Do it cheerfully and with the prayer of faith. The Father and His Beloved Son will send the Holy Ghost as your companion to guide you. Your efforts will be magnified in the lives of the [children] you serve. And when you look back on what may now seem trying times of service and sacrifice, the sacrifice will have become a blessing, and you will know that you have seen the arm of God lifting those [children] you served for Him, and lifting you.”
Speaking from personal experience, parenting is truly a 24/7 job full of personal sacrifices. Just this morning my son stole my breakfast and tackled me during my morning prayer. So if it feels like the amount of time you are able to spend on your spiritual growth is less than it used to be, it probably is! Because there are only so many hours in a day, and many of those hours have now been replaced with the higher, holier, messier, and noisier job of motherhood. But please don’t let that discourage you. Like the video depicted, the unending work of parents and all the ways we serve our children will infinitely outnumber any of the service projects or callings we served in before having children. And like President Eyring said, that sacrifice will become a blessing as you look back on long days and sleepless nights.
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In serving our children, we are also heeding the Savior’s invitation to serve others one by one. President M. Russell Ballard once said, “In today’s world, a person’s importance is often judged by the size of the audience before which he or she performs. That is how media and sports programs are rated, how corporate prominence is sometimes determined, and often how governmental rank is obtained. That may be why roles such as father, mother, and missionary seldom receive standing ovations. Fathers, mothers, and missionaries ‘play’ before very small audiences. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, there may be only one size of audience that is of lasting importance—and that is just one, each one, you and me, and each one of the children of God. The irony of the Atonement is that it is infinite and eternal, yet it is applied individually, one person at a time.”
So I’m making my takeaways from this video my new mantra: Teaching my son is serving God. Feeding my son is serving God. Playing with my son is serving God. All my everyday grunt work of parenting is serving God. And all that work is eternally important to God, to my son, and to me.