I was a young mother once. Now I’m just an old mother observing the struggling young mother sitting in front of me during Sacrament Meeting. I know your pain! (And may I add, I think this picture on the left is a fake picture. No mother in her right mind would not be watching for the sacrament when three children are first in line.)
How many times did I ask if it was even worth attending church with my children? I’m going to share with the world, right here and now, two of my most embarrassing moments:
Story #1: At this time I had five children, under the age of about 8. For Regional Conference, we were to meet in the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle. My stake was asked to participate in the choir and my husband fully supported me going, because this would be the only time I would ever have the opportunity to sit in those golden choir seats. Sadly, I watched helplessly at the horror that would unfold before the entire congregation.
Child #5 was a babe in arms, so my husband was focused mostly on him. The older children were doing relatively well. It was child #4 who found an elderly couple to make friends with. He would repeatedly sit on the man’s lap, play for a short while, then climb down and wander back to his own family. I watched as he got off the man’s lap and instead of going back to our family, wandered down the aisle toward the front. As he began to climb the stairs that would take him toward the General Authorities, the security detail moved in. Luckily, a sister from our ward claimed him for the rest of the meeting as I watched helplessly from above.
Story #2: At this time we had six children and my husband was on the stand. As the sacrament was being passed, the baby began screaming and needed to be taken out. I had to pass through children’s legs before getting to the aisle and one of the kids refused to bend his legs so I could pass. I pushed through and to my horror lost my balance and fell hard on my knees, still holding the baby. There was a collective gasp from the entire ward.
Yes, I know what Sundays can be like.
I offer some comfort, solace, and perhaps some suggestions, to young mothers who struggle with Sundays.
- Don’t be above help from others. Young women and ward grandmas can be great helpers. But, I guess, the real point should maybe be for others in the ward to reach out and volunteer to help more often.
- Husbands could volunteer to be the mom on Sundays. Kids instinctively go to the parent they spend more time with. Husbands, you might volunteer to take on that roll for any planned out part of the day. One year, for Christmas, my husband gave me the gift of doing the dishes every Sunday so I had time to relax. It was a great year, and gave me something I could actually look forward to on Sundays.
- Practice quiet time at home. While reading scriptures as a family and during other moments in the week, take the time to teach your children that sitting quietly helps you feel the spirit. Even if it’s for 1-5 minutes at a time, children will grow up with a better understanding of expectations. And to be clear, when I say quiet time, I am not suggesting electronics or quiet toys. I mean to actually teach your little children why we are quiet. Teaching them at home and during the week allows for good practice time (and hopefully a little less frustration on Sundays!)
- If your husband is on the stand and you are stuck managing the brood on your own, ask the Stake President if a child can go sit up with dad for a short time, or even ask if dad can sit with the family occasionally. Our Stake President was the one who encouraged this, so each of my younger kids took a turn on dad’s lap (if they were being quiet). Yes, at times it looked like a parade of little people going back and forth, but I felt the support of the entire ward, which also helped me feel better about Sundays.
- Just gear up and buckle in for the ride. Sometimes there’s just nothing else you can do. Going to church every Sunday is more important than having perfect children. Even though I was mortified when my children acted up, they still learned that it was important to me that I be at church, and that we be together at church as a family. Granted, I didn’t always learn something new or even feel the spirit, but the example I set for my children came through loud and clear. Besides, now that they’re older we have some great laughs over the memories … now that I can laugh about it, that is!
There were years that I wondered why going to church was worth it. I was spiritually drained and frustratingly overwhelmed. Every mother will agree with me that those years are difficult. There were times when I just wanted to know that I wasn’t alone, in spite of always being surrounded by children. I wanted to receive spiritual food, instead of feeding others all the time. I was just always too tired to do one thing more.
I share additional advice, not to mothers, but to their visiting teachers. We all have them. And we all need them. Visiting teachers can be a huge help through serving and simply keeping their eye out for these women they are responsible for, and can grow to cherish so completely. Another valuable service visiting teachers can do is to help mothers feel the spirit at least once every month. The warmth from a spiritually uplifting message can last for days and be the glue that holds this hard-working, faithful, loving mother together. In fact, what’s to prevent faithful friends from frequent conversations sharing scriptures and insights together?
My last word of advice is to live to make eternal covenants if you haven’t, and live your covenants if you have. As a wife and mother, you are living the very reason we chose to come down on earth and follow the Plan of Salvation. We came to earth to learn about families. Go to the temple often. Learn about the atonement then receive the atonement into your heart, even when the kids are driving you crazy. Let the overriding knowledge of the atonement carry you through your daily struggles. When Sunday comes around you’ll be stronger and more able to lean heavily on our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I testify to you that it’s worth it to hang in there. In this day, we cannot be casual about our life choices. Because we understand that faith is an action word, we understand that our faith must be deliberate as we guide and train our children, and spiritually refine ourselves each and every day. I have experienced the joy of having all of my children with me in the temple. Despite all the ups and downs, for me as their mother, there is no greater joy.