EP 421 – Motherhood Part 1: What Is A Mother?

By traditional definitions, motherhood is easy to describe, but for numerous Latter-day Saint women being a mother is much more complex - and unpredictable.

Motherhood is complex and takes many forms. This is the first in a special three-part series devoted to exploring the nature of motherhood.

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou know how on Mother’s Day a few men in the ward walk around after sacrament meeting passing out a little treat to the mothers in the congregation? It’s usually chocolate or something with flowers. Maybe not every ward does thi,s but I’ve seen it in Arizona, Sydney, and London, and I’d wager about Utah does it too.

Every Mother’s Day since I turned 18, I’ve been offered this treat. Sometimes I took it because Church used to be three hours and I’d get peckish. Sometimes I’d tell them no thanks – I’m not a mother.

I never meant for this to be awkward or to put some poor guy in the position of offering a chocolate to me anyway for the sake of inclusivity. It just was a fact – I do not have children.

In Relief Society lessons and General Conference talks, leaders have addressed motherhood as a calling for all women whether or not they have children. In 2001 Sheri Dew gave a talk entitled, “Are We Not All Mothers?” She said this:

Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.

For many women, this is a comforting idea: Motherhood is intertwined with our divine womanhood. And yet it is confusing to others, myself included. We’ve been told that you are still a mother to those in your ward. You are an example, a teacher, or maybe you listen and comfort those who need someone to talk to.

Those are things a mother does do, but what makes it mothering? Isn’t that being Christlike or being a friend? You are an example or a teacher or a good friend in those moments but not necessarily their mother.

So I’ve been wondering what definition are we operating within the Church? What makes a woman a mother?

In an attempt to answer this question, I spoke with many women who have all had different experiences with motherhood which makes me think, maybe there’s no one way to be a mother, but then, what is motherhood?


[3:12] Maureen likes to say she’s a true-bred Kenyan.
Family roots go back for Generations in the country she moved to Australia for University to become a doctor and there she met her husband Chris a fellow medical student.
Maureen works as a CMO a career medical officer and a private hospital before starting a family.

[3:35] I really look up to Maureen she’s who I think of when I imagine what a super mom would look like.
At least from the outside looking in she’s even tempered patience and generous with her time she’s the mom who seems to have it all figured out.
So I talked to her but my questions of what defines a mother.
But she started the conversation out with a dilemma she’s currently facing but I think many mothers will relate to.
She has four kids ranging from six to sixteen and she is ready to go back to work but that goal isn’t exactly going according to plan.
As a quick note you’ll hear a few names without introduction those are Maureen’s kids.

[4:19] Subbing full-time stay-at-home mom since I’m having Eli and the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been trying to get a job I’ve been trying to get back into the workforce and I’m seeing I’m realizing
how identify was just naive before or things have changed I’m not sure but how difficult it is,
getting back into the workforce after being away for more than well at that time was 2 years when I started looking for another position
and I thought it was just medicine but just speaking to a load of moms at school,
it’s crazy how often I hear the same story
you know just educated intelligent women who now have time on their has who want to contribution someway one to go back to work,
we’ll find out who financed really difficult to get back
I think they Sofia there seems to be a few to hire quite sure if it’s the fear of women with children I don’t know if that’s what it is and feeling that women,
best priority in all the children or if it’s just the time away and the.

[5:44] I don’t know if it’s the lack of support I guess is what I’m feeling the lack of support to get us back into the workforce in times of training programs that had to organize a lot of my own training coming back
I would think because they lot of women in medicine now that they would be programs and unfortunately
the feeling I get from Full King to a lot of the bureaucrats is that if this time had been invested in studying or in doing a fellowship going overseas and all that kind of thing and it wouldn’t be so much of a of an issue
but it’s I’m just so surprised that just raising a family is not considered a big deal really,
it just it is really just looks like I was just bumming around impression I get you know.
You’re so many different jobs as a mother and especially for you with medicine like you are,
completely responsible for for little human beings like health and well-being you know you have to keep them alive you’re their nurse and their doctor how is that not a qualification.

[7:01] Rolla ND psychiatrist sometimes.
It’s just not a very valued of occupation in fact most of the time it’s not even,
conceited as an occupation I feel in the professional World which is which is sad.
I don’t think being an age where we can have everything and I think even just leaving work for a while.
not just route from ipas but even from some of my family I go to a lot of pushback cuz if I call while you’re in an educated woman
you know these women food for us to be able to go to work and support ourselves and have that security and be independent but I don’t believe that that’s what they fought for
I believe what they fought for was for us to have a choice and.

[7:59] Lost choices change so there was a time in my life my choice was to stay home because my children needed me and in fact with the other girls I always been back to work after about six months. I’ve never been full time since I had a Runa
I have not worked full-time.
So that’s just a choice that I made and the two or three days a week will suit me just fine because it meant that I didn’t have casualties at home while I was working and Casualty kind of things.

[8:32] That that works for me then but now that Eli’s full time at school I feel like I’ve got a lot to contribute and when they grow up and be days alot I feel that I can give,
did you always want to be a mother I think so I think so I’m more so when I joined,
the church so I was really shocked when I got married I got married quite early when I was 24
and as I mentioned earlier I hadn’t finished uni and my parents were horrified but but also quite surprised because I was always the one like this is what I want to do I had so many dreams for my life,
times of Korea and you know I would always say I’m not getting married
before 30 you know I just did not understand why people would you know and I always kind of sore and this is probably a big cultural,
of my seat as while I’m not sure I was always so merry just some kind of present cuz now you’ll be this person now you can’t do anything,
joining the church and learning more about the family and about our purpose here that.

[9:58] I think my mind was changed slowly until I go to the point where I thought yeah this is this is what I meant to do
this is my role this is an important role it’s not
everything but it’s definitely an important it needs to play an important role in my life this opportunity to become a mother.

[10:24] One of the scenes that I’ve,
always noticed about you and this is probably just an assumption from the outside looking in but,
I’ve always been impressed that you never seemed frazzled as a mother like do you even stress.
I am getting much better with that having had children,
I realize now how did he get to challenge you and make you better I have found.

[11:02] I am more willing to improve for my children then I was for myself and so I feel that,
each child that have had I have been a better mom and,
having teenagers especially and just learning to navigate that.
Delete Ricky Ariel you know where you kind of feel like sometimes you dealing with an adult sometimes you’re dealing with a child and knowing which one you’re dealing with.
At the particular moment at that particular moment has has been has been interesting and Aruna of firstborn is quite a strong-minded girl and she’s really just,
good for me to see how I need to let go and how I need to,
allow agency that without agency they cannot learn account control of everything.

[12:07] He needs to know that I’ve got choices and consequences by the good or bad depending on what choices they make.
yeah so I’d I did know I think my kids would disagree I think they would say that I still get frazzled but definitely not as much as before and definitely definitely not sweating
the small things now how did you learn to become that,
type of mother it sounds very much like you’re learning things on the go and
that kind of stresses me out maybe I relate a little bit more to your mother if that perfectionist attitude and also feeling like I need to know how to do the job,
before I do it I think dispelling the myth of,
maternal Instinct I actually don’t know if they say such a thing.

[13:13] I think maternal instinct is something you learn not something you’re born with.
Being you can never learn to be a mom because each of your children is so different and so I find the mom that are ruining it is not the mom that my
the mom that Eli needs is not the mom that Imani need
and then again not only is a different according to the Chart it’s different according to the age so constantly having to
change the way you do things and finding that
one thing that worked before two years later will not have an impact all might even have a negative impact so
just being really present and listening and not trying to apply.
Like Global salt to every every problem.
And just knowing the children and you can’t do that unless you spend time with them how do you spell satisfaction as a mother,
whenever they show kindness I feel like I get a window of what Heavenly Father feels when we are kind to each other,
when we love our neighbor when I see my children be kind to each other.

[14:42] This warms that rises within me I feel must be somewhat.
Similar to what happened to Father Fields you know when when when he says we glorify him I feel glorified when my children make the right choices when they.

[15:05] Think past themselves when they do things that they didn’t think they could do other people told them they couldn’t do.
When they think big you know just outside the normal.
Simple simple ideas of the world you know when they come up when they come up with big ideas and big floats.
That to me is a sign that we.
We’re doing something good and something positive and that if we can keep one nurturing that goodness in them.
It could lead to Greatness like not greatness in a you know superficial was a sort of sense but greatness in terms of,
allowing them to be who they really were meant to be so.
I I get a lot of I get my satisfaction from that.

[16:11] I wanted to ask a bit about how you define motherhood and how we Define.
That roll on with our church lenses on,
do you think that a woman is still a mother even when or even when she doesn’t have children of her own either yet or if she’s never able to.

[16:41] Aubrey sounding yes and I and I say that because of my experience with my best friend’s mom.
Who was a mother to me growing up another mother to me so.

[16:55] I my mom as I said you know brilliant woman,
very hard-working always had her own businesses I don’t actually remember her ever working for anyone should always you know just have an idea
make it happen
you know put us through good schools as a single mom put us through uni as a single mom so she’s just an amazing woman but she’s a different type of bomb
so she was the empowering sort of mom
you know you’ve got to get educated you’ve got to be able to support yourself you don’t rely on on on a man to support you you’re better than that you can change you know that kind of mom,
and then I had my best friend’s mom
who was the new Teen Mom who is the mom asking questions encouraging me to talk so I feel like I kind of had
to be be great moms like that and I was able to see from this other mom I got a lot.

[18:12] About I learned a lot about being nurturing you know the nurturing and
about routine the importance of routine in children’s lives because my life at home was a bit haphazard
because my mom was away a lot we were just kind of left to in terms of the way we spend time we were.

[18:41] Pretty much left to our own devices on although there are no devices at that time but you know what I mean so.
I feel I look back and I and I feel I think her all the time for what she has told me and being a mother to me so I I
I definitely don’t think that you need to to birth someone to be a mother to them.
The word mother to me is this wholesome word that encompasses not just,
the physical side of it being pregnant and giving birth but also the nurturing side the teacher you know,
anyone who’s got that.
To take care of the Next Generation to me is a mother it’s the wisdom of generations before you,
I think when you’re passing that wisdom on your being a mother to someone.


[19:57] Passing on the wisdom of generations this feels right and it feels less about one person bearing.

[20:16] Pretty spontaneous mother ready to change tactics that anymore.

[20:25] The job that constantly changing is this.

[20:31] It seems like so much of motherhood is about getting out of your own way going back.

[20:39] CAD is it that simple I wanted to talk to someone.

[20:47] Experience really is different because I know hers is different some people might even say tragic and yet she exemplifies the love of a mother with.

[20:59] Sarah is originally from Taiwan she moved to Australia for her master’s degree in international law Within.

[21:08] Instead she met her husband Joseph at an Institute activity and she stayed I started out my interview with Sarah by saying.

[21:19] Sarah was quick to correct me and say she’s actually am.

[21:26] I did not know this miscarriages are more common than we may think but they are often side.

[21:36] This additional information adds to the part of Sarah story that I dunno and wanted her to share her second child.

[21:52] I knew him as.

[21:57] He was usually Barefoot wearing dark trousers with suspenders and a white shirt for church he loved all the songs.

[22:06] Mostly if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands which we added extra verses to so the song what an end this is Sarah.

[22:21] During the pregnancy it actually went quite well and nothing shows and need no different from other baby.

[22:31] Once he was full of the Auburn starting what were their problems.

[22:41] No in the first 24 hours baby supposed to have some like I’ll put from their tummy,
and I know so he didn’t show any
desire to have some milk so talk to started to suspect that he has Down syndrome but it took a while to come from this type of nose,
on the third day Christopher was,
quickly transfer to ICU in the children hospital because his temperature dropped very quickly,
and when he was in ICU he stopped vomiting and lots of green stuff.
Doctor not sure why so it took a long time and lots of tests,
then and also biopsy to buy the result that,
Christopher in all his digest system of the nerves of the digestive system are missing,
so that means have not digest any food even not even water.
How is he surviving.

[24:07] They actually give females a special McCoy’s tpn it’s a special men made nutrition middle school names.
Total parenteral Nutrition so they gave him through the vein,
it kind of injection Ohio hours a day,
yeah and we could have sold him in the first month time,
you was not attached to all the lies and cubes in the special Cube you knowing I see you so. We can just watching him and hear what it was
cuz I’m not like the whole team.
What were the doctor’s recommendations at that point.

[25:06] In the beginning actually Christopher stay in hospital for 7 and 1/2 months.
Before it got this charge on because of all the hospital team they are involved in to kind of figure out how to keep him survive,
and it was already struggling so they didn’t seem is ideal for Christopher get discharged from hospital.

[25:40] It just took too long and me and my husband really want to take Christopher home and so doctor started to discuss with us like.
We can take him home but our life would be very very different there were two option.
I’ll talk to mention about first of all me and my husband need to take a very special medical training we need to kind of beef in the hospital for 6 weeks time,
and have the training to learn how to use all those medical equipment and how to do all the medical
caring thing for Christopher like injection or how to deal with the tpn yeah all the things
and the second option these there were.

[26:39] It was kind of stopped up that tpn thing and just give him the.
The decree and eventually Christopher’s life will end.
So of course being a mom I haven’t seen Christopher smile I haven’t seen him go to school kind of those these things.
I believe Miracle will happen one day so so me and my husband don’t we
kind of truck I’ll sail we think we can handle this long as we get a proper training we can take him home and start our new family life with him so we.
We eat all the doctor and all the team of decision so we started to know Hyundai special training in hospital.
And not to six weeks time with pasta the test and then we finally took him home.
Yeah it was exciting faith for us.
How long does it take for you to feel like you guys had a routine or that things were kind of working.

[27:54] All to be very honest all the time all life keep changing and because Christopher,
know when he’s grow new issue keep coming out so we in the beginning we can adjust our life for a little bit and then once we can use to there,
new popping comes out and we need to know adjust I’ll live again but we kind of thinking that which we accept that we will have like a normal,
routine us other parents do so,
as long as we don’t give out give us precious to have like a normal routine I feel like.
Much easier to handle the life you know there’s no no I stayed away too how do I describe that dyke we I can be a very special mom just for Christopher,
East Adolph and I’ll follow order.

[29:03] Standel other routine that other parents car I saw it’s easier to just think about Christopher instead of food that pressures on myself.
I starting to telling myself kind of this is my baby.

[29:26] He’s not a friend from other kids what he needs is lost as long as someone.
He she wouldn’t have any problem he can’t go through everything.
Just like he has no more I believe as long as the person is the Ali lost.
He will be the happiest person and I want my baby to be happy baby.

[29:58] After you kind of got settled with Christopher when did you decide or when did you have your next baby.

[30:06] Christmas become The Fakes brother when he was 15 months old,
when doctors Dottie to give us a clear plan of discharging him from hospital me and my husband,
I’ll make a decision that we need to start trying to have next baby because we want Christopher have siblings,
I think that’s the best.
But the thing to have siblings know but I personally grew up with three sisters so for me siblings always still.
The best companion for me during the grow up process.
When once we start trying very surprised me and quickly yet we got the new good news.
How old was Christopher when he passed away in his favorite art class.

[31:22] Yeah he was doing some painting.
And you happened very startling you because they know he looks just.
Bring normalcy even.

[31:46] EBay in the morning or when we send him to the school bus he went to us and.
Look happy because they really love school,
yes so there was no sign no so it was a big shock for us when we received the news.
Yeah so.
Yeah so he he has six years life with us.

[32:29] And he passed away due to the clotting in Hicks big vein in the lungs so he stopped,
breathing very quickly and his heart stopped beating,
yeah it kind of possibly probably less than 3 seconds so.
No good thing is there’s no suffering so and you are doing his favorite things so for me it’s probably the best.
Ending of his life I say he popped up passed away on life,
getting way too quiet how kind of very quiet and easy life
thinking we need to have another kid so.
So this year we had new baby sometimes when I look back and,
all thinking all the memory we have with him it’s like a little slice of the heaven you know that happiness and the joy.

[33:54] Nothing can compare I really I feel like them,
he’s from heaven and he’s so he’s so cute and so special he didn’t need to do anything.
I just need to watching him and then make me happy and make me smile is very sweet boy.
Glacial to in his mom and have the opportunity to know the voice teams was six years time.
It was the media’s big blessing for me.

[34:33] I still remember on the day he passed away when I stand beside him I filled.

[34:46] I feel I really lost someone like you forever and that’s feeling kind of killing me I couldn’t even stay now.
Check the feeling of a I couldn’t even handle that.
How does a kind of Voice semi hearts and telling me that this is just a.
Temporary separate I was to him again I will not hold him again.

[35:30] I will have fun with you again I would see him smile again this is a very powerful.
Things for me and.
Tell me to face that difficult time so yeah it’s.
It’s witty important for me to kind of remind myself I can be resurfaced Malone for all eternity and.
I I didn’t lose him kind of forever.
Being a Eternal mother is a great gray motivation for me to to become a better person I feel like I’m motherhood casing credible.
Motherhood is all about love but it’s incredibly powerful I Found Love,
is strong enough to to change your peoples live like no miserable person is miserable when he’s barely loved by a mother.
That’s that’s how I really feel from know all these process racing Crystal.


[37:04] Sarah’s motherhood is profound she gave up any expectation of being what she thought a normal mom was supposed to be and decided she wouldn’t let herself feel those pressures she was just going to be the mother Christopher needed.
And now her two daughters need you can feel her pee or love it is an inspiration to me.
I wonder if that’s what motherhood is that the definition can Encompass all women but each woman mother’s different.
And More in case she felt like she had two mothers her own her best friend’s mother.
And she’s comfortable with bestowing the title to any woman who teaches and contributes to the Next Generation,
Sarah is another kind of mother again who has been entrusted to care for four special Spirits even though to have already returned to their Heavenly parents.
So what is motherhood do I have an amp.
I do still feel that being a mother involves birth and I’m not sure that all women who do not have children of their own feel entirely comfortable with the title.
I am willing to see the side that allows for all women no matter their situation to be mother’s I think as women we are connected to God and therefore to our Heavenly parents love.
Maybe we are channels for that love that’s allowing us to Mother outside of giving birth maybe there’s something christ-like that is to say.

[38:34] And motherhood in 1998 President Thomas S Monson gave a talk called the whole thing mother.
In his closing and now mine I’d like to Echo his words.
One cannot forget mother and remember God one cannot remember mother and forget.
Why because these two sacred person God and mother Partners in creation and love and sacrifice and service are as one.

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