A couple months ago, I felt weighed down by motherhood. The needs of a two-year-old and a one-year-old are constant. I’m also pregnant with our third, and during the first trimester, I was extremely tired. My one-year-old had started waking up at 6 a.m. and screaming each morning. I felt like I was constantly cleaning up after little kid messes. I felt tired and a little lost. I attribute some of these negative feelings to pregnancy hormones, as well as to being cooped up because of COVID-19. Regardless, of where the feelings came from, they felt heavy.
One Sunday afternoon I offered a silent prayer to God asking that I would find greater joy in motherhood. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I know my life is full of tremendous blessings. I wanted to focus more on joy and on my blessings than on the heaviness of motherhood/life.
After offering my prayer, the title of a talk that I had read while serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came into my mind. Elder Lawrence Corbridge gave this talk to the missionaries he presided over while serving as a mission president. The lesson I learned from studying this talk altered the way I served my mission and the way I sought to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It changed my life. What I hadn’t realized is that it would change the way I mother.
Elder Corbridge spoke of four types of missionaries. The first two types are missionaries who choose not to abide by mission rules and standards. The latter two types appear to be devoted, faithful missionaries from the outside. However, there is a significant difference between the “Third Missionary” and the “Fourth Missionary.” While the difference may not be perceptible from the outside, the “Fourth Missionary” experiences joy while the “Third Missionary” experiences frustration.
Elder Corbridge says, “The hard way is the way of the Third Missionary. He lives the gospel, and serves in the Church, with what I call the “bite-the-bullet” approach, the “grin-and-bear-it” or “gut-it-out” approach. He is obedient and he does what he is supposed to do. He does his duty. He gets through it and then, at long last, he gets about doing what he wants to do. That is the Third Missionary…
The Fourth Missionary is the only one who can lose himself in the work, because he forgets his own concerns, he lets go of what he wants. When he lets go, he then is free to think of others. He is the only one who does not count the cost. He doesn’t itemize and total all that he has left behind to serve a mission. He does not count the cost. He forgets about it. He forgets himself. He loses himself…
Unlike the Third Missionary, the Fourth Missionary is content, happy, and from time to time, experiences profound joy. He is at peace with who he is and what he is doing. As in Psalms 40:8 he says:
“I delight to do thy will. O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
On that Sunday afternoon, after asking God to help me find greater joy in motherhood, I realized that I needed to become the “Fourth Mother.” Instead of focusing on the things I was sacrificing for my children – sacrificing sleep, sacrificing physical comfort (hello, pregnancy!), sacrificing “me time” – I needed to stop counting the cost and instead choose to be all in. In gospel terms, I needed to choose to be consecrated.
Elder Corbridge acknowledges that we may view consecration as the harder path, but it is not. It is the path to joy. I know this because I’ve felt it in my life. When I stopped counting the cost of what I was giving up to serve as a missionary or to serve Jesus Christ in any capacity, I found joy and peace. However, it wasn’t until that Sunday afternoon a couple months ago, that I realized this lesson applies to motherhood.
Now, I want to be clear that consecrated mothering doesn’t mean I don’t turn on a TV show for my kids so I can go take a nap. It doesn’t mean I never think, “You’re driving me crazy!” when my two-year-old spins in a circle while I’m trying to brush his teeth. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish my one-year-old would learn to sleep in until 8 a.m. like she used to. It doesn’t mean I love changing diapers. What it means is that I choose to not focus on what I’m giving up but to embrace my role as a mother with my whole heart. It means I can find joy.
I’ve felt increased joy over the last couple of months as I’ve sought to shift from being a mom who sacrifices for her kids to being a consecrated mother. The circumstances of my life haven’t dramatically changed – COVID-19 is still keeping us cooped up, my one-year-old wakes up early, I clean up a lot of messes every day, and pregnancy still makes me tired – but life doesn’t feel as heavy.
I wish I could more beautifully articulate how and why this is, but I know that for me the underlying reason for these feelings of greater joy is because of the heaven sent message I received a couple months ago that I needed to stop viewing myself as a mother who was sacrificing and rather as a mother who is consecrated. Merriam-Webster defines consecration as “dedicated to a sacred purpose.” I believe that true dedication means we don’t count the cost of what we’re giving up. We keep our whole focus on the sacred purpose. I don’t know of a more sacred purpose than motherhood.