In high school, I was often frustrated with the standard gender narrative for women (get married in the temple, have babies, become a noble mother in Zion, ad nauseum). I was passionate about education, and even in high school, I imagined myself going to graduate school. I resented being told over and over in YW that my only purpose in life was to be a mother. I wasn’t anti-motherhood, but I had other goals and dreams that I wanted everyone (including God) to recognize.
My senior year of high school, I got my patriarchal blessing, and it was a painful experience. I was trying to sort out my educational plans (and hoping for a little bit of guidance), and my patriarchal blessing went on for paragraphs about how the most important thing I would do in life would be a mother. At the time, it felt like God was telling me my desires were wrong: I needed to get over my love for school and resolve myself to marriage and motherhood, since YW had already told me that was my sole mission in life. I was hurt and angry that God would not give me the kind of validation I felt I needed to follow the educational paths I was so passionate about (there’s only one sentence in my blessing about education, and it’s nothing if not vague).
Fast-forward thirteen years.
My patriarchal blessing and the standard narrative of motherhood is still difficult for me, but in much different ways. In college and graduate school, I came to understand that my educational goals were an important part of my life plan, and that the Lord not only accepted but encouraged my educational pursuits. And as this happened, I was able to recognize that at some point in my future I did want marriage and a family. But it’s only been in the last couple years that this has begun to be a painful issue for me again.
As I’ve settled into my job as a high school teacher, I realize that, professionally, this is what I’m meant to do. It’s an immensely fulfilling job, I love it, and I’m good at it. But the end of the school year is painful. I find myself having to let go of students who I’ve developed strong bonds with over the course of the year. There are students you connect with, and sometimes it’s difficult to watch them move on to new classes, teachers, life pursuits, etc. This is how teaching works, and I know I will have a new set of delightful students the following year, but I’ve realized that I want people in my life that will not move on–people who will be tied closely to me, who will be part of my life, as I will be part of theirs.
I’ve had a similar realization as I’ve spent time with my nephews over the past couple of years. While there are ways in which I don’t envy my sisters and don’t fully recognize the difficulties of their lives (I recognize that as a single woman I can’t fully recognize the struggles of parenting), when I spend time with my nephews, I feel the same thing that I do with my students.
In the last few years, I’ve come to recognize that I am meant to be a mother. I still question the standard narrative because I think it’s okay for women to have other passions and pursue alternate paths, but for me, motherhood is something not only that I deeply want, it’s something I feel like I’m meant to do. I look at my strengths (emotional sensitivity, patience, the desire to teach and nurture others), and I realize the qualities that make me a good teacher would make me a pretty decent parent. As I play with my nephews and teach my students, I think about my patriarchal blessing, and I think, “Yes! My calling in life is to be a mother.”
But that path isn’t open to me, at least not yet. And while there’s still much of my life to be lived and enjoyed, there are no guarantees. And now, rather than the pain of feeling like something I don’t want is being forced on me, I now have the pain of missing something I feel like I am meant to be doing.
- 17 August 2009