“Commitment to Motherhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 30–31
My commitment to motherhood began at age four with a rubber doll my father dubbed “Moses.” Moses got a bath every time my baby sister did, and since it was midsummer, bathtime came several times a day. Moses developed large holes. I was crushed. Unfortunately, wartime shortages made him impossible to replace.
My own mother was a college graduate and certified nursery school teacher. When she had to earn money, she conducted a nursery school at home, cleaned other people’s homes because she could take me, a toddler, with her, rented part of our home to another family, bottled our garden produce, and sewed our clothes.
As I went through school, I found enormous pressures against committed motherhood. In junior high, we were required to write term papers on our careers: motherhood and homemaking were not on the list. When a college acquaintance found out I was majoring in clothing and textiles, he asked, “What do you want to be? A seamstress?” During my sophomore year, a young man asked, “What are you doing here? It doesn’t take brains to make babies.” I once knew a professor who wanted a law requiring women graduates to work outside the home for at least five years to repay taxpayers their investment.
In view of these pressures, I was glad my commitment had begun early. I paid careful attention to diet and exercise from my early teens on, because I wanted to provide my future children with healthy bodies.
After my first daughter was born, I returned to my full-time job and found out something else about my commitment as a mother. It had to be full-time. My sitter was very devoted, but we couldn’t tell each other everything we needed to know about my daughter’s development. Five and a half months later I started working half days, but even that part-time commitment was putting priorities in the wrong order for me. When my baby was a year old, I quit work.
When I became a full-time mother, I discovered that my former jobs, even though I enjoyed them, were boring by comparison. They shouldn’t have been. One was in a dress shop where I did all the interior and exterior display, worked in receiving and marking, figured open-to-buys, and did sales work and modeling. On a later job I worked as secretary to an editor and a technical writer, finally doing the editor’s job myself and some artwork and writing.
Yet motherhood was more fulfilling. When working outside the home, I had no control over my immediate environment, which sometimes included profanity, “dirty” jokes, and what I considered low ethical standards. But as a committed, full-time mother I could create an atmosphere of physical and moral beauty within my home, no matter what was outside.
Furthermore, in my job as a full-time mother, I could put all my knowledge to work instead of bits and pieces of it. In fact, my knowledge of history, philosophy, humanities, chemistry, government, economics, and theology was grossly inadequate. My professors never asked me such questions as: “When was God born?” “Where does money come from?” or “What happens when a cake bakes?” But my three-year-old did.
In my job as mother, I discovered that I was often fulfilling one of the most important requirements for a doctoral degree: an original contribution to a field of knowledge. Because each child and each family is different, a complete commitment to motherhood requires that a mother do this repeatedly. Mothers are some of the most interesting people I know.
There is only one commitment that should properly be placed ahead of motherhood, and that is my commitment as a wife. The importance of this commitment became especially clear to me after the birth of our twins when it took all the effort my husband and I could produce just to cope with their basic needs. Fortunately, this situation improved as they grew older, but it made me aware that my commitment to motherhood was best placed in subjection to my commitment as a wife.