By: Linda Eyre As Memorial Day comes and goes this year, I (Linda) am celebrating those heroines who came before me: my Grandmothers! Most of them I never knew but their stories find me and bind me to their heroic lives! In addition I’m thinking of the lives of the Mothers who came after these great women who are also influenced by their sacrifices. This article appeared in the Deseret News news near Mother’s Day but I think it’s even more appropriate for Memorial Day. Those who came before us, are not only in our genes and our blood but should be in our memories as we contemplate their lives on this Memorial Day. The Hard Times of Mothering Define Us There are some days when Mothering is about as fun as traveling at eighty miles an hour on a blistering hot day on a motorcycle with no windshield in a bug storm! I have worried for many years about young mothers, in the midst of the “storm” who tell me that they hate Mother’s Day. It reminds them of their shortcomings and magnifies their guilt. All mothers have probably felt this way at times. So this year, as we approach Mother’s Day with its flowers and treats and showering of praise, we also need to acknowledge that mothering is just plain hard! Let’s step back a moment, take ourselves out of the here-and-now and look at the big picture. Mothering isn’t just about where we are in our mothering career at the moment; it’s about where we came from and where we are going. In order to know who we really are, we need to look at the whole spectrum of the mothers in our lives. Last year I had a spectacular “aha moment” as I began thinking about the Mothers in my life. Not just my own mother who has been an enormous influence for good on me but also my grandmothers and great grandmothers. I am part of them and they are part of me. My moment came as I was walking through a glorious field of bluebells on a spring day in England in an old 100 acre-wood near a quaint little village called Little Baddow. It happened to be my birthday and I was there with two of our daughters, both stellar mothers themselves, and two grandchildren. Little Baddow is where my great-great grandmother Elizabeth Gower was born and raised. Elizabeth must surely have walked through this very bluebell field in her childhood. It was an ethereal experience to contemplate the currents of her life, which first moved our family to America all those years ago and now of my own life as we three mothers came back to the flower grove of this stalwart mother from our past. (Below is an original oil painting by Bobbi Snow from photographs of the “Fields of Bluebells”). Elizabeth and her husband Daniel Clark were the first to join our church with their family of ten children and were so bitterly persecuted for becoming Mormons that they decided to immigrate to America. On the way across the plains in covered wagons, Daniel drank some bad water from the river, contracted cholera, died and is buried somewhere along the Platte River in Nebraska. Valiant Elizabeth forged on to Salt Lake City with the children. I can only imagine the vivid details of her difficult life—details of hardship which in the end defined her and helped define me. Though I never knew her, her valiant blood runs in my veins. There are other stories of my gaggle of faithful grandmothers that boggle my mind. One, after giving birth to ten children and living a faithful life died in the horrendous flu epidemic in 1920 in Star Valley, Wyoming when she was thirty-eight, leaving eight children including my mother and taking her two sick babies aged three and eighteen months with her to heaven in the same week. Another pioneer grandmother helped settle Bear Lake Valley and saw that the community recreation hall and a road to Bloomington Lake was built. And another lost five of her six children as she immigrated from Denmark to Salt Lake City. The stories of the difficulties of their lives is nothing short of awe-inspiring. . Now that our children have flown the nest, I love thinking about those great mothers who have made me and those who will become great mothers because of their sacrifices. That includes of our own four daughters and four daughters-in-law who are producing the generations to come. They have their own sets of hardships. One has a child with a syndrome that may cause the loss of her eyesight before she is an adolescent. Another lived with our son in a 450 square foot apartment in New York City for three children—the baby sleeping in a drawer. One gave birth to their first child at age 38. Another has a teenager who has just hit the “surly” age. Two daughters sit in pews by themselves each Sunday struggling with little children while their Bishop husbands conduct their church services. Another valiant soul delivered their first child completely naturally…. breech! Still another is a pioneer in her own right as she and her family have decided to “go green” at their home in Hawaii. They have grow boxes full of vegetables, a yard full of chickens and live on about $200 a month for food while driving beat up old, completely rusted out Mercedes station wagons that run on vegetable oil. None of it is easy—not in the past or in the present. Yet, as much as we may enjoy the lovely picture portrayed on Mother’s Day of love and peace and tranquility and gratitude, we have to admit that the difficulties in our lives are the things that help us to grow and change and learn. As we look at the big picture, these hard times of motherhood create a family narrative that will give future generations strength and resilience to go on in the face of their own hardships. One of our long-standing family’s mantras was probably inspired by our grandmothers shouting down from heaven, “Hard is Good!” Thanks, Mom, for going before us and teaching us how to fly as only you can. Love you. And to go along with that great article from my Mother, here are some awesome opportunities to make that “hard is good” motherhood stuff even more rewarding. My sister Saren is doing some Power of Moms Motherhood retreats along the way as she drives across the country with her family in the next few weeks. It’s a rare opportunity to attend a POM motherhood retreat much more economically. Here are the dates and places:
Kansas City, MO: June 18th (registration opening soon)
Who has their first child at 38?
The article said one of her Grandmothers died after having 10 children at the age of 38. So she was actually having her 10th around that age 🙂
Regardless having your first child at 38 would be a miracle for some people who have been trying to conceive for years.
Lilly: Who has their first child at 38? A woman who for any reason under the sun can't conceive a child earlier than that.
I thought she was asking who as in which sister? Not in a mean way
Lilly, not everyone is blessed to be able to have children when they're younger. They might not find someone until later in life. I don't see why anyone should be denied children, whatever their age.
Shawni, your mother is a brilliant writer. As I was reading, tears were pouring out of my eyes. It made me think of my grandmothers, the wonderful strong women who seem kind of unreal today. It made me think of my mother who I love dearly. Motherhood is hard, but the outcome can't be beaten by anything. Thanks to your mama and a virtual hug to you!
better at 38 than at 15 like everyone's nasty kids are doing now.
Thank you Linda for your words. I also enjoy reading your work. Always inspiring.
Shawni, beautiful post from your mother! I only wish that it had been posted on another day. Memorial Day should be celebrating those men and women who fight for our countries freedom. As a military wife, I know from our everyday experiences that this life so few chose is one with great hardships and sacrifices. My husband misses so much of our life at home just to protect our freedom and often finds himself in combat positions. Not that a mother's journey isn't hard – but honestly, I'm not sure it was completely appropriate to say that you're celebrating Memorial Day by looking at mothers who have had a hard journey – that really downplays the importance of the military. I'm not sure that Mormons join the military as regularly as non-Mormons so maybe it's just not a forethought? I thoroughly enjoy your blog and will definitely be back to read more, however, I'm sorry to say that this was a little off-putting.
Thank you "CrazyPupBlog" for your thoughts and comments…as a military wife I was thinking the same thing when I logged on to see the new post as I enjoy reading this blog very much. It bothered me the rest of the day. Wonderful post though, would've been great for any other day of the year:)
A nice, thought provoking post for a different day. Weird to call this a Memorial Day post since Memorial Day is for honoring fallen military, no?
Mormons do join the military in roughly equal numbers to the rest of the population.
Here's an interesting article explaining a bit about Mormons and military service.
So excited about the Kansas City date. That is where I live. Please e-mail me when registration opens up! firstname.lastname@example.org
Hey, Shawni! This was beautiful, as always! I actually found your blog years ago through values parenting, so your mom's writings have been with me a long time. 🙂 I also wanted to let you know that I would WELCOME the opportunity to help out with the Book of Mormon mailings! I'll have a link up on my blog by the end of the day today, for anyone looking. (www dot seekthegreen dot com) Thanks for all you do, and have a fantastic summer!
I feel like Memorial Day should be reserved for those serving (past and present) in the military. Mothers are great and deserve the hero status as well, but we just had a day to celebrate mothers. Memorial Day is to recognize those who have given their lives for our country, and those who are willing to put their lives on the line every single day to defend our freedom. Those men and women who leave behind their own families to serve our country and also their unselfish families who celebrate birthdays and holidays and live day to day with loved ones far away…those are the people who deserve this holiday(and many more) to be recognized for the heros they truly are.
I generally enjoy this blog, but the timing of this post just rubbed me the wrong way.
I enjoyed this post. I feel like we all can do what works for us to make a particular holiday meaningful to us. I also use Memorial Day to remember family members who have passed, and I don't feel that it detracts from the traditional observance of remembering those who lost their lives in the service of their country. Nor do I think it to be in poor taste to remember our mothers ANY day of the year, it doesn't just have to be Mother's Day.
I was 37 when I had my first 2 children (twins). I personally was unable to conceive. One of my very dear friends was 41. Same issue.
Shawni, Thank you to your Mother for this beautiful post. I am going to see about making one of these retreats. Sounds wonderful and exactly what my lamp needs
Thank you for sharing this! I am also very grateful for those wonderful strong Grandmothers that came before us!