It has always bothered me that menopause isn’t called womanopause. I mean who’s doing the pausing here? I’ve heard about all the hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes that accompany the loss of fertility. Why doesn’t anybody talk about the pause part? I think pause should mean – pause - stop and ponder.
Growing older is not what I expected. I mean I used to think old people were old people. We’re not. Older people are just regular people in old bodies. We stay pretty much the same inside as the years go by but the body goes south. Life is so much shorter than I thought it would be. I think we’re more likely to learn something along the way if we take the time to contemplate what our experiences have taught us.
Once I was sitting next to Emily Watts at a Deseret Book Time Out for Women. We were both on the program and waiting to speak to a large gathering of women.
“They’ve got me billed as the one who’s giving the mother talk,” I said turning to her. "I’m not comfortable appearing to be some kind of expert. I mean, what to I know? I don’t feel like I really know anything about being a mom.”
“Yes you do,” she answered. “Think about it.”
And so I did.
Thinking about it is the part I’m interested in. By the time we hit our fifties, most of us are inching up on the tail end of the crowded years. For the first half of our life we hurried around like Martha taking care of all the needs in our family and the universe. Now it is time to be more like Mary and choose more carefully the better part. Raising a family is a lot of hard work interspersed with moments of indescribable joy. If we don’t take the time to share our dear and not so dear motherhood experiences, the younger moms coming up through the ranks will think they are alone. When new moms lock arms with old moms we are a formidable force for good and much cheaper than therapy.
We spend the first half of our lives acquiring and accumulating. We spend the last half unloading and thinning out. We come to understand less is more. We spend the first half of our lives wishing everybody would leave us alone so we can get something important done. We spend the last half of our lives trying to get those same people to come back because we realize they are the important part.
Menopause ushers us from a fertile time for our bodies into a fertile time for our minds. We are given our bodies back, though a little wider and sporting a C-section scar or two. Now we’re asked to see what we will do with a seasoned heart. That’s why we’re called grand mothers. We don’t have to give birth any more or be the disciplinarians – just the lovers. That’s what makes grand parenting so grand.
Motherhood follows the same cycle of life as in nature with spring time, summer, autumn and winter – each following the other in an eternal round. Whether we’re starting out or ending up, we all have something valuable to offer each other. We start out feeling like we’re giving up something more important to raise children and end up realizing raising children is the important part. We start out thinking we’re sacrificing our personal development and end up realizing the process of learning to love someone is the ultimate road to personal development. We quite literally find our self when we lose our self. In the end we come to know that everything that matters most is sitting around our kitchen table. And that’s something to pause and think about.


The Echo Of Their Laughter

I remember the years when I was basically home bound with many young children. Sometimes I wondered if I should be doing something more important “out there.” On my hard days I had moments when I wondered if I was throwing myself away for children who didn’t seem to appreciate anything I was doing for them. When we are mothers of young children we are generally young ourselves or at least new to being a parent. It is not easy to painstakingly extract our selfishness. So we hang on as long as possible, hoping someone will eventually appreciate all we do. One day it dawns on us – the eyes God see everything and that’s enough.
Most of our behavior with our young children is a private experience even they won’t remember – consciously. Yet there is another memory of the heart – a deep personal feeling we carry inside that tells us if we are loveable or unlovable, safe or unsafe and whether or not we can trust others. We learn these things from our parents and we take those feelings with us when we leave home.
On those hard days when the baby is screaming, the toddler paints his entire bedroom in petroleum jelly, and the preschooler gouges the new sofa with a butcher knife it’s hard not to feel like you’re going to go crazy. Feeling overwhelmed is a chronic parenting condition. It’s not easy to work very hard every day without pay, recognition or reward for little people who throw up all over us, scream in our face and throw things at our head. It’s not easy to fix nutritious meals that mostly wind up on the floor. It’s not easy to clean a house that is being destroyed even as we work. It’s not easy to be romantic with our spouse when we haven’t even had a chance to take a shower all day. It’s not easy to be a parent of young children. It takes years to grow into our role.
We know we’re making progress when we finally stop feeling sorry for our self. We’re ready for the next school in parenthood when our life becomes less about us and more about them. Our perspective shifts. We realize being a child isn’t easy either. Hey, it’s not easy being three. Try climbing up on a commode that is twice as big as you are. When we begin to look at our children the way an educated art patron in a museum looks at Michelangelo’s David or the Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, we will see them as the masterpieces they really are.
Taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves is a mission – a calling and worthy our best effort. If we work very hard and give our all to our parenting career, our children might turn out well and they might not. We are an important part of our child’s life, but we can’t realistically take all the credit or blame for the adult our child becomes. We only have to take the blame and credit for how we turn out.
No matter how many battles we fight on the home front, our name will not appear on a monument. We will work our whole life for something we never see finished. But if we make the necessary sacrifices, parenthood will be a personal cure for self-centeredness and an anecdote for false pride. The primary relationship we have in this life is with our self. There is nothing like parenthood to make us face our self and seek divine help. Then when we lay our head on our pillow at night, we may not see the dream of CEO printed on our office door or visions of mansions and luxury cars. We will see the radiant faces of our children and hear the echo of their laughter.


Making Today the Best Day of our Life

One day my mother-in-law turned to me and said, “I used to think my life would get so much easier after I got my children raised. It doesn’t. It just gets worrier and worrier until you die.”
At the time I thought she was throwing a wet towel over all my dreams for an easier tomorrow. Like her, I was living white knuckled hoping my life would get easier some day. From my perspective, her life seemed a lot easier than mine. Her comment got me thinking – maybe life’s challenges don’t go away; they just change to new ones. From that moment on I decided I had no more time to waste hoping for an easier tomorrow. I was going to make every day, the best day of my life.
I think my mother-in-law was trying to tell me that as we age we have more and more people to worry about because we have more and more people we know and love. We start out being concerned about a small nuclear family group and friends. Soon we grow up and that group expands to include our spouse and children. Soon those children grow up and our worries include their spouses and children. Then the grandchildren grow up and our heart grows to include their spouses and children.
Even though we can’t stop being concerned about all the people we love, we can learn the important difference between everything we’re concerned about and what we can actually do something about. Then we do what we can and leave the rest in God’s hands. Understanding that God alone is in control of the universe is the greatest stress reliever in the world. When we develop an attitude of gratitude for everything life throws at us, things have a way of working out.
On the day my mother-in-law left this life she was dying in one room of the Payson hospital while her great grand daughter was being born in another. While I watched my sister-in-law dashing between floors trying to say goodbye to her mother for the last time and hello to her grand child for the first time I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad. Then I wondered if birth and death are not so different. Our perspective makes us sad or happy. If we’re in heaven when someone we love is born, we feel sad because we’re going to miss them and we wonder what’s in store for them. The people on earth are rejoicing and welcoming a new family member. If we’re on earth when someone we love dies, we feel sad because we’re going to miss them and we don’t know for sure what’s in store for them. The people in heaven are rejoicing and welcoming an old family member back home again.
Perhaps if we had a broader perspective, all our hellos and goodbyes, our struggles and challenges would be seen as gifts to help us grow in knowledge, wisdom, patience and compassion. It is our perception that causes us worry or rejoicing. The truth is – there is no easy time of life. In essence, each day is a series of problems to solve, overcome or endure. The secret of a fulfilling life journey lies in our ability to be grateful for everything even when we’re knee deep in challenges. Making the personal decision to be grateful releases us from the quick-sand of self pity and opens our hearts to the personal growth we experience from good days and bad days. Then every day can be the best day of our life.


Here They Go

When my daughter April was small she put her hands on her hips and informed me she was old enough to walk to school by herself.
I’d always walked beside her on the way to school with her younger siblings in tow. I was careful to teach her to look both ways before she crossed the street. I also taught her not to talk to strangers. So when she asked me if I would let her walk to school alone, I was scared.
I knew I could watch her from the street corner and make sure she arrived safely but I really didn’t want to let her go it alone. Yet, when I looked into her eyes I knew I would hurt her confidence if I told her all the reasons to be scared.
So I agreed.
When the big morning arrived, I reviewed all our rules then walked her to the street corner. We hugged extra tight and said goodbye. Then she walked away without me. My heart fell out on the sidewalk
I wanted to scream, “No, you can’t do that. Someone might hurt you!”
Instead I said, “Way to go April. You’re so big. I’m so proud of you.”
I secretly followed my daughter that day, hiding behind every bush and tree so she wouldn’t know I was right there making sure she was safe. I noticed she really did look both ways on street crossing without being reminded and not a single scary stranger approached her.
After I watched April open the school door and step inside, I turned and plodded back home. I’d spent years making sure she was safe and well cared for. Now she was ready to take on part of that responsibility herself and I felt happy, proud, sad and scared all mixed up together.
Then it occurred to me that God watches over us like that. He doesn’t want to hurt our progress and growth, so He lets us walk through life thinking we are alone when He’s always there hiding behind every bush or tree, watching over us.
We parents face our child’s first sleep-over, first choir tour, first date or first college dorm with anticipation and regret. We want our children to be independent but we never feel like we’ve had enough time together. Our busy lives never seem to include enough one-on-one bonding with each child. All too soon we realize we’ll never get our son and daughter’s childhood back even for a moment.
We parents walk a fine line wondering: How do we protect our children without being over-protective? So we try – but often feel like a drunk man – weaving on and off the protective versus smothering straight line, unsure how to put one foot in front of the other and walk away. When are our children really ready to play alone in the back yard, walk to school, drive a car, leave for college or get married? Probably never. Yet life is constantly nudging – pushing us and them forward. Always sooner than we’re ready, it is - ready or not, here they go.