Editor’s note: We are grateful to Charity for sharing a little about herself and her passion for motherhood today in this Portraits of Mormon Women post. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing a poem Charity wrote. Charity has a blog here.
In the fall of 1964, a German professor at Indiana State University changed my life, 10 years before I was even born. He had learned German as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my parents, who were engaged to be married at the time, were in his class. When they learned he was a Mormon, they felt sorry for him, and went to the library to learn more about his religion. As a result, they went to him with a list of questions. They were intrigued by his answers, and continued to learn. In January they were married and the following April, they were baptized. As a result, I and my 6 siblings were raised as members of the Church.
After attending BYU, my parents returned to Indiana, to 40 wooded acres given to my father by his father, outside the small town of Crawfordsville, IN. I loved growing up on that property. There, my parents were some of the initial members of the tiny Crawfordsville Branch. I remember attending Church in a rented building as a young child. When I was about 8 years old, we were able to build our own building, and shortly after that became a ward. It never occurred to me that not every young Mormon girl watched her chapel be built, and knew what a Building Fund was. Life was good in our little Branch, and later Ward. I knew that there were people there who loved the Lord. My dad always had off-the-wall ideas, and one day he came home after having seen a flier on the bulletin board at the Stake Center and said, “Let’s apply for the Hill Cumorah Pageant”. We did, and were accepted, and as a family we were in the Pageant for 5 years, for me the ages 10-15. The Book of Mormon, and early Church History came alive to me. Much of my young testimony was gained and grown at the Hill Cumorah. I was also introduced to kids who had grown up in Utah, whose wards were their neighborhoods, and nearly all of the kids at their school knew who Joseph Smith was. The idea was mind boggling to me.
I’ve always been a person with big plans. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I also wanted to be an archaeologist, and maybe a nurse, and a biology, math or history teacher. I wanted to travel the world, and I loved to sing, play music and perform on the stage. I loved sports. I never played them very well, but I loved them anyway. The Olympics were my favorite, and every sport I tried, I dreamed of competing in it for my country. For me, the Olympics combined the thrill of competition, the love of sport, and the deep patriotism I’ve had burning within me for as long as I can remember. My interests were as varied as the fascinating world around me. I went to a small rural High School where it was possible to dabble in many things, and so I did. I was in the plays, on the swim team, in the band, and lots of other activities. I also always knew I wanted to go to BYU. I grew up watching BYU football at the Church on the satellite dish with my family. That’s how you had to do it in Indiana. I knew the Cougar fight song LONG before I reached Provo as a freshman, and every year for Christmas I looked forward to the new BYU shirt I knew would be inside one of the gifts under the tree for me.
After graduating from High School, I went out west to BYU with three goals:
1. Not be engaged until at least my Junior year of college.
2. Not marry a boy from Utah. I really didn’t have anything against boys from Utah. It’s just that I was the 5th of 7 children, and my 3 older siblings who were already married had married people from Utah, and I wanted to be different, that’s all.
3. Finish my degree before babies came. I had seen my mom struggle to finish her nearly completed degree many years after leaving college. She did what she felt was right and left it to raise her kids, but I wanted to have that wrapped up so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.
So, guess what happened? I met my future husband on the first day of class my Freshman year, at the opening Ward social. We were instant friends, talking, laughing and climbing trees together. I couldn’t imagine my life without Rick. We were engaged by February of that year, and he is from West Jordan, Utah. So much for my plans. The Lord apparently had bigger and better ideas than my own. Once I was engaged, I made a serious plan for graduation, taking full class loads, going to school through the summers, but I didn’t finish my degree before the babies came, either. I was REALLY close, and I was able to finish through Independent Study while my husband worked on his Masters degree at Purdue University. I took my last final a few weeks after my second baby was born, completing my degree in Elementary Education, graduating Cum Laude.
Babies three, four and five came as we navigated our way from grad school, to a job at Caterpillar, to building a new home, then leaving a year and a half later to move to Illinois for a promotion. We’ve been here 7.5 years now. Our oldest, a son, is a Junior in High School, and I often find myself looking back, knowing that I have lived through it all, but wondering how it happened. My middle three children are girls, ages 15, 13 and 10, and the youngest is a boy, 6. Like me, my children’s interests are varied, and they are active in many things. This keeps me busy and leaves me little room for anything other than motherhood, although I do find time to serve as a counselor in the RS Presidency and support my husband as Bishop.
Being a mom is my most important job, but there are other areas of interest in my life. Through my years of motherhood, I’ve tried to apply my own interests to my mothering whenever possible. For example: Sometimes I dream of opening a bakery. Instead, years ago I learned to bake bread and have been baking my family’s bread for many years now. I also love to try out new recipes, and I’ve enjoyed teaching my children to bake. Sometimes I dream of teaching a classroom of eager minds. Instead, besides helping my own children to learn, I have enjoyed volunteering in their classrooms. Currently I love teaching my 4th grade daughter’s classroom science two times a month. Sometimes I dream of performing on stage, and I love singing a capella music. While still in Indiana, my sister-in-law and I started an a capella singing group of moms. We got together once a week at my house and sang while the kids played. Later, when I moved to Illinois, I sang for awhile in the local Sweet Adeline’s chapter. My children have caught the love of music as well, and it is something that we enjoy as a family. Sometimes I dream of writing a book, or poetry, or songs, or something. Instead, I occasionally write on my blog. Sometimes I dream of changing the world and making a difference in the community. Then I look at my five children, and know that I am. My interests are still varied, and at times I’m even envious of women who have accomplished things outside of motherhood, but I’ve learned that we each need to figure out for ourselves what works for us and our family, and that Lord’s path for us. Too much harm is done to individuals when we foster comparison in motherhood. Motherhood and it’s methods are as varied as the children whom we mother, and we would all benefit from being more accepting of those around us who choose to mother a little differently than we do.
Last year my youngest went to all day kindergarten, and I had a little bit of an identity crises. For 15 years, I had had at least one little one at home with me. And while I had MANY tasks to fill my time, I wondered who I was supposed to be now. Of course I was still Mom, but was now the time in my life to do more? It’s interesting, the changing phases of motherhood. There’s really no busier stage than another, they’re just different. I used to be able to wind down when the kids went to bed at 8, giving me a couple of hours in the evening for something I wanted to do. Now I have to seize those hours during the day, since life is pretty much full on until 10:00. One thing I’ve learned is that life is a lot happier when I learn to enjoy the stage of life that I’m in, right now, rather than to look ahead and dream of another stage when I’m sure that I’ll have more time, or energy, or something. I’ve had enough of those stages come and go to learn that just isn’t true. When one stage passes, and another comes, I usually look back and wonder why I didn’t more fully enjoy what I had when I had it. So, now that’s what I try to do.
Our family has lots of fun together. We all enjoy baking and cooking, and I don’t know how many times we’ve talked about the idea of starting a family restaurant. We also love the outdoors and find a lot of enjoyment in the beauty of the Earth around us. We love traveling to all areas of the country to see the various types of beauty. We especially love to visit the National Parks. We’ve enjoyed hiking, canoeing, camping, and whitewater rafting, to name a few of the activities. We look forward to being a little more adventurous now that our youngest is old enough to participate in some more outdoor activities. This summer we plan to backpack in Colorado for 4 days. Should be exciting. We also enjoy getting together with extended family. I find a lot of joy watching my children become good friends with their cousins.
The Gospel and the Plan of Salvation are my parenting blueprint. When I have a question or concern about parenting, I often think of it in terms of our Father in Heaven, and how He deals with His children here on Earth. I’ve often heard parents state that they wish children came with an owner’s manual. I believe the Gospel can be our manual for raising our children. When we immerse ourselves in living the Gospel, we will be blessed with guidance from our Heavenly Father, through the Holy Ghost, to raise these children, His children, entrusted to our care. I’ve had it happen on multiple occasions. I know that He is as interested, and ultimately even more interested, in my children’s success than I am.
I still have big plans for my life. However, each day that I watch my children grow, those plans become more and more entwined with the lives of my husband and the five beautiful people that I am lucky enough to have call me Mom.
Your a great mom, Charity, and an example to all of us. Thanks so much for sharing this. It was fun to hear about your parents’ conversion and your growing up years.
I meant to say “you’re”…it’s getting late!
Great article, Charity! Thanks for sharing your wonderful insight and stories.
What a beautiful piece of family history you’ve created! And such an awesome woman you are! Love you!