Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood

I was just reading the January Ensign, which arrived while we were out of town for Christmas. One article in particular caught my attention and made me think--The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood, by Jean Knight Pace. The author discusses how she loves motherhood, and how she was surprised by this. She then lists some of the myths that are common about motherhood. All of her points are good, but one in particular made me think about some of my own experiences with motherhood in the past 2+ years:
Myth number two: When you have children, you won't be able to progress intellectually.
Truth: As a mother, you will read books, learn to build things, and learn more about nutrition and health, budgeting, taxes, cooking, and running a home. You will learn to teach. Some women even learn to quilt, sew, crochet, do artwork, and do many other things...

This particular truth--the amount of varied learning we undergo as mothers--really hit home to me right now. Recently I have been trying to finish a master's thesis that was begun five years ago. It has been frustrating to realize how much I have forgotten, how much longer it takes me to figure things out--even in the rare hours I can work without interruption from the babies. I have occasionally mourned the loss of my "intellectual" side, realizing that the sheer amount of time involved in child-raising makes it impossible to keep abreast of all the new discoveries (and even to remember all the old ones) as I did before.

But when I read Sister Pace's words about the things we do learn as mothers, it was like a light just went on in my head. I know so much more about all sorts of things--I know more about child physiology and psychology, about cooking and cleaning and gardening, about writing and photography and playing and teaching. I can answer some of my younger sister's questions about her pregnancy. I even know more about sewing! (You should see the zipper-snap-button-tie pillow I made for Ezra for Christmas! All by myself (mostly) and without a pattern!)

I wonder if the reason why I didn't realize that I was continuing to learn and grow because the type of learning is so different. I'm not in a class, I'm not learning from big heavy expensive textbooks, I'm not learning about volcanoes and minerals and chemicals. But the breadth of my knowledge is so much greater--and much more useful to my life right now than the eruption rate of a long-dead volcano.

I'm not saying that the knowledge I gained from my formal schooling is worthless or that I will stop trying to finish my thesis. I love geology, and I'll keep learning about volcanoes for the rest of my life, I have no doubt. But I don't have to feel stunted intellectually during this intense time of child-raising, because I really am still learning. And I love it!


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