Today was our Stake Women's Conference, which, if you don't know what that is - it's an all day conference for the women in our church. We get to go to various uplifting classes, and have lunch together too. They do this once a year.
About 2 years ago, I went to Time Out For Women with my Mom. It was a 2 day conference in downtown Seattle where they had various motivational speakers give talks, as well as some musicians gave some fabulous performances. I remember coming away from the event with my mom and asking her how she liked it, and she had mentioned to me that it made her feel very "discouraged". I was really surprised to hear her say that, since the whole point of the conference was to make her feel completely the opposite. When she elaborated, she explained that "It just made her feel like she wasn't good enough, or wasn't trying hard enough."
I, on the other hand, walked away from the conference feeling really good and spiritually uplifted. I felt like I was given a lot of great insight and suggestions for my life.
So now flash foward 2 years to our Womens Conference today. I went to a class on how to make your home a temple and how to raise your children in light and truth. Then I went to a class on how to improve your marriage, which was great. Then we had lunch (yum). In the afternoon, I went to a class on how to instill good work habits in your children, and then I ended up going to the marriage class again with my mom because she hadn't been to it.
While I did walk away with so many great insights for my life and with new ideas on how to be a better wife and mother, I have to say that I did experience a little bit of how my mom felt after Time Out for Women: Inadequacy.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not beating myself up. I'm not suffering from depression or anything like that. I often feel that I am very blessed in my life. But I guess it wasn't until I saw what these other women were doing in their homes where I actually felt a little bit of Wow, I'm not doing enough.
Some of these instructors had pages of schedules for their families, sometimes one for each child including the 3 year old. Their days and activites were mapped out for the entire week. Another teacher had lists of chores and each child was assigned something different, including the parents. They had family nights discussing gospel topics, prayer, or would have family clean-house parties. They mentioned how they would have random gospel discussions with their kids while driving in the car. They mentioned how they are excellent in their evening prayers, and struggle with the morning ones but still do them.
Okay, wow. I feel like my days are so all over the place, and that my kids temperments are so unpreditable that creating a weekly schedule for everyone would be great, but it would not last very long. Trust me, I've tried it. A list of chores for everyone - what a great idea since I feel like I'm the only one who ever cleans the house. I've tried that - even hung a little chore chart for Preston in his room. It lasted 2 days and neither he or I were consistent with it. Evening and morning prayers? We are barely even conquering the evening ones with our little ones. Random gospel topics in the car? I wish I would look for the opportunities better...
Seeing all the examples and suggestions today from these parents who were older and more experienced than me (some not by much), made me realize that we are embarking into territory within our family that requires a more "House of Order". Raising babies is easy. But raising children...teenagers? You have to be a better parent and set up a house of order, a house of faith, prayer, etc.
I'm realizing that Preston is getting older and understanding more. He listens when I don't even think he is listening. We've been catching him saying "Oh my gosh" lately, and we don't like it. I do a very good job of saying "Oh my goodness", but when Will asked Preston where he learned to say "Oh my gosh", he said "Mama say it!". He must have heard me say it when I didn't even realize I had said it. Or perhaps I said it while talking to Will and didn't realize Preston was listening. And then I realized the other day, that I watch the show The Biggest Loser every week. It was the first time I actually consciously noticed every single time they would say "OMG" on the show, whether it was the euphamism or the real deal. And it was a LOT. No wonder my child was saying it. It just never really hit me before how much he takes in and is watching what we do.
I think that it's good that the Women's Conference made me feel a little bad today. I mean, how can we improve if we think we are already perfect? BUT, on the flipside, I do realize that being the parents of very small children is demanding, hard, and exhausting. I cannot think that we are doing too badly when sometimes there are just things that are out of our control. I'm not going to get down on myself for not having Preston's morning perfectly planned out with crafts and activities, when I was up with Taylor 4 times during the night and I'm exhausted and am just trying to pick up the house that morning.
It is too easy to compare ourselves to others and think that we are not good enough. And I hate to say it, but especially within our church it is too easy to get caught up in what the "perfect family" should be like. I married a very good man who is continually reminding me that it doesn't matter what other people think just as long as I know that I'm trying my hardest to do the right things.
Will has been job searching since Taylor was born, and there are times when I do just get sick of it. He is an incredible person who is beyond smart. I personally think that any employer would be lucky to have him working for them. He's educated and smart and savvy. He's also fun, and witty. But sometimes I think that our lives will be so much better once he finds that "perfect job" so that we can finally feel like we are on our feet completely again. It's easy for me to get caught up in the "trial" of it all. I have to continually remind myself that we are INCREDIBLY blessed. We prepared for times like this both in food storage and money. We have a home, and cars that work. We still go out on dates, and take vacations, and have fun as a family. I still do my music. We have also been the recipients of so many generous people who have helped us. Our boys have been very lucky to get so much time with Will. Preston has a very special bond with Will and it's because he has gotten to spend so much time with him.
So after thinking about this and many other things today, and about the lessons I took home from Women's Conference today, the biggest thing that I came to realize after it all, was that we just need to ask ourselves if we are TRYING. Are we trying our best? And if so, it doesn't matter what others think of you. You can't compare yourself to anyone else. I know that there are things that I could be trying harder at and so I'm going to work on those. But I'm also not going to get down on myself in the areas where I really do try hard and still may fall short.
And lastly, on that note, that is why we are here on this Earth in the first place - to try, try, and try again. To get up after we fall, and to keep going. It's not about being perfect right now. And even when we think someone else's life is perfect, it's really not. Our lives are a continual process of discovering things about ourselves and our families that we need to work on with the hope that in the end when we leave this life, we will have practiced enough improvement, faith, and perseverence that Heaven will be our reward. And Forever with our families. :)