Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Nurturing Doesn't Come Naturally

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states that, " Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

That word " nurture" bothered me for a really long time.

I did not see myself as an innately nurturing person. As a young woman I didn't really have a desire to be a mother. I hated to babysit and didn't really enjoy being around children. I remember once having a conversation with one of my high school friends in the corner of the drama room. I made her promise that if I ever chose to be a stay-at-home mom that she would hunt me down, hit me over the head with a bat, and remind me that there was nothing I dreaded more than being tied down to a baby and a husband. I was certain that I just wasn't cut out for motherhood, and that my talents would be better used else where.

Then I had a baby.

And all of a sudden I was filled with a crazy, intense love. It was a type love I'd never experienced before. It didn't manifest itself like other types of love I had experienced; it wasn't giddiness, tears, excitement, or passion it was just... fierce.

I loved that little baby like I loved myself; completely exasperated and critical of him one moment and then head over heels in crazy love the next. That kind of love scared me and fascinated me at the same time. I found myself pouring everything I had into him--my time, my body, my thoughts, my dreams, everything. Yet I still didn't feel like a nurturer.

I felt like the same old me, but with a baby.

Then, slowly, I began to see that nurturing wasn't just something that was going to magically happen to me just because I had a baby. It was something I was going to have to learn. 

It is funny how I had assumed that nurturing was something that was suppose to come natural when I didn't expect fathering to come naturally to my husband. In the Family Proclamation it also says, " Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. "

Presiding, providing the necessities of life, and protecting are not things that come naturally to all men. Some men are more talented or adept at say providing, when another might struggle with that. Some men may be naturally talented at presiding or protecting, while for other men that may be something they have to consciously work at. The responsibilities of fathers are certainly not things that just happen because they are male. They are things that take work and time to develop correctly.

I think the same is true of nurturing in women. I know many wonderful nurturers, but there are only one or two that I would say are "naturally" that way. Most of the women I know whose nurturing skills I admire have developed it over time. And none of their nurturing looks or feels the same.

I believe that, in our eternal identity as women, we are created after the image of our Heavenly Mother and thus have inherited some of her divine aptitude for nurturing. Yet, just because we have those seeds within us, doesn't mean that they will grow without work and effort.

If someone has really musical parents, they have probably inherited good "music genes". But if they don't ever pick up a musical instrument and work hard to master it they will never become a musician, good or bad. I think the same thing is true of nurturing. Our heavenly genetics give women "the nurturing" gene, an innate aptitude and ability to nurture the human family. It is deep within our souls and housed within our bodies. Yet just having that "gene" doesn't mean that nurturing will come naturally or that one will even have the desire to.

I know that for me nurturing is a challenge. It is something I have to work at daily-- okay lets be honest-- hourly. But just because it doesn't come easily to me isn't any reason to run away from it or limit my opportunities to practice it. If it is hard for me that is all the more reason to embrace it and learn to become better at it.

I think that this was one of the reasons that the direction to homeschool my children came so strongly. Homeschooling forces me to be with my children-- to think about them, to plan for them, and tests my nurturing skills to the max. Homeschooling has turned my heart to my children in a way that doesn't come naturally for me at all. If I had it my way I'd be off running an NGO, teaching in a university, or having some sort of career, but that wasn't the path the Lord had for me. He knew that nothing would challenge me more than staying at home with my children and learning how to nurture them.

And he was right.

I have never done anything harder (or more rewarding) than staying home with my children.

I love them with that raw fierce mother love, but I sometimes struggle with wanting to be with them, or wanting to nurture them. There are days when nothing sounds more appealing than sending them off to boarding school for a year. But I don't. Instead I let them fill my life with their noise, their love, their excitement, their arguments, their tears, and their joy.

I feel like motherhood has been my crucible. The place where all my weaknesses-- my pride, my vanity, my selfishness-- has been exposed and is slowly getting burned away. It is often a painful process, but every once in awhile I get a glimpse of the woman I am becoming and I am speechless.

She is beautiful... and she is a nurturer.

She is learning how to let herself be hugged and snuggled when she'd rather be by herself. She is learning how to slow down and not pass by the small things. She is learning how to answer the same question for the 1,000th time with patience. She is learning how to pray for guidance and how to act on promptings. She is learning how to listen and how to curb her tongue. She is learning how to look on the heart and to see people for who they really are. She is learning to love children, of all ages. She is learning how to sacrifice, how to serve, and how to put another's needs above her own.

Mostly, she is learning how to love like the Savior loves.

And that certainly hasn't come naturally.

How have you learned how to nurture?


  1. Thank you for sharing! This was lovely. Even though I was the girl who LOVED to babysit and always answered the question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with "A mother!" I can relate to this. It's not easy even then. I've always felt that this life isn't about choosing what we want, or what is easy, but to look for opportunities to grow. It is also a part of why we home school. I've told my husband before that just because my life is challenging doesn't mean that I need a change. Without the challenges what would I do with my time? Undoubtedly I would use it more selfishly and on pursuits that are frivolous in nature. That's not to say that everyone does, but just an honest look at myself and my natural inclinations.

    1. Thanks, that makes me feel better!

      You know, I think that nurturing doesn't come naturally for most women! Even if, like you said, they already have the desire. It is really a learned skill. And it most certainly isn't just limited to one's children or husband... but women can practice developing nurturing is SO many different ways... with the elderly, with the sick, with the disabled, with co-workers and friend... and even I think with animals and plants! It is something I think you have to really work at to have and to do well. Which is why I guess I am still working on it.

  2. I have had the same type of experience. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Girl!!! Seriously, GIRL! I always marvel at home it comes so naturally to a good friend of mine. I struggle, and quite frankly, I struggly minutely. Some have a talent in motherhood/parenting/nurturing, it comes naturally to them. Many, like myself, have talents elsewhere and pray daily for the talent of nurturing. I worry in my selfish, introverted, impatient ways that I am driving a wedge between my children. I too am homeschooling this year. We were lead there for much of the same reason. I feel like all my prayers for help in motherhood was answered in one way, "homeschool, spend more time with them." I love your last paragraph. It really is about being so unselfish with yourself that you give everything to those sweet little spirits you have been entrusted with.

  4. I think we all have to learn, even if nurturing comes a little easier- all of that stuff you listed at the end is challenging to do sun up to sun down, and sometimes in the middle of the night and we all need a little break here and there as well. Great article!

  5. My husband is a much more natural nurturer than I. But I believe you can learn to nurture. It takes a lot of practice and effort and it is so worth it. The real problem for me is when women realize it doesn't come naturally and then choose to opt out of nurturing or refuse to cultivate that quality within themselves.

  6. I think it will always require some kind of effort, otherwise we wouldn't be progressing. I think where I have learned most of my patience, my humility as a parent, and my desire to improve as a mother and person, is from a great friend and example I have had these past 7 years. ;) I really think it is important to have people around you who love you for who you are but can see your potential and help you strive for it. Thanks friend!

  7. You write the exact thoughts of so many. I am not just in your same boat...I think we are sitting in the same seat!

  8. I feel like parenting is my crucible too. The other day my eldest was speaking in a disrespectful way and I asked where she learned to talk like that and she said, "From you, Mom." ouch. Sometimes I feel like I am messing up these little creatures I gave birth to. But I am becoming the person I want to be, bit by very small bit, through mothering.

  9. She IS beautiful!!

    I never wanted to have kids either. NEVER! Didn't like kids...or babies. Then (surprise/accident) I had my daughter. Then I wanted 10!! Haha... I only have 3 (so far)...but I agree with everything you wrote. I also homeschool, which I never planned to do too...

    I do like who I am becoming. :)

  10. All growing up I wanted to be a mom. I wanted a big family. I just knew I was destined to be a great nurturer. However, life doesn't always turn out the way you plan and I ended up getting married a little later in life. I had my first child when I was 34 years old. Being a new Mom was crazy hard. I just wanted my old life back when I could do my own thing. I craved solitude and "me time" but I had to take care of a very needy little person. During this difficult time period I reached out to a friend of mine. She wasn't a member of our church but she offered to say a prayer for me. In that prayer she rebuked Satan from my life. I've thought about that so many times as the years have gone by. My selfishness was the worldly part of me. Satan wanted me to feel trapped and sad by this new little person that needed me all the time. It was only when I embraced service and selflessness that things improved. Being a Mom is hard but it is a little easier when I put off the "natural (wo)man" and focus on what Christ would have me do.

  11. It is lovely to come here and feel at home with you and your readers who love important things. I loved this post. It is a hard hard life, but it is the best way to become what God wants us to become. That is why it is such an important part of His plan! And it is so full of joy and blessings!

  12. You have given me a glimpse of myself 20-ish years ago. Including the homeschooling, the challenge of being nurturing - You know? I think there is also a difference between BEING nurturing and FEELING nurturing. I nurtured my kids, and I mostly did it well, I think, but much of the time I didn't FEEL nurturing. Fortunately I think that what we do and practice is not only more important, but also what helps us to Become.

  13. I blog-hopped here from a comment you left of Stillparenting, and I love this post. You really hit the nail on the head. It's so encouraging to see that we as women are truly in this together.
    And here's a shout-out to Jen from Pertersen Palace who commented here, too! So funny how we move in the same blog circles without ever knowing it!

  14. WOW, I feel like I could have written this post myself (though it wouldn't have been nearly as nicely written!)! Including the homeschooling; I often tell moms who first learn I homeschool and I can see that "Oh, so you think you're better than me" look in their eyes, "I think God told me to homeschool so I can be a good mom. Most women can be a good mom even when their children are away at school all day, but I have to have my kids with me all day long to be a good mom!"

    When I was a teenager I swore I would never get married and IF I did I would never have kids and IF I did they would be adopted because there was no way I was doing that to my body, and my husband would be the stay at home parent because I would be too busy being a surgeon. Oh how life has changed! And I am so glad that Heavenly Father had another plan for me!

    My husband is more nurturing, naturally, than I am. So it was a bit of a shock to me a couple of years ago when he told me that I'm the nurturer. I mean, I had read the Family Proclamation and all, but that was a general proclamation, and I'm an individual who doesn't fit most female molds. And when my husband told me that I'm the nurturer, the heart of our home, I realized that he's right. I have learned a lot from him, but I'm the one our kids gather around, the hub of the household. And that made me realize that I need to actively try to love them and nurture them, because they need it from me.