This past week I was surfing my facebook feed and I saw a picture of a high school buddy standing in front of the White House. The caption beneath was a post from his mother: “Daniel is advising at the White House today.”
I thought: “What the heck has Daniel Swinton been up to since I saw him last!”
Because the last time I saw him was the semester Wyatt and I got married. He and I had a “History of the Eastern European Jews 1400-1800” class together down at BYU. We were in the same major. Before that we had been friends in high school, both going to Waterford, although he was a year older than me.
Since he’s not on Facebook, I googled him. I found out that since that class twelve years ago, he had finished his degree at the Y, then graduated from law school, and then earned a Ph.D in Education. He now sat on several national boards and committees and was the President of an organization that advises Universities on legal and HR matters of public and student policy.
And apparently he advises at the White House . . .
Last summer, not long after I returned home from Israel, I sat in Relief Society, where we discussed our secret hopes and dreams. The question was: what would we be and what would we do if we had no other considerations (time, money, dependent children, etc.)
I am never shy, so I raised my hand and told the sisters that I would have loved to be a professor at the Jerusalem center. At this point the entire room erupted into laughter. I was sitting on the front row, not seeing those laughing behind me, by my neck turned red as I defended myself.
No, really, I told them – I have a degree in Middle Eastern studies. I know that stuff. If I had pursued more education, I could have been qualified to do that. And I love it. And it interests me. And I wish I could do that . . .
And that’s where I trailed off. I left it at that.
This past week I told Wyatt these stories – the story of Daniel Swinton, and the story of Relief Society (again). I told them with my most brave face, but still, my voice may have cracked a time or two.
Because there was a time – seemingly forever ago now – when I was on the same trajectory as these other people. I was bright and capable – able to have conversations as equals with these people. I was known as being intelligent, and artistic, and (the hardest one to believe of all) fun.
Now even those I spend the most time with – friends from my ward and neighborhood – don’t know those things about me at all. It’s not information I share often . . . because it’s irrelevant to the work I do now.
And the work I do now involves changing diapers, and cleaning, and never ending laundry, and figuring out what’s for dinner. I still think about Middle Eastern history and the world. But they are conversations I have with myself while I sweep my floor.
“I hope you don’t feel like all you haven’t accomplished anything in life” Wyatt tried to reassure me. He then bathed me in praise of being a partner in all that he has accomplished. I appreciated that. And I recognize that I am important to the Christensen household.
And more than that, I really really do believe that the work of motherhood is an undertaking so important, and so grand, that I was willing to give up all other potential accomplishment with gratis to the efforts in which I am now engaged.
But motherhood is a work of sacrifice. It is the sanctification of women, and sanctification never comes without a great deal of effort, and even sometimes, self doubt.
If I am ever known again as anything other that my children’s mother, it certainly won’t be for many many more years. And in the between time, the days will be full of thankless work and inglorious chores.
I just have to choose to believe the Lord and his servant, who said: “There is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high (Jeffrey R. Holland, ‘Because She Is a Mother’ April, 1997 General Conference).”