Reflections on a fecal mishap and our “She’ll be right” God

Our kids came to us in dribs and drabs.  Our eldest (18 years old) is our only biological child.  It irked me for some years that we couldn’t spontaneously produce the kind of sizable brood that holds up Fast and Testimony meeting each month.  But when our boy was 10 we kind of got into a rhythm and figured we should just exploit our unique advantage.  We were living in Taiwan at the time and were about to head off to the UK for Nathan to finish his PhD.  Our family was portable and manageable, and we had a kind of ease between us that we put down to our eldest being a really neat kid who seemed the perfect blend of us both.   Then a phone call came from NZ asking us to adopt a baby due to be born to a young family member.  We didn’t think twice about it and wee Squawky joined our family.   This impish little thing, who didn’t come with an off button,  could be an angel one minute and demon child the next.  Any doubts I had ever had about the efficacy of astrology was dispatched as our Gemini burst in on our lives with all of his contradictory colours and shades.   A couple of years later we were asked to take a sibling group (more of Nathan’s family- not mine)  including infant twins and a toddler.  Two years after that we added the eldest brother of that sibling group.   I’ve since  put up the ‘Closed for further business’ sign.

I often  think back to what could have been.  This week we farewelled our eldest (notice I don’t use his name for fear of reprisals), who, with backpack in hand set out for a three week holiday around Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, and Taiwan with his mate Tom.  When he comes back he embarks on his first year of University and at the end of the year plans to go on his mission.  It almost makes me cry when I think about what we have given up for a household of crazy.  We’d get to keep most of our money for one; Saturday mornings would be leisurely and peaceful; There would be quiet; The washing pile would be modest; Dinners would involve engaging banter rather than threats and punishments for ponderous and reluctant eating and  illegal encroachments into other people’s personal space respectively.   The list of benefits that we have relinquished is so exhaustive that sometimes I experience shudders of grief at an inestimable personal loss.

And therein lies the problem of praying to a male God for guidance and direction, particularly one with a ‘She’ll be right’ attitude.  I’m sure the God of our modern understanding was a New Zealander in a previous life, because that’s the kind of disposition I think he has, without the Speights and the Swanndri.  ‘She’ll be right’ (for those of you reading this from across the seas) is probably akin to saying ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ or, ‘It will all turn out OK in the end’.  I’m inclined to think that  on the subject of children he may need to take some advisement.  Because it might just not ‘be right’.  It might be all wrong.  This emphasis on the glories of motherhood and the wonders of family that we Mormon girls have all been subject to throughout our lives is a ruse that needs to be cracked wide open because I do believe the feminisation of that colloquialism is no mistake.  Women tend to be at the very heart of getting things right – and its no picnic.

Look,  I can’t deny the fact that there was a significant amount of spiritual input from on high which gave us an undeniable nudge as we pondered whether on not we would go down this road of excessive parenthood, but  all of those warm fuzzies, and ‘yes my child’ promptings kind of ended when each child showed up.  Its like they all came with a tag saying,  ‘Good on ya for taking this wee fulla.  He’s yours for a bit – she’ll be right, have a good one, Love God (PS:  No instructions, guarantees or returns)’.  And that’s the rub – in order to get to the ‘she’ll be right’ there’s a hellava lot of thinking, strategizing, wondering, worrying, planning, sacrificing, organizing, reorganizing, rethinking, that has to take place.  What’s more, I don’t really see the level of activity in getting everything ‘right’ to be  equally shared across both genders in my observations of heterosexual relationships.  The men in our lives seem to have  adopted God’s, ‘She’ll be right” attitude and have really run with it.

Take for instance last night.  We were at Finn’s school BBQ and were chatting to Michael.  Who it turns out has 4 boys and looks like a lawyer.  When I asked him who his son’s teacher was last year he looked a bit cornered.  There was absolutely nothing there, not even a first syllable or a phonetic sound.  He cast his eyes around the milling crowd of eager mothers displaying their familial diligence with an assortment of well constructed salads, and on his second sweep his eyes fell on the woman right in front of us.  With relief he burst out eagerly, ‘That one. Her!!’, as he stabbed the air.  (This was the same fellow who asked in the ‘meet the teacher’ phase of the evening whether or not it was better to read to children or wait till they can read to you – so I expect there was an intellectual limitation  which I’m not really contextualizing).  I imagine that if you asked his wife, she  could have written a biography about all of her son’s past teachers and included a commentary from the 20 or so other mothers she had canvassed on the subject.

I just feel sometimes we mothers get ‘landed in it’ with all the best intentions in the world, only to look around to find our ‘eternal companions’ with the proverbial TV remote in their hand – occupied by yet something else that only concerns them.  Sure, they come alive with interest when one of their children is doing something that reminds them of themselves, or fills the gap that failure left in their own childhood.  But in between there’s a lot of ‘she’ll be right’ or backhanded comments that our motherly interest in getting our children ‘right’ might be a bit OTT.

I don’t think its helped a great deal by the set up at church.  Nathan is now inoculated from the vicissitudes of parenthood at church by the requirement for him to be seated on the stand in sacrament meetings with the understanding that his children will only join them under exceptional circumstances, as having children with him might diminish his authority in some way.  Men never have to run the gauntlet of being called as the Primary President, and while women are running RS and YW meetings with children swirling around their feet,  men  don’t often manage the competing demands of adult and child interactions to make combining the two efficacious.

And so we women are left to deal with the fiddly middle bits.  The detail.  Might I say, there is scant regard in masculine circles for the task of working out detail.  The beginning part of parenthood is taken as a sign of male virility while the end bit, as son becomes man, and enters successfully upon the world is taken as a sign of his own masculine superiority.  But the work of the between seems to be the unacknowledged terrain of motherhood.  To be honest, its a bit of a burden that makes that image of shining, glorious motherhood more of a romantic fantasy than a genuine account of the feminine condition.  I’m tired of being told by men at church that there is glory in motherhood.  I’m done with the effusive accounts of home cooked meals and ‘she was always there for me’ stories from the pulpit.  I just wish blokes would get real (including God) and offer on the platter of our parental experience some glimmer of recognition that burdening women with the primary task of figuring out the details does little else than clog the phone lines with the rumble of woman to woman marital discontent.

A final story.  Back to last night at Finn’s school BBQ. One of our five year old twins decided to take a dump in the playground.  We were assailed by a couple of the older boys who announced, “Xander has pooed on the ground and he’s got it all up his arm”.  I turned to Nathan and said; ‘Can you take care of it please?”  Knowing in my heart of hearts that it was really me that needed to deal with this appalling fecal mishap I disengaged from a delightful conversation to investigate.  I came upon Nathan emerging from the forest playground shaking his head with incredulity.  I hopefully took this as a sign of ‘tattle tales’ and sibling story telling.  But no.  Xander was indeed standing beside a steaming pile of personal dung, with crap up the waazoo and a large group of diminutive male commentators remarking with enthusiasm on the texture, shape and smell of said anal extrusion.  I looked around to find any sign whatsoever of Nathan having ‘dealt’ with the situation but was once again disappointed.  So I took Xander by the scruff of the neck, cleaned him up in the bathroom, piled him into the car and took him home  in a fit of rage that I’m astounded now  didn’t make me veer off the road to the cadence of my voluminous rantings.  I showered him and sent him to bed.  When I asked him why he shouldn’t poo in the garden his reply was, ‘Cause, I might get told off’.

When Nathan got home I asked him, ‘Did you get rid of the poo so the other kids don’t stand in it’.  He looked at me with bewilderment, “Ew, yuck no, I didn’t want to go near that stuff…. By the way, did you clean Xander up before you put him in my Mini?  I don’t want crap all over the seat.”

I rest my case.

  • Amber B

    I never buy into the “it’s all wonderful” claims about motherhood from girls at church (don’t get me started on the disservice I feel women do each other with the pretending). I had siblings and I have plenty of friends/family with kids. I’ve had the “pleasure” of being part of taking care of kids. I am grateful for women (and men) who put in the work. I’m in awe of how few end up in jails or asylums in the process. And I feel no shame at being a Mormon girl with no interest in motherhood.

    As an interesting note, should your husband cease to have a calling that’s got him up on the stand…One of my brothers-in-law actually read the whole Handbook of Instructions. In there, it says that, should a child need to be taken out during Sacrament meeting, unless it’s to nurse (aka requires the mother’s breasts be present), the father ought to handle it.

    In the unlikely scenario I happen to have a husband, a child, and all of us in church together, you’d better believe I’ll be calling upon that knowledge.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Thanks Amber! I did not know that about the GHB – I’ll download an illegal copy and find it! Cheers.

  • Sarah

    You had me in fits! Its only fair that Nathan do his share of suffering for that one (even if it is delayed). It’s funny but I was just talking to my Dad the other night about how I am so over the proclaims from hierarchy in the church that motherhood is glorious, revered, sacred and a devine role blah blah blah – I agree this kind of constant rhetoric sets many women up for a nasty surprise and a mid life crisis by the tender age of 22. I think it also sets women up for not being valued for anything else but their ability to pop out kids and rear them. Of late there have been a few messages trying to promote the edict that woman should be consulted more in church governance that our brethren should consider that maybe women have a valid opinion and ability to do things other than have babies and be good mothers – in my opinion it feels like a bit of lip service at the moment, there is little progress on this common held point of view. I love how I feel when I go to work, I am highly valued by my male peers, as a manager I get to boss a lot of blokes around, women and men engage in intellectual and challenging conversations with me, people seek out my advice. I am highly valued and respected for a lot of things, including my ability to hold down a full time career and raise three children. In all seriousness I never feel this kind of value at church. I often feel like I’m looked down on for being a working Mum seen as a bit selfish or too caught up in the secular world. But I think what hurts most is not being respected at church by men for having a brain, an opinion or an ability to lead. Some of my worst experiences of rejection have happened at church – too many to list – but one fairly recently was when I walked into the chapel to pick up my daughter from Faith in God a bunch of men were standing around beginning a conversation about business and statistics, something I knew a little bit about – naturally I joined the group of other adults in the foyer and offered by opinion, very informed it was too if I do say so myself, only to be completely ignored and quiet frankly almost told to shoo. I don’t get treated like that anywhere else except at church. I’m pretty blessed my husband and family have never treated me that way, my colleagues at work have never treated me that way and yet it happens fairly regularly to me at church. Phew! That was a big spew and slightly off topic.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I know right! Its a weird position to be in – a successful woman outside of the church and an ignorant skirt on the inside. And if you are mouthy and show a bit of nouse they get scared of you and you come across as intimidating. However, more of us need to be frightening men at church – its the only way we’ll get an gains. This pride in civility that we supposedly cherish is just a ruse to have a shut up. While there are social justice issues to be addressed I do believe we have the right to speak up. Anyway – I don’t believe Jesus would treat me like most of the blokes at church treat women – do you?

  • http://gravatar.com/bidlet bidlet

    It’s the thinking and all the planning that I get tired of – even to go on a picnic! Yes, the ‘Significant Other’ will do all the grunt work – lifting and carting stuff out to the car stuff, but that’s the easy part in my opinion – the no brainer non thinking part of the exercise. I get tired of the fact that I (and most mothers, no doubt) organize and largely execute out of school activities, arrange doctor’s visits, call, organize and supervise repair people who are usually men, supervise homework, collect reams of paper from school that constitutes notices and other important crap, think about what to cook, go shopping and prepare nutritous meals and so on and so on blah,blah,blah. When having this mild observation with my husband he mildly defended himself saying that full-time work was hard to do everyday too. Typical passive agressive stance if ever there was and some what disappointing because he’s a very decent bloke and twice as helpful as most other blokes I know. The rub is; even if I worked full time out of the home I would STILL have to do all the other stuff. I don’t want recognition for it I want a coalition together to do it!.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Agreed! Yes another privilege of manhood – not having to think about the burden they create for the wives through their lack of engagement. I wish they would stop talking about pornography at PH meetings and start talking about waste of space males who simply fail to show up.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    I used to say, when my (only two) children were small, that I needed a wife. Maybe the polygamists had the right idea.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I’ve never been tempted frankly. I’m happy for a more collaborative and compassionate community -but sexual communalism ain’t my cup a herb tea! But if you aren’t afraid of some sexual experimentation then I can see that it would work in terms of having more hands on deck (glad I got the vowel in that last word right).

      • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

        GROA-A-AN!

  • http://gravatar.com/muerknz muerknz

    Hi – Catholic mother of four boys here. I’m really lucky that my husband is a really hands on father, he had to be because I’ve spent some time dealing with illness that meant he had to take on most of the practical work of parenting.

    I’m not sure about Mormon theology, but in Catholicism we have the role model of St Joseph. Mary didn’t need Joseph to bear Jesus, but she still needed a husband and Jesus still needed a human father. If we look at how Joseph helped Mary, for example when Jesus was teaching as a child and his parents lost him, it shows a man who helped raise Jesus. He was an active parent, and that means the day to day nitty gritty.

    Fathers, as well as mothers, have to die to self and be servants to those around them, and that means cleaning up the poo!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I like that! We don’t talk much about Joseph in Mormonism – perhaps we can learn something from the Catholics about his role as the mortal father of the Saviour. How interesting – thanks for that. I’m intrigued by your last comment and have been asking myself how that looks in practice! Mmmmm….

      • http://gravatar.com/muerknz muerknz

        Something that Catholics are big on are the saints. There’s so many of them and their lives and experiences are so varied, yet each of them was able to live out God’s will for themselves. Partly it gives us hope that we can love God in such a radical self-giving way too and partly it shows us ways that we can model our behaviour on.

        Dying to self is a way to combat our concupiscence. Does LDS believe in original sin? Anyway, Catholicism teaches that we are all born with a nature that can be tempted by sin, which is a result of the fall of Adam. As a result we have to have recourse to the grace of God and we have to co-operate with God and “die to self” and “live in Christ”. The more we do God’s will, the less we follow our own will.

        In practical terms it means that when I want to sit there and have my husband fetch me a drink I go and get myself a drink and offer one to him. He likewise does the same for me. By striving to serve the other in these small ways, we take on Christ’s nature as much as we can. God gives us the grace to be unselfish and actively loving.

        One book that has given me a lot of help is a medieval book “The Imitation of Christ”. Some of it is Catholic in nature, and I don’t know how that squares with LDS teaching, but the practical stuff is gold. Things like how to bear the faults of others, and avoiding rash judgements.

  • Nate

    Is this just venting? Or you really think guys are so awful?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Both! And with all that I love men!

      • Nate

        Well, you sure have an interesting blog.

        • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

          I’ll take that as the best of compliments!!

  • Sophia Grey

    “…women are running RS and YW meetings with children swirling around their feet”–the mental image of children swirling around the feet of their mothers had me in fits of hysterics, I’ll have you know. And, having never had children (and saying that, posessing absolutely no desire to, having been in the same household as my brothers) I can’t really give my opinion on what you said, or risk being told off by, um, “bidlet”. But I did think it was very interesting, so thanks for that.


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