I am in my ward’s Primary presidency and I have three very active young children ages five, three, and a new baby. My husband works very long hours (usually more than 12 a day) and travels. I am grateful to be able to stay home with our kids and recognize the blessing it is, but by the end of the day I’m exhausted, frustrated, and go to bed knowing that I’m going to have to do it all over again tomorrow. I know my situation is far from unique and that women all over the world do exactly what I’m doing everyday—probably with much more patience. But since I constantly feel emotionally and physically drained I feel like I have no energy for my Primary calling. I live in a very young ward with a large Primary so everyone serving in callings also has young children. I want to be dedicated and to care about the children in our ward and to feel a deep concern for their well-being, but most days I don’t even feel like I can offer my all to my own children let alone everyone else’s children. I’m not going to ask for a release from my calling and I feel happy when I’m in Primary, but the rest of the week I rarely think about the children in my ward and things I can do to help them and I feel bad for not wanting to care/feeling like I can care. Do you have any advice?
The Ornery Primary Lady
Actually, I would say that your situation is pretty unique--your husband working twelve hour days and travelling besides? A new baby and two other little ones? No wonder you're feeling overwhelmed. In response to your letter, I'd like to share a little lesson that I recently learned from my daughter, Natalie. It has really helped me and maybe it can be a lesson for all of us. Natalie has four little boys and another on the way. The oldest is five. About a month ago, I was really worried about her. She seemed completely buried--tired and discouraged. I don't live close to her and because I am finishing my degree right now, I wasn't even available by phone. Our hurried conversations always left me feeling helpless. I offered many prayers for her throughout my days at school. Then one day, she shared a new insight she had gained. It was so profound. She realized that it was humanly impossible to do all that was required of her in a day, perfectly. She was just one person--one tired, pregnant person. So she stopped and thought about what mattered most to her...what gave her the most satisfaction at the end of the day, and what disappointed her the most if left undone. She realized that what really mattered the most to her were her relationships--with the Lord, with her husband and with her children, She decided that those relationships would come first for her. She began to make sure that she made time for scripture study. She has always studied but now it became a top priority. She became more attuned to each of her children. If the laundry sat undone it was ok. It things weren't perfect, they weren't. At the end of the day, she measured her success by these relationships. She was surprised to find that by putting those things first, the other tasks usually fell into place as well. But inwardly, she felt a new peace.
All of that said, I want to encourage you not to give up on your church calling. I've known a lot of people who let their callings go in the name of "family comes first" and usually, they don't experience the relief they hoped for. Over the years, I've accepted callings and I see them as an opportunity to use my talents in serving the Lord. As a result, my capacities have increased and many of my talents have been developed in ways that are surprising. For example, I've learned to organize people, plan and carry out activities, assess needs and meet them. I've grown musically and learned teaching skills. I've learned a great deal about child development. Long before I had teen-agers, I had the opportunity to work with them and understand their challenges. It played a part in how I taught my little children when I got home--what I chose to emphasize to prepare them for those years. I came to understand that magnifying my callings in the church, not only brought blessings to our family, but expanded me personally.
Of course, there is another great benefit. As our children watch us give our all to the Lord, they learn that he is important--they learn to be magnifiers themselves. I certainly got that message from my mother. I'll never forget her years as a Stake MIA president. Back then, it was a tremendously demanding calling. I must have been about 6 or 7 when we spent an entire Saturday decorating the church for a "Centennial Ball." We transformed a room into an ice cream parlor, we hung chandeliers (that we had constructed from coat hangers, twinkle lights and spray paint) all over the gym--and more. It was so elaborate. But I learned that we give our best to the church. It's the Lord's kingdom on earth. I can tell you honestly, that my service in the church has never taken away from my family. When I start feeling like I don't like a calling, I sit down and list all the things I could be doing to magnify it and then I just start doing them little by little. Before I know it, I love my calling. And almost every one of my closest friendships have been formed as I've worked along side people in the church. It's the way our hearts are knit together. Those connections, with your presidency, teachers and especially the children can bring joy and meaning to your life as you make this sacrifice.
I hope this reply doesn't seem insensitive. I really do know that your life is very demanding. But remember that the Lord thinks you can do this even with a full plate. Maybe he wants to stretch you. I'm grateful that he has steadily believed in me through the years, challenged me and accepted my efforts. May he bless you.