The following was written by my mother, Yvonne Neufeldt Strebel, in 1984. She delivered this talk in church on Mother’s Day. I found this speech in my dad’s journal, and reproduced it here, to show that fear of not measuring up as a mom has been around for at least 32 years.
“Mother’s Day”—the very word awakens feeling of appreciation, gratitude, and love, and rightfully so. I am grateful to be a wife and a mother and to have a good family.
Yet Mother’s Day in our home is known as “Guilt Sunday,” the date for my annual guilt trip.
Beautifully rendered Mother’s Day speeches have left me with a depressing feeling of inadequacy. I have often asked myself, “Could it be possible that my family is succeeding in spite of me?”
I do not measure up to the ideal motherhood, the Supermom. I know that, because I have tried to be Supermom and failed. I am not alone in my plight. Actually, I am in very good company. There are other mothers who have expressed the same sentiments concerning Mother’s Day and Supermom.
Supermom—you know the type. She gets up very early, every single morning. Go, call on her between 5 and 6 a.m. She will greet you with a radiant smile and will be beautifully dressed, perfectly groomed, unhurried—yet lively—although she has been up for hours.
She has exercised, written in her journal, perhaps even composed music or written poetry.
She in now preparing not only a nutritious, but also an appetizing breakfast, which she will serve on an elegantly set table. No lumpy oatmeal or cold cereal for her family.
Supermom never ever loses her temper, and if she is in pain, she hides it. She always sings while doing chores. She loves and supports her family 100%, does her church and community work exceptionally well—better than anybody else—and never tires. Evening meals, always served punctually, are gourmet delights.
At night, when the day is done, Supermom lovingly turns to her husband and with a brilliant smile, accompanied by a demure sigh, says, “Darling, I love all my challenges. I only wish I could have more.”
I identify with Supermom in only three categories:
- I am, by my Prussian nature, punctual: dinner is always served on time, or else we eat out.
- Church and community work are very important to me. I love both. But I, unlike Supermom, do get exhausted.
- Most importantly, I love my husband, children, in-laws, and grandchildren with all my heart and I support them to the very best of my ability. Although my very best could not ever match that of Supermom.
Other than that, I do not qualify. And I had to come to terms with that. (I also had to prepare this talk.)
Does Supermom really exist, or is she the sum total of imaginations of many kind Mother’s Day speakers?
If she exists, could she perhaps step forward and tell me how she does it?
I suspect Supermom is a myth. I am no longer willing to compare myself to a myth.
In the 1984 April General Conference, Elder Marvin J. Ashton pointed out that,
“comparison is another tool of Satan. Many [mothers] seem to put too much pressure on themselves to be a Supermom or Superwoman . . . A good woman is any woman who moves in the right direction.”
The foundation of motherhood is nurturing love. If we keep this in mind, we need not compete in the motherhood Olympics in order to find the perfect mother.
We are all on the road to perfection. Along the way, we gather what I would like to call “moments of perfection.” These are occasions when we do well and achieve, usually in quiet ways. There are no headlines, no fanfares, but Heavenly Father approves.
When my own children were small, they would bring me the most beautiful bouquets of dandelions. It was better than their previous practice of beheading our neighbor’s prized tulips. When I treated these dandelions as a bouquet of roses, then this, in a small way, was a “moment of perfection.”
I made myself a questionnaire befitting my own situation:
- Do the women I come in contact with know that I am not their critic? That I will not give unsolicited advice?
- Do they know that I accept them and their uniqueness as I hope they accept mine?
- In admiring another woman’s accomplishments, can I do so generously and from the heart, without making it awkward by adding, “You’re so gifted! I could never do that. You have all the talent, and I don’t.” If I can be positive, then I can gather another “moment of perfection.”
- When receiving a compliment, can I thank graciously without belittling myself? “Oh, it’s really nothing, just something I shipped up quickly,” although in reality I have slaved over it for hours by the sweat of my brow.
- In serving others, do I do so out of a good desire and because it is needed?
These could all be “moments of perfection.”
If I am not motivated by guilt or fear of what others might think or say, then I have created another “moment of perfection.”
When reporting back to my Heavenly Father at night, I may have had a disastrous day, in part caused by my own weaknesses. But when I repent and ask forgiveness, and I can feel the comfort of the spirit, I know that my repentance has been acceptable to the Lord and I express my gratitude to Him. This then is a very good “moment of perfection.”
“Moments of perfection” can be gather by us all, regardless of whether we are parents or not.
In the final analysis, as I understand it, that which is really crucial to my being a good mother can be summarize in three points:
- My obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. I need to keep my covenants faithfully. This makes a closeness to Heavenly Father possible, a closeness I desire.
- My nurturing love for my family. I need to learn and practice unconditional love.
- My integrity toward myself and others, which I must learn to perfect.
With this in mind, I can learn to eliminate fruitless comparison and cancel my guilt trips.
True personal liberation can only be achieved through genuine gospel living. Heavenly Father lives and loves us all, and recognizes our honest efforts.
Yvonne Neufeldt Strebel was born in 1927 in Neisse, Prussia, Germany (now Poland). She endured WWII as a child, losing many of her family to the war, then escaped alone as a refugee fleeing from the Soviet army when she was 17 years old in 1944. She eventually met Rudolf Strebel in Munich, and in 1954 they immigrated to America and married, settling in Utah until their deaths. Yvonne passed away in 2014, at the age of 86. She had four children, 23 grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren.