"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 6, 2013
The Price of Motherhood
by Emily S. Jorgensen

Last weekend I attended a conference for piano teachers. There were inspirational speakers, world class performances, awards banquets, and interesting vendor booths.

I love going every year because I get new ideas that refresh my teaching and am reminded of the standard of excellence that I wish to achieve. It is easy to become complacent in any job and to stop trying to improve; this is the way I give myself an annual kick in the butt.

I hate going because I realize how much I have had to compromise and sacrifice in my career because I am a mother. I realize how many good ideas I will never implement because I must often streamline my work to maximize the time I can spend with my family. As I listen to the fabulous speakers I fret about how much more I “should” be doing and wonder about my value as a piano teacher.

This year I sat next to a friend of mine that I went to school with way back when. We were both piano performance majors at BYU and both went on to additional graduate studies in music. It was interesting to compare notes. I remember one speaker challenged us to practice our art more — to make time to play the piano ourselves.

I remember thinking, “Uh, exactly when? Lady, you do not have four children. You have two dogs. You have no idea how busy I am.”

But my friend leaned over and said, “I’m going to do it. Twenty minutes a day. I can do that.”

Yes, he can. Because he is The Dad in his family, and I am The Mom in mine.

Don’t worry; this isn’t some angry feminist diatribe.

But, it reminded me of how many sacrifices I have made to be The Mom.

My high school English teacher started a school club that gathered to discuss women’s issues. I was in this club. She was one of the strongest, most educated, intelligent, and driven women I have ever met, and not a member of our church. We once discussed having a career vs. being a mom, and she said, “I stayed at home with my two children for eight years. I have never regretted that.”

That hit me and stayed with me to this day. It was the first time I realized motherhood and career were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

But it is naïve to think anyone can “have it all.” In reality, balancing motherhood (and parenthood for that matter — I realize men deal with these issues as well) and work life is difficult and takes an extra measure of reliance on the Spirit.

I recently adjudicated a piano competition with another colleague whom I admire very much. I kind of worship her. She is not only an amazing musician and teacher, but she is also genuine and kind. Though she is typically the most accomplished person in the room, she never acts like she is.

We talked about how she has put her career on hold to raise her four children. I told her how much I admire her, and she expressed that she didn’t know how I could do all I do.

The truth is, I don’t. At least, not by myself. The only way I can do all that I do is because the Lord wants me to, plain and simple.

I have learned that my career is so, so not even close to as important as being a mom. However, for me, I have also learned that my paid work is part of my mission here on the earth.

Typically, career women are painted as despising stay-at-home moms. I have heard stay-at-home-moms complain about how they wish they were treated more respectfully. But honestly, I have never heard anyone I know disparage what they do in person — only on the news and whatnot. (I don’t doubt it happens, I just have never heard it.)

I wonder if this feeling has at least something to do with the value we moms place on our own work.

I include myself in this blame. When I meet someone new I always introduce myself like this: “I’m an independent music teacher, and I have four children.” Why don’t I say, “I’m a mom of four and an independent music teacher”?

It is because at some level, perhaps unconscious, I have bought into this idea that the work I do as a mother is not as valued by others as the paid work I do.

I often hear stay-at-home mothers introduce themselves like this: “Oh, I’m just a mom.”

It makes me sad when I hear women undervalue their worth as mothers. It makes me sad that their perception is that their contribution is not valued.

A few years ago, a student of mine, a graduating senior, was struggling with the choice of what college to attend. As we discussed her options and hashed through all her concerns, I felt inspired to tell her that only one person’s opinion mattered. I could tell she thought I was going to tell her that only her opinion mattered.

In fact, I told her that it was only the Lord’s opinion that mattered. If she made a decision and took it to the Lord and found that it was what He wanted her to do with her life, then she could have peace knowing she could trust Him, that this (whatever it ended up being) was the most important thing for her to do. She ended up going to her second-choice school and loving it. She knew it was where she should be.

It is the same when we take on the yoke of motherhood. If we really know that it is what we are supposed to be doing with our lives — that we chose it and continue to choose it daily, then it really shouldn’t matter at all what anyone else thinks about it.

So, yes, I am not the best piano teacher in the world. There are a host of things I could do better. I could make a lot more money if I taught more elite students. I could groom competition winners. I could practice my art and perform. I could make a real name for myself.

Instead, I am a mom first. And I am OK with that, knowing that is what the Lord wants for me right now.

Instead of making more money I am making more cookies. Instead of teaching more elite students I teach my kindergartener to read. Instead of grooming competition winners, I French braid my daughters’ hair before bed. Instead of practicing and performing, I bathe babies, sing silly songs and finger-paint.

Instead of making a name for myself, I am helping my children develop their identities. The price of motherhood is a price I am glad to pay, to raise my family the Lord’s way.

And so, from now on, when I introduce myself, I will say I am a mom first.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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