Skip to main content

Why do you do what you do?

September 2016

I’ve asked a handful of mommy friends to share their stories, and hopefully we can encourage and support each other.  Being a mom is the best job I’ve ever had.  It’s also the most exhausting, draining job I’ve ever done.  During the early years, I remember one day explaining this to Norm, and he couldn’t understand.  He said, “It’s not like you’re not working in a coal mine…”  He was right.  I’ve never worked in a coal mine.  Everything I know about mining I’ve learned from Minecraft.  But maybe moms are a little bit like miners.  Sometimes it’s dark or lonely, and sometimes we can’t see where we need to go.  We know there’s something precious around us, and it’s our job to find what’s useful or beautiful and help shape it.

This essay is for the times when I can’t remember why:  for the times when a teenager seems ungrateful, or when a toddler doesn’t know what gratitude means, for when your son runs away from school, or when your precious daughter says something snarky and it breaks your heart. 

            This is for 5:25pm and you haven’t figured out what’s for dinner, when kid #2 and kid #3 are fighting and kid #2 storms off when you tell him to run five laps around the block.  This is for when your mother in law has cancer and you don’t know how to help.  This is for when your baby is fussy and the laundry has piled up.  This is for when your youngest goes off to kindergarten and you think, “What next?”  This essay is my reminder.

            I love my kids.  I believe God sent them to me for a reason.  The things I’ve taught them pale in comparison to the things I’ve learned along this journey.  I’ve become somebody completely different than I was before.  The miracle is in the transformation.  Sure, my physical body has been reconfigured four times, during pregnancy and childbirth and the recovery.  But my mind and heart have also changed.  Maybe I’m wiser now, or less selfish.  Maybe I’m less arrogant or judgmental.  If I am better, I owe it to the Lord, who gave me these kids and the tutorial in living.  They’ve been the impetus for growth that I needed.

            I can’t write this essay without first honoring my husband.  He’s the fun daddy that makes it all possible.  How can I begin to express my love and gratitude to my companion?  We often joke that he makes the deposits and I make the withdrawals.  Seriously, I’m grateful for the choice we’ve made that allows me to stay home and manage things here.  I’m blown away at what a good job he does at work and in providing for us.  I’m glad he’s by my side, and that we stand together when life’s waves come crashing.

            Fourteen years ago I began my career.  We’re kind of a dying breed, the stay-home mommies.  To answer the question, “Why do you do what you do?” I have to look back in time.  When I was a girl, I wanted to grow up and be exactly like my mom.  When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “a teacher…” but the real answer in my heart was, “I want to be a mom and be just like her.”  Of course you can’t say that at school.  People want to know what you’ll do to make money.  Somehow money has become the metric for measuring a job’s worth.

            After high school, I went off to college.  I considered majoring in music, but my first roommate Jamie was a music major, so I had a window into her world.  No thanks.  I was having way too much fun with classes like folk dancing and candy making and Spanish and Chinese and sewing; after a few semesters I realized psychology was the quickest way to get a degree.  Armed with an Associate’s Degree, I was ready to begin another dream.  I filled out my papers and served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Paraguay. Paraguay is the overlooked, landlocked land, just next to Argentina and Brazil. It was like going back in time 100+ years. The poverty and illiteracy were astounding, but the people were warm and gracious.

Fast forward a few years, Norm and I had married and I was pregnant with baby #2, and I finally graduated from BYU.  It wasn’t easy.  I remember leaving baby C one night when he was sick, I had a presentation, and Norm was at work.  My neighbor Barb gave me the courage to go.  She took care of him and urged me out the door, saying, “He will be fine.  You’re almost done.  You have to finish.”  Then the last day of the semester came, and it was the final exam in my hardest class, and the car wouldn’t start.  My neighbor Mary gave me a ride, and by some miracle, I passed my statistics class.

My psych degree was mainly for me.  I needed to understand the bits and pieces of myself and my childhood and the people I love.  So yes, I use my degree every day.  But I’m not a therapist.

This mommy gig isn’t all peaches and cream.  Sometimes it’s quite lacking in glamour.  The trick is to notice the sweet details and write them down.  Henry David Thoreau described it well:  “The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.”  When I have eyes to see the stardust, my days are more meaningful.

A few years ago I started keeping track of the shenanigans.  Most of the stories are funny.  Our son S is often at the center of the drama.  What would we do without our bright, clever, energetic little boy?  The day he swallowed a penny has faded in my memory.  I’m pleased to report that he passed it well.  *gross.  It was good preparation for a few years later when our older son C would accidentally swallow a Lego Ninjago sword.  Knowing that a penny can travel safely through a boy’s colon, we trusted that the sword would too.  This time I didn’t bother to check.

            Two years ago, we were at a crossroads with our family.  We had three kids and life was full.  I’d gotten rid of the crib and the changing table and most of the baby stuff.  I needed closure on the childbearing years, and essentially told the Lord that if our family wasn’t finished growing, “Could He please give my husband a pretty strong YES that would answer our question?”  Needless to say, the Lord is mindful of the details.  His timing and His ways are significantly better than mine.

 Isaiah 55
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We learned we were pregnant a few weeks later.  This baby is different.  This time we were different.  Having a baby when you’re 20-something is exciting.  Having a baby when you’re 37 is a gift.  Our bonus baby has brought so much joy.  This time we waited until birth to learn the gender.  *magical.  We’ve both given up on trying to tell God how to direct our lives.  This time when we brought the baby home, there were big kids waiting with open hearts.  Our joy is tripled as we delight in the big kids’ delight.  The latest game is asking baby A if she likes something or somebody.  She’ll nod her head up and down, and left and right.  Her yes’s and no’s aren’t entirely accurate nor predictable, so the fun is in the asking.

One day when our son S was playing in the new basement with some friends, I thought they were crashing Matchbox cars together.  There was a happy ruckus coming from below.  Little did I realize that they’d carried off two pints of fresh raspberries, and were playing baseball with them.  Of course, most of the raspberries landed in their mouths.  If you visit my basement, you’ll see the hand lettered sign that says “NO food in the basement!” which was made by the chief offender.

Sometimes I’ll have one or two kids snuggled up next to me, reading a book.  The phone rings and we ignore it.  I can’t trade this moment for anything.  Reading with my kids is one of my favorite things.

One day my bright bubbly boy made brownies, and cleaned up most of the mess himself.  While they were hot, he hastily scribbled a thank you note and rushed to make a delivery to his Primary teachers.  The sweetest part for me was to watch him eat his first bite of brownie after his delivery was done.  That good deed compensates for a few of the shenanigans. 

My payoff comes when I pause long enough to notice:  To notice when my two little girls are playing together.   Baby A has discovered how fun it is to knock on doors.  When big sister giggles and greets her on the other side, the happy shriek of delight is my measure of stardust.

Jane Clayson Johnson’s book I am a Mother is one of my favorites.  It’s an excellent read.  I was going to share my favorite paragraph, but yesterday we cleaned the house before my parents came to dinner, and now I can’t find it.

We’re still a work in progress.  I keep thinking I’ll have my job figured out and the house organized, sometime soon.  But in the meantime, I’m glad for the rainbows and glad for the messes.  I’m glad for the happy ruckus, and yes, I’m even glad for the really difficult moments.  Without them, I’d never notice the sweet ones.  I’m glad for my other mommy friends.  I can’t imagine raising my kids without them.  They say that women need to speak a certain number of words per day.  That means another friend is listening.

This past summer my neighbor Natalie was gone for five weeks.  I missed her so much.  She’s one of the best moms I’ve ever met.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve walked across the street to her house, just because I know she’ll be there.  Just because I need a grown-up to see me and acknowledge me and talk to me.  There’s something beautiful in being able to walk over to a friend’s house, without an appointment or an invitation, and know you’re loved.    I’m sure if I asked her, she’d say she’s just ordinary.  Not really.  Natalie’s mothering extends beyond her own children.  She makes the whole neighborhood a better place, by consistently being present, by being available.

I choose to stay home full time for a handful of reasons.  1. My kids need me.  When they walk through the door after school, they know that I care.  My teenager knows that I’ll happily make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his snack, just because I like him.  2. My worth isn’t dependent on how much money I make.  I don’t make any money.  I make a lot of sandwiches, and cookies, etc.  3.  I can’t find a substitute me.  It’s my job to teach them and love them.  Truly, it’s more than a job.  It’s my life’s work.  4.  By taking care of the details at home, Norm is free to put his whole effort into his work.  5.  In being home, I’m free to volunteer at school or church or in the community.

There are two things that stay home mommies have to have: friends and hobbies.  If I’m home alone all day and I don’t get to talk to other moms, I start losing my mind.  When I’m home and there’s a quiet minute, I have a piano or a glue gun or a kitchen filled with cool ingredients so I can make stuff.  Being able to create is a wonderful gift.  I love to read and write, so having paper and books and markers and crayons are also necessary supplies.

A few weeks ago, Norm and the kids and I had a campfire late in the evening.  It was dark and the stars were spectacular.  We were away from the city where you can see the milky way.  Baby A had finally fallen asleep in my arms, and the big kids were enjoying the campfire.  There was one brief moment where my husband and I were both looking at the same place and we saw a shooting star.  It was remarkable.  We had just celebrated our anniversary.  The true harvest of my days is measured in intangible stuff like stardust.


  1. I love reading your thoughts and I can NOT wait to read more! You’ve got this!

    1. Hi Julie. Remember that essay you wrote about being a SAHM? I still have it. Any chance you'll let me publish it here, under a new tab called, "interviews or guest authors" or something like that?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

2021 Christmas Card

December 2021  Dear Friends and Family, We love you and and miss y'all that are far away in WA and UT and other places!! This year we skipped our tradition of sending a Thanksgiving card and opted for a virtual Christmas card instead. It saved a ton of stamps and envelopes, but I definitely miss the glitter and sparkle. We hope you can feel our love even through a simple email or blog post. One tradition we couldn't skip was our gratitude tree, where the little leaves are a list of blessings. We are so thankful for God's goodness and mercy every day. Here's the highlight reel:  Cade graduated, made lots of Domino's pizza, read probably a thousand books, and is currently living in Provo, UT as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's heading to Helsinki, Finland in January. We are so proud of him and his hard work, we miss him but are excited for his opportunity to learn and serve. Shad spent a zillion hours with Marcus Ban


"How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" has been my favorite question lately. My answer is kinda mixed. During July and August I was surprised and excited. Then on September 14 he flew to and from San Francisco by himself for a day. The purpose was a quick visit to the Finnish consulate for a visa. He had fantastic instructions to get from the airport to the BART to the consulate, but waiting for the interview took longer than planned. Leaving the consulate he had less than an hour until his flight was supposed to take off. That included a 32 minute tram ride, printing a boarding pass, airport security, etc. In all honesty, he should have missed that flight home. But he didn't. Call it a miracle or a test of faith, or whatever you want to call it. But for my boy who loves to be punctual, boarding a flight 7 minutes before take-off was pretty intense. Long story short, I think we all realized a few things that day. There are so.many.details I can't control,

Shoplifting: Tic Tacs at Target

 You know when you're at the store and one of your kids asks you to buy stuff? Then they ask again and again and again and again? My reply is usually something like, 'No, but thanks for asking.' And if they ask again then the reply goes something like, 'If you ask again, the answer will be no for like a week.' OR, "If you ask again, I'll take away your favorite toy," OR "If you ask me one more time, __________." Think of a punishment you will actually do! You can't make an empty threat here. If you don't have the energy to see it through, then just say yes. My older kids will often comment on how their younger sister gets a ton of stuff or privileges. If I'm tired and don't have the energy to win a battle, it's much better to JUST SAY YES the first time. That way, when I say NO on something, it carries more weight. So I explain to the older kids that they've already run me ragged and I no longer have the patience or st

Companions - Notes on Home MTC

November 18, 2021 Most people know that missionaries run around in pairs. Some of my neighbors have seen this version of a companionship lately. Let me explain. During Covid, the church did a pivot and changed the missionary training experience from in-person to virtual. During this process they realized there were a few cool benefits that were worth continuing even after the pandemic. So the new version of missionary training begins  at home  with an Elder or Sister doing full-time training with a companion online. Then they transition to  in person  after a few weeks.  My oldest son began on November 8 with training at home. When they are in class or working together, they are meeting and making friends with other missionaries in their district. My son's cohort has four young women and four other young men, for a total of nine kids all going to Finland in January. BUT when they're not actively working or studying together,  I'm his companion . All of the places I'd no

One More Syllable

It's been a year. One year ago we moved to Texas. One year ago I started asking people to call me Kristina instead of Kristy, thus adding one more syllable to my name. August is our anniversary. Last year we celebrated that anniversary by adding a cool new memory. That day we drove up to our house, found the keys and walked inside with the kids. We spent the night in our house without any stuff. Isn't it funny how places seem bigger when they're unfurnished? And that pool in the backyard? We knew nothing about pools and maintenance but just jumped in carefree. It was great. It was like being in a hotel but with room for everybody to spread out. Maybe it's time to explain the name change. For me, I had decided before moving to Texas that I wanted to quit using Kristy as my nickname. It served me well for many years and I still like it, but it's mainly for simplicity. When I'd first meet somebody, maybe I'd mumble or maybe I don't speak clearly enou

The Invisible Woman

Today I'm thinking about my mom. She spent a lot of years building and serving and lifting. She poured love and time and energy into her children, in a never-ending pattern. She did a hundred things that we still haven't noticed. I wonder if there's a coming of age that happens for a young mom, when she begins to realize how much work it is to BE a mom. Then maybe about two dozen years into this parenting thing, she begins to see  more stuff she missed. Then another realization comes when her oldest is almost grown. I'm still learning to see my mom and appreciate her as a person. But how can you see somebody who's been invisible? This morning I was talking with a good friend, another mom like me. She's younger and in a different season of mothering, yet we both can relate to sometimes feeling lonely. Sometimes we need evidence of progress, or at least a friendly word from a girlfriend. Maybe sometimes we just need somebody to notice and say thanks. Years ago I h


  My favorite quirk about my neighborhood is this: at Halloween all the skeletons come out of the closets. This one made me laugh out loud the other day. I was mad about something, it might have been the shenanigans going on around me or in my kids' schools or I might have been miffed about all the &*&%$ going on in the Middle East or South America or whatever. But when I drove past this skeleton, it just illustrated my current view of humanity. "Got my butt in a jam," with a skeleton literally stuck in a trashcan. I love my neighbors for their creativity, for loving the kids and for wanting to give them a fun Halloween season. I love the empty nesters for storing all this crap all year long, so that during October we can drive past and see something that makes us smile. Some of my favorites this year: I think that they're trying to illustrate that a good kegger might lead to trouble. ;) The skeleton wedding makes me smile almost as much as that gorgeous blue


Let's start with a fun list of opposites, skipping the usual favorites like hot and cold, and day and night. Instead here's a handful of spectacular rivalries.  Adobe and Apple Young Living and DoTerra McDonald's and Burger King Pepsi and Coke BYU and Utah TX Longhorns and OU Mercy and Justice Today my thoughts are on justice. Recently I took my girls to the dentist. My youngest doesn't love to brush or floss her teeth, she loves sugar, and hadn't been to the dentist in almost two years. After hearing good news that went something like, "Yay, good job everything is looking good..." Five minutes later I learned that there's six cavities with two more teeth that need silver caps and it will cost over $800 to fix everything. I was so miffed! Why get my hopes up before looking at an x-ray, and send them crashing down to earth after seeing the details more clearly?  When I die and go to heaven, I hope justice is Nothing like what I just experienced: I thoug

A church hymn I hated for five years

Hymn #223 Have I Done Any Good? 1. Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone's burden been lighter today Because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there? [Chorus] Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love. 2. There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try," But go and do something today. 'Tis noble of man to work and to give; Love's labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known. Text and music:  Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909, alt. James 1:22, 27 Alma 9:28

Church music, my favorite song by Pink, and thoughts from a recovering perfectionist

A song I've loved for years is, "You are perfect," by Pink, because it rings true for me:  I've chased down all my demons.  Or at least most of them. I've played the organ in Sacrament meeting dozens of times.  Occasionally there's a distinguished visitor or an important somebody sitting on the stand (literally two feet from my organ bench).  Sometimes it makes me nervous, but usually not too bad.  The time that freaked me out the most was when there was music professor in the congregation.  I remember having a little meltdown before church that day.  I told the Bishop, "I got a D in organ when I was in school..." and in his good natured, humorous way, he said, "We won't tell him."  Still, my anxiety was real.  I was worried about the songs, I was worried about the singing, I was worried about a lot of stuff.  Mainly, I was worried that I wasn't good enough and that somehow that music professor would agree. If you