My friend Kieth Merrill, an Academy Award-winning director, says there is a reason we rarely find strong mothers in movies today.
"If you're a screenwriter, and you understand drama, and you want to plunge your characters into conflict, you have to 'lose the mom,'" he says.
"Mothers go missing in movies because leaving them in the lives of characters in crisis makes sustaining conflict difficult. Mothers listen and resolve problems. They are selfless and love without conditions. You want to stir up trouble and make it believable? Better keep mom out of it."
Mothers do everything Kieth describes, and more. The subject of motherhood is a tender one that evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches. This has been so from the beginning. Eve was "glad" after the Fall, realizing she otherwise would not have had children. And yet, imagine her anguish over Cain and Abel.
Some mothers experience pain because of their children; others feel pain because they don't have children; and yet others live with the nagging feeling that they could or should have done better with their children. As women, we can be hard on ourselves.
I found myself thinking about this wide range of emotions last week as I addressed the American Mothers Convention in Salt Lake City. It was inspiring to meet women from different cultures and backgrounds, all united as champions of motherhood.
That night the 2011 Mother of the Year was named: Ernestine Allen, a beautiful woman representing the District of Columbia.
Ernestine is an educator, a counselor, and, with her husband, an Elder in The Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church. When the Allens' youngest son fell victim to a violent crime, they responded by establishing the Bereaved Parent Support Group.
Ernestine's oldest son Ronald said that his mother, the tenth child of eighteen, learned early how to share.
"That is where we get our giving personality," he says. "My mother has done it all her life because she loves to encourage and empower others. And through our toughest time, the passing of my brother, she was the glue that held us and our faith together."
This son's tribute says it all.
I have had the joy of working with women and their families on almost every continent. From one culture to another, I have seen exactly what he described: When mothers are strong, their children — regardless of the challenges they face — tend to be strong. When they're resilient and filled with faith, their children are likely to be resilient and filled with faith.
It was no doubt curious to those at the American Mothers Convention that an unmarried woman without children would be invited to address them. But I care deeply about motherhood precisely because of my life experience. The doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member, are clear: that the family is ordained of God and that there is no pursuit for a woman more ennobling than motherhood. Period.
My faith means everything to me. So as the years have marched by and my hopes and prayers for marriage and motherhood have as yet to be answered, I have wrestled with what motherhood means for all women.
Why do I feel deeply about mothers? Because I know exactly how it feels to NOT have the privilege of fulfilling the foundational aspect of a woman's divine nature–which is bearing and nurturing children. For a woman of faith, nothing fills the void of not having children. Nothing.
So as a tribute to the highest, noblest calling a woman may receive, I share five truths about mothers.
Truth #1: Motherhood is a sacred trust from God.