Today I received an email that particularly touched my heart. It was from a non-member friend of an LDS member. The reason I was so touched, is because she wants advice about how to support her LDS member friend, who's son is about ready to leave on his mission.
Here is what she wrote...
Upfront, I want you to know, that I am not of the LDS faith. So, be patient with my question!
I have a good friend who is a member of the LDS. For years, our sons have been best friends - and the past few years, we have become close as well. Her family is amazing - such a close family with so much love and respect for each other. Her oldest son of 4 children is heading off on his mission trip to Cambodia in a few weeks. I understand this is part of the religion, but, she is still a momma who is incredibly close to her son! I really want to be there for her and support her. What would you suggest that I could do for her?
Thank you.How sweet is this? As a new missionary mom myself, this letter brought tears to my eyes - as you can imagine. I have no idea what their relationship is like, but it is apparent that there is great love and compassion shared in the friendship between these two women.
I can just picture this non-member friend, sitting in front of her computer, using Google to search "how can I help my LDS friend not be so sad when her son leaves on his Mormon mission"? How she found me -- I'm not exactly sure. But I can tell you this... today when I Googled "support for missionary moms" to try and find some online resources to share with her, the only other post I've ever written about my initial experience of being a missionary mom popped up on the first page of Google results, in the number seven position! Now that has to tell you all that we have a problem here....
So, I'm going to assume a few things, in general, from personal experience. When my son left to serve a mission, almost four months ago, I was not prepared for how I would feel when he actually left. The reality of him leaving for such an extended period of time, and the inability to communicate with him frequently, was something I was not prepared for. Heck, I didn't even think there was a need to prepare ME for it! The entire emphasis was about getting him prepared.
It's kind of funny really, but we spend years raising, particularly our boys, to serve a mission for the Church. This is our culture and not only is it expected, it is celebrated as an indicator of successful parenting within the LDS Church. And I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing. Because after all, our kids have their agency, right? Which has nothing to do with how good a parent you are. Anyway, for our children that do decide to serve a mission for the LDS Church -- we're supposed to be happy! And of course we are!
But here's the deal... at least to my knowledge, there is nothing in the Church that is geared toward helping the parents of prospective missionaries go through the experience and sacrifice (other than financial) required to send off one of their babies on a mission for 18-24 months!
So now that I am having this experience, I was left to wonder if it was just me? After all, I have many close friends who had sent numerous missionaries out into the field. Not once did they express to me, any of the feelings I've experienced recently -- neither when their children left, or while their children were gone.
After my son left, I expressed my sadness to a few close women friends. To my shock they confirmed that they totally understood! What? Then why didn't anyone give ME a heads-up? Why was I so clueless? Why are these feelings that missionary moms all supposedly experience, NOT common knowledge amongst mothers? I'm still scratching my head on this one and trying to figure it out...
Anyway, when I received this email today I couldn't help but wonder if this particular LDS mom didn't have the support that she needed within the Church, either, so instead she reached out to her non-member friend to share her feelings about her son leaving? I don't know? I could be totally wrong.
Nonetheless, I'm now going to conclude that sending off an LDS missionary is really hard for every LDS mom. (and yes, more than most dads - my dh is doing just fine) I'm totally normal. Why this is not discussed amongst LDS women (my experience) I can only speculate. I now have some pretty good ideas, but I'd like to hear what you think? Because once again, I could be totally off base.
I'd also sincerely appreciate any advice that I could pass on to the sweet sister who sent me this email, and who desperately wants to support her dear friend who is sending off her Mormon missionary in a just a few weeks. Because as I've confessed here, I am certainly not an expert in the missionary mom department -- regardless of what Google thinks!
Note: Since my son, Alton (pictured above) has left, I've became familiar with a few missionary parent resources. There seems to be sufficient resources to help you support your missionaries, but I'd like to find more that support the parent during this time. If you know of any good ones, please post the links in the comments. Thanks.
The LDS Missionary Moms - Here you will find multiple resources and can sign up for email lists that cater to your son or daughter's specific mission.
They also have a Facebook Page - LDS Missionary Moms
Here is a brand new blog that looks really promising - The Mission of Missionary Moms I really hope that she is successful, because heaven knows we need her experience!
Here's a great new video that you can share with your friends and families - Mormon Missionaries: An Introduction