She knows importance of raising children

It doesn't take long to figure out Diane Stirland Matthews' six favorite topics: Karlyn, Marshall, Louise, Nicole, Shannon and Blake.

As a mother, she is quick to talk of her children's successes in academics, athletics, music and dance, or speak of their contributions to the Church, their ability to construct beautiful cabinets, or care for a garden.What else is there to discuss? she questions. After all, for the past 36 years, her children have been her focus.

Sister Matthews of the Southern Estates Ward, Mesa Kimball Arizona Stake, on May 2 was named 1998 National Mother of the Year by American Mother's Inc., but is quick to explain that her most important title is mother of her children.

"If I have ever done anything of any note it is the raising of my family," she said.

In her new role as a national representative, Sister Matthews hopes to help others understand the importance of motherhood.

For her, being a mother - which is never an easy task - was especially demanding. Fifteen years ago, in April 1983, her husband, Elmo G. Matthews, died of a heart attack.

After his death, the then 42-year-old mother called her children - who ranged in age from 20 to 3 years old - together in her bedroom. "At that time we simply committed ourselves to one another, that we would be there for one another," she recalled. "We committed that we as a family would build on the foundation that their father had laid for them."

She pulled her children out of everything they were doing - music and dance lessons and Little League baseball. Then together they began to put their lives back together - before they branched out into other things again. Her 3-year-old son took responsibility to take out the family garbage. Her 5-year-old daughter was given responsibility of helping with breakfasts.

"One morning she decided she was going to make pancakes. We got more batter on the stove than on the grill," she recalled, noting that all of her children eventually benefited from the extra responsibility.

Sister Matthews, who had graduated from BYU in education, went back to work, teaching school. Then she realized the toll her absence from home was having on her children and herself. So she quit teaching and continued her husband's business, working out of her home. "At least then I was there and my children felt my presence," she said. "It required personal sacrifice, but the blessings far exceeded anything."

Some people told her after her husband's death that she needed to do things for herself - go out with friends and even date. "But I had brought six children in the world," she said. "I couldn't absolve myself of the responsibility to be their mother first."

Today her children would still rather spend time together than with others - they vacation together and sing together. Sister Matthews credits much of their closeness to the "crisis living" years, when they had to pull together and work to keep the household running. She could have never made it through those years without them - and they could have never made it without her or each other.

During her term as national mother, Sister Matthews hopes to spread the message of the importance of family. "My message is to encourage women, in their efforts as mothers, to find a way to spend family time together," she said.

After all, there is nothing she would rather do than spend time with - or at least talk about - her children.

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