Idaho Mother of the Year uses gospel as 'a guiding light'


Life — and parenting — are in transition for Erika Soelberg, who was recently honored as the Idaho Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc.

Sister Soelberg and her husband, Kent Soelberg of the Eagle 5th Ward, Eagle Idaho Stake are the parents of seven children and have nine grandchildren. Only her youngest child is left at home and will be a sophomore in high school this fall. Marriage, university education, careers and mission service have scattered the rest to various locations.

With a veritable “empty nest,” Sister Soelberg said she’s now faced with answering the question, “How do I parent my adult kids?”

“When your kids are young, you can manage your home. When they’re adults, they make their own decisions and you just get to watch,” Sister Soelberg explained. “It’s been an interesting road to learn what the stewardship of [being a] mom and parent is when your children are adults.”

Sister Soelberg admitted that learning to adapt her parenting skills is nothing new, however. Through the years, motherhood has required a “constant revamping” of expectations, rules and consequences.

“It was a challenge with seven. They were all very different,” Sister Soelberg said.

And although motherhood has sometimes been challenging, Sister Soelberg said she’s been blessed. First, in her relationship with her husband, who supported her in her role. “He worked with me, and we worked as a team. That made my life much easier.” Second, in her relationship with her Heavenly Father. “The gospel has been a guiding light.”

For example, recently her daughter who is attending graduate school in Chicago was faced with a difficult situation. Sister Soelberg wanted to tell her daughter what she needed to do; however, she received a strong impression that she needed to stop talking to her daughter about it. “It was so against my grain. I thought, ‘I cannot do that; I can’t do it.’ But the Spirit was so strong. So from that minute on I tried really hard to not say anything.”

Whenever her daughter brought it up, she and her husband would tell her, “We trust you that you will listen to the Spirit and do what He tells you.” And slowly they watched her come to her own understanding. Later her daughter told her, “Mom, I’m so grateful that you let me find my own path.”

Sister Soelberg said, “That is not how I would have handled it, but I’m so grateful that I listened. … I don’t know how people make it through parenting without the Lord watching out for their children.”

Now that she’s not running after seven little children, she has had time to consider how she wants to fill her time. “Yesterday I was bound and determined to work for the airlines so I can go and fly to see my grandchildren,” she said with a laugh.

Sister Soelberg said she always advises young moms to “enjoy the journey.”

“When you’re right in the middle of it, there’s so much chaos and so much work. But I do look back and wish that I had appreciated the joy more because there is so much joy in the experience.”

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