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'Most difficult work in the world' is her joy

Carolyn M. Shumway has mothered thousands - missionaries, college students, foster children, "borrowed children" and her own seven children.

Now she accepts a new mothering role.On April 28, American Mother's Inc. named Sister Shumway - wife of BYU-Hawaii President Eric Shumway - the 61th National Mother of the Year.

Sister Shumway is delighted to represent the organization and further its goal: to strengthen the moral and spiritual foundation of the home and family.

The grandmother of eight said through the years she has garnered plenty of experience as the mother of her children - Merrilli McKee, Jeffrey, Aaron, Heather Murdock, Angela, Emily and Douglas - and as the mother of other children.

From 1986 to 1989, while her husband served as a mission president in Tonga, Sister Shumway looked out for more than 1,000 missionaries who were away from their mothers.

Over the years the Shumway home in Hawaii has also been filled with all kinds of kids - college students needing advice or motherly attention and 18 foster children who were homeless, addicted to drugs or just in need of stability.

"[Children] are in and out of our house all the time for first aid, a little hug or a meal," Sister Shumway said. "I really feel privileged for anyone to call me mom."

This, however, doesn't mean Sister Shumway thinks a mother's job is easy.

Parenting, she said, is the "most difficult work in the world." To succeed, she continued, parents must respect each other and together form a partnership with the Lord.

"Crucial to parenting is reliance on God and also a happy marriage where possible, with the mother an equal partner at the side of her sweetheart."

Daily devotionals at the Shumway home have also helped Sister Shumway be a successful mother, she explained. "Every morning my family gathers around the kitchen table before early morning seminary and we have an opening hymn and prayer, read the scriptures and kneel in family prayer," she said. "One child bears testimony and my husband and I continue reading in what ever standard works our family is studying at the moment while the kids eat breakfast."

She said the Church and its teachings have bond her family together. "The Church is the golden thread that runs through everything that we do."

She added that she also appreciates the example set by her own mother. "My mother was completely devoted to her husband and family," she noted. "She had no private agenda."

Giving advice to other mothers, Sister Shumway emphasized that parents should "enjoy children instead of trying to improve them."

Laughing, she recalled a time when one of her sons, then 2, said a word he should not have. She sat him down and sprinkled pepper on his tongue to remind him that he was not to use that word again. He replied, "More pepper please."

"Enjoy every stage of your children's development because it will never come again. Laugh more. Remember there is something wonderful and magic and glorious about every stage of parenting," she said. "If we enjoy [children] then they will feel our love and that is what will make them improve."

Discipline should come, she continued, as parents follow the promptings of the Spirit.

She said her family has been united by music. "Music is kind of our thing," she said. "We use it to accomplish another family goal, which is to nurture everyone we come in contact with."

Sister Shumway called mothering a full-time job that is similar to being a gardener. "You take care of the plants, you nurture them and protect them from harm," she said. "That is very difficult to do if you are not there in the garden."

She said she has seen her mothering skills and devotion reflected in her own married children. "My oldest daughter holds daily scripture reading, family prayer and family home evening. This is the most important thing, combined with love, that children receive from their mothers."

Sister Shumway views her responsibility of representing mothers throughout the United States as an opportunity to promote families - her favorite topic. To do this, she said she will work with government officials in Hawaii but will limit her time away from home - where she still has two teenagers and a 16-year-old niece to mother.

"I feel like the Lord will make me equal to the task ahead," she said. "I feel like He called me to this position. He will make up for my weaknesses and help me to be an extension of His arm."

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