Listen to hear how Megan Hillyer, mom to seven, learned to drop expectations in motherhood after her husband’s unexpected health issues. She shares how she knew God was aware of her even when her life wasn’t what she planned. Megan also discusses dropping expectations in family history work and shares an easy place to get started, even if you’re a busy mom.
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Episode Links + Quotes
“But I think trusting that Heavenly Father is aware of me and having different instances in my life where I’ve seen that and I know that he’s aware of me in that life is okay, that we are still happy even though our life is not perfect or what we had planned out in our head when we first got married.”
“I was kind of forced into having patience. My oldest daughter was born and then when she was two, I had twin boys. And I quickly learned that my expectations of how things were going to go, how my kids were going to behave, how our house was going to look was not going to happen.”
“That’s the point, to get to know our ancestors because when we do that, we can feel connected to them and they can help us in our lives now. And when we do their work, when we do their ordinances and work and we give them the power of the priesthood, they can better help us.”
Join Megan’s course waitlist and learn easy ways to start doing family history.
Get Megan’s free 5 Day Getting Started in FamilySearch Challenge
Join the waitlist for my new course, The Latter-day Saint Mom’s Guide to Spiritually Empowering Your Teen – COMING SOON
SMM 024: Letting Go of Expectations + Being Intentional in Motherhood || Crystalee Beck
SMM 070: How to be Confident in All Your Decisions as a Mother|| Bonnie Wiscombe
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Darla: You’re listening to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. This is episode 94: How to Drop Expectations in Motherhood and Family History Work with Megan Hillyer.
Intro: Hi, this is Darla Trendler and welcome to Spiritually Minded Mom. My goal is to help you gain confidence in your ability to hear and follow God’s voice in motherhood and in life. Listen to hear interviews with all kinds of moms who are learning to navigate motherhood by partnering with our heavenly parents.
Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. I am so excited to have you here today. I have a great guest. Her name is Megan Hillyer and I met Megan in person in Canada back in September of 2019. I was speaking at the Distinct and Different conference and Megan was also a speaker and I sat right next to her and she gave a great presentation about family history. She’s someone who’s earned a degree in family history from BYU Idaho, actually in family history research. And she has a real passion for sharing that. And we’re going to talk about that in the interview, but she’s also a mom to seven, including a set of twins. And so, she has some great things to share about motherhood as well and how both of those things go together with family history and motherhood. And so, Megan, I’m excited we’re making this happen. I think it’s been months-
Megan: We are finally…
Darla: We’ve been planning this for months and …
Megan: I finally got brave enough.
Darla: Oh, this is so good. I really love Megan and everything that she shares and so I know you’re going to love, love her. So, let’s, let’s start off talking about, kind of, when you started in motherhood, you told me that you sort of had these ideas about how things should be. For instance, you should put your kid in timeout, and you realized quickly on with your oldest that that really wasn’t working. So how did you kind of figure out what your own philosophy of motherhood was going to be and, and what did that look like for you?
Megan: Yeah. Well, I, I like to say that it, I was kind of forced into having patience. My oldest daughter was born and then when she was two, I had twin boys. And I quickly learned that my expectations of how things were going to go, how my kids were going to behave, how our house was going to look was not going to happen. So, I just, one of the things I remember learning in motherhood was the timeout thing. I distinctly remember we lived in this townhouse in Ottawa, Canada, and my twins were maybe two months old and my daughter was sitting at the kitchen table and I gave her the wrong color of plate. And she threw a fit and you know, as two year olds do. But as a first-time mom of a two year old, I thought, you know, this is not okay. She has to go to her room. She’s sent to time out because you know, this behavior is not okay. That just, I mean that is just a constant daily struggle if I nitpick every little behavioral thing that my kids do. So, I quickly learned that was not something that I wanted to have part of my life and my relationship with my kids. Eventually I was led to, well, we moved back to Southern Alberta and there’s a great, parenting program here where they had courses where they taught about parenting and as I learned those things, I knew that that was, that was me. That was how I wanted to raise my kids. And it was not by a way of addressing their behaviors, but the way of basically just loving them and it just felt like how our Heavenly Father parents us, accepting where they’re at and addressing their feelings and validating and providing place where they feel accepted. Now that, I mean, equating that to behavior for your children isn’t really, I mean we’re not just going to let our kids do whatever they want, but as we parent out of love and not just addressing the little things that they do each day, we help them grow into who they are to become. So yeah. That’s kind of how I evolved in my parenting. Obviously, I’m not perfect, but I think letting go of the idea that I needed to do things, how the world said I needed to do, you know timeout is a very popular parenting technique. But for me, it just, it didn’t address what was actually going on in the relationship and in my child’s behavior.
Darla: I think that is so wise, Megan, because I think, I think every mother can relate to that. Like you come to motherhood and you, you think you have expectations and you, you know, we think, well we have to conform to what the society, what society tells us or we have to do it how our mother did it or how we’ve seen our next door neighbor do it or sister-in-law or whoever. And I really love how you just stepped back and said, “I’ve got to figure out how this works for me,” and you, you did things, you took action and, and took some parenting classes and, and just figured out, you know how that was going to work for you. And I didn’t know that your twins were born that soon after your oldest. So, you were like thrown in and there was no, I mean, I’m sure you had let go of the expectations.
Megan: Yeah, for sure. No way I could keep up to what I had in my mind of what life was going to be.
Darla: Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. So, then you kind of have another plot twist in your motherhood story and that is when, when you’re oldest daughter was two. So was this before you, did you already have your twins at this point when your husband…
Megan: No. No.
Darla: Okay. So, she, so when Megan had her oldest was two then your husband gets a concussion.
Megan: Yeah, she was two months old.
Darla: Oh, two months. I read that wrong. Okay. Okay. So, she’s two months old. So, you’re barely into motherhood. Like you’re, you’re just still in that adjustment phase. Then your husband, it gets a concussion. And what were the effects of that? What happened after that?
Megan: Yeah, so yeah, it was actually remembering, it was like a month after she was born, we went on like our first date after, after having her and we went ice skating and he had been playing hockey and had been, you know, getting faster, and he wanted to show off for me. So, we are skating around, of course not with a helmet. And he lost his edge as he was going really fast and slid right into the boards headfirst, and he got a major concussion and he was going to university; he was planning on becoming a doctor. He had a 4.0 and you know, things were looking good. But he got this concussion and just the results of that, he wasn’t able to focus as well at school. He ended up having to withdraw and life just got different. We actually, like we, he tried going to the university two, two more times at different places. We moved to Ottawa and then we moved, went to BYU for a semester and it just wasn’t working. And I think once we finally accepted that life was just going to be different, opportunities came for him and he has a, a good business right now, where he’s able to work when he can. He still has health problems that he struggles with, but I know that opportunities came because we were willing to do whatever.
Darla: So, when this happened, I mean, this has been ongoing for years and your life changed in just an instant. You may not have realized it in that moment, but it really did. And so, I know from talking to you in the past that a result of that was that you, you had to take on a lot more than maybe you typically would have as far as the day to day things that were going on and, and then you go on to have six more kids. You had one, you go on to have six more kids. Megan, I just look at that and I say, how did you have the faith to do that knowing theses struggles that you’re going through with your husband’s health? How did, how did you have the faith to keep going and to keep having kids and to just really not know how it was all going to work out?
Megan: You know, I never really had a number of kids that I wanted to have. My husband and I, we would have a child and of course right after you have a child, you don’t, the thought of having the other one does not come for a while. But I don’t know. It just, I just knew that another one’s going to come, and another is going to come and yeah. With my husband’s health, I’ve had to do most of the day to day tasks of motherhood and, and you know, life that goes with having seven kids falls on me and that has been a struggle. I, you know, I still get overwhelmed. I still struggle. Life is not perfect, but I think I have come to understand that it is okay how life is. I think sometimes we get this idea in our head of how things are supposed to be, how you know, what our children’s life is supposed to be like, how, how our family is supposed to be and when it’s not like that, we can feel like maybe something’s wrong. Sorry, I’m a crier, but,
Darla: Totally fine.
Megan: But I think trusting that Heavenly Father is aware of me and having different instances in my life where I’ve seen that and I know that he’s aware of me in that life is okay, that we are still happy even though our life is not perfect or what we had planned out in our head when we first got married.
Darla: Where, where have you seen God, in these instances where, I mean, have you had moments where you just, you know, was it through other people? Was it through prayer? Was it promptings? How, how have you seen him? I’m sure it’s been many different ways, but any specific examples of how you’ve seen him show up?
Megan: Yeah, for sure. There’s been different times in my life where something came that maybe I didn’t know that I needed. But looking back, it was something that helped me get through some hard times. Back when I was taking those parenting courses, there were a couple of neighbors that I had that were also there. And I’m not a very outgoing person. I kind of stick to myself and up to that point I, I mean I had acquaintances and friends, but no one that was really like a confidant or that I could tell whatever to. But this one friend, she actually moved in just behind our house and she invited us over for dinner. And slowly we became friends. It takes me a while to feel comfortable with someone to be friends, but we became friends where I could just show up at her house and talk. And that was something that I definitely needed during that time. And so, I feel like instances like that where opportunities came and I allowed myself to become friends with someone, even though I, I’m kind of an introvert, I guess, and I didn’t want to, but it was a necessary thing for me. Other times, well, one of the main things that has given me strength through motherhood and through life when maybe things are overwhelming and hard has been family history. I think that’s also another thing that I, when I decided to do it, I didn’t necessarily know how much it would help me. I had always been interested in family history. My dad, I remember seeing him as a kid work on family history and he’d, we’d have family evenings where he’d, you know, sit us all down and say, okay, I want you to work on this family line. And of course, we never did anything. But that seed was planted in my heart and I knew that it was something important. So, when these promptings came for me to, to work on family history and that I needed to get a degree in it even, I went for it. Even though, I mean I’ve had a bit of background in it, but nothing major. But as I’ve learned about my ancestors, not even majorly, but just like opening up the family tree app and reading the memories on there, or even just looking at their pictures, especially on days when I do feel overwhelmed and, and maybe I’ve lost, lost it on my kids or I just feel a little under appreciated. It’s almost like I can feel them there, cheering me on and that has been a major strength for me.
Darla: I love how Heavenly Father prompted you to, to find family history and that you may not have realized it in the moment, but that was something that was going to give you so much strength and so much perspective. And I think, you know, we don’t think about it all the time, but we do have ancestors who are cheering and who are pulling for us. I know the prophet said in his talk, Spiritual Treasures, that when we go to the temple, we can have the angels to be there for us. And I think why wouldn’t those angels, this is my own opinion, but why wouldn’t those angels be those ancestors helping us? So, so what, what are some other ways that you feel like family history just strengthens you and blesses you in your life?
Megan: Well going along with that, when you talk about the angels, that just made me think of a story. I wasn’t sure if I was going to share it because sometimes these stories are, you know, close to our hearts. It’s not really an ancestor, but my, I’m sorry, let me- My uncle passed away. I don’t even remember how many years ago, maybe six or seven years ago. And he was like a second father to me. His daughter, my cousin, we were born two weeks apart and we lived a block away, so I was at their house every day. And he passed away a few years ago. And I don’t even remember the situation in my own life, what, what was going on, but I’m sure I was overwhelmed. I probably had five kids by then. And I had a dream one night where he was in my dream. He was young and I was in their house and he just walked in the door and he said, “You’re doing a good job with those kids there, Megan.” And it wasn’t, that’s all he said. It wasn’t a huge thing, but I knew that, that Heavenly Father allowed that to happen. To give me that, that little reminder that I’m doing okay. I think as mothers, we feel inadequate a lot of the time. That’s one of the reasons that it took me so long to get on here to do this podcast is I felt like I needed to have life figured out or something. But, that was a good thing for me, to have that experience into, that was even before I got really involved in family history. So that has helped me, I guess, have a stronger testimony that our ancestors are there and that they are aware of us. That didn’t really answer your question, sorry.
Darla: No, that was, that was beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. It shows so well how they are aware of us, and they do want to help us. And what a strength that is for you even I’m sure it was in the moment, but even to go back. I mean, I can tell by hearing you tell the story that it’s still a strength to you in your life. And I know, I know you feel really passionately about helping other people do family history work. It’s overwhelming. It’s like hard to know where to start and, you know, hard to know what to do. So, I think you’re doing a great work in helping people. So, so you felt this prompting to do family history work. You went back to BYU Idaho and you got a degree and now you’re teaching other people. So, what, what would you say to a mom who’s, you know, in the middle of motherhood like you are with little kids, and you know you have kids of all ages and we all know that’s such a busy time of life. So, what do you say to that mom who wants to do family history, but she just is like so overwhelmed and does not know where to start? What would be your advice?
Megan: Well, I think first of all, I totally get you. That is normal to feel that way. And I think especially like I’m a bit of a perfectionist that I like want to have it all figured out and make a plan and, you know, I’m going to do this and then this and then this. And then when I get on there, I’m like, uh, I have no idea what I’m doing when I get onto Family Search or whatever. So, I guess my first piece of advice would just to, do something.
Megan: I think that kind of goes with anything in life. When we want to learn anything, we might think we have to have the grand plan or you know, have a perfect a course that we’re going to partake in, but just do something, just download the Family Tree app. If your family’s tree is already in there, then that’s great. You can just click on people and benefit from other people who have added information into Family Search. But if you don’t have a family tree on there, just put your own family in there. Go back as far as you can, adding in information about your family, and just get started. I think our biggest obstacle is ourselves, but we stop ourselves from trying or doing things because we think we need to know more. So, I would just say get started.
Darla: Just do something, right? Like open up that app. And I remember when, when we were together at the Distinct & Different conference, you gave a talk and you had everybody open up, what was the app that we opened up?
Megan: That was the Family Tree app.
Darla: Okay. Yeah. So, we’re in this auditorium with all these women. And she has us open up the app and figure out who we’re related to. And it was so like, wish you could have heard like the buzz in that room and how everybody just lit up and was so excited to figure out, “Hey, you’re my fifth cousin, six times removed” or whatever. It was just super fun and the connection that that builds. So, I think we can feel connected to our ancestors who have gone on, but we can also feel connected to people in our own life, our own family, our own extended family. You know, even people that might be helping us on Family Search. We’re researching the same lines. I felt some connection with those kinds of people before. So, there’s a great place to start, like open up that app somewhere when you’re around a lot of people and you’ll figure out that you’re, that you’re related. So, what about the, we talked about lowering your expectations and just, you know, accepting things and not worrying about all the stuff that’s not important with motherhood. What do we need to lower our expectations about with family history?
Megan: I think sometimes, even for myself, when I get on there and want to find something, I think one of our expectations is, is that we’re going to, you know, uncover some great mystery and find hundreds of names to take to the temple. But what I found is that it is not often like that. It’s very slow. Like I know well-meaning church leaders maybe will challenge us to all find a name in like a week to take to the temple, but that’s not always possible. And to not get discouraged by that because even great genealogists can have a hard time finding names to take them to the temple. And I think if we let go of that idea of finding names and more about learning about those names that are already there, that can kind of release the pressure. I feel, I mean obviously taking names to temple, doing ordinances for ancestors is the most important thing, but I feel like a secondary part to that, that is also almost equally as important is to get to know our ancestors. And that, you know more than just seeing their name, but to look at those documents and see their handwriting. Maybe we don’t have pictures of them, but we can see those documents that represented them and even just through a boring document; I don’t think they’re boring. Some people might, but through these documents you can get to know them so well. You can see what their occupation was. You can see where they lived. You can see if they had children, how old their children were and when they died. You know, you can start to connect to them, and I feel like that is important. I think sometimes we, like I used to view, I used to think that knowing these stories and about our ancestors, I used to think that was just like a nice thing, you know? Maybe to get people interested in family history, but the more I’ve done, the more I’ve realized that that is the point. That’s the point. To get to know our ancestors because when we do that, we can feel connected to them and they can help us in our lives now. And when we do our, their work, when we do their ordinances and work and we give them the power of the priesthood, they can better help us.
Darla: Okay, you just like totally opened my mind to something new about family history because how many times do we hear, take a name to the temple, a name, a name, a name. It’s not a name, it’s a person. They are so much more than just a name. They lived a life and they have experiences that we can learn from. And I think, I think we can draw strength from that in our own lives. What do you think about teaching our children about those ancestors? How do you do that? How do you teach your children about your ancestors and their stories? Because I think that that really helps our children to have some identity and to know where they come from.
Megan: Yeah. I don’t know. I feel like whenever I bring up family history to my kids, they kind of roll their eyes and they’re sick of it. But ideally, it is just in small ways even. There was this 21-day, family experiment challenge. I don’t know if you heard about that going around on Instagram and whatever. So, with that I was like, well, I do family history already all the time. So, I’ve kind of been focusing on sharing some of those stories with my kids each day. And again, it hasn’t been perfect. There’s been lots of days where we’ve missed, but just little neat things that I’ve brought up and shared with them. And something that I learned from, Light Keepers, that was also another free thing that was going around from Light Keepers, from Roots Tech, Rhonna Farrer, in her talk on there. She talked about kind of relating to our ancestors, finding commonalities in ways that we can relate to them. Just, she talked about her kids and how she pointed out things that her ancestor liked, and her daughter also liked and how that was kind of a strengthening thing for her. I decided to kind of do that with this teaching my kids about their ancestor’s story. So, I have an ancestor that, he was doing hands springs. I shared that on Instagram a few weeks ago how he would do handsprings up until he was like 80 years old. And you know, so my kids are interested in learning how to do flips on the trampoline or something and we might think that that’s a totally silly, silly way to connect to our ancestors. But I think that it kind of plants a seed in our kids’ hearts that, you know, their ancestors actually were real people and that can help them hopefully get interested in it later. I’m still working on getting my kids to actually like, you know, go on Family Search and do some work, but I think just having an understanding that our ancestors were real people and that they had stories and that they can help us now. And just, I bear my testimony of that to my kids often and hopefully though they’ll remember that.
Darla: I think that is so good Megan because we don’t have to feel guilty about doing family history or finding a name or all of that. We can just, I think, I think if we sum up what you’ve kind of said is we can just start by finding out who they were and then sharing those stories with our kids. That’s really not that hard. And then we’ve brought family history into our lives and we could have a whole other discussion about, you know, doing the temple work and all of that and you’re doing so many amazing things to help people. So, I know you have a course coming up to help people that are just starting out with family history. So, tell, tell me about that.
Megan: All right. Well this course has been a long time coming. When I was getting close to finishing my degree, I just knew that I, I wanted to start sharing and helping other people that were like me to get started doing family history. I think a lot of times we, maybe we find an article or something about getting started and family history and it’s like, okay, you start with you, then you find your parents, then you go back. And I was like, well I, I’m already there. I have my tree all in Family Search. So, what do I do now?
Darla: Because there’s lots of people out there going, yeah, that’s me. Like I have all this. So, what do I do?
Megan: You already have it there? So, what do I do now? I would just get on Family Search and I’d be like, I’m so overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start. I go to like the end of the line ancestor and of course I could never find anything, and it would just be frustrating. So, I started with like a 10-step finding your ancestors thing that I shared on Instagram a couple of years ago. And it’s just kind of evolved into this course that’s for beginners but not like, I guess my ideal person to take the course is someone who is a member of the church who has their tree on Family Search. They want to start doing meaningful research and learn how to, you know, find sources, add those sources to their family on family search. And they could even have all their temple work done already. But just to, understand the process of researching, adding information, verifying sources, analyzing sources and, and then going from there.
Darla: Okay. So, if somebody is interested in this, in this course, Megan has a waitlist that you can get on. It’s coming out soon. And so, we will link up the waitlist in the show notes on spirituallymindedmom.com or you can go to Megan’s Instagram into her profile. And your Instagram is @moderngenealogy, right?
Darla: Okay. So, we’ll put that in the show notes as well. So if you’re interested in learning from Megan about how this doesn’t have to have tons of expectations and you can just start and be able to know what you’re doing with family history and feel good about it and have that connection with your ancestors, Megan is a great place to go. So, we’ll link all that up. But Megan, this has been so great. I have loved talking to you. I’m glad that we finally, I finally got to-
Megan: Me too. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be.
Darla: And share your story. I’m glad. I’m so glad to hear that. But I do have one final question for you and that is, how have you seen and felt your Heavenly Parents as your partners in motherhood?
Megan: Well, I think it kind of touches on other things that I’ve spoken about already, but I think just understanding that and recognizing that Heavenly Father’s there, I’ve just been led to different things throughout my life, like with my friend and parenting courses and even just little things that maybe seem insignificant, but even just accounts on Instagram or podcasts that inspire me. And I just can’t help but notice that these things are all benefiting my life. And I know that all good things come from God. And so I know that he is aware of me and he puts these things in that He knows I have time for, he knows that I will add into my life that will help me become who he wants me to be and to become a better mother so that I can help my kids come unto Him and come to Christ.
Darla: That was beautiful. Thank you so much, Megan. I’m so glad that you were here today.
Megan: Thank you.
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