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November 05, 2014

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Teresa

When I went to my son's first parent teacher conference, his kindergarten teacher started by saying, "I have to tell you what happened the other day. I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, and they were saying things like football players and astronauts. When I called on [your son], he said, 'I want to be a dad when I grow up.' It was the sweetest comment and brought tears to my eyes." It brought tears to my eyes too, and I thanked her for telling me. I'm glad my son values fatherhood so much, and I'm grateful he has such a stellar father as a role model now.

But I can't imagine a similar exchange ever taking place about my daughter. When she says, "I want to be a mom when I grow up," she gets a completely different reaction--even from me, and I'm a mostly stay-at-home mom myself. I recognize there are a lot of complex reasons for this. There is an assumption that, even if my son wants to be a dad, he will also "be" something else, and our daughters don't always get that message. But still, what message does it send my daughter when she says she wants to be a mom and she hears, "Yes, but what else do you want to be?"

I would hope that if my children--sons AND daughters--are blessed with spouses and children of their own, they will prioritize those eternal family roles throughout their lives. I just wish that we as a culture could be as enthusiastic about my daughter voicing her desire to be a mom as we are about my son's desire to be a dad.

Emily M.

http://segullah.org/daily-special/the-necessary-sacrifice/ I wrote a post for Segullah a while ago addressing this issue. I think it applies well to her questions.

Rosalynde

Nicely done. I would raise just two objections. I suspect that non-employed mothers like myself will be annoyed at your opposing the category of "facilitator" (the questioner's work) with "contributor" (your word), as that strongly implies that non-employed parents do not contribute to wider society. I'm very confident that I contribute to my community outside my home, even though I am not employed. I understand that you were trying to find a neutral term, but I don't think "contributor" works. "Market worker" versus "household worker" might be a better pair.

Second, you write "The currency of work-in-the-home is long-term fulfillment, influence and relationships. The currency of work-in-the-office is dollars and decision-making and social impact." Not at all true. The contributions of a stay-at-home spouse absolutely have a measurable financial impact on a household's bottom line: a penny saved is a penny earned -- and the same is true of thousands of dollars in convenience foods, fuel costs, domestic help, childcare, etc -- and at-home parents have the flexibility and time to achieve these savings, often with significant environmental benefits to boot. And because those "pennies saved" are tax-free, the financial impact is even greater. Furthermore, I exercise real decision-making power and social impact through volunteer leadership in our school district and other community organizations.

The thing to keep in mind is that most employed women (like most employed men!) do not work in high-profile, creative, executive roles. For these women, both the financial and social rewards of employment are lower (though the personal rewards may still be high) and the antithesis between home and market work you set up is not as clear.

Emily Flinders

I think this (rather long, but fabulous) presentation by Valerie Hudson spans a lot of these concerns. On the one hand, she does propose that uncompensated domestic labor should be considered in GDP calculations, on the other hand, she addresses a lot of the problems that occur globally when women are not represented in places where decisions affecting them are made. https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2014/dialogue-podcast-16-wvalerie-hudson/

Elizabeth

I think you hit the nail on the head, Ms. McBaine, by pointing out that you sense that J thinks the accomplishments of women outside the home diminish those of women working inside the home. The experiences, demands, rewards and visibility of either sphere are very different. I get praised in public for my work, but I also work under deadlines,under the threat of a pink slip or furlough, and w/nasty co-workers (sometimes). Women expressing dismay that their work inside the home is unnoticed and unappreciated in the outside world don't always recognize the autonomy they enjoy.

Yes, raising children to be productive adults is very, very important. If you're going to have children, their well-being must be their parents' first priority. J's query is so heartfelt, but I have to take issue with her comment regarding "facilitating" and "self-promote." The ambition and drive that it takes to create, forge and survive a career is not all based on "self-promotion." It doesn't mean that working people are stomping on others simply because they are required to complete tasks, and if they want to gain more in the workplace, they probably need to toot their own horn. The workplace is competitive, but it's where people communicate, invent, create, teach, heal -- I could go on forever but I'm sure your readers get the drift.

And second, I fear for women who set their needs aside for their children in a wholesale way, for their entire adult lives. Parenting requires a lot of sacrifice, but it is essential for women to carve out a realm, however small, that speaks to their fulfillment alone. A hobby, an avocation, an intellectual pursuit, a career, whatever -- something that requires skill and thoughtfulness that gives individuals the resiliency to state to the world, "This is something I have that reflects my essence, something unique to me, something no one can take from me." It may not readily reveal itself, and it may need to be shelved at certain times of life when family demands are intense, but it needs to be there, or pursued. And men deserve to pursue something for themselves -- outside of work and family life -- as well. I see lots of women who essentially hide from the adult world behind their children. Hair shirts don't flatter anyone.

Kay B

If you read various church talks from throughout Mormon history, you can see the struggle that church leaders have had over whether to encourage, discourage, or remain indifferent to women's efforts outside of the home. Now, we appear to be reaching equilibrium - though we are certainly not there yet. In many respects, Priesthood leaders are becoming increasingly ambiguous in regards to counseling women on career choices. They repeatedly stress that we will be held accountable by the Lord for our choices, and they leave it at that.

Now the pressures are originating primarily from a cultural level. There is a sense that, if you choose to work professionally, you will be viewed as selfish, greedy, and neglectful of your primary duties. On the other hand, if you choose not to work professionally, there is a sense that you will be viewed as uneducated, insignificant, and lazy. Both of these assumptions are inherently false, but they keep us all on edge.

Perhaps it is time to sit back and breathe deeply. Perhaps it is time to realize that people in general are different, one from the next. We are so focused on gender differences that we often miss the even more intricate individual differences. Perhaps, when my daughters go to their YW classes in the distant future, they will not have to deal with the confusion that comes from one lesson that tells them to stay home and be mothers and another lesson telling them that they will probably have to work and really need to be self-reliant. Perhaps they will combine both lessons into one, and simply call it: "Personal Revelation and the Importance of Agency." If we are willing to have an open, non-judgmental dialogue, we just might get there.

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