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February 02, 2015


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One need look no further than the current Eternal Marriage student manual for several reasons why women have such ambivalence about pursuing their dreams/goals/education in addition to motherhood. The section on Mothers' Employment Outside the Home contains several dire warnings about failed marriages, "gangs on the streets of our cities, children killing children, spending their time in practices that can lead only to prison or to death", etc. "Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment."

And this, suggesting that women pursuing their educational aspirations beyond homemaking skills was not desirable...

“The first priority for a woman is to prepare herself for her divine and eternal mission, whether she is married soon or late. It is folly to neglect that preparation for education in unrelated fields just to prepare temporarily to earn money. Women, when you are married it is the husband’s role to provide, not yours. Do not sacrifice your preparation for an eternally ordained mission for the temporary expediency of money-making skills which you may or may not use.”

This fear-based rhetoric very much permeated the teachings as I was going through the YW program and at as a student BYU in the 80s. This, unfortunately, resulted in my reluctance to challenge myself in areas where I had natural strengths. I now find myself stuck at a job I do not enjoy, but don't have the skills or experience to choose something more rewarding.

It was very much either/or teaching. I can think of quite a few women in my ward/stake who started college, but dropped out to marry and have families. Very few ever returned to complete a degree.


I don't have time for a long comment, but I could go on and on about this topic. You are right, Neylan: the either/or rhetoric, whether explicit or implied, has to go! We just have to stop it! So many of us have been hurt by it in both psychological and very real, tangible ways. There is a difference between general American culture giving us certain attitudes about work and motherhood, and being told to stay home, not be selfish, sacrifice and serve, not put off having kids, etc. by leaders of "the one true church" who, we may have believed as a kid anyway, communicated directly with God and spoke only the words of God. I know that many of us didn't feel we could think about being anything other than a mother. We didn't feel we had permission to choose a career-oriented passion or education. It's really sickening, and until we stand up and protest, collectively, it will keep keep coming (as your last post on the Ensign article showed). I am glad the sister who posed the question is helping her daughters to envision more for themselves, and I hope she is able to develop and find outlets for her own dreams. If we could get beyond the either/or rhetoric, we could actually work together at church to help people through the real-life challenges of work and home, no matter whether they are currently involved in only one of those, or both.


Sorry -- New Era article, not Ensign.

Glen Nelson

I'll play. I'm a stay-at-home dad. My issues are the same as Neylan (a dear and old friend) describes, without all the gender angst (or maybe just a different kind). I can't blame the Church for making me stay home; let's start there, right?

When the kids were underfoot, I told myself that I would sacrifice my own goals, career-wise, until they were in school. The second the last one entered kindergarten (a full-day thing in New York City, where I live), I was free to act on all the ideas I had set aside, for years. I have made up for lost time, at least I think I have. My identity as a full-time caregiver is sporadic now. If I don't get much accomplished writing a new book, curating art exhibitions, researching history for publication, or writing articles for my corporate clients, I can't blame the kids (or my version of parenthood): it's all on me.

I want to be compassionate on the subject of LDS women struggling to make a place for themselves in our religious community, but I don't see what is holding you back. Put down the glue guns, ladies. :)


That NEW ERA article was great at targeting the interests, the preoccupations, and the worries of young men and young women! I say that having kids ages 23, 20, 18 and 15. The editors are striving to promote what will engage (first the kid has to be interested in the message) and second, to offer support for what helps with those issues. My kids get all kinds of encouragement from their parents about 'doing hard things' and 'equal value of gender differences' etc!

We are ALL products of the families and their values, as well as the culture we live in. I live in The South, where gender-based judgements abound. But the family relationships are still the strongest influence! Women who want to venture outside their family norms can find all kinds of support. I need the many influences of the gospel (including the New Era, if and when my kids find the articles worthy of their attention!), to help give balance to the many options in their lives.


I appreciate this question because this will be me in a few years! I don't regret any of the time I spend at home with my kids. But now, even with a degree in a discipline I love and several years volunteering in a related field, I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself when my last child starts school. I have some hobbies but I'm not interested in pursuing them as they won't challenge and stretch me as much as I'd like to be challenged and stretched.

I wish as a sisterhood we'd spend some time on career development. This has nothing to do with proper priorities. It just addresses reality. Even for those of us who are full-time stay-at-home moms, there will come a time when our children don't need us to be home all day everyday. It would be great to see more viable options for what to do with our time when that happens.


As a mom of four in my early 30's I never felt like I couldn't go to school or have a career because of the church. I never felt like my dreams of school and education where ever stifled. It just didn't work out that way for many personal reasons.
I have many girl friends who work mostly out of necessity- it is hard to raise a family on just one income. I am proud of my friends for their leadership outside the home and the moms they are when they are home.
I have friends who have many home business and do quite well. I have friends who teach fitness classes at gyms and friends who run blogs that supplement their families income. The options are endless.
As I spent a night with the local senior girls at a girls camp meeting they all got up and said what they wanted to do when they grew up. NONE of them said anything about being a mother. And you know what? It made me sad. Not that I don't think they should be able to pursue any career they want, but I felt like in a way they are missing a bit of the big picture. But I was the same way, my dreams of being a RN or a doula are still there and I would of done the same thing. But, when my youngest starts school I will pursue them. Was that how I wanted to finish school? No, but I still have a whole life ahead.


Give yourself some grace. You were only taught to plan your life up until your 40's or 50's and I imagine you are not alone at all in how you feel.

I think it can be similar to how infertile women feel when all of the sudden they can't have kids and didn't plan on anything different or women that haven't found a spouse yet and never imagined an alternative path in the interim (or perhaps for their whole life).

Life is SOOOO long (usually) and there is much we can do within those years. There is so much time left in your life to pursue a degree, find something in your community that you are passionate about and volunteer, or maybe even a part-time job that could bring you great satisfaction.

The question is:
Why do we spend the majority of energy at church preaching to the young girls almost exclusively about motherhood when the "active" time of raising kids only lasts from about 22-30 years of our lives? (Depending on # of kids and spacing of course). That only represents %25 of a 100 year life. We also don't spend enough time on the realities of life and preparing for contingencies.

In the church we strive for the ideal but live in reality where death, divorce, job loss, infertility, the economy etc. put us in the position of needing to work nevermind our desires either way.

I grew up in a less active home, raised by a single working mom who spent her life as a secretary (and in and out of abusive marriages).

Somehow it turns out to be a "blessing" to already be on the fringes of the church because I know I did not feel as much pressure to get married young, not go on a mission (I did) or drop out to have kids. I did feel the pressure however to "give up" my career and goals once I became a wife and mother.

Imagine my surprise that getting married, having children, nurturing my family AND finishing my education and having a job could be in line with the principles of the gospel.

My husband supported me in spending the first years of our marriage finishing my degree and performing. I was a dance major so taking a stroller to classes just wasn't gonna happen, and I felt only a little guilt in not jumping into motherhood right away.

When we were ready to take the plunge - SURPRISE - I had fertility problems. Because I had prepared myself with a good degree I got to spend this difficult time of my life doing something I loved working full time teaching dance in a high school. I supported my husband in grad school and provided the health insurance that eventually gave us our twin babies. Without my degree it may have taken MANY more years to become parents.

Now we have decided to home school and I am grateful for my rich education that helps me on this path of educating our own children. I continue to teach dance in our community which gives our family a little extra income and keeps my job skills fresh in case I ever need to become the sole bread winner again.

We absolutely should encourage our girls to prepare themselves for motherhood and a family but it turns out that preparation for motherhood can and should look similar to preparation for any kind of fulfilling, gospel oriented life!

Learn the gospel, get the best education you can, develop your talents, try hard things, have goals for work (with and without pay) and in all things stay close to Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit to know how these things will work for good in your life.


I think we have more than our current LDS culture to blame, as some have said, but I think the problem goes much deeper than relatively recent social norms. Once when I was distressed about the disparity between knowing that children needed a parent around as a primary care giver, and that many have God given talents that can't be very easily used in the home, prayed fervently to understand why this might be so.

I thought about what most of our ancestors were doing not so very long ago: raising children in agriculture. Perhaps selling and bartering the produce in markets, to neighbors, or perhaps the work and skills of their hands. These men and women had their children with them in the fields and markets. It was normal, it was how they learned. I thought of Ellis R. Shipp, one of my heroes, a woman called to go back east to become a doctor to women who pioneered women's healthcare and saved many lives of women and babies not only directly but through her education of midwives. Her children helped her in the clinic and she often brought her daughters with her. For most of human life, our children have been by our sides while we worked.

These people often were not blessed with the luxury to express their talents. So it IS a luxury. A blessing we can be grateful for. But I also felt prompted by this: our western society was shaped in a large way by men who were celibate. Who worked on religious and scientific thought without children (or women, really) around them. This changed the nature of their philosophies. These childless organizations are the ones that founded the education of our children, at first excluding girls. Allowing girls an education did not eliminate the many far reaching implications of a working and thinking life without children present. This sterile life was considered the ideal and one to be reached for.

If our society were child friendly, it would not be unprofessional to have children near you when doing many tasks. And if doing tasks that were unsafe or very impractical to do with children around, they would be able to be very near parents with other workers or perhaps a central childcare room. Workplaces as communities - a different facet of the village - that help to raise the children. A child friendly society would have a much stronger priority to raising children well, and classrooms wouldn't be in large central buildings that may or may not be close to home and/or work but scattered closely to everything. A high rise with a floor or even two devoted to a school place. (with of course the appropriate playgrounds). Teachers well respected, with high expectations as well as livable pay. Corporations knowing they're investing in their futures by sponsoring schools in their buildings. And more. Take your child to work day, every day. Dad some days, mom other days. And when the child is old enough to express interest in things, shadowing other people. Full and partial maternity leave appropriate for breastfeeding and early childhood development, and nursing rooms in corporate offices or better yet, the distigmatization of breastfeeding in public. (though quiet places to escape to can be nice)

One of the reasons I find it difficult to self identify as feminist is because I believe it left Susan B. Anthony behind a long time ago, when it started to lobby for abortions as solutions, the least child friendly stance it could have taken. Look at how our colleges treat pregnancy. Ask for help and many times you're told (less so in Utah), abort or drop out. One of the starkest symptoms of child marginalization, and another voice saying that career aspirations and mothering aspirations are mutually exclusive.

I guess what I identify as is a child centered religious humanist. I think that when children's rights come radically first, everything else falls into place.

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