Working Mormon (Future) Moms

I know it’s a few weeks old by now, but I found this Newsweek article very interesting.  It talks about how even though women are doing a lot of amazing things professionally, as they become mothers they find that both jobs and motherhood are both full time endeavors.  According to the article, many, many women are being driven crazy trying to do both well.

I’m not sure what can or should be done on a societal level to fix this problem.  For all I know, it may not even be much of a problem.  But if it is I am deeply skeptical that the solutions are the things suggested by the article’s author (who actually wrote a book on this same topic) like government-provided daycare and "progressive tax policies that would transfer our nation’s wealth back to the middle class".  (Just because we’re liberal Mormons here, it doesn’t mean we’re all on the left politically.)  Of course, a discussion on public policy isn’t what I intend with this post.  The thing is that my wife and I will one day have kids.  Is she doomed to be one "of the mothers [who] appear. . . to have lost nearly all sense of themselves as adult women"?  Does being Mormon offer any insights into this issue?  Maybe the Proclamation on the Family affirms that this is just the lot of women.  (I sure hope not.)

Looking at our own situation, it seems to "make more sense" for Amy to be the one to spend more time at home with our kids: her career as a music therapist can be quite flexible if necessary, and as a (future) lawyer I’m likely to make more money.  But I wonder if that simple analysis is really all there is to it.  If it works out that way she’ll also be the one to deal with the psychological issues of trading off child rearing and fully pursuing professional achievements.  On the other hand, if I were to stay home while she worked, I’d likely face those same uncomfortable issues.  Raising kids is a wonderful thing, or so I’m told; does it have to come at the expense of personal fulfillment, or is there some other way?

I’ve actually had some good examples of women balancing raising kids and pursuing professional goals in my life.  My own parents, for example, went to such lengths as to start their own private school for us kids to attend, at least partly for the purpose of being closely involved in our education and our lives in general growing up.  Since then my mother has recently completed her PhD, and is now on a university faculty and runs her own teacher training program, putting into use the experience and training she got running her own school.  This is a pretty unique way of achieving a professional/parental balance, and when I ask her she just mentions how we each have to find our own path and make it work for our own situation.  That advice is somewhat helpful, but perhaps not as specific as one would like.

Any thoughts on this one?  This is all still ahead of me, but it is something I consider.  I find it interesting that even these days it’s mostly women who feel the strain of "doing it all", when you’d think that if it were important to men see their kids raised well they might be feeling some of the same stresses.  I wonder how I (we) can arrange things for both of us to feel great about how our kids are raised and how our professional lives unfold.

Comments

  1. I tend to think that the issue of self-fulfillment vs. child-rearing is a false dilemma. The fact is that most people don’t really get much self-fulfillment from their jobs. People work because they have to pay the bills. It is a relatively new phenomenon that middle class people have the luxury of having jobs that do bring them a sense of self-fulfillment. And even today, few have jobs as creative and interesting sounding as a music therapist.

    Point being here that of those people who do manage to find “self-fulfillment” in life, most of them do it outside of the workplace because most people would rather be anywhere than at work. Women (and men) who believe that simply leaving home to go out into the workplace will bring them a sense of “self-fulfillment” are eventually going to be mistaken – unless, of course, you work as a music therapist.

    Uber-point here is that looking for “self-fulfillment” in the workplace is generally a losing battle, both for you and your children. Thus, increased daycare is certainly not the solution. The solution, I think, is for men to take an active role in the home when not at work, so that the wife does have sufficient time to explore personal interests. Of course, the ideal would be that one finds self-fulfillment in rearing children. Those guys in Salt Lake seem to think it a worthy enterprise at least.

  2. Bob Caswell says:

    “The solution, I think, is for men to take an active role in the home when not at work, so that the wife does have sufficient time to explore personal interests.”

    Eric, the problem here is that if men, most of the time, don’t get “self-fulfillment” from work (as you stated earlier), then they too would need the same sufficient time to explore personal interests. So your solution seems to be swapping the problem from one gender to another. It’s not like I have a better solution, but I think Logan was hoping for one that allows both partners to receive self-fulfillment.

    And as far as finding self-fulfillment in rearing children, I don’t have the experience as of yet, but I can guess from plenty who do, who roll their eyes when the brethren make such blanket statements explaining the self-fulfillment-from-children-that-everyone-instinctively-receives-in-mass-quantities. Apparently in real life (so I’m told), self-fulfillment can be a part of raising kids, but depending on circumstances, it can range from almost no part at all to a very big part. And I could see the frustration of those who are continually told, “What’s the matter? Get more fulfillment out of your kids!” That really doesn’t help at all; let alone judgments against them for needing self-fulfillment away from their kids more so than they “should”.

  3. You are right, Bob. That is a flaw in my logic. I think there really is no solution to the problem as it stands.

    I think the best thing that all of us can do might just be to be less concerned about our personal sense of self-fulfillment. Contrary to pop psychology, I do believe that as long as we absorbed in doing “Thy will and not mine” we’re going to be fundamentally happy, whether we achieve a sense of personal life fulfillment or not.

  4. “Raising kids is a wonderful thing, or so I’m told…”

    I think when people contemplate having kids in the future, they do look at it from that perspective – how will it make us happy? How will it affect our lives? How will it work into our plans? It reminds me of how every time there’s a lesson on service, the discussion centers around how service will help us grow, or how we will be blessed, and pretty much ignores the actual needs of those we serve. When you sign up to be a parent, you’re signing on for a really long service project. Just like other service, there is much joy (lots more, in fact), but I don’t think the Savior healed the sick because it made him feel good or because it gave him self-fulfillment. I think he did it because he loved them and wanted to do all in his power to help them. When we focus our energies on what we might be missing, then I think we’re missing the point. If you agree to take on the responsibility of giving a home to a child, then do it right.

    I had plenty of opportunities for growth before I had kids – travel, performing opportunities, graduate degree. Now I’ll take a break (or as much as a break as we can possibly afford without starving) to make sure they get the oppportunities. There’ll be plenty of time after they’re all in school for me to pursue whatever I think I need, but for now this is my job and it’s up to me to make sure I do it well enough that I can find fulfillment in it, even if I’m not really doing what I was originally trained to do.

  5. Bob & Eric,
    As sarcastic as this might sound, I’m serious: the husband should have a career that he enjoys. In the ten or so years that we are deciding what we want to do for the rest of our careers, how are so many men getting into something that they don’t like, but pays well? We’ve got 40 years of doing this “thing” ahead of us, that’s a long time to do something that you don’t like doing. Or only kinda like doing. Why not do something that you love doing? (have I been simplistic enough yet?)

    Logan,
    Sara and I are in a similar situation. We want to have a kid soon but she also wants to get her master’s degree and she also wants to work in her field and she also wants to be with the baby. The answer is easy, Logan, follow the Spirit.

    Kristen,
    Thank you for that. I know I wouldn’t be teaching early morning seminary every day if I were looking at what would make me happy (sleep, time to work on my thesis) and I know everyone here has made similar decisions. Though, I think timing (of having kids) is important. If we would have had a kid right out of the honeymoon, my wife would have gone crazy. Better to have a sane mom than a crazy one.

  6. Bob & Eric,
    I don’t think its a flaw in the logic at all. Its simply an ommission that neither gender will have careers that bring us fufillment. The notion of a job bringing satisfaction is relatively new, only the last 20-30 years or so.

    The balance is taking time to work, time to explore outside interests and time to share our time with our families. My wife shared with me some thoughts from the book Afluenza. Two things that stood out is that an average home 50 years ago was the size of the average 3-car garage today. Families were bigger too on average (I think). Another thing is that if people were willing to live a lifestyle congruent with a lifestyle from about 40 to 50 years ago they could get by on part time work rather than full time work.

    The marketing of America has driven us to confuse wants with needs and created the need to dine out over eating at home, having a tv or pc in every room, An SUV and a minivan, etc, etc. I’m guilty of this as much as the next person, but it does seem we could do more to reduce our wants and take that time to either pursue part time or full time work in a field that will cause us less stress (not to be confused with fufillment) and the rest of the time with our families.

  7. Rusty,

    This is only a little sarcastic, but its by the sweat of our brow that we earn our bread, not by the warm fuzzies and cool summer breezes.

    As I said in my last post fufillment is a new concept in the career. When studying the philosophy of justice we delved into Plato’s Republic. Many of the ideas in there were challenging for people to accept. Among them was working a job you were good at regardless of how much you enjoyed it.

    I pointed out that most people are good at things they enjoy. That’s how we get to be good at them. Second there are 24 hours in a day, if you spend 6-8 sleeping and roughly 8 working that leaves you with 8-10 for personal time. Not too bad a trade off.

    Consider the distinction between feeling fufilled at work and feeling less stressed. Its my personal beleif that many confuse these. Stressful jobs are not thought of as fufilling while less stressful ones are.

  8. Charles,
    Like I implied, I was being idealistic. I understand that personal fulfillment/career is a new concept, but shouldn’t we embrace that concept? It seems a lot closer to a Zion-like society than one in which we work long days at something we don’t enjoy just so we can have food on the table. “sweat of our brow…” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy sweating.

  9. Charles,
    Like I implied, I was being idealistic. I understand that personal fulfillment/career is a new concept, but shouldn’t we embrace that concept? It seems a lot closer to a Zion-like society than one in which we work long days at something we don’t enjoy just so we can have food on the table. “sweat of our brow…” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy sweating.

  10. Charles: is it safe to assume that you’re advocating a type of meritocracy by referencing Plato there? ‘Cause meritocratic systems have their own problems.

    It’s also unclear to me that just because “job satisfaction” or fulfillment is a new concept we shouldn’t mind being unfulfilled in our jobs. There have been lots of new ideas in the last 20-30 years: just because it’s new doesn’t they’re bad. (Am I misreading your post here? It sounds like this is the general argument you’re making.)

    And it seems to me that one should always try and work a job that one actively enjoys (one is fulfilled). While a job that is “less stressful” is clearly better than a job that is stressful, this seems to be merely a passive state. Personally, I’d say that it’s a problem with the way the labor is structured as much as anything else. Marx’s theory of alienation, after all. (Which, incidentally, causes me to think that personal fulfillment isn’t such a new concept.)

  11. Julie in Austin says:

    A few thoughts:

    (1) No one should have children until they are completely comfortable with the idea that they will be making major sacrifices–both husband and wife. Time is the bovious one, but there are others. A simple but telling example: you don’t buy the kitchen table you like best, you buy the one (a) most likely to withstand abuse with (b) chairs that children are the least likely to fall out of.

    (2) No woman should “be one “of the mothers [who] appear. . . to have lost nearly all sense of themselves as adult women”? ” and it is mostly her husband’s responsibility to be sure that doesn’t happen, whether it means he cheerfully pays for a sitter or takes on the kids himself so she can pursue a serious interest/part time work/hobby/etc. of her own.

    That said, I (and most women I know) actually have more freedom than my/their husbands. Right now, my husband is *working* on a computer, but I’m *blogging* on one (children watching Peter Pan).

  12. Julie, is it really so simple as getting a babysitter or watching the kids one’s- (my-)self regularly? I don’t really know how accurate the Newsweek article is in asserting that it’s so widespread for women to feel particularly torn and stressed on this subject. It does mention that the lack of affordable daycare (which is different from babysitting, I suppose) is a major problem. It’s a shame if all it takes is such simple-seeming things to alleviate many of the issues.

    But if that’s what it takes, I think I can handle it.

  13. I have a couple of reactions, both to the article and to Logan’s post.

    I thought that one of the most striking aspects of the article was the description of the drive that so many women feel to be the *perfect* mommy. I think that this underpins a lot of the craziness that women feel as they try to juggle excelling at work with raising kids. It seems that women feel more and more pressure to facilitate their children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development. I have definitely felt this pull to be a perfect mother. For example, I remember buying brightly colored board books and creating visually striking flashcards to help facilitate my newborn’s visual development. You can read all about it here, http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/baby/babydevelopment/6508.html (specifically under “Your Role”). I’ve definitely seen other moms in the neighborhood doing similar things. The article talks at length about the pressure to get your child into the right dance class, provide the right kind of craft activities, etc. I wonder if some of the strain of motherhood would dissipate if we could allow ourselves to be “good enough mothers” rather than striving to be the perfect mom.

    My second thought is geared more towards Logan’s post. You mentioned that your wife will likely be the one to juggle raising the kids with pursuing some professional identity. If that’s the case, I’m not sure why you are skeptical about ideas like providing better, more affordable daycare. Finding good childcare is a nightmare and there aren’t many quality, part-time options. I think having access to better childcare would make a world of difference in being able to strike a balance between motherhood and professional pursuits.

  14. Thanks for your thoughts, JenE. What I specifically meant to be skeptical about was the “government-provided” part of there being daycare. I’m all for having daycare available for people. Like I said, this isn’t the discussion I really wanted to have, but I will share this little bit:

    As I mentioned, my parents started a private school, and they also provided daycare there. Government regulations and paperwork took by far the majority of my father’s (who fulfilled most of the adminstrative functions) time. The ruthlessness with which audits took place and funding was withheld based on the most inconsequential typing or filing errors was just too much for their smallish (about 150 students and daycare kids at the peak) school to deal with. The stress ended up taking too much of a toll on their health and their lives, and now there’s one less high-quality daycare out there. I don’t know how representative this anecdote is, but the primary reason my parents stopped their school and daycare was the government trying to be helpful and supportive.

    I imagine it goes back to fundamental differences in political philosophy (mine is quite libertarian), so I can understand if others disagree on this issue. But I’m not really interested in debating the public policy issues at play here. In this post I mostly just mean to explore how I can contribute most to my future family’s and my wife’s wellbeing.

  15. Julie in Austin says:

    Logan, I think only a miniscule percentage of mothers can be happy without an outlet (whether it is part time work, going to the gym, a serious hobby, going to the movies once per week, etc.). It is always hard and dangerous to speak for others, but almost all of the women I know have such an outlet, done during the time when their husbands are with the kids or (less commonly) while they pay for care (say one day per week).

    One thing that I recommend to new parents is that they pick something that is the dad’s territory. Otherwise, it can happen that mom only hands off the baby when she’s had it up to here, which means that dad only ever interacts with a crazy child (by definition, she wouldn’t be on her last nerve if the child were sleeping peacefully). My husband has always been in charge of the bedtime routine, and that has worked well for us. (We joke that my boys will think that bathing children is a priesthood duty.)

  16. My two cents:

    I am not a mother, but I don’t work. There are several reasons, but the biggest is because my husband and I both feel that women need to be at home. I feel grateful to be able to work in the home, and not have to work outside of it as well. I can make our home a place that my husband can recharge after a hard day at work, instead of a place that is chaotic because we have both spent our energy and emotions at work.

    It seems to me that if you can’t find happiness in one place, you won’t find it by looking somewhere else for it. Trying to “have it all and be it all” will lead to burning out. There is even a new diagnosis called “hurried womans syndrome”, which docs came up with when women came in with symptoms but no illness other than trying to have it all, but not being able to keep up.

    I know it’s an unpopular view point in this day and age, but I really feel we are happiest when we fullfill our gender roles. As women, and that means being the wife, the mother, and not leaving the home unless there is no other option. As men, that means providing the living for the family. This is even what the church believes, and it would be great for women if we would be able to say that we work at home without feeling like it wasn’t enough. It would be nice if we didn’t judge each other so much on what we are doing, since everyone’s situation is unique, but if we actually supported one another in staying home and finding ways to be happy and fullfilled doing it. .

  17. Julie, that’s a very good idea about making something that’s “dad’s territory”. About moms having outlets, one very nice thing about music therapy is that there are ways she can work even as little as an afternoon or two a week, which means that she can still pursue her field of training on a much more manageable, kid-friendly scale.

    Aimee, that’s an interesting thing you bring up. First of all, I know how big of a job it can be to care for a home, make food, etc. Right now (between college and law school), I’m doing temp legal work, and when I’m between assignments I work hard to make sure the house is clean, food is made, and so on (I try to do that when I’m working, too, of course, but when I’m not I have more time to do it more fully). It’s really nice for Amy, too, since she works full time, goes to school and is finishing her thesis, and is primary president, and can feel taken care of after her often extremely busy days.

    If you’re in a similar situation, I’ll bet it is great for your family for you to be able to put so much effort and work into taking care of your home (and it’s hard work, I know!). One thing about your comment, though, gives me pause. You said that you and your husband “both feel that women need to be at home.” I’d be interested in hearing you elaborate on that. I don’t know exactly how you feel on the subject, so I don’t want to misrepresent you by interpreting it too much. But while it will likely work out that way for Amy and me, I certainly don’t want her to feel like she’s going to stay home with the kids because she’s a woman and women simply belong at home — that she *has* to.

  18. Pris and Rusty,

    I’m not advocating Plato and his meritocracy in its entirety. There is a subtlety in what I would endorse from Plato’s Republic but thats another post altogether.

    With regards to the relatively new concept of finding fufillment through work, I do beleive that new thoughts aren’t all bad. But if everyone were to completed endorse this then there would be no janitors, fast food persons or other less desirerable jobs. That’s not to say some wouldn’t find them fufilling but I don’t thin there is enough of those people to meet the numerous demands of those types of jobs.

  19. Logan,

    Thank you first of all for not reading more into it than is there. The reason we think that women should be at home has nothing to do with just the fact that they are women, and somehow that is what women do. We believe what is taught in the church that women need to be home to raise their children. I am aware that it isn’t always possible, but there are ways to make it work. One reason why I don’t work now is to prepare for the time when I will be home for the children, we won’t miss my income. Also, like I stated before, I have a job, I just don’t get paid for it since I am working in my home (maid, cook, gardener, I am all those things!).

    The biggest thing though is that I think we are getting confused about fullfillment, versus enjoyment. Am I fullfilled? Yep. Do I always enjoy my work at home? Nope, but I didn’t always enjoy work in the jobs I had either, even the really great ones. Fullfillment to me is more of a state of mind that you can have no matter what you are doing at that time, be it working, or staying home to raise your family. Enjoyment is the fun stuff that you can find for yourself anywhere as well, but it is not the same as being fullfilled.

    I think it is sad that so many people, mothers or not, feel unfullfilled and think they have to go looking for it somewhere else.

  20. Bob Caswell says:

    “The reason we think that women should be at home has nothing to do with just the fact that they are women, and somehow that is what women do. We believe what is taught in the church…”

    Aimee, not to nit pick, but if (hypothetical) the old white men in charge of our Church think that women should be at home just because they are women, then would that not somehow be your reasoning indirectly since you’re relying on what’s taught in the Church (i.e. the reasoning of those who teach this)?

  21. Christina says:

    I feel like I have stepped back into the dark ages reading these comments. I had no idea there were still intelligent people out there who thought that women “belong in the home” even if they aren’t even raising children. Frankly, I don’t even know how to relate to that.

    Second, I don’t want to hear another bit of gloss from men who claim that work is not fulfilling and we shouldn’t expect satisfaction from it. For what purpose are we living but to learn and grow and try to seek out the best opportunities for those things as possible? I would be wasting my education and position in life if I chose, as a man or a woman who has had the rare fortune to be well educated, NOT to seek out a career where I could be challenged and do some good for society, I would certainly be throwing away my talents.

    I’m working my tail off as a lawyer, and it is hard. It is more challenging than anything I have ever done, but it is satisfying, and I know many of you married men with children find your work satisfying too. It is not selfish for women to work/volunteer/run for politics/organize a quilting club outside home. what is selfish is for men to deny women the opportunity to grow as human beings, and what is lazy is for women to cower from challenge because they don’t want to leave the home.

  22. Thanks for your comment, Christina. It’s interesting — for a “liberal” blog, we haven’t had many comments sharing your views. Amy’s work is extremely satisfying and fulfulling to her (she gets to use music to help kids deal with and improve their lives, for heaven’s sake!), and it’s very important to both of us work towards enabling both of us to find fulfillment professionally and parentally. I just hope we can and that it’s not some pipe dream.

  23. Christina, I agree with you except in your possible (could this have been in response to something else?) assumption that Aimee Roo (or any woman who choses to stay at home for her own reasons) is lazy or cowering from challenge. She may be working hard at her chosen, fulfilling labor of love, say perhaps animal rescue, which she can do from her home and schedule as she chooses.

    Aimee Roo, You overstep, perhaps, in your comments. I realize you only stated that you and your husband “feel that women need to be at home”. It may have been more politic for you to have said that you feel that you should be at home (and it is lovely that you are able to do so, as it is your wish).

  24. Christina, as you know, I’m inclined to agree with much of the substance of your views. However, I think you’ve been needlessly harsh in expressing them.

    It is clear that many, many women find their work rewarding and fulfilling. Studies show that even women who don’t particularly enjoy their jobs derive a great deal of satisfaction from the autonomy and change of roles that being a working mother affords them–statistically, stay-at-home moms score worse on all measures of mental health than working moms. (And, as always when one talks about statistics, these are gross generalizations, so please don’t anybody write to say “my wife/mother/sister/daughter is a deliriously happy stay-at-home mom.” I’m sure she is, and I’m glad. I’m a pretty happy stay-at-home-mom myself). Moreover, due to divorce, widowhood, spouse’s disability or unemployment, etc., about 8 of 10 American women will have to support themselves by working at some point during their lives. It’s foolish and short-sighted not to prepare for that reality.

    However, I don’t think that it’s fair to accuse all women who choose to sideline their careers to raise children full-time of being lazy or afraid. The fact is that children require huge amounts of time, often unschedulable and inflexible time, and that the American economy, as presently structured, is largely hostile to the needs of children. (Frank will disagree–it’s just the invisible hand of the benevolent marketplace, he will say–and I will reply, “horseshit,” although I will try to think of a more genteel and erudite way to say it). That leaves mothers to work out the competing demands of their own desire, the marketplace, and their adored children–a truly impossible bind. I think we do each other a disservice as women, as feminists, when we pass judgment on the varying ways women ma

  25. Christina, I likewise feel trapped in a bizarro world. Lawyers who find their jobs fulfilling?? Come on!

  26. er, …make peace with those demands, or even retreat from them in resignation, fear, or despair.

  27. Yet another T & S blogger reveals a potty mouth . . .

  28. Bob Caswell says:

    Kaimi,

    Some blogs are structured such that we really get to know the bloggers (I’ll spare you with what the alternative is)… :-)

  29. Bob Caswell says:

    “…and that the American economy, as presently structured, is largely hostile to the needs of children.”

    Kristine,

    I don’t know that I agree or disagree. But I would love it if you would explain what you mean by this / offer ways to remedy the supposed hostility (even if that wasn’t necessarily the point of this thread, sorry Logan).

  30. Bob, the short answer is that most American corporations still behave as if the ideal employee is a person who can work 10-12 hours a day and never need flexibility or time off to attend to another human being. Although there are far fewer wives at home than there were in the 1950s, most companies still expect people to be able to functionally devote themselves to the needs of the corporation as if they had a wife at home. This leaves childcare, nutrition, recreation, caring for the elderly, helping at schools and in other community activities to those few people who can afford to work for free, and it conveys a terrible message about what our society values. Moreover, since many women are now trying to fit into a culture that behaves as if everyone had a wife at home, much of that unpaid labor just isn’t getting done. The staggering gains in productivity of the late 20th century were largely achieved on the shoulders of children, who have the attention disorders, psychiatric medication rates, childhood obesity and diabetes, etc. to prove it. Martha Beck’s book _The Breaking Point_ is a pretty good and careful look at what has happened as women have tried to both perform the unpaid labor that has always been demanded of them and enter the paid labor force.

  31. Um, Kaimi, I prefer to think of it as a colorful nod to my Southern heritage…

  32. Kristine you echo so much of what I believe. I even wrote a post recently on my own blog about how our culture seems to only value the work that is done for pay.

    Marta, I guess it would be more “politically correct” for me to have said that I choose to stay home, because I do choose to stay home. But I am not going to deny that both my husband and I think that we need women in the home. Being able to honestly say that I choose to be there is a joy, as I am aware that many women resent the role. I also know that there are even more working moms that envy the role of “stay at home mom”, and would love to leave the work force to be home with their children. For that reason I know that I am blessed to have a husband who supports my choice, and believes in the worth of my choice.

    And to Christina, I have an education. I do not feel like I am wasting it even in the smallest sense by not being in the workforce. I do volunteer work, and I use my education to help me do so. I also feel like my education doesn’t end at a career, it wasn’t a means to some end, but rather a learning process which I continue even now that I am not in school. It is short sighted to think that an education is only of worth in the career field. It also assumes that women who don’t work don’t read, attend any classes, or otherwise do anything to expand themselves as individuals.

  33. Aimee, I think where we part company is that you seem to think *women* should do the unpaid work, and I think it would be far better if opportunities for paid work and unpaid service were more equally distributed between men and women.

    Out of curiosity, where do your ideas about the primacy of housewifery for women come from? I can’t see that there’s anything in Mormon doctrine or even in the culture that suggests women should not seek employment if they don’t have children.

  34. There you are, Kristine! What — I can’t get you to comment unless there’s something controversial or offensive being thrown around? Actually, you’re someone from whom I’d especially love to hear thoughts regarding moms and staying home vs. working: a well-educated feminist Mormon mom who stays home (not to mention someone I consider a friend).

  35. I want to challenge the notion that we have to ‘get away’ to find fulfillment. A compromise I’ve found while I’ve had young children is performing 4-10 hours a week of volunteer work with an organization that allows and encourages mothers to have their babies and young children with them. I’ve learned a lot of new skills, kept my ‘old’ skills from my working days sharp, felt ‘fulfilled,’ without having to work around my husband’s schedule or put my kids in childcare. Our society needs to recognize that women can get a lot done with kids around. I’m NOT advocating that all mothers should be with their children 24 hours a day- just pointing out another view.

  36. Actually there is an article in the Ensign that was written by Spencer W. Kimball that spoke about women not working after marriage, kids or not. Here is part of the article, and the link.

    “Often there is an unwillingness to settle down and to assume the heavy responsibilities that immediately are there. Economy is reluctant to replace lavish living, and the young people seem often too eager “to keep up with the Joneses.” There is often an unwillingness to make the financial adjustments necessary. Young wives are often demanding that all the luxuries formerly enjoyed in the prosperous homes of their successful fathers be continued in their own homes. Some of them are quite willing to help earn that lavish living by continuing employment after marriage. They consequently leave the home, where their duty lies, to pursue professional or business pursuits, thus establishing an economy that becomes stabilized so that it becomes very difficult to yield toward the normal family life. Through both spouses’ working, competition rather than cooperation enters the family. Two weary workers return home with taut nerves, individual pride, increased independence, and then misunderstandings arise. Little frictions pyramid into monumental ones.”

    My husband and I are doing what works for us. I believe in what the, as Bob called them “old white men” who run our church teach us. I realize that the way we are doing things wouldn’t work for everyone, and that it is obvious that there are many who wouldn’t even consider it. It makes me happy, and it makes my husband happy. If it makes us old fashioned or backwards, so be it.

    I usually don’t take part in these discussions online because I feel that they are better done in a person to person context where you can really hear the tone of the person. I would never be able to explain all that we feel, and why we made the choice we made, or why we think it is good, online. But, what it boils down to in simple terms is that we believe what the gospel teaches. It may not be popular anymore, even in the context of the church, to say that women are needed in the home, but they are. Does that mean that I find enjoyment in doing dishes everyday? No, that is a job I hate, but I am still a fullfilled individual. I agree with what the first commenter, Eric said, I don’t think fullfillment boils down to if you work or if you raise your children without working, I think fullfillment is something much deeper than enjoyment of your daily tasks.

  37. 1. Affordable daycare shouldn’t be an issue. The fact is it does take a real person to take care of kids. Why should it be done for free? And if you want someone to do a job for you, you have to pay them. “Affordable daycare” to those who want it all, means the government paying for it (meaning everyone pays for it). Just because they don’t want to hang around their kids and take care of them, they think someone else should step up and do so? Or an unwed mother thinks why should I give up my child just because I can’t actually afford to take care of it, unless other people step up and take care of my child but I don’t have to pay for it?
    2. No job is perfect. Glass half empty or half full, it is how you look at it. Even if someone LOVES part of their job, chances are there are parts that they don’t like (teachers don’t like the paperwork, social workers have to deal with the horrible things they see, high responsibility jobs have a lot of pressure). I agree with Eric. Many people work jobs that really are not all that great.
    Some of these are mothers who are working at low paying, boring jobs. Why exactly do they prefer to work at a pretty boring, non-dream job?
    3. Many women think they need the money. Many husbands think they need the money.

    The income level of people I know does not include a babysitter much at all. No one I know pays for a babysitter to do a hobby. We hardly pay for a babysitter to go on a date! Babysitters are expensive around here. Of course, if the government would step up and provide childcare so I could be fulfilled in a hobby and date my husband, that would be nice, huh?
    I’m at home with my kids because I want to be. Although once #3 was born, I figured it was no longer a choice. Daycare for 3 kids would cost $2000/month. How much would I bring home? Not worth it.
    The real dilemna of working mothers is when they do all the numbers and they figure out it is not worth it–financially or emotionally. They don’t get enough sleep, they can’t be as involved with their kids, and they are doing all of that for so little money after daycare.
    I loved my job. I even kept it for a year after #1 was born. I took the baby with me. I worked at home. I worked weekends. I didn’t have to do daycare. But it so wasn’t worth it to me.
    Being a mother does involve being there. I want to do the job, not delegate it.
    I find that being a SAHM does not mean I don’t use my talents. It doesn’t mean my husband has power over me. It doesn’t mean that all I do are diapers and dishes. It doesn’t mean I resent my kids, or my husband. It doesn’t mean I’m not intellgent. It doesn’t mean I’m boring or have no identity.
    Being a SAHM means I get to care for my children. I get to teach them. I get to play with them. I get to be my own boss, set my own hours, set my schedule. I get to visit my parents for longer than my working siblings. I get to be outside in the sunshine, or inside having a lazy day, or I have a get lots of work done day. I can teach my kid to read, or go to the Science Center or sign them up for baseball because I can take them to practices. I get to choose SO much for my children. I am not subject to the whims of bosses, of daycare workers, of mother-in-laws who babysit. I get to challenge my mind when I research developmental stages, find creative solutions to discipline problems, etc. I get to hear I love yous and get 20 drawings made just for me each day. I get to see each first step, hear each first word. I get to volunteer at school. I get to see my children interact with others and moniter their progress in every area. I get to teach them gospel principles whenever they come up. I get to teach them right and wrong. My oldest is in school 7 hours a day now, but there are so many vacations and days off. And I do sometimes do other things besides housework and parenting, despite not having a handy babysitter. My husband is supportive of that, just as I don’t mind him having free time to do his own thing.
    Being a SAHM has some downsides, and that’s another subject, but I’ve dealt with all the negatives. I think that like much in life, it is what you make of it. Being a SAHM has much freedom, you choose what kind you are going to be.
    There are the tons of activity ones, the ones with super clean houses, the ones who have lots of kids over, the ones who read books, or the ones who are outside all the time. You don’t have to sew or make quilts if you don’t want to. Some love to garden while their kids play. Some read. Some blog. Some exercise. You get to teach your kids whatever you want. You don’t have to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you can sing Elvis, if you want. You can go to the park everyday, or you can go to the library once a week. You can paint and do playdough with your kids, play catch, or have fun with math. There is not just one way to be a happy SAHM.

  38. I wonder sometimes, when people who don’t respect non-working women, say it is their wish to retire early. At say, 50.
    If my husband retired at 52, I would be pretty mad. The fact that he worked all those hours while our kids were growing up, but retired just in time to see them leave for college sounds backwards. He works hard to support us, but our kids also need him now. He needs to be here for him as much as he can be while still providing and of course, a little rec time to stay sane (I support that).

  39. I find this discussion fascinating, and a bit surprising in its overall tone. I read the Newsweek article when it came out and was interested enough in Judith Warner’s book that they discuss (Perfect Madness) to take a look at it–I want to read it in its entirety soon.

    For quite a while, I have been doing some serious thinking about work-family balance and policy. I believe that there is a lot that can be done, both from a public (read gov’t) side and a private (read corporate) side to facilitate more flexible work arrangements. My husband and I (parents of two small children) would love to both work part time (say 2/3 of a job) so that we could both be actively involved in both careers and child raising. We have no desire to send our children into childcare full time, and we both are interested in being a real presence in thier lives (not just for an hour before bedtime as many fathers are). We both want to be involved in our children’s lives the way JKS describes. And I personally see no reason why the mother has to be the one to do all or even most of what she describes: teach, play, go to the science center, etc. What of fathers in all this discussion above? I often feel frustrated with discussions of mothers that make scant reference to fathers.

    Yet, the barriers for flexible work arrangements are at times overwhelming. Finding a job, a real job with a career trajectory, that is part time. And if part time, what of benefits? I could go on and on…

    I believe as Julie in Austin that couples should be willing to make major sacrifices before having children. However, I don’t think that the mother should bear the brunt of the sacrifices made, as is often the case. I think that if there were flexible options for work more readily available, decisions about child rearing by parents would not have to be all or nothing (work full time or stay home full time). For many women, being a stay at home mom with side interests and pursuits is a perfectly desirable way to live. But for many other women, such as me, who do want what’s best for family and children, but also want to have a bit more substance to life outside the home, I would welcome alternatives that would provide flexibility.

  40. Memorable Quotes from “The Royal Tenenbaums”

    [Royal tells his children of his impending divorce]
    Richie: Is it because of us?
    Royal: Well, of course, certain sacrifices had to be made as a result of having children. But heavens, no.

  41. It’s late and I wonder what my wife and kids are doing. As I prepare another tax return during busy season and read a few of the comments in this thread I can’t help but wonder why I am not experience more substance to my life. I guess I’m in the wrong field. I do admit that preparing a difficult return is challenging and it does some good for people but perhaps I’m wasting my talents as at times it feels like I am simply shoveling some of the stuff mentioned by Kristine.

    Really I’d rather be home reading my 18 month old a few books before bed or working in the yard with my son. I even find my calling as Blazer Scout leader more fulfilling than accounting at times. When they turn MTC Teacher into a full-time position I’ll move back to Provo but until then I’m going to keep trying my best in accounting.

    This isn’t meant to be a sob story but the reality is that this isn’t an argument about fulfillment or substance. It is an argument about limitations that many women feel shackle their lives. I am sure that most here, like me, don’t want the Methodist Day-care Center to raise their kids and they feel sick when pondering sending a six-month old baby to be loved by someone else for eight hours a day.

    At any rate, diminishing any sacrifice made by a father or mother shows a lack of respect for the opposite sex and specifically for your own spouse. It is a losing argument. There are no easy answers or solutions to this issue that Logan has brought up.

    Logan if you want to know why this decision is so hard and passions run so deep then re-read Kristine’s post “Autumn:” http://rameumptom.blogspot.com/2004/11/autumn.html or some of the journal on ethesis: http://adrr.com/living/journal.htm.

    We all feel very passionate about these little irrational human beings that we brought into the world. Despite your best efforts, you can’t control them. Despite their worst performances, you still love them. Most posters in this thread aren’t as far apart as they seem because they are all concerned about something even more important than themselves: their children.

  42. Matt (and everyone), thanks for your thoughts. I especially appreciate the reflections on your own situation(s). Everyone’s circumstances are different, and as I make decisions on these issues those decisions will have to be my own, but I’m glad to have heard how others have dealt with them.

  43. Christina says:

    Kristine,
    You’re right, my comment was harsh and unqualified in ways it should have been. I’m in Nairobi for work and have limited access to the internet, so I expressed my frustration quickly and ineloquently.

    In no way do I think women – or men – who stay at home to rear children are lazy. What I don’t understand or appreciate is women who sequester themselves from the world because they believe women shouldn’t do anything else. I too hope to be so financially fortunate someday as to not have to support my family by the sweat of my brow, or at least not as much as I am doing now. I just don’t think it is the only thing I or other women are put on this earth to do. It is among our opportunities and responsibilities as humans to love and care for other human beings, and some of that is through parenting.

  44. Christina says:

    I would also like to go on the record that I abhor the way the economy is constructed. As a working woman who looks forward to having children within the next few years, I am absolutely frightened about the child care options available to me. So, I am not advocating that the only fulfilling thing for mothers is to work outside the home or that it is easy for the women who choose to do so. I just object to the notion that women shouldn’t explore their talents and goals in the paying marketplace, either before, during or after children.

  45. Bob Caswell says:

    So with all of the disdain for the current system, what is necessary for it to be “good”? If you’ll put up with a hypothetical, I have a question:

    If a woman had the ability to work part-time but had to put her kids in daycare during that time, would it be “worth it” if all her income went to paying for said daycare? Or would she need a profit? Obviously if she goes into the negative that wouldn’t be as nice (even if the husband’s income could afford it)… I realize this is oversimplified, but if we’re talking personal fulfillment, how important is financial viability (within the context of my hypothetical as well as outside of it)?

  46. Kristine says:

    Aimee,

    I suspect that you, like the rest of us, are particularly drawn to the church leaders’ counsel that lines up well with your own proclivities. I’m more inclined to seize on one of Brigham Young’s many urgings to women to learn a profession and have careers, rather than just jobs, or President Hinckley’s recent talk in which he praised a young mother for managing to keep up her nursing skills by working part-time while her children were small. I suspect we could play a long game of dueling GA quotes, but neither of us is likely to convince the other.

  47. As I’m sure you are all aware, the thing that strikes me most about conversations like these are that they are extremely classist. I mean crazy classist. And I’m sure we’re all aware of that, right? Most women throughout history and today just don’t get choices about working and fulfillment and education and stuff the way middle-class white American women do.

    Most women have children, and work, outside the home, inside the home, anyway they can, until their finger bleed, and their bodies fall apart, so that those children do not starve. And very often they starve anyway. Period.

    Now that I’ve pointed out the obvious . . .
    I tend to hope for the empowerment of all women to make the choice they want, and then for us all to repect whatever choice they make.

    Aimee’s choice is a hard one for me to understand. I can’t imagine anything that would make me more unhappy than being a housewife forevermore. I tolerate it now because I feel like, for my life, it’s the best thing for my kids, and also, for my life, because of my choices and lack of forethought and absent ambition and no skills (bowstaff skills, computer skills) various other obsticles, housewifery is my best choice for now. For me and for the kidlets.

    However, I do agree with Aimee that we do not value unpaid labor, specifically WOMEN’s labor, as much as we do the labor of men (traditional and otherwise). And I would also hope that I could strive to understand and respect her choices.

    And also, I think Christina’s choices (which I have more natural sympathy for, even if I haven’t followed that path) need also be respected, even by those who have less natural sympathy for those choices.

    I think the biggest mistake we can make when we discuss women and work and fulfillment is to assume that any one path is best. For kids, or for women, or for men for that matter. (Which is why, I suppose, that I’m not the biggest fan of the Proclamtion)

    Also, and I’m struggling to put this in the right words, also, I feel like there is something fundementally anti-woman that underlies so much of these conversations, somehow . . . As though women can not be fulfilled living the lives they have, working with the (often difficult) choices and opportunities we have.

    Women who stay home aren’t fulfilling themselves, women who work aren’t fulfilling themselves, women who don’t have children aren’t fulfilling themsevlves, women who do have children . . . you get the picture. Whatever choice we make, there is someone out there ready to tell us why it’s not good enough, why it’s not the right choice.

    That’s the saddest thing of all.

  48. “What of fathers in all this discussion above? I often feel frustrated with discussions of mothers that make scant reference to fathers. ”

    My children’s father is at work. He has a full-time job with a lunch hour and a 30-60 minute commute on the bus with a short walk. He is gone 10-11 hours a day.
    The reason he wasn’t in my post is that he is gone. Going to work means he misses out on all this stuff. Yes, he gets to play with the kids when he gets home. And he helps read stories and put them to bed. And we go places on Saturdays sometimes, he is an involved father.
    But how many hours in the day are there that he is not around?
    Working mothers like to raise their children too. But the fact is that if you are at work, you are not with your child. Your child’s clock doesn’t stop.
    If you work a 2/3 job, yes, you get more hours at home. But you don’t get all of them.
    Ultimately, most mothers try to go the less than 40 hours route. Its a way

    “However, I don’t think that the mother should bear the brunt of the sacrifices made, as is often the case.”

    I don’t consider it a big sacrifice. I am doing something I want to do, is enjoyable, challenging and rewarding.
    ANd I see my husband sacrificing. He supports his family. He works at a job that he sometimes enjoys, and sometimes does not enjoy. He does not have a choice. He doesn’t get to be home with these kids all day long. I appreciate his sacrifices as well as his appreciation for what I do.

  49. Oops, should have proof read better.

    “Its a way” should be:
    Its a way of trying to have the best of both worlds.

  50. Christina says:

    JKS, you are certainly correct that this is a classist discussion. I pointed that out, perhaps too obliquely, when I said it would be a waste of my opportunities and education if I didn’t do something with them. I recognize that it is a rare and privileged position to be in to have these choices. That’s why I am so angry when we women with such opportunities shy away from them – don’t get education when it is available, choose not to work in professional careers, etc. I am not saying all women have to do these things or that they are the only way to be fulfilled. But I find highly offensive and sexist the notion that work can never be fulfilling or isn’t a proper way for a woman to contribute to the world.

  51. Christina, you said “That’s why I am so angry when we women with such opportunities shy away from them – don’t get education when it is available, choose not to work in professional careers, etc.”

    This line of thinking is very similar to the idea that I have to eat all of the food on my plate no matter how full I am just because there are people starving somewhere in the world. My eating everything and stuffing myself will in no way alleviate some else’s hunger.

    Women’s choices not to get education or pursue professions when they have those opportunities are complex, as I’m sure you know. That we have access to these opportunities does not of necessity make them better choices than pursuing other interests and lifestyles.

  52. As a working mother of one I have experienced both; staying at home with my son and working oustide our home. I have a college degree and will love to achieve professional goals. (That is what I am doing now). But I gave my son the time he needed when he was a very small baby.

    The mormon church affirms the family should be our priority. By family, I am including my husband, we always think only in the children. My priority is to support and help my husband in the house and with my work to help provide for our family. By doing this, a working mother help relief the pressure in our spouses and become more independent adults. We love our husbands but we don’t know if they will be there for ever and it is our responsability to learn and improve our skills for our own benefit.

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