You might be tired of the topics of childbearing and childraising, and think there is nothing more to be said, but stay with me here. I want to offer yet another perspective.
My ward has a lot of people who have immigrated to the United States from points south. Our talks and lessons are all translated into Spanish, or, if the speaker is from Mexico, into English. Many of my hermanos y hermanas enjoy bearing their testimonies every month, and their words are always inspiring, even though I hear them through a translator. It is clear that the restored gospel has brought them happiness and hope, and that even though they are in a new, strange country, the church is their home. I am honored to worship with them.
When we bear testimony, we often enumerate our blessings. Just about every month, I hear one of my hispanic sisters say something like this:
“I’m grateful for the church and the prophet. I’m grateful that God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and healthy children, and that we are sealed in the temple. I’m grateful for my good job.”
The jobs they have aren’t that great – grocery store bagger, hotel maid, assembly line worker – but that makes their gratitude very inspiring and admirable. And I find it even more admirable that they have managed to avoid the acrimony, bitterness and pointlessness of the working mother debate. It does not seem to cross their minds that they might be failing in their sacred gender roles, or robbing their husbands of their roles, by contributing to the family income. I have tentatively concluded that our interpretation of the Proclamation reflects a privileged position, and that other Mormons in various parts of the world who do not share our privilege might have a different understanding.
Our rhetoric about the importance of the mother has now reached the point where many women in North America view themselves as the absolute last ditch in the defense of goodness and morality. If a mother earns a paycheck, she is taking her finger out of the dike that is holding back a tidal wave of evil, and to work outside the home is to put her young ones in grave danger. That is a very heavy burden for a woman to carry, and an unfair one, too. Besides, it just simply isn’t true. If we define successful LDS parenthood as producing children who remain faithful to the church, working moms have nothing to worry about. The church has repeatedly conducted research as to what helps youth serve missions and marry in the temple, and the results of the research are always more or less consistent. Consider this excerpt from a study published in the December 1984 Ensign:
“Some factors have little effect on whether a young man marries in the temple or goes on a mission: the distance he lives away from the meetinghouse, the number of young people in his school who are LDS, whether his parents were converts, his father’s occupation, or whether his mother is employed.”
To me, our agonizing over how many hours per week a woman can work before she becomes a terrible mother looks a lot like counting steps on the Sabbath. I think there is something to be said for the way hispanic women in the church refrain from judging one another on this issue. Maybe they can show us the way out of this mess. Whether we like it or not, they are the future of LDS womanhood. That future is bright, and it holds nothing we need to fear.