Breastfeeding and Radically Mormon Feminism

In the latest issue of The Atlantic (or, at least, the one I most recently got around to reading), Hanna Rosin has a provocative article on why mothers shouldn’t be or feel compelled to nurse their infants. She argues, rightly, that breastfeeding requires an inordinate amount of time, making it all but impossible for a nursing mother to do paid work. The benefits to the infant, at least as measured so far, are not sufficient to justify the costs to the mother. Moreover, excluding fathers from the opportunity to bond with their infants by feeding them is inconsistent with newer cultural expectations of fathering, and introduces a sort of inequality into the parenting structure that is hard to overcome as the child grows.

I agree with her on all counts. And I think she is completely wrong.

The trouble is that she accepts too many anti-maternal and anti-child aspects of our culture as given, and asks women to make the best of a bad bargain. Instead of demanding that the adults who make workplace policy should work to reduce the costs to mothers for breastfeeding an infant, her argument requires that babies should bear those costs. WHY should women or men accept that corporations have the right to structure work in a way that is good for productivity and terrible for families? Why shouldn’t we be asking the husbands of breastfeeding women to change the policies of the corporations they run to accomodate the needs of their future workers? Why shouldn’t we get serious about what’s good for kids– consistent caregiving from a few people who love them unreasonably (fathers, mothers, grandparents) lots of time to play at home, less time in school until they’re 7 or 8 (not extended-day preschool and full-day kindergarten with full-time academic pressure and not enough recess!), both parents with flexible time to attend the school play or nurture them through illness–instead of setting things up so that they work best for CEOs who want to spend 80 hours a week away from their families? And don’t let’s start with the “this will never work–our economy will collapse if we don’t keep squeezing every last drop of productivity out of workers.” It seems to me that experiment has been done and we may as well try something new.

Why aren’t Mormons more involved in these issues? We like to publicize our devotion to our families–why aren’t we at the forefront of a movement to make society more responsive to the needs of children and families? Why don’t we read the Proclamation’s injunction to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” as a mandate to advocate for policies that allow fathers to be involved in the day-to-day care of their children from an early age, give mothers opportunities to develop their talents and contribute them to the larger society as well as to their own children (which, by every measure, also makes them saner, happier, better mothers)? Why don’t we call on corporations to structure workplaces that encourage employees to be persons of integrity, able to arrange their lives according to their highest values? Why don’t we demand that our most precious and vulnerable citizens should be the foundation of our thinking about public policy, instead of an afterthought?

Comments

  1. Why don’t we read the Proclamation’s injunction to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” as a mandate to advocate for policies that allow fathers to be involved in the day-to-day care of their children from an early age, give mothers opportunities to develop their talents and contribute them to the larger society as well as to their own children (which, by every measure, also makes them saner, happier, better mothers)? Why don’t we call on corporations to structure workplaces that encourage employees to be persons of integrity, able to arrange their lives according to their highest values? Why don’t we demand that our most precious and vulnerable citizens should be the foundation of our thinking about public policy, instead of an afterthought?

    Socialist.

  2. Because parents can’t decide what it is they really want, so how can the rest of us get behind incoherent, non-existent policy? Y’all want to come and go as you please, doing whatever best suits your individual ideas of putting families first, while still insisting on the rewards of having put your employment first.

    It’s up to you to propose a model by which you really can have it all, and then sell it — because the rest of us can’t make sense of masses of “why?s” and “why not?s” like this post without any concrete, workable, practical, doable steps.

  3. While in principle your ideal sounds mostly lovely, it ignores the reality of the competitive marketplace. You have built a caveat into your argument that in essence states competitiveness is a red herring about which we needn’t concern ourselves, but by precluding discussion of what is obviously the biggest hurdle you seem to acknowledge your proposal as a utopian dream. The core issue has always been how both a mother and a father can maintain the kind of flexible schedules that will allow them to attend school plays and nurse children through illnesses while allowing them to successfully compete against their peers in the workplace and their companies to successfully compete in the marketplace. Russel is right that the usual proposals to these problems tend towards the socialist end of the spectrum–limiting the number of hours businesses can require from their employees or the number of hours a person can spend in employment etc.

    Most recently (and in the Proclamation you cite) I think the church has addressed this to a large extent by suggesting a division of labor between mothers and fathers in which ideally the mother is the primary nuturer of children and the father acts as the primary breadwinner and a secondary nuturer. That model won’t work for everyone and there is certainly a subset of people who object to it on principle even when available, but when discussing how Mormons think corporations ought be structured so as to be family friendly, that would seem the obvious place to start. I’m fairly certain neither you nor I, however, are going to be calling for laws that require more husbands to be hired to the disadvantage of women.

    Anecdotally I can say that my family life has been at its best since my wife left her job to stay home full-time with our children–so my personal experience suggests that the church leadership’s proposed solution to the work-home balance is a decent solution.

  4. StillConfused says:

    I don’t agree with many of the foundations of this line of reasoning. I breastfed and worked full time as an air traffic controller. I brought a pump with me to work and pumped breast milk on my breaks. Even when I was at home I would pump because that (1) allowed me to see how much my son was eating; (2) allowed my spouse to be more active in the feeding procees; and (3) reduced the chance of infection spreading between me and my son.

    Breastfeeding does not take long; it can easily be done while maintaining employment; there is a demonstrable benefit to the child; it does not have to leave the father out; it is so freaking inexpensive; it is a great weight loss tool.

    I don’t know why so many people think it has to be all or nothing — that either the mom suffers or the child suffers. That is very closed minded and unnecessary.

  5. Thank you for raising such an important issue, Kristine, and for asking where we are as a church when comes to lobbying for the changes that would help families. I think that far too often we only consider what is good for individual companies in the short term and not what is good for our economic and familial health as a whole. I believe that allowing women the flexibility to both raise future workers and to maintain their job skills while they have young infants would increase rather than hurt our long-term economic profitability. Currently, we raise women with the expectations that they can and should achieve in the workplace, but we often don’t socially support them in this goal. We have an excess of under-utilized talent.

    It doesn’t surprise me that many people find it easier to have the woman at home, since many professions are currently not set up to accomodate families. However, I refuse to believe that with our major increases in communications technology that it is impossible to introduce changes into this environment. Indeed, I find surprising consensus amongst my peer group – both men and women, Mormon and not – that we would rather work less, get paid less, and have more time for families.

    I’m not saying that these changes have to amount to socialism – that word strikes me as an undefined scare tactic – but, honestly, socialism of the kind often found in Europe sometimes seems like it would provide me with more freedom. What’s so wrong with socialism anyway?

  6. pwaldrop2 says:

    #2,
    I’m of the opinion that nobody should, “put their employment first”. I certainly don’t. . .my employment is a means to an end. . .providing for my family. . .not the end itself. If I cant enjoy my family because of my employment, what’s the freaking point?

    #4,
    Well said!

  7. Anon this time says:

    I loathe breastfeeding and I resent La Leche leaguers screaming at me that I should do it better, more, and in public. I absolutely do not want my Church spending any amount of time or money lobbying for this.

    So take that into consideration, too, among the arguments about socialism, gender wars and coherent social policy.

    And by the way, my experience ten years into parenting and fifteen years into marriage, is that you CAN have it all, just not at once. The very fabric of our society does not necessarily need to change…it may be resolved by taking a longer view of a fulfilling life instead of demanding it immediately.

  8. Kristine says:

    “it may be resolved by taking a longer view of a fulfilling life instead of demanding it immediately.”

    And the first time somebody says that over the pulpit in General Priesthood meeting, I’ll sign on wholeheartedly to that philosophy.

  9. pwaldrop2 says:

    Natalie said, “refuse to believe that with our major increases in communications technology that it is impossible to introduce changes into this environment.”

    I think that coming together in a huge office space for work or school “every day” will start making less and less sense for people. I could do the majority of my work from home now with maybe one or two “office/meeting days” a week. The fact is that with the availability current an emerging communication and productivity technologies we waist huge amounts of time and energy to physically gather ourselves in a “workplace”.

  10. The church doesn’t push for it because of the belief that a mother’s place is not in the workforce. If those women would just stay home and take care of there kids as God intended, this would not be an issue.

    (Intended as sarcasm)

  11. socialism of the kind often found in Europe sometimes seems like it would provide me with more freedom

    What it provides is security, so that it’s less painful for you to make the choices you’d prefer. Not the same thing as freedom, but for a lot of people, a totally acceptable trade-off.

  12. Someday our kids will be like. . .”Dad, Mom, you actually had to drive into work, every day???”

  13. I’m with Ardis. I work very hard and long at a job that I don’t particularly enjoy so that my wife has the option of not working and staying home to raise the kids (including breastfeeding at one time). Your gerrymandering of the workplace to meet your particular lifestyle choices probably ends up penalizing my family for our choices.

  14. Before Mormons get involved in the breastfeeding debate, they should get more involved in advocating informed birth choices for women. In my opinion. Seriously, where are the Mormon feminists on this issue?

  15. Other Bridget,

    Please elaborate. . .

  16. Kristine says:

    4) I’m glad it worked for you. Statistically, you’re an anomaly.

    7) I don’t mean that I think the Church should be specifically advocating breastfeeding (although, think of the possibilities for MormonAds! :)); I meant to use Rosin’s example as a springboard for discussion about how we meet children’s needs more generally.

    2) I think the practical questions vary in different industries and geographies and companies, but solving the concrete issues is relatively easy once the theoretical commitments are made.

    Mathew, I see your “red herring” and raise you a “purple unicorn with a rainbow sparkly horn.” The dad-at-work, mom-at-home model is workable for such a thin slice of the population, economically and historically, that it’s far more utopian to suggest that as a general plan than to call for wholesale reimagining of corporate policies. (And what’s it like paying off those law school loans on one salary? Should your wife maybe not have gotten all that expensive education? You know well what the problems are in the logical extension of your line of thought)

  17. Kristine says:

    Um, this is not going to be a thread specifically about breastfeeding or birthing practices. Those would be terrific for another day, but I’ll delete comments that focus exclusively on those questions.

  18. Kristine says:

    MAC, fyi–I stayed home full-time with my kids until they were in school. No workplaces have been gerrymandered in the composition of this post. And I’m sorry you don’t like your job.

  19. On a related note, what bugs me to no end is the “Top 100 Most Family Friendly” rankings of businesses and law firms. Most of the law firms on the list, for instance, are of the 2400-required-billable-hours variety. They seem to factor everything into the rankings except for the A-number-one most important factor: time. But hey, they have a nice maternity policy.

  20. Kristine, do you have some help for where to find stats on this stuff?
    (I’m not questioning your statement–I just am mostly ignorant about the literature on this subject, and would like to be less ignorant)

  21. Kristine says:

    A good place to start is Ann Crittenden’s _The Price of Motherhood_. I’m sure there’s plenty to argue with in there, but she does go through a lot of the relevant practical questions.

  22. Kristine Said,
    “The dad-at-work, mom-at-home model is workable for such a thin slice of the population, economically and historically, that it’s far more utopian to suggest that as a general plan than to call for wholesale reimagining of corporate policies.”

    This is actually the model the majority of the young families with little children I know in the Church follow (including mine). . .by far. I’m not sure what you are basing your “thin slice of the population” statement on, but within the Church I would have to say, for those with small children your “thin slice” is actually very thick, if not most the pie.

  23. Naismith says:

    “…so that my wife has the option of not working and staying home to raise the kids”

    Which is she doing?

    Raising kids is hard work.

    Employed = Working for pay.

    The social consequences of saying that full-time parents “don’t work” are profound and negative.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, you ask some tough “why don’t we” questions. Are you really asking why we don’t do those things, or are you trying to spur us to change? I am afraid there are no palatable answers to the questions. Much of why we do things the way we do is probably just because we are the inheritors of a long-standing patriarchal tradition, and we are now seeing the downward spiral of the nuclear family at a time when our attention spans are microscopic and and egos are massive. We love our money and we love our comfort more than we love our homes, basically.

  25. solving the concrete issues is relatively easy once the theoretical commitments are made.

    Spoken like a true academic!

    Kristine, really! I’ll bet that a vanishingly small number short of 100% of church members, and probably of society as a whole, are THEORETICALLY committed to the idea of nurturing children and supporting families. I am. But how the heck do you expect anything to change without offering concrete details for discussion? If it’s all that easy to work out the concrete details (of what? of leaving the childless to do all the red-eye flights to glamorous downtown Schenectady because the trade show is scheduled for the same weekend as Junior’s band concert? of working ’round the clock to prepare trial exhibits because a judge scheduled the trial to begin the day of cheerleader tryouts?), then the workplace would already be quite different. I mean, it’s not as if this post is the first time the complaint of family-unfriendly workplaces has been uttered.

    Concrete suggestions for discussion FIRST. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a whinefest.

  26. Your critique of Rosin is spot-on. I liked her article’s take-down of the breast-is-the-only-way-to-be-a-good-mother propaganda (because breastfeeding didn’t work for me, despite my best efforts), but her assumptions about motherhood vis-a-vis society need some work.

    Until our cultural values shift in the direction you (and I) seek, I’m afraid the workplace is always going to be a man’s world. I firmly believe that the current setup is not optimal for the economy. Natalie said “We have an excess of under-utilized talent.” Yes we do, indeed!!! I know, because I AM that underutilized talent.

    And yes, absolutely, as Mormons we should be leading the way in pro-family policy and business practices. But we’re too in love with old-fashioned gender roles to do that at this point.

    “Anecdotally I can say that my family life has been at its best since my wife left her job to stay home full-time with our children–so my personal experience suggests that the church leadership’s proposed solution to the work-home balance is a decent solution.”

    Yeah. I wish I had a wife, too.

  27. “I don’t know why so many people think it has to be all or nothing”

    Perhaps because we tried and failed at combining nursing and employment. Of my five children, two refused to take a bottle, two preferred a bottle, and only one allowed occasional bottles.

    My daughter’s first baby refused a bottle, but because her husband was at home and brought her, and the baby nursed all night, they could manage.

    There are also numerous peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate much higher rates of breastfeeding among moms who are not employed.

    I’ll totally support the movement to allow a space to pump and store milk, etc. but just because one person has success does not mean everyone will.

  28. #8 – “it may be resolved by taking a longer view of a fulfilling life instead of demanding it immediately.”

    “the first time somebody says that over the pulpit in General Priesthood meeting, I’ll sign on wholeheartedly to that philosophy.”

    Kristine, that was said in General Conference this past week – very clearly and very bluntly – in the very first talk, given by Elder Hales. It could not have been said any more directly and forcefully.

    So, it looks like you are signing on, right? *grin*

  29. Ardis, I know there are hard questions and sacrifice is called for on all sides. I think the problem is EXACTLY that the discussion always starts with nitpicky practical questions like who has to take the red-eye to Schenectady.

    And I’ve seen a fair number of Mormon men who are TOTALLY committed to the family and very, very eager to leave their toddlers at home and get back to work on Monday morning, so I’m slightly skeptical :)

    I can, off the top of my head, think of quite a few practical possibilities–let me think through them, so that at least I get the most painfully obvious idiocies out of the way, and maybe I’ll make a separate post of it.

  30. Ray, was it directed to the FATHERS? Has it ever been suggested that they should make career sacrifices to spend time with young children?

  31. Oh, and Hokie (#10), sarcasm or not, that’s not what the Church is saying. I get so tired of that ridiculous assertion, since no apostle or Prophet has said it since Pres. Benson – and even he allowed for exceptions. The Proclamation to the World actually is amazingly egalitarian and individualistic, if you bother to read the relevant paragraph carefully and parse what it actually says.

    End of rant.

  32. 4) Feeding breast milk and breastfeeding are different practices. They can be combined, but a mother can exclusively use breast milk, her own or others’, without ever breastfeeding. Baby-at-the-breast-feeding takes time. Lots of time.

    Re the OP: I think Mormons are not whole-heartedly behind supporting breastfeeding friendly legislation and corporate policy because they are not whole-heartedly behind supporting breastfeeding. Public nursing at church functions is discouraged due to the “breasts are always sexual and no one but a husband should see them” world view. There’s the LDS cultural norm of short-term breastfeeding; breastfeeding is only an issue for a few months, because after that (the assumption is) baby will be taking a bottle.

    Additionally, the US church members and leaders tend to be conservative politically. Conservatives frequently want to keep government small, want to keep it out of employment policies, and want moms to not work outside the home.

  33. #30 – “was it directed to the FATHERS? Has it ever been suggested that they should make career sacrifices to spend time with young children?”

    You mean something like President Faust’s message in the General Priesthood session of the April 2007 General Conference session entitled, “Message to My Grandsons”, in which he said:

    “To find sublime fulfillment in the home, both partners need to be fully committed to the marriage. President David O. McKay once said, ‘When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness.’”

    So, it looks like you are signing on, right? *bigger grin*

  34. Also a good friend of mine had a daycare in her state office building that was completely set up to allow mothers to breastfeed throughout the day, but still someone who didn’t “love them unreasonably” was caring for the babies all day.

  35. Kristine (and PaulW), I didn’t mean anything sinister or off-topic. Just that the majority of the last paragraph of this excellent post, if referring to women instead of babies, could be a call to arms for informing women of their choices in birth. I just think it’s interesting that Mormon women, who tend to have multiple children, seem to gravitate like lambs to the slaughter toward c-sections and pitocin, etc. I’ve always wondered why Mormon women, or at least the feminists, aren’t disturbed by that. Or maybe it’s just me.

  36. Ray, as you know, I’m signed on to the not having it all right now part. However, I think the notion that one can have it all seriatim is actually a mistake–there are real and permanent sacrifices that have to be made for the sake of giving children a good start. Some things will simply not be possible for a woman who elects to devote a large number of hours to childrearing in her late 20s and early 30s. Not ever. I don’t mind making the sacrifices, but I do mind being told they’re not really sacrifices.

  37. Bridget, we’re plenty disturbed (at least I am). But one thing at a time :)

  38. On occassion, I have written posts on this site about gender, because for the sake of marriage and family I, like most of you, have had to sacrifice many of my desires. I accept that there is a range of feelings on the issue of gender and work, but many of the comments here and on other posts attempt to dismiss or argue with the real pain that these forces have produced in some of our lives. Some comments dismiss the issues by over-intellectualizing them; others ask the writer to pray and find peace with the status quo; and some explain to the author that his or her experience is invalid, because it did not mirror someone else’s. We might disagree on the solutions, but I find it cruel to dismiss how people feel.

    This is a blog where people can make almost any comment that they want, but that does not mean that people who write and read blogs do not have real identities and feelings. I wish that before any of us – myself included – make comments that we can ask ourselves if what we are saying is productive, loving, and engaging in genuine conversation. Blogging can be such a beautiful tool for us to exchange ideas and get to know each other better, but blogs can also become spaces where people fear to participate. Apologies if this comment sounds self-righteous.

  39. Natalie, is it I?

  40. With this post and the “naming a baby” thread it seems that I am under surveillance by the BCC team!

    Ardis – I know a small, simple and concrete place to start. How about offering more than a single day of paid paternity “leave” when a child is born? As a soon to be new mother of a second child I am faced with this question: Do I (A) choose to have my husband take the day off while I’m in the hospital to take care of our first born, leaving me alone with a two year old and a new born the next day when I come home from the hospital? (As a tie in to the topic, I am very anxious about figuring out breastfeeding with a toddler running around and day home #1 is terrifying to me – of course since thousands of my LDS sisters have managed to have more than one child I certainly can’t ask for help that day – if they can do it, I can do it) or (B) should I take the strangely humiliating step of asking a friend to babysit my daughter while I’m in the hospital so that husband can be home with me the first day the baby is?

    I don’t know if this is a logical thought process but option A, though less healthy for my sanity is more appealing than option B where I have to admit to someone that that it appears, at least, my husband is more devoted to his job than our family.

    Of course given the fact that hubby’s firm is struggling and at the end of next month there may be more layoffs, I feel like I would NOT be acting as an equal partner if I demand any more time from him, simply by virtue of having just given birth, as it will affect his competitiveness.

    Having one or two extra days that he is “entitled” to at work, rather than having to coerce or demand would certainly make me feel less “inconvenient” as the childbearing partner.

    As a side note, I do consider myself a SAHM, although I have a part-time job that is relevant to my career path. They have been nothing but supportive of the time I’ve had to take off for this pregnancy. Their attitude that this is how life is leaves me feeling like I, at least, do have it both ways.

  41. I need to add that this has given me an opportunity to flesh out my thoughts on something that I am completely over emotional about. I think that my example is somewhat simplistic but in our house this is the non-theoretical way that the conflict between the competitive nature of “the working man’s world” that my husband is terribly influenced by, and the idea that our families should be our highest priority collide.

  42. #36 – Kristine, this is a very sincere question, based strictly on your last comment:

    Do you think the Church leaders have said that mothers of young children don’t make real and major sacrifices?

  43. Ray, I think saying “you can have it all, just not all at once” suggests that the sacrifices will not be permanent.

    I think Church leaders have said mothers make sacrifices, although I rarely hear them speak of the sacrifices that have been most painful to me, personally. That’s ok.

  44. The fact is many women work. There are economic and social realities that we are facing. In those places (and I’ve seen it in Europe and in the Research Triangle Park) where accommodations are made for onsite childcare and enough flexibility that mothers (and fathers) can interact with their children regularly throughout the day, to breast-feed, or just be there, the companies were better because of the presence of talented women who are able to meet the demands placed on them as mothers. I had several friends who worked in these places and they felt like they could make a contribution and be a mother. In Europe, where such accommodations are abundant and often expected, coupled with extensive time off for women and men, children are cared for and society benefits by thus making families stronger and better able to function. The stresses we face when economic realities are often forcing both parents (and single parents almost always) to work (whether they want to or not) are not good for families, especially when we don’t recognize that we can take better care of families in more creative and family-friendly ways in our work environments. We really do need to be thinking about this. It may not be optimal, but it is the reality.

  45. I found this article (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/working-moms) from some time ago, also in The Atlantic instructive on the issue of working moms, and the U.S. versus European models. The thing that really stuck out to me is that even though you can structure a society to give generous childcare benefits to women which allow them to pursue their careers, those careers are disproportionately in the social services field. Women leave their children to the care of others, while going to work to care for others — perhaps even in a childcare setting.

    There aren’t any easy answers, but too often when I read feminists railing against U.S. norms and praising European norms, they don’t take into account such things.

  46. Thanks for that clarification, Kristine. I guess I just don’t see where “The Church” teaches that we can “have it all”. In fact, I have heard all my life from every imaginable Mormon source, that we can’t have it all.

    I’m probably just not getting the full picture of what you’re saying due to the limitations of this type of forum. That’s fine.

  47. #4,

    First of all, let me say that I have always admired air traffic conrtollers. To me it looks like the most stressful job in the world–my hat is off to you. There is no doubt, however, that workplaces could do a lot more to be more friendly towards women who are breastfeeding. Locks on office doors and blinds on windows or a lactation station would be a good start

    #5,

    “Indeed, I find surprising consensus amongst my peer group – both men and women, Mormon and not – that we would rather work less, get paid less, and have more time for families.”

    My problem with this is that I suspect people are not saying “I would be happy to work less and be paid less” but rather “I would be happy to work less and be paid less as long as I could be sure that everyone else was being paid less as well.” Let’s face it, it isn’t that hard to find a job that requires less time and pays less. Study after study show that people aren’t all that concerned about how much money they have, only how much they have relative to the people around them. In fact, studies show that when given the choice of making more money but having less than their neighbor or making less money but having more than their neighbor, people consistently choose to make less. The reality is, most of the people reading this blog could easily live on less, but we consistently choose (choose being the key word) to trade time for money. I do know one guy who decided he wanted to work only a forty hour week so he could spend more time rock climbing. He’s kind of an independent-minded hero of mine.

    #16,

    Kristine, the dad-at-work, mom-at-home model is workable for a far larger slice of the population that currently engage in it–particularly in the US and western Europe. The reality is, feminist ideologies have marginalized both women who don’t work outside the home and the work done inside the home, thereby imposing additional costs on the choice to stay at home and predictably leading more women to pursue other options. Third wave feminism has grudgingly begun the project of rehabilitating the hearth as a legitimate choice, but continues to define that choice in terms so narrow that women who don’t have expensive educations (Gigi didn’t have any loans when she graduated, thanks for asking!) continue to be marginalized and do not identify with a movement that by its very nature ought to be engaging rather than alienating those it could potentially most benefit. The idea that I do or would object to my wife getting an education is silly. In fact I do know where the pitfalls in the logical extension of advocating for women to be primary nurturers lie; yet you seem oblivious to the problems that arise as a result of defining women’s success by their educational, if not their domestic, achievements.

    Of course feminism is not the root cause for unfriendly family policies inside corporations. That can probably be chalked up to the Benjamins. I really like your post, but I am critical of it as well because you seem uncomfortable acknowledging that the sort of family friendly workplace you envision will come at a serious cost to the bottom line. If everyone was sure everyone else would go along, you probably could sell this sort of watered-down communitarianism to the majority of the population. Since that is unlikely to happen, I would argue that as Mormons concerned about the work-life balance we ought to also acknowledge that the church has suggested a model that could be adapted by far larger numbers of families than currently do so and encourage believers whose personal circumstances permit them to do so.

  48. As a concrete idea how about socialised healthcare? My husband and I would both love to each work part time and split childcare between us (with minimal use of daycare). We are willing to take lowered income, loss of promotions, and being seen as ‘less serious’ about our work.
    The only thing keeping us from doing this now is that part time employees are generally ineligible for employee health insurance. Since private health insurance is a mess we aren’t willing to take that risk and so are stuck with me at home and Dad at work. The costs of ditching the employee heatlth plan are just too high for us (and I would guess many others).
    Socialised healthcare (or at least health insurance that isn’t tied to employment) would free up lots of people demand and take advantage of more flexible schedules and reduced hours from their employers. Or to become self employed, contractors, or freelancers- all things that can be more compatible with involved parenting for men and women.

  49. Sweet Em #40

    Where I work men are allowed 2 weeks of paid parental leave, the same as is allowed for women who have given birth. I have no idea how common this is, but I work for a fairly large (greater than 15,000 employee) company. I’m sorry you were faced with such a difficult situation with your birth. One day off really isn’t enough.

  50. John Mansfield says:

    Henry B. Eyring, CES fireside, Nov. 5, 1995:

    “There are important ways in which planning for failure can make failure more likely and the ideal less so. Consider these twin commandments as an example: ‘Fathers are to . . . provide the necessities of life . . . for their families’ and ‘mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.’ Knowing how hard that might be, a young man might choose a career on the basis of how much money he could make, even if it meant he couldn’t be home enough to be an equal partner. By doing that, he has already decided he cannot hope to do what would be best.”

  51. StillConfused says:

    #16 – Why am I a statistical anomoly? Breast pumps are readily available — most hospitals either provide them or make arrangements to help. I was only 20 and 23 when my kids were born and I didn’t expect others to make life easy for me. I just did the research myself and made the arrangements myself.

    We don’t need to be socialists or really any ists for that matter. We just need to take time to think and plan. When I was an air traffic controller, federal law prohibited children in the workplace, so the spouse and I worked opposite shifts. Once I became an attorney, if a child wasn’t well and wasn’t comfortable being home alone, I just made a little bed under my desk at work (this was before the days of telecommuting). It really wasn’t that big of a deal.

    I think parenting is easy and fun. My kids are now 21 and 18, one graduated college two years ago and one almost done. It has been a pleasure throughout. I may have been a little tired after the lumpectomy surgery but other than that, I have no negative feelings at all about being a parent. Well, now that one is getting married and one is studying abroad, it is a little expensive. But my pumpkins are worth it.

  52. Has it ever been suggested that they should make career sacrifices to spend time with young children?

    Holy smokes. How about “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” and “No one ever looked back at the end of life and wished they spent more time in the office,” both of which we hear incessantly.

  53. As a woman I am interested to see the changes in businesses and society that support family life. Breastfeeding takes time. Nurturing a child doesn’t have to include breastfeeding. Many women in our culture are uneducated when it comes to childbirth and breastfeeding…can we include all homemaking skills here? We have come to value book learning and rely on multiple choice testing (sorry state tests in two weeks). Many valuable skills are practical and better learned with a mentor than a textbook.

    Toeffler’s book Third Wave discusses the next big change will be the rise of cottage businesses. Parents in the home, local and custom made products, and increasing distribution of responsibilities.

    It sounds interesting.

    No matter how businesses are organized, or how society functions, good parents will sacrifice for their child/ren. We can and should not increase the burden on parents, but to assume the burden should be placed on the child is the real problem.

  54. Emily #26 said “And yes, absolutely, as Mormons we should be leading the way in pro-family policy and business practices. But we’re too in love with old-fashioned gender roles to do that at this point.”

    Look, I think it’s nice when companies have on-site daycare. But I’m guessing that many “pro-family policies” would require government action and taxation to fund. My family has sacrificed many things so I can stay home and we can live on one salary. If my husband’s salary is reduced to fund, say, daycare or extended maternity leave, then we just won’t be able to sacrifice enough to make it. I’ll HAVE to go to work then (although I’ll get all those nice benefits!) And because I have a shiny unused bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, as Jana pointed out I’ll probably wind up with a job in a daycare center caring for other people’s kids.

    Ennacting policies that allow families to have both parents work and still have lots of family time will result in nearly all families having to be dual-income families (which I believe is the case in Europe). That’s not really pro-family, and it’s also pretty heavy-handed social engineering. It basically eliminates the option for families to have a stay-at-home parent; but that is precisely the family arrangement the church encourages.

    Perhaps the church prefers this arrangement because we are “too in love with old-fashioned gender roles”. But perhaps it’s just good advice. I watched Elizabeth Warren (the Harvard professor in “Maxed Out”) once give a speech where she said that, contrary to all expectations, it is actually riskier financially to have both spouses working. Her point was that dual-income families are dependent on both incomes, and if a spouse becomes sick or loses their job, the lost income can’t be made up by the other spouse, who is already earning their limit. But if only one spouse works and they lose their income, the stay-at-home spouse can enter the workforce and make up at least some of the lost income. She said it was shocking to economists that having dual-income families has led to more financially shaky families.

  55. Of course it is only riskier to have dual incomes if a family is not living on only one single income and saving the money generated by the other income.

  56. Sweet Em, because many of us have had multiple children, we understand exactly how hard the first week home is. We know we wouldn’t have gotten through it without a husband or grandparent to help, and so if we know of a friend who doesn’t have that assistance, we would gladly help. Trust me, we didn’t do it on our own.

    Also, even husbands with careers that allow them great flexibility to be home have times- the first few months at a new job, the end of the quarter, or when the company is struggling- when they simply have to be at work or else their ability to provide for the family is in jeopardy. We all know this is the case, because we live with it too.

    I’ve got to think there are many women in your ward who understand these things and would be happy to help you.

  57. Kristy,

    What makes you so sure that pro-family policies would require government action and taxation? Legislation would help speed things up, but I don’t think it’s essential. And it’s quite a stretch to say taxation would be required.

    More companies are realizing that helping their employees out with family issues actually HELPS their bottom line. They don’t build on-site daycare centers just to be nice. And on-site daycare is NOT free, by the way. Parents pay a pretty penny for it. So you husband’s paycheck isn’t going to be cut to pay for someone else’s daycare. The center is there to retain skilled workers who might otherwise quit or go elsewhere, and it helps the company’s bottom line not to lose valuable employees. On site daycare is just one example of a pro family business practice, and there are many others that would be even more helpful to parents and wouldn’t cost the company much, if anything.

    I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren is right or not. I’m sure she has some good data to back up her assertions. Correlation is not causation, though, and there are probably some other factors influencing the financial “shakiness” of families. My dad was laid off when I was a teenager, and my mom, who had been out of the work force for almost 20 years, couldn’t possibly hope to make up for his lost salary with the jobs that were available to her (she had a bachelor’s degree). So I’m very skeptical of the idea that dual-income families are less financially stable.

  58. I’m of the opinion that nobody should, “put their employment first”. I certainly don’t. . .my employment is a means to an end. . .providing for my family. . .not the end itself. If I cant enjoy my family because of my employment, what’s the freaking point?

    Remind me of that if your resume ever crosses my desk, and I’ll make sure I toss it.

    Seriously — it’s GREAT and all if men get to have flexibility, but it’s not always possible.

    At the moment, I’m *incredibly* lucky. My job is really demanding, and I would have billed 300 hours over the last month except I insisted on taking a week off this week. Generally, I can work from home almost every day. My wife has a home-based business, but they two of us are available to be at the schools and activities as much as possible. I can have a calling, attempt to finish this stupid dissertation (the ‘nacle is where I call down), and all that.

    I frequently talk to headhunters who want me to work for more money but less flexibility (ironically, a certain employer in SLC is one of these). And I routinely place my family’s flexibility at the top of that. And I’ll admit that my thinking on this has been colored by advice given in priesthood meetings (stake, general).

    But if I got laid off, I would have to find employment wherever I can get it. And the *last* thing my new employer would want to hear is “well, you’re not my biggest priority”. Between the hours of 8-5 or 7-7 or whatever you and your employer have agreed that you work, *work* is your highest priority. Period.

    You *cannot* support your family without employment.

    I realize that I’m picking on the semantics from the original comment, but let’s make it clear, that family and employment are at least co-equals when it comes to priority.

  59. I am with Still Confused (except for the part where she says parenting is easy) as I have had four children and pumped with 3 of them. Pumping is hard and distracting but it is economical and good for your baby. Granted it isn’t perfect but it allows you to keep the bonding benefits in the evening and the health benefits by day.
    I have the unique ability to stay home and work and then travel all over the country and hit up people I don’t know to use a room in their building for pumping. 7 years ago I used a bathroom stall with a handpump and now every place I go people go through hoops to find me a place so I can definitely see things have changed. I think the biggest problem is that employers don’t know what a hassle it is and women don’t want to make a big deal. I was at a place recently where the boss (man, no kids) suggested I use the staff lunch room/copy room. He thought he was being generous and I almost went with it except I am older now and don’t care anymore so I said “yeah no.” I explained the criteria a little better and they found me a perfect room. The next time a woman wants to pump at that place, she will get a great gig because I went out on a limb and asked. Some places are less amenable to it, like in the south I find that women do not breastfeed in public, whereas certain places in the west, like where I live, women don’t even really use blankets to cover up and no one says a word. So it is up to women and men who have these needs to be willing to articulate it to pave the way. If the employer doesn’t budge, then we have a problem.

    I will say in defense of women in the church that I do believe the expectation is to breastfeed and that the positive examples around me encourage me to work harder to keep at it where I might have given up if surrounded by women who did not value it as highly.

  60. Kristy #54, that’s great — for the small proportion of families in the history of the world that can even pay basic bills with only one income. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised that such families are more stable than those that need two incomes to pay basic bills. But, guess what? Most families can’t do it. It’s just an economic reality right now. Even most Mormon mothers work for money.

  61. #55- Right, and obviously, few families were chosing to save the money from the second income. So a dual income, which looked like it would make a family more financially stable (if they would save more), actually typically puts them more at risk (because it turns out, people don’t save the extra money).

  62. The book “On Ramps Off Ramps – keeping talented women on the road to success” goes into great depth on how flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies save companies money. Mainly in that it gives a way to retain qualified workers, and saves the enormous cost of replacing and retraining a new worker. Further, family-friendly isn’t a codeword for working moms. The key to flexible arrangements being actually respected and available for all lies in promoting and utilizing them among both genders and all levels of the company. The statistics are all there re: who takes the options and why, and it’s not even mostly new moms. It’s so often Eldercare, for one thing. Then there’s medical leave for oneself or spouse. I’m forgetting the other major situations, but workplace flexibility benefits singles just as well. A nice home office setup for part-time at home and part-time in office cuts down on wasted commuting time and costs, for one thing. so does the compressed 4-long-day workweek. If the option was taken by men and women equally in your company, from the entry level to the top, who wouldn’t sometimes accept the oportunity to work 2 days from home?

  63. #61,
    You are still assuming that two incomes CAUSE instability, but it is equally likely that instability necessitates two incomes.

  64. 61 “So a dual income, which looked like it would make a family more financially stable (if they would save more), actually typically puts them more at risk (because it turns out, people don’t save the extra money).”

    You wouldn’t need to be saving – a couple making two incomes and spending it all is also more stable than the one-income family if one income is covering fixed-cost necessities and the 2nd is covering things that can be cut back if hard times strike.

    Also, the assertion that the unemployed second parent could jump into the workplace and replace the missing income is an odd one. In the normal case, the employed parent was the one with the more advanced career, the higher earnings, or at the least, the most up-to-date skill set. How naive to think the previously unemployed spouse could readily find a job capable of replacing that lost earning power!

  65. #64. Amen. See my comment #57.

  66. My husband makes $36,000 as a social worker. He has a degree. The work he does is important, but not financially rewarding. We have four kids and a mortgage. We could not live on one income without living in absolute poverty. I work, and I still haven’t had a new dress in three years. I work because there is no other option.

    Family friendly policies like paid maternity leave would be an absolute God send. It would be nice to see the church support those types of ideas, but I doubt it is realistic. Within the church we preach the ideal, we don’t preach the grudgingly accepted reality. We talk about it being o.k. for women to work “in some situations,” or “in extreme circumstances.” I’m guessing that most women in the church who work are feel too much guilt over it to lead the charge for family friendly policies.

    I wonder if any studies have been done within the church, showing how many women work?

  67. queuno Says:
    “Remind me of that if your resume ever crosses my desk, and I’ll make sure I toss it.

    Between the hours of 8-5 or 7-7 or whatever you and your employer have agreed that you work, *work* is your highest priority. Period.”

    But you’ve hit on my point there a bit I think. I keep work at work for the most part. . .and I don’t let it dominate my life. I’ve also chosen a career that enjoy, isn’t incredibly stressful, doesn’t require late nights or much traveling. When I’m at work I do my job! I get it done and then I leave it to enjoy my life and my family.

    My point was that I “work to live” not “live to work”.

  68. Emily, yes, an on-site daycare center is nice. It is convienient, and it is paid for by the parents who use it, so that rather than have a babysitter across town, they have the babysitter at work. I think that’s great. But universal daycare is frequently mentioned as a “pro-family” proposal, and it would require taxation, and that would affect my husband’s paycheck.

    Other posters have mentioned the lack of specific examples of pro-family policies that Mormons should support in this thread, and perhaps some specific proposals would help the discussion. Here’s my suggestion: policies that are low cost (nursing mothers’s privacy) or paid for by the user (on-site daycare) are great. Things that require taxation (universal daycare and super-long paid maternity/paternity leave) have unintended consequences that may not actually be pro-family at all.

  69. Cameo,
    If I recall, women who are members of the church work in about the same numbers as the rest of the society they live in. There is no statistical difference.

    The church employs lots of women, and lots of them have children at home. Perhaps the place to start would be for the church to have family friendly work policies. Maybe they do–I don’t know.

    If they did, maybe Utah legislators would be more likely to pass family friendly legislation, and so.

  70. I’m forgetting the other major situations, but workplace flexibility benefits singles just as well.

    I’d like someone to outline the details of this claim. Whenever family-friendly flexibility has been tried in places I’ve worked, it’s always the singles and the oldest workers who are expected to pick up the slack — without extra compensation and with last dibs on scheduled vacations and even whether we can take Christmas off. (“No, you can’t take that week, because Johnny-the-newcomer will be on paternity leave”; “Here, you cover Mr. X as well as your own attorney, because BillieJo is home with a sick kid today.”) Pro-family generally means anti-equality.

  71. This is an issue that should be pushed hard in teaching young women. That is when they can decide what education they want that will provide this flexibility and when to get married. Finding a job with flexibility is far more difficult when you have bills piled up 2 small children at home and no education or training because you got married and started having children the day you graduated from high school. It is my experience that people get more flexibility as they get more education.

  72. I tried to make the point before and no one seemed to pick up on it.

    What do you all think of the idea that “workplaces”, where we all gather every day, are becoming obsolete ideas that drain our time, energy, and resources?

    I think it is increasingly true that most “office work” can be accomplished outside the traditional idea of an office. Why do I need to be in the same building as someone every day if all I’m doing is sending and replying to email, speaking on the phone, and working on documents in the digital space, etc?

    I think it is entirely likely in the future that people will do the majority of their work from home and that companies will have limited space for gatherings and periodic meetings.

    This model would help in solving many of the problems were discussing here as well as the problem of congested transit filled with commuters, etc.

  73. Ardis, all I can do is highly recommend the book and its research. It is certainly not a “mom” book and gives constant attention to eldercare issues, which fall on us all sooner or later, and is a growing problem as the boomers age.

    Also, when I say “workplace flexibility benefits us all” I’m not talking about paid leave, I meant flexible schedules and workplaces such as the compressed workweek (four 10-hour days) and partial telecomuting (3 days in office, 2 days at home). Especially when commutes are long or costly, fewer drives in to work is a benefit and that has nothing to do with whether you spend the extra time with children or out skiing with friends.

  74. PaulW,
    I see things the very same way. Some jobs are truly tied to a workplace (surgeon, schoolteacher, waitress) but thanks to technology office jobs increasingly don’t need their offices. As gen x and y workers take over workplaces, this will be fantastic news for all citizens through less traffic congestion and less competition for housing in high cost of living urban centers.

    I know many professionals working at home for major companies. I work from home for my tiny company. My husband commutes 45 minutes each way to do a job that honestly doesn’t require him be in that building, but the higher-ups are big on “face time”. But things are changing :)

  75. (Having had commutes for years that added up to 10-hour days, cchrissyy, I can say that four 10s is exhausting and makes the “free” day less of a bonus than you might think.)

    Paul, of course some types of work can be done at home, but that doesn’t mean the workplace is obsolete, not by a long shot. Maybe — maybe — a lawyer can work from home, and some of his support might be offered by paralegals at a distance, but his personal assistant (and I haven’t met many lawyers, or execs of any kind, who didn’t like having a personal assistant) has to be wherever he is. And obviously if he’s a trial lawyer, the courtroom is not obsolete. Manufacturing and industrial jobs beyond the artisan scale still require a central location with tools and materials. Unless you’re going to do all your shopping online, you expect to find clerks and stockers in the shops, and workers in the warehouses that supply those shops. I now live by doing historical research, which cannot be done online, for the most part (and while a lot of primary sources are going online, my specialties are so conservative that the owners of the pertinent docs aren’t about to put them online) — that requires a workplace where I can consult records, which requires a staff to wait on me. When you’re injured, you want a hospital to go to. When your house catches fire, you don’t really want to wait for firefighters to check in from their homes in the suburbs. Your kids might like video games just fine, but if they want a roller coaster you’re going to have to go to somebody’s real life physical workplace, and you’re probably going to want a hot dog and soda while you’re there; the concessions aren’t going to be coming in by wire.

    In other words, while YOUR work, whatever it is, might be done by telecommuting, the workplace for many others is still far from obsolete.

  76. Ardis E. Parshall,

    Well yeah, of course. Most of those things you listed are outside my example of “most “office work””.

  77. Anon this time says:

    8 & 16 (Kristine)–

    I’m back… whoa on the comments. Two things. 1) I realize that breast-feeding is just one example of general pro-family policies that you’d like to see better supported by “the Church.” But, as evidenced by these comments, who can agree on which policies and which are truly pro-family? And what are the unintended consequences? Not to mention Ardis’ point about affects on single people (who have equal claim to the lobbying power of the Church for their social causes which may be contradictory to your family friendly push). My fondest hope would be for the Church to teach correct principles, let the members figure out to implement them on a personal level but stay the hell out of public policy.

    Which leads to 2) having it “all” is certainly an overstatement. There are permanent, unrecoverable sacrifices made for family and children. My husband (who works full time to provide for the material needs of our family) makes these sacrifices ALL THE TIME. So do I. We feel it’s worth it. Together.

    That said, I have been stunned at how much headway we have been able to make on achieving our “worldly” goals and dreams now that the children are a bit older…past the toddler stage. No one told me that when I was a young, frustrated mother and I think it’s important to get the word out. I am enjoying a renaissance of sorts: a lot of options are opening up for me for work and personal creative pursuits. It’s nice and it’s worth looking forward to.

  78. Sorry, PaulW, I skipped right over the “office” part. Still, office work is such a small part of the world’s work that it seems a little pointless to make that point. :)

    And cchrissyy, my years of eldercare are already past, but I still have decades of working life ahead of me.

    On the discussion overall, before somebody accuses me yet again of being a baby killer: I do think that “society,” whatever that is, needs to be reshaped to support the very young and very old and otherwise vulnerable — and especially the young. I know this calls for contributions from EVERY capable adult, even those of us without direct responsibility for chiildren. FWIW, when I was a property owner, the part of my property taxes that went to the school districts was almost the only part that I didn’t resent paying, even though I had no children in school. If I were in a tornado or a 7-Eleven holdup, I hope I would have the decency to shield a child to the best of my ability, even if it exposed me to danger. I support calls for accessibility of all kinds of medical care for children and expectant mothers, regardless of personal ability to pay. And I wouldn’t mind, in theory, the adjustment of marketplace patterns to be more supportive of families. But those adjustments shouldn’t fall entirely on the childless to the sole benefit of parents, and that type of adjustment is the only one I’ve seen put into practice.

  79. Not too many entrepreneurs/business owners/independent contractors in this crowd, eh? Some of us, when we take paternity leave, don’t get paid for a single day off. Neither do we get paid for a single day of vacation. Or when we’re sick (it’s awesome to be at home coughing my guts out thinking about how much I’m NOT getting paid that day). We also have to deal with health insurance ourselves. Not cheap. Oh yeah, we also don’t have a 401k that our employer contributes to.

    This leads me to a question I have always had (and I ask sincerely), why are people unwilling to take unpaid days off? Will your employer not allow it? (if that’s the case then don’t they have WAY more power over you than they should?). Or is it because you can’t afford to have that much cut out of your paycheck? (if that’s the case then doesn’t it become a discussion of money management?).

    My impression is that not only is Paul’s point (#72) very valid (sorry Ardis, we’ll have to disagree, maybe fodder for a different post), but that the ways people are employed is evolving and changing to be more flexible (more contractors, fewer full-time employees).

  80. Rusty it is nearly impossible to make up that pay the way independent contractors do.

  81. Hanna Rosin’s article is provocative–especially her claim that the medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature’s euphoria over breastfeeding.

    I’ve been absurdly fortunate that both my previous employer and my husband’s employer (one small company, one government agency) have offered flexible schedules, great leave policies, good health insurance–it is also why we have turned down much higher paid, less flexible employment.

    Kristine, I may be wrong, but it seems like you are asking why individual Mormons, not the LDS Church itself, aren’t more involved in advocating for these types of family friendly/lifestyle friendly policies. As evidenced by the comments, people obviously feel very strongly about the issues you brought up. “Family friendly” shouldn’t mean “I’ve got kids so I always get first choice for everything,” but perhaps it could mean the option of telecommuting/working modified schedules/nearby or onsite childcare. An example of a relatively easy change that could have made a world of difference for my coworkers–my previous employer was downtown in a giant office building in a large East coast city–there was plenty of office space to rent to a daycare that could serve the building and neighborhood. There was a gym and a restaurant–why not a daycare? Or a room in the building that nursing mothers could use?

    I think more individuals do not get involved in promoting local policies that would benefit their lives–transportation, childcare, city zoning or redevelopment commissions, etc., because it isn’t “essential” and it isn’t “fun,” and we wear ourselves out doing both of these things. If you add Mormonism into the mix, we already feel guilty taking time away from our families, or are dead dog tired from caring for children each day that we would rather our spouse stay home than serve on a community board. It doesn’t take that much time, actually, and in many cities, citizen commissions really shape policy, and can even be a little bit fun.

  82. Paul W, We just had a layoff in my high tech office. The people hit the hardest were those that work from home. And we force many to work at home by not giving them desk space or private working areas. People don’t need to be in the office but when they are not they either aren’t as productive or don’t get as much visibility to what they do. No easy answer that applies to widely. I can do much of my work from home but when some one comes by my cube and I’m not there then they ask somebody else and soon I have a lot less to do.

  83. I realize I’m coming to this post late and the question about European vs. American models of parental leave and women working outside of the home has probably been forgotten, but I do have to add my 2 cents worth. I lived in Sweden for 5 1/2 years. During that time, I gave birth to 2 children in the country, bringing the grand total of kids in my family to 4. My husband was a PhD student. My visa did not allow me to work, although this fit my personal choices, so I had never had a problem with it.
    But I personally observed the system in Sweden, how it operated, and the lives of many families. So I think have a valid perspective.
    First, Sweden prides itself on its egalitarian perspective. They frequently pass aggressive legislation that divides the burden of parenting between both father and mother. They have a generous maternity/paternity leave and very efficient and effective daycare system. A very high percentage (around 90 %) of women work outside the home. Maternity/Paternity leave is shared between the parents and often averages around 14 months. This works because of several accomodations: 1. Parents on paid leave receive 80 % of their normal salary. 2. Daycare centers do not accept children under the age of one. (A rule with which I wholeheartedly agree) 3. Companies are not allowed to fire employees on leave.
    It’s a system that works very well. It is widely accepted that children need the socialization of daycare. Stay at home parents (staying beyond the usual leave) are viewed with mistrust and disgust by society in general and doctors, nurses and social workers in particular.
    This system is the best system for families where both parents work. If I were a single mother or was really serious about a career, I would move to Sweden.
    It was hell for a Stay at home mother. We were taxed heavily and our income was low. The few monetary benefits I was given (an extremely modest maternity leave paycheck and a child tax credit) kept us afloat. We could not own a home or even aspire to it without two incomes. The playgrounds were empty during the day limiting interaction with other parents. Doctors and nurses constantly questioned my decision to keep my children at home and strongly encouraged me to put my kids in daycare.
    The social pressure for women to work is enormous. Women who do not work are considered lazy, stupid, or leeches. Despite the pressure, countless women that I met in the late afternoons confided to me that they wished they could stay home longer with their children. But in order to buy a home or to maintain unity with their society, they worked. It was often ironic to see countless women drop their children off at daycare only to go work in another daycare center caring for other children.

    Like I said, if you have serious career ambitions and would like the U.S. society to change, Sweden’s model is for you.
    However, if you favor a more traditional model where mothers stay at home, run far, far , far away from anything resembling Sweden.

    For what it’s worth, I see the pros and cons of both systems. I completely understand the situations under which women can feel forced to work to support their families or desire for career achievements. Under those circumstances, the developments Sweden has made are very desirable.

    Sorry, I didn’t address the breastfeeding issue, but only because if you don’t have to work for a full year after the baby is born, breastfeeding at work or pumping really becomes a non-issue.

  84. StillConfused says:

    #79 – I am now a sole practitioner. My secretary is welcome to take leave, but it is unpaid. That is the case for me so I have no problem with it being the case for her too. It is very interesting to see the dynamics of what people are willing to do when it costs them and not someone else.

    I still think that raising a family and being a professional woman is not that big of a deal. My children were raised to be intelligent and independent. They had an easy transition to adulthood and value the importance of hard work and education. At no point did I ever say or lead them to believe that parenting and working are hard. They saw how fun it was and what a great time we had together whatever the structure. It disheartens me to hear people talk about their limitations — you are the only one who puts limitations on yourself.

  85. One more comment to my previous comment about Sweden. Sweden, as much as it aspires to gender equality, talks a pretty hard stance on breastfeeding. It is strictly encouraged, and formula is very much discouraged. I didn’t know anyone who pumped. But most people felt that the health benefits of breastfeeding and the role of bonding that breastfeeding is supposed to facilitate was more important for the baby than it was for the father to share in feeding time. Dads are encouraged to take an active part in parenting in other ways.

  86. Kristine says:

    tiffanys… Thanks a lot for those observations–that sounds a lot like what I’ve heard and read other places. One thing I’ve read that I’m curious about is that both fathers and mothers are allowed to work reduced hours without penalty in terms of seniority, etc. until their children are school-aged. Did you notice whether many fathers took advantage of this possibility?

    kate–thanks for amplifying a bit what I should have said. You’re right that I’m not suggesting the Church itself ought to be advocating particular policies. I think mostly I’m surprised that neither the institutional church nor most members sees any of these issues as part of the discussion about how to strengthen families. We speak and behave as though the only public policy questions that have to do with families are those about gay marriage (and, occasionally, the propriety of mothers having paid employment).

    Anon–it’s true, isn’t it, that post-toddlerhood is a whole new country? And people did try to tell me, but it is virtually impossible to believe that life will ever get better when you have three kids in diapers ;)

  87. Kristine, in answer to your question, yes, Sweden allows flex-time for parents. Fathers and mothers took the time, but I have anecdotal evidence that suggests that despite gender equality, fathers are discouraged from taking more flex time to be with their kids. And it seems to be harder for dads to take paternity leave. I wonder though, if that is more of an issue because of salary than because of actual discouragement from bosses. Women typically tend to be in jobs which have lower salaries: day care workers, teachers, etc. Men typically gravitate toward higher-paid positions and so the income is more critical for families.
    There is a movement to make it binding by law that fathers and mothers split maternity/paternity leave equally.

  88. RE: Paul W in #72. I think virtual work and telecommuting, where possible, offer enormous benefits to their workers, whether parents or not. I currently work part-time for an entirely virtual company. Most of my co-workers are women, though not all, and I would guess many have children, although only a few have mentioned that fact. My hours are almost entirely flexible (I occasionally have a meeting by phone) and my projects can be done any time during a given week. Best of all, because I do most of my work at night, I pay very little for childcare, which means that even though I don’t earn as much as I would in a full-time out-of-the-house job, I net more. I am much happier with this than I would be with a job which required me to be away a large part of the day, even if there was on-site childcare.

    I realize this is not possible in every industry, but I think it is a lot more possible than people think. I was a librarian and had always worked in libraries previously, but it turns out a lot of library functions don’t need to happen at the library. I have never done higher quality work or worked for a more professional company, and we are very successful at what we do.

    Another approach which has promise is ROWE — the Results-Oriented Work Environment. Essentially, employees do their work and the quality of the work is what matters, not how many hours they sat in their cubicles.

  89. Sorry, I hit submit too soon. Kristine, as far as I can see, parents didn’t seem to be penalized with lower positions or losing promotions by taking time off work for parenting responsibilities.

  90. It is very interesting to see the dynamics of what people are willing to do when it costs them and not someone else.

    Indeed. Everyone should own their own business for a year (including the financial risks) before opining on what employers (should) owe their employees.

  91. My parents own a small business with a few employees. The cost of providing health-care benefits for their employees would bankrupt them and cause the company to fold. Insurance for small companies is astronomical. My parents pay a lot for their own insurance.

    I agree with both Rusty and Still-confused.

  92. I’ve read Kristine’s article and many of your comments, but certainly not all, so forgive me if I repeat any points.

    To me, Kristine has hit it home with her final paragraph. But, if you don’t mind, I’d like to broaden the questions she poses: “Why aren’t Mormons more involved in these issues? We like to publicize our devotion to our families–why aren’t we at the forefront of a movement to make society more responsive to the needs of children and families?”

    There are so many issues which deserve our attention today. And between the church taking such official stances on Prop 8 and Big Love, sometimes I think we forget that the Lord expects us to use our own, independent brain. We are to bring to pass much good on our own and not wait to be commanded in all things.

    So, to broaden her last question, we could look at the proclamation as a mandate to push for better family friendly tv, cleaner movies, no Sunday games for community sports, more parks, as well as work-related changes like more telecommuting opportunities, more job shares and flexible schedules, better maternity/paternity leave programs, etc.

    I’m not trying to divert attention or change topics. But it’s easy to lose sight of finding an issue in your community that matters — and actually getting involved in it. That’s something the church has said plenty about.

  93. To the idea that this is impossible:

    I live in a society of three year maternity leave (which the father can take up to one year of), paid father’s leave, a culture of forty hour work weeks and three weeks of holiday time, etc. The idea that this is impossible is rubbish. There are sacrifices the society makes to make it work, no doubt, but it does work.

  94. Kristine said:

    “Why shouldn’t we get serious about what’s good for kids– consistent caregiving from a few people who love them unreasonably (fathers, mothers, grandparents) lots of time to play at home, less time in school until they’re 7 or 8 (not extended-day preschool and full-day kindergarten with full-time academic pressure and not enough recess!), both parents with flexible time to attend the school play or nurture them through illness–instead of setting things up so that they work best for CEOs who want to spend 80 hours a week away from their families?”

    That is exactly the type of lifestyle I think that the Brethren are serious about establishing among Church members. Having a mother (or father)who stays home DOES provide consistent care-giving, lots of time to play at home, less time in school or preschool or daycare. They want parents to carefully prepare and prayerfully choose jobs that provide family friendly benefits like 9-5 hours, accrued vacation and sick time, and affordable health insurance. Such jobs usually DO provide the flexibility needed to attend school plays and help out with sick kids or maternity leave.

    Why should “the workplace” HAVE to be pro-mother or pro-child? There is a reason they call it the “workplace” and not “the family place” or “the mother-place” or the “child-place”. It is only required to be a pro-WORK place.

    Is it not rather hypocritical to the women who spent decades fighting for “equal rights” and equal treatment to then demand “special rights” or “different treatment” based on gender specific issues? Or to get upset about the fact that “babies bear the cost” (nutritionally) when a mother can’t or won’t breastfeed without batting an eye about the cost they bear emotionally and formatively when their mother can’t or won’t be their primary caregiver.

    “Why don’t we call on corporations to structure workplaces that encourage employees to be persons of integrity, able to arrange their lives according to their highest values?”

    First, corporations have the right to structure everything in their working environment exactly the way that is the most efficient or practical for THEM. Employees have the right to choose to work there or not.

    Second, people of integrity know how to distinguish between THE highest moral priority and THEIR own personal, highest values and if they detect a difference, they seek to arrange their values and conform their lives to that higher standard,not the other way around.

  95. John Mansfield says:

    Every time workplace-sited child care is mentioned, the Oklahoma City bombing pops into my mind.

  96. Kristine says:

    avisitor,

    I hope you will not need a nurse who is a working mom or any children who have had the benefit of an education provided by people who care more about making the society child-friendly than efficient for employers. Hopefully, the person with the idea for a cure for the nasty chronic disease that you suffer from won’t be a woman who left her laboratory job because her highest moral priority conflicted with the employer’s wish not to provide maternity leave. Hopefully, you didn’t have to depend on anyone else to provide good childcare so that someone bright and ambitious could teach your children. Probably you’d never schedule an appointment with your bishop without making sure it wasn’t going to mean his family would make some sacrifices on your behalf. No doubt you would not want to attend a concert or a museum full of the artistic creations of people who tried to pursue those callings as well as the imperative to provide for and nurture their families.

    A world structured for corporations’ efficiency is not one I want to live in. It doesn’t really sound a lot like the Zion I’m covenanted to think about and help create, either.

  97. Reluctantly Working Mom says:

    I think this discussion highlights why this problem is not easily solved. No one solution will work for all aspects of the problem. No concerted effort to fight for change will eliminate the problem because it is nearly impossible to agree on what change to fight for.

    You get some who are like StillConfused, whose personal experiences with pumping and working came out beautifully. Then you get some like me, who never was able to produce enough milk on a pump to provide more than a bottle’s worth in a day, despite wild efforts and a year’s worth of pumping.

    You get some women with supportive husbands who can and will take responsibility to go out and work as hard as they can to provide for the family, then you get others who would rather spend their time on hobbies and things they enjoy and let their wives work and their children be taken care of by strangers (despite loving their families.) You get some companies which provide sufficient benefits to allow for flexibility, and you get others which cannot afford to.

    But more than anything, you get people willing to judge and condemn based on their own experiences and what works for them, demanding that their solutions be good enough for everyone.

  98. StillConfused says:

    I find it interesting that the discussion on caring for ones family gravitates towards government mandates and intervention. I am so very grateful that I come from a family of independent thinkers who eschew government involvement, particulaarly in matters of the family. If I had sat around waiting for the government to come up with an answer rather than just make my own destiny, then my children would have suffered greatly.

  99. Mark Brown says:

    StillConfused,

    The conversation here is about how Mormons might put into action our belief that the family is important and worth caring about. We can all recall a very recent and very obvious example of the way the church employed the power of the state to defend family life. The church encourages our support of anti-pornography legislation all the time. The frustrating this about this conversation is that nobody objects to that kind of intervention by the government, at all. We are often the biggest supporters. It is only when the sacred bottom line takes a hit that we regretfully say that the cause is just but we can do nothing.

  100. Mark Brown says:

    I will also agree with some previous comments that concrete proposals are lacking here. This is only blogging, after all. But this conversation illistrates the difficulty we have in even talking about stuff like this, not to mention doing anything.

  101. #84. (StillConfused) You are hardcore. I’m glad you’re not my boss. And, one can still be an independent thinker and believe that government legislation can be helpful on certain issues.

    #94. “Is it not rather hypocritical to the women who spent decades fighting for “equal rights” and equal treatment to then demand “special rights” or “different treatment” based on gender specific issues?”

    Hmmm. I think you are right about this. I’ve tried working from home and found it totally impossible with a kid there with me. You cannot care for a child and work at the same time, because child care IS work. I think what many commentors would like to see is not a way to bring your baby to work with you, but things that make it easier to do both (though not at the same time).

    A good start would be: 1- paid maternity and paternity leave, 2- flexible hours, 3- a decent amount of personal days off allowed (paid), 4- health insurance that isn’t tied to employment.

  102. Naismith says:

    I think the church does do some stuff. When I was at BYU, they were very supportive of moms getting an education. Elder Oaks’ first wife June had left BYU without a degree, and had finished it by going back in the summer. They had a wonderful program in Helaman Halls where moms could stay with kids. It was pretty much as described in THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. It allowed teachers and nurses to keep up their certification or return to the workplace after years at home, as well as women of all stages finishing various degrees. Neighbors in Wymount Terrace (family housing) had scholarships to go to school part-time, which is very rare (many universities don’t even allow part-time enrollment). I also knew a woman who took five years to go through law school on a part-time basis.

    Since as someone pointed out, flexible jobs are often tied to education, this makes a huge difference.

    Until I took a fulltime job when youngest was in high school, I had only been employed part-time or not at all for 32 years. This worked well for us, because I could still manage the household and cook dinner on weeknights and do school activities, etc. I try to speak up about that option and was recently invited to a career night for one of the youth programs in my stake.

    And of course I get to hire people, and have hired maybe a dozen LDS women to work part-time, many of them out of their homes doing data entry during kids’ naps. (One of them was hired at my last job, and they have kept her.) Studies have shown that part-timers are more productive, so a lot of jobs could go that way (especially if health insurance was de-linked from employment).

    So that’s what I do to make a difference.

    But I hope StillConfused does a guest column about how parenting is easy. I’d love to learn some coping strategies. I think marriage and family is much harder than my paid work, and I’d appreciate hearing a different perspective.

    I also don’t think equal = same, so I see no hypocrisy.

  103. At the end of the day, this is a discussion about how best to allocate resources. In any restructuring there will be winners and losers. I’m guessing Kristine is loathe to get into the details because then the conversation changes from “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could work in jobs that allowed them to leave in the middle of the day to see their kid’s judo match” to “I want to take from X group to benefit parent’s with children”. Ardis has already sniffed out who some of the people likely to get their cheese moved are.

    Kristine’s argument and subsequent comments accept as a given that the current system is bad for families. It is worth considering, however, whether a world structured for corporations’ efficiency is more likely to make a society child-friendly or deliver the cure for nasty chronic diseases. I have a creeping suspicion that a world in which employees can bug out for their kids’ play might not be quite as good at vaccine development. Despite that, I remain very curious to know what measures are envisioned that would result in the adoption of such policies as, in principle, I’m against neither a more flexible schedule nor invoking Mormonism to get one.

  104. I should note that nobody has yet offered a solution for the employers, only for themselves. And by laying out all the things that employers should be doing for us, (“paid maternity leave, flex hours, paid days off, health insurance, etc.”) without offering anything in return then you have actually not come up with a solution at all, just a list of wants. And if “you spent a ton of money to train me” and “I might choose to not work for you” are the incentives you are offering the corporation in exchange for the above list, then again, you have not come up with a solution, just threatened them.

  105. Mark Brown says:

    Mathew,

    To say that family friendly policies are unfair to the childless isn’t exactly to say something new, is it? The more children you have, the less you have to pay to the IRS. Property taxes get charged to everybody, but they go disproportionately to the public schools, so people with kids are free riders to some extent already. At any rate we have a very recent prominent example where a large group of people claimed that our policies on the family were hurtful and discriminatory and our response was “too bad”.

    Rusty, for every example you can give of an employee who takes unfair advantage, I can give another of an employer who expects 50-60 hours of work for 40 hours of pay. I don’t mind so much being taken advantage of, but I do wish they would stop with all the BS about “Our employees are our most important asset”, because they sure don’t act like it.

  106. Rusty said (emphasis mine)

    And by laying out all the things that employers should be doing for us, (“paid maternity leave, flex hours, paid days off, health insurance, etc.”) without offering anything in return then you have actually not come up with a solution at all, just a list of wants.

    Actually you should note that nearly everyone who mentioned health insurance has said that employers should not be offering it. I would think that some sort of nationalized health care/insurance system would be far better for small businesses than the current set up.
    The huge corporations are able to pay for and get group rates for health insurance plans, so their sheer size allows them to offer more benefits to their employees.

    A nationalized system would make the benefits small businesses have to offer more competitive. It would also allow more people to start their own small businesses since the cost of health insurance would no longer be prohibitively high.

  107. “I should note that nobody has yet offered a solution for the employers, only for themselves.”

    This is not true. Perhaps I should have expanded more on the notion of “productivity” of part-timers, but that was a huge benefit to my employer.

    I was employed half-time, with the understanding that when we were under deadline, I would come work extra hours. Yes, they paid me, but I was a reservoir of trained help, without needing extra paperwork and without having to pay overtime under federal law.

    It was much cheaper than any alternative, and I was a hugely successful tool that allowed my employer to respond to the ebb and flow of a client-driven business.

    Also, having two part-time moms rather than one full-time meant that we had built-in coverage when one of us went on vacation. They were never left alone or having to hire an untrained temp.

    Also, as a part-timer I never had to take sick leave for a child’s appointment or make a personal phone call during work; all that was done on my time. As a full-timer of course I have to take time for that (of course I don’t need a smoking break, but still, I hate the loss of focus–I want to just work on their stuff when I am in office).

    Also, I would take phone calls or answer emails round the clock to ensure project demands were met. Even if I left office at 2 p.m. to pick up kids for piano lessons, I would check everything about 4 p.m. to handle any crises. And I would take conference calls while folding laundry (head set and mute on most of the time).

    My employer benefited much from my desire to work part-time.

  108. Bob Durtschi says:

    #26: “Yeah. I wish I had a wife, too.”

    I see you have identified one of the advantages of polygamy.

  109. Naismith, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, what is your profession? If that’s too personal for this forum, just ignore me =)

  110. avisitor says:

    Kristine,

    “I hope you will not need a nurse who is a working mom …”

    One of my best friends is a cardiac surgical nurse who works one night a week so she can stay certified and active in her career and do something she enjoys and is good at. Her husband watches their three kids at home when she works.

    “..provided by people who care more about making the society child-friendly than efficient for employers.”

    Making “the society” child-friendly is not the same thing as making “the workplace” child friendly. I can think of hundreds of workplaces where children would be exposed to dangerous, unhealthy, and undesirable environments for children. Where would you draw the line?

    “Hopefully, the person with the idea for a cure for the nasty chronic disease that you suffer from won’t be a woman who left her laboratory job because her highest moral priority conflicted with the employer’s wish not to provide maternity leave.”

    What if the person with the idea is a man? What if it is a woman who leaves her lab job because she wants to be at home with her children more than she wants to work in a lab? What if God’s plan doesn’t involve developing a cure for my nasty chronic disease at all? I discovered long ago that placing any “hope” in human beings or “what ifs” is futile and that the only “hope” I am sure of is the hope I have in Jesus Christ.

    “Probably you’d never schedule an appointment with your bishop without making sure it wasn’t going to mean his family would make some sacrifices on your behalf.”

    And this statement has to do with breastfeeding in “the workplace” how exactly? If you want to talk about sacrifice as a true and eternal principle, I’m fine with that. But be prepared for me to argue that becoming parents places the stewardship of sacrificing anything for our children or our families firmly on OUR own shoulders, NOT on the shoulders of society, our employers, or anyone else.

    “No doubt you would not want to attend a concert or a museum full of the artistic creations of people who tried to pursue those callings as well as the imperative to provide for and nurture their families.”

    I personally know several professional musicians and artists and interestingly enough, they work from studios in their own homes and they chose their careers in part because of the flexibility it gives them to spend time with their children and families. I can certainly ask them, but I have a hunch that not one of them would tell me that their concerts or exhibitions would be far more productive/successful if their children were backstage or if they could breastfeed during performances.

    “A world structured for corporations’ efficiency is not one I want to live in. It doesn’t really sound a lot like the Zion I’m covenanted to think about and help create, either.”

    If you’ve covenanted to build and support the same Zion I have, then you have promised to dedicate everything in your life to the Church for the building of the Kingdom of God on earth. You also affirmed that you accept that only one man on earth today can exercise all of the Priesthood keys, including the one(s) required to speak on behalf of the Lord regarding Zion and the one(s) required to instruct the Saints as to what their roles in that endeavor should be. I may very well be uninformed, but I have yet to hear that man decree that the Lord’s Kingdom can only be successfully established if mothers of young children work outside the home. If and when the Lord reveals that through His established channels, the Holy Ghost will witnesses the truth of it to me and I will do everything in my power to support any policies or legislation that will make that divinely required situation more family-child friendly.

  111. Rusty, “I should note that nobody has yet offered a solution for the employers, only for themselves.”

    I’m a small business owner too, and I’m definitely mindful of the owner’s perspective in these things. I still believe flexibility of work hours and work places is a wonderful thing, to whatever extent the particular job allows for them. The data really shows this retains workers who would otherwise be lost, causing the great expenses and delay of training a replacement. That’s why telecomuting and job share arrangements are spreading voluntarily – companies see how it’s good for them to keep their people in whatever capacity they can.

    I’d also love the decoupling of health insurance from employment. I don’t mind paying in as an employer or as an individual, but I’m certain that decoupling the employment-insurance thing would make workers more free to change jobs, more free to work for tiny companies, more free to go part-time or return to school, more free to start their own business or do freelance work, and of course it offers the safety net for children and the unemployed.

  112. Kristine, great post!

    I haven’t been over to BCC in a while and I’ve forgotten how FEISTY the tone can be.

    My 2 cents:
    Over Christmas break, I asked a Michigan stake president/family friend a similar question during our discussion of Prop 8. (“If we’re so concerned about the family then why isn’t the church doing more for: health care, childcare, counseling, and a 100 other things that actually help families?”)

    His answer surprised me. He said that the church IS doing these things. As Stk Pres, he’s authorized to spend up to $20k per family per year on whatever things will help those who need it. He has also started his own Perpetual Education Fund with fast offerings (instead of sending them back to SLC) to help retrain many LDS workers who are caught in the 12% unemployment rate in MI.

    Anyway, sorry if this comment is a threadjack, but I was very surprised at his answer.

  113. Mark Brown,

    Agreed that family friendly policies are already in place and they take resources at the expense of others. Of course a strong argument can be made that families contribute disproportionately to building a healthy society and children will pay social security taxes etc. etc. etc. I’m not arguing against favoring families in legislation, but that any proposal will have to make the case for the change in specific terms. You make a good point about the gay marriage thing though–we never made much of a case, or at least not one I found convincing.

  114. avisitor says:

    Rusty-

    I’m on your side for the most part and I believe that the problem with any discussion regarding the rights of individuals is that very few individuals recognize, or want to accept, that their own personal accountability plays a role in almost every issue, if not all of them.

    Marriage by definition is an agreement/union/contract/covenant entered into by two, informed, parties (and ideally God) who are willing to combine their lives and resources in order to establish a common goal or purpose. Those parties are responsible for and to each other (and God) exclusively in issues that relate to their “marriage”.

    Becoming parents, by definition is an agreement/union/covenant entered into by two married partners (and hopefully God) in which the parents become responsible for and to another (and totally innocent) party exclusively in issues that relate to their “family”.

    Employment, is an agreement/union/contract entered into by two parties-(God is rarely involved or viewed as an equal partner) in which both parties become responsible for and to each other exclusively in issues that relate to a specific job.

    No one in their right mind thinks views their boss or employer as an included partner in their marriage or family, and no sane person feels responsible for and to their boss in issues that relate exclusively to their marriage or family. So on that basis, why does anyone think it is right or even rational to expect or demand that an employer-someone who is not a part of a specific contract/union- do ANYTHING that benefits that union/contract at all, much less a LOT?

    Let’s say that I marry someone without making it a point to find out everything I possibly can about them, do not find out what they expect from me, and do not make clear what I expect in return. Later I become disillusioned and unhappy in that marriage because of things I could have, and should have known beforehand (which excludes anything purposefully hidden or lied about by my future spouse). The only logical conclusion is that I have only myself to blame.

    The same thing applies to taking a job, or forming a partnership of any kind. It is my individual responsibility-I am accountable- to understand and investigate every aspect possible aspect, and to make it a point to not only find out what is expected from me but to also clarify what is expected in return. Once I agree to or sign anything, I become “bound by that agreement”-a term used for the express purpose of indicating the voluntary surrender of certain freedoms or rights.

  115. avisitor says:

    Jessawhy-

    “His answer surprised me. He said that the church IS doing these things. As Stk Pres, he’s authorized to spend up to $20k per family per year on whatever things will help those who need it. He has also started his own Perpetual Education Fund with fast offerings (instead of sending them back to SLC) to help retrain many LDS workers who are caught in the 12% unemployment rate in MI.”

    I have no authority to correct you, but I find this information to be dubious at best. Stake Presidents do not collect or receive fast offerings-Bishoprics do, and those funds are deposited directly into individual ward accounts not stake ones (which is why we write tithing and fast offering checks to our wards, not our stakes). Stake Presidents are usually only signers on Stake accounts, and thus have no access to “ward” funds directly.

    I highly doubt that Stake Presidents are “authorized” to spend $20k on anything or anyone without approval from the Area Authority to whom they report and certainly not on “whatever” things will help them. There is protocol for how and what Church leaders can write checks for and it is audited extremely well.

    Most wards barely collect enough fast offerings to help the individuals in their ward boundaries that truly need help, so overages are rare, (and most likely non-existent in an area hit by 12% unemployment) and they are not “kept” or spent locally, they are returned to Salt Lake. The Perpetual Education Fund is overseen and distributed through Salt Lake City to qualified LDS members between the ages of 18 and 30.

    So it appears that either this Stake President is operating completely outside of Church financial boundaries or you misunderstood what he told you.

  116. “he’s authorized to spend up to $20k per family per year”

    where would those funds supposedly come from? is the average family in that area giving 20k?

  117. Naismith says:

    “Stake Presidents do not collect or receive fast offerings-Bishoprics do, and those funds are deposited directly into individual ward accounts not stake ones (which is why we write tithing and fast offering checks to our wards, not our stakes).”

    In our stake, bishops have to get clearance from the stake to do certain things. Paying medical bills is one, that I recall. I don’t know if that policy is local or churchwide, but it certainly is the practice where I have lived.

    When I was RS president, our ward was always over on fast offerings vs. services provided.

  118. Nameless says:

    ‘Stake Presidents do not collect or receive fast offerings-Bishoprics do”

    I am not sure on this either but I do think there is some give and take within a stake of fast offering funds. I have heard that in our stake there are wards that take in more than they disburse and the extra is distributed within the stake to those that have a deficit.

  119. Naismith says:

    Emily, I am a research coordinator. In my job, I do 1/3 research, 1/3 technical writing, and 1/3 administration. I supervise a staff of two full-time and 1 part time employee, as well as 2-4 student assistants. I work with a half-dozen faculty. I am the first point of contact for vendors, subcontracts, university offices, and our funding agency. I have a master’s degree in a related field, which I did while my older children were in kindergarten through middle school. I took classes only while they were in school or at night while my husband was home. I had a University Fellowship so I didn’t have to do an assistantship, although I did do an internship and held a responsible job at a research lab.

    Project management is a great field for moms returning to the workplace, because the can-do attitude you learn as a mom is a much-valued skill. A new project coordinator coming into the field or returning to the workplace starts in the low $40s. After a year of success, there is typically a big raise to the $50s. Experienced coordinators earn in $60s. More if you are an RN or dental hygienist or some helpful certification. But that’s a full-time rate, and there are lots of opportunities for part-time work with prorated benefits (which I had at two different universities and for the federal government). If you are fortunate to live near a university, engineering firm, research center, medical center or wherever such skills are needed.

  120. Nameless says:

    I read this piece several months ago and found it interesting.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/21/AR2008092102529.html

    The gist of the study is that the wage gap really breaks down into 4 groups: Traditional Male earners, Egalitarian Male earners, Egalitarian Female wage earners, and Traditional Female wage earners. Traditional Male=top wages, Traditional Femal=bottom. Most likely you have a the two Traditionals married and parenting together. This may enable the parent at work to focus more on work because the other parent is managing the home front.

  121. To extend the threadjack:

    Fwiw, Stake Presidents can set guidelines for Bishops as to limits on what can be distributed from Fast Offering funds – like authorizing mortgage payments that are modest and the same amount that would be required typically to make rent payments or setting limits on how high a rent or mortgage payment from Fast Offerings can be.

    I’ve never heard of a local Perpetual Education Fund, but I have seen authorizations for training programs and the like in specific instances that include unique circumstances.

  122. Kristine says:

    avisitor–you’re arguing against positions I haven’t taken (and that, not very coherently). I’ve nowhere said that any mothers of small children should work outside the home. For all you know from what I’ve said, I might very well be arguing that they shouldn’t. I didn’t have to do paid work when my children were little, and I’m very glad. I’d be willing to argue, in fact, that in most cases, being cared for by a parent at home is ideal for children.

    If you get through tilting at windmills and want to actually engage something I’ve said, I’m happy to try to clarify; I’ve probably said things badly. But please stop assuming that I’m some caricature of a feminist wanting to make all women go to work and make their employers pay for daycare.

  123. Here is how the trend will change. Women need to excell in the workplace, as their talents will help corporations be more family friendly. I have a great example in my daughter in law, who is a speech/language therapist (SLP) in a private business. Her business wants her to continue working, so they have agreed to have a day care, on-site, and schedule around her breastfeeding. No pump, no leave and access to her child. The old saying, “He who has the gold, rules.” can be modified to, “They who have the talent, dictate the terms of the agreement.”
    Women are achieving a high degree of academic attainment and demonstrating that they can perform well in society. They need to know that they can ask for change in institutions to better accommodate the mother-child bond. Also, recent studies show a higher IQ in children is correlated with children who have been breastfed. That, in itself, should encourage our society to support breastfeeding.

  124. Cameo: I agree with your comment:
    “We talk about it being o.k. for women to work “in some situations,” or “in extreme circumstances.” I’m guessing that most women in the church who work are feel too much guilt over it to lead the charge for family friendly policies.”

    I hope you don’t mind my bringing light my experienced view as to the reason our church is not interested in surveying working women on their participation or attitudes.
    The answer is this, “Women who work, even if they do not have children at home, are often made to feel unwanted in their stakes as they do not fit the majority stereotype of the ideal family.”
    I know from experience as I tried to donate funds, specifically for training Bishops and Stake Presidents regarding, “What is confidentiality as defined by Washington state certification ethics.” I am a counselor and psychologist in the school systems. My stake would not allow me to offer a workshop to their leadership or allow me to donate payment for someone male to do the same.” If we tithe, those monies are distributed as the leadership sees fit. Jesuit institutions, such as Gonzaga University, allow donors to specify how their donations are spent. We do that in a very limited way in the LDS faith, but not as broadly as the Jesuits have done. We need to work on our PR skills and ethics and allow members some discretion in where their money goes.
    Also, they need to allow working women to pay tithing under their own names, when they are the only one in their family paying tithing. I requested that and was denied. Also, they need to allow women to seek temple endowments on their own, without stating, “Wait until your husband wants to go to the temple, then you can go with him.” to women renewing their temple recommendations. He had no interest in receiving his endowments and the limitations and resulting retalitory actions by the leadership of our stake has resulted in our requesting no contact with our stake. I didn’t appreciate being used to put pressure on my husband to be more involved. I teased my husband a bit, by calling him “The object of their affection” as the home visitors were in high pursuit of him for a year afterwards, combined with questionable treatment of me.
    Women need to learn to ask to be treated equitably in business and in the LDS church. We also need to have our donations recognized as our own, and be given some discretion in how those donations are spent by the male leadership. The first step would be a survey, including one of those members who are inactive, as to the situations that caused them to leave. It would be “exit interview” style, without retaliation, with an attitude of “What can we learn from this, and how can we do better in the future for families like yours.” It must be done without hostility and with a positive and affirming attitude to really want to meet the needs of women in the LDS church.
    Recent gains in society for women who are breastfeeding have been a private place to breastfeed, decreased prosecution for breastfeeding publically, even when under a blanket and also a place to change a child’s diaper in public places, such as restrooms. These changes were made because women asked for change from their churches and other public and private institutions.

  125. Mark Brown says:

    Jo, I regret that your experience has been that women cannot make donations to the church in their own names. However, it needs to be made clear that your situation is an anomaly.

    Women are absolutely allowed to donate in their own names. I’m a clerk, and at least a third of the women in the ward donate that way, some with active husbands, some inactive, and some whose husbands aren’t members.

  126. Jo,

    Same here (past clerk, never seen anything like that).

  127. Some of the comments point to an interesting tension in thinking about families. On the one hand, the Church’s stance against gay marriage tends to assume that society has a duty to support particular models of families. On the other hand, many arguments here say that the family should be an utterly private concern that employers and society have no responsibility to. I’m curious as to how both of these lines of thinking can sometimes be sustained by the same people, because it seems like we are trying to have it both ways – society should sometimes affirm the family and sometimes let families be only private concerns.

  128. I know from experience as I tried to donate funds, specifically for training Bishops and Stake Presidents regarding, “What is confidentiality as defined by Washington state certification ethics.” I am a counselor and psychologist in the school systems. My stake would not allow me to offer a workshop to their leadership or allow me to donate payment for someone male to do the same.”

    Do you honestly believe the rejection of your offer was because you are a woman? You don’t think it could possibly have something to do with your wanting to dictate a training course that may or may not have fit the church’s needs? (I don’t question that you believe the workshop would have been useful, helpful, necessary, and in keeping with the church’s overall strategy.)

  129. #119 – thanks, Naismith. Sounds like you have a very interesting job.

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