Surprise! How I became the person I wanted to marry….

I had a flash of deja vu a week or so ago, something triggered a childhood memory and I was struck by the oddest thought…I’ve somehow become the person I wanted to marry.  I guess I’ve always been a planner, and I had a very clear vision of what I wanted as a child.  I wanted to live in Northern Virginia, married to a man who was a lawyer, and who did international work.  (What that actually meant was a little hazy to me, but that’s what I wanted.)  I now live in Northern Virginia, and am a lawyer who facilitates criminal justice reform in other countries.  (I have a better grasp now of what the job actually entails, which I’m sure is a relief to my boss.) 

I didn’t plan it this way.  I majored in Russian and secondary education in college and finished all the course work, except the student teaching, to qualify as a high school teacher.  I didn’t decide to go to law school until the end of my junior year, and the whole process of making that decision was painful and jarring–it seemed daunting to me as a single woman.  In law school, I never considered going into public service, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a litigator, and I wound up at a law firm in D.C. doing commercial litigation after graduation.  Unhappy with private practice, I took a huge pay cut for a government job, unrelated to law, and wound up with a surprise transfer to my current position–it was not something I applied for.

I’m willing to admit that my interests have always been my interests, and I’ve gravitated towards them, even in the most circuitous ways.  I also believe that I was working towards goals that I didn’t want to admit to myself.  I’m also aware that I was very, very lucky.

I’m fascinated by the fact that my tween mormon self in Salt Lake City could not fathom that I could achieve the life I wanted in any other way than marrying into it.  My thirty five year old self finds it odd that for someone who was so academically driven as a child, I was alarmingly without long term goals, or the concept that those goals were valid for a woman to possess.  I think I would have told other girls to set goals and that they could be anything they wanted, but I was so disbelieving of that concept, that I wouldn’t even allow myself to admit that this career was what I wanted.  No one told me I couldn’t achieve, I just set those boundaries myself.  And then, over years of tiny decisions, negated those boundaries.  I’m horrified and relieved; embarrassed and proud.   Crazy what a little nudge of deja vu can reveal.

So how do we help girls avoid the mental boundaries?  How can we get them to not only repeat the cliche of “follow your dreams,” but actually visualize themselves doing it?

Comments

  1. Karen, these are some interesting thoughts, and ones I found myself uncomfortabley familiar with as I read your post. Why, indeed, do girls project their dreams onto their imaginary future mates? Do girls still do this today, or are we (at near the same age) products of our generation?

    I don’t know, but I do know I want to think deeper on this, and convince my daughter that her dreams are actually attainable, not something she looks to marry. This is particularly perplexing to me, as my only daughter is just 3, and lives and breathes anything Princess, much to my chagrin- and daily fantasizes to me about “getting married”.

  2. Interesting thoughts. I ended up with the other life. Like you, I am very intelligent and enjoyed school but had difficulty picking a major because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. I had a hard time visualizing career goals. Perhaps because I really did want to be a wife and mother, and that is how my life has turned out.
    However, I am quite convinced that if my life didn’t involve me using my intellect and talents to raise my family, I would have found new and challenging goals and met them. I enjoyed my shortened career and it opened up avenues and interests that I would have pursued.
    I think that one of the key things for me was I was a late bloomer. Life experience and real world work experience gave me what years of getting As on a test couldn’t give me.
    So I can lament that I didn’t really know what I was capable of when I was 20, but I am mostly just pleased with the person I have become. Extra classes in college really weren’t useless, and I have not wasted my adult years. I have spent them improving myself, discovering myself and facing the challenges that life has brought me. I realize that I don’t know exactly who I will be in 10 years but I’m pretty sure I’ll have new goals that I will be acheiving.
    I am happy and I think my parents did a wonderful job of raising me to be myself with integrity. You can’t predict what life will hold in store. Giving your child the chance to learn to make good decisions for themselves is maybe what you want to go for. A girl needs to be able to realize how to make goals and how to go about acheiving them. How to adjust to life’s changing circumstances.
    I think that I try to help my children have opportunities to develop their potential. I want my children to become capable. That sort of success will help them set goals, acheive them and then set new goals.
    If my daughter is capable, then she will decide on her own career, decide on her own marital relationships, or raising children and she will handle her life herself. So I don’t tell my daughters they can acheive all their dreams. I will tell them that I am sure they can handle kindergarten or 6th grade or whatever is going on in their life by doing their best, or practicing, or doing their homework, or learning from their mistake, or setting a goal, or whatever.

  3. Interesting. I always had career goals. I just failed at them. Probably why I ended up married.

    Seriously, when I was growing up, I had no particular plans to get married. For a long time I assumed I would not marry, nor have children, because I just wasn’t interested. I was well into my twenties before I really considered marriage as a realistic possibility. Of course, then I hit 25 and marriage became a distinctly less realistic possibility–but, you know, I beat the odds and became the person my husband wanted to marry.

    (That last part really was a joke. I wasn’t the person he wanted to marry at all. But he married me anyway.)

    My daughter assumes that she’ll get married and have children, but she’s already worrying a little about how she’s going to balance work and family. (She’s 11.)

  4. This is a phenomenon I haven’t really noticed or heard about (young women projecting dreams onto future mates), but I think we just try to help our young women feel free to think, and to consider different options. I think offering to mentor, helping them connect with people in areas of their interests, expressing confidence in them — all of these things can help. I don’t get the sense that many young women these days struggle with having dreams and plans, though. I see youth who are motivated, bright, and have many goals.

    That said, though, I that it is also wise (and imo probably most important) to help them learn how to get answers to prayers, to help them keep a space in their hearts for the reality that life rarely unfolds as we plan it. For all that goals and plans are important, trusting in God’s plan for us as individuals is, imo, even more important.

    Whenever I talk to young women about education, etc. (which is relatively often — I mentor college students and have done more than one YW nite on these topics), I tell them how post-mission, I was led to an area for my graduate degree that I had ruled out as an undergrad because I had no interest in it. I ended up living a dream I never knew I had, and had experiences that continue to bless me, even as I’ve been a SAHM for over a decade now.

  5. Latter-day Guy says:

    You’re the person you want to marry, huh? Well, there’s only one solution I know of.

  6. I thought the key to your post was when you wrote that you are very very lucky. Very few people, whether men or women, actually get to follow their dreams in life. Kudos to you.

  7. My wife took a lot of comfort/motivation from President Gordon B. Hinckley’s admonition to “get all the education you can.” Maybe I should try to find some quotes …

    My assumption is that such an admonition has practical (goal-oriented) applications.

  8. Karen, my first response to this post was happiness for you! It is fantastic that you are where you are now.

    I’m not so sure that the admonition to get all the education we can has translated into support for professional goals in LDS culture. I find that there is much more support for education as an end in itself than there is for using that education to achieve professionally. More frequently, I hear that women should get an education in case something happens to their spouse.

  9. aloysiusmiller says:

    1. Maybe girls project their dreams on to their future mates because they innately understand something about being one flesh. I can’t see anything wrong with it. But I am happy that Karen H. has found a vocation in the best meaning of vocation.

  10. Tracy, yeah, I don’t know if this is something happening today, and I don’t know a way to find out. I think we’re all pretty protective of our internal lives–and a tween is going to be even more so because of the whole “I’m a teenager, you don’t get me” thing. I hope it was our generation and Hannah Montana achieving her music goals has taught the young uns something. :)

    JKS, I really enjoyed your comment, and it reminds me I should have said that if I would have wound up marrying a nice man who was professionally anything and I decided to stay home and raise kids, that would have been a very happy ending also. In my brand of feminism, I’m a cheerleader for women doing what makes them happy and fulfilled, and it’s not at all my right to put a hierarchy on those decisions. Your excellent point that enabling children to tackle age appropriate challenges really resonated with me.

  11. madhousewife, your 11 year old sounds like a fantastic kid.

    m&m, I like your idea of exposing kids to mentors in areas they are interested in. Even if your kid never winds up becoming a…dinosaur expert, or whatever…it’s good for her/him to see an adult actually doing a career. Your story of winding up in an entirely different field reminds me of a good friend who is a phenomenal example of that. She’s now working with emotionally disabled teenagers, and loves it. I personally think she’s secretly an angel for those kids.

    Latter day guy, I will resist the urge the get myself banned by making the obvious comment….humf….

    john f, thanks. I think the lucky part is that I wound up doing something I love, not that it was the thing my 9, 10, 11, self pictured–that part is just kind of weird and funny and illustrative of the point I wanted to make.

    Danithew and Natalie, I like that education is stressed, and that education is recognized as being valuable in and of itself, but I do wish there were more connections made between education and career.

    aloysius, I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to have their future happiness dependent on (a) a person that may/may not exist; (b) another person at all. Even in the best marriages, spouses disappoint each other. Certainly in broader society, people disappoint. If my entire self is wrapped up in someone else’s identity, I’m setting myself up for disappointment and failure. I need to know how to be a happy, fulfilled person, irrespective of what relationship I am or am not in.

  12. StillConfused says:

    It is not just girls we need to help. I run a post crisis education center for women. I routinely encounter women who feel that another man is the only way that they can move forward. Imagine their surprise when I tell them to do it themselves. (As someone who had ovarian cancer at 17, breast cancer at 27, lived in foster care, etc etc etc, and is now an attorney who runs a charity, I am a little strong with the gals).

    My daughter graduated college at 19 and has traveled alone to many countries. People ask me how it is that she was able to do this. my answer is always the same: “No one ever told her that she couldn’t.”

    My son will also graduate college at 19 but his international travels are limited to this summer in Japan.

  13. A very talented young woman in my Mia Maid class a dozen years ago wanted to pursue a career in theater. Her mother was pretty adamantly opposed to it, because her career was supposed to be wife and mother.

    Mormon girls are supposed to dream of home and family, not career. Period.

  14. I don’t remember making lists in YW on what we wanted out of of future careers/lives, but I DO remember listing the qualities that we wanted in a husband. Naturally, if it appears you can’t get those things on your own (like, being RICH [that was our main goal]) then you better hope you marry someone who will get you those things, because that’s the only way to achieve it. So, we wanted to be rich, but with no idea how we were actually going to do that, we just said we wanted our husbands to be rich.

  15. This sounded all too familiar to me. In our family, even though we were very much encouraged to go to college, the long term planning stopped there. Although I was “brilliant” by everyone’s accounts, it never occurred to me that *I* could earn a PhD in a field *I* was passionate about. My dreams centered around marrying someone that would be intellectually stimulating.

    So, I’ve married someone intellectually stimulating who also happens to have been earning a PhD when we met. But why did it take, literally, until I was 25 and married for 5 years to figure out that *I* could be the person I was seeking for a mate!?!

    I’ve been working on nudging my 18 year old sister (the youngest) out of this mindset, but it is pretty ingrained.

  16. I think this is a cultural issue we struggle with for sure. I didn’t grow up in the church so I wanted to be president of the United States (which now sounds like an awful job to me) until I went to BYU. I was surprised how many girls talked about getting married but they didn’t seem to have such lofty criteria.

    I think the issue StillConfused points out is really the problem–I know women with degrees who find themselves lost because they never anticipated using their education and now, unmarried, are wandering the earth without purpose.

    I hate to sound cliché here but I really think self-confidence through greater purpose is the answer. Girls have to feel that their own personal contribution to society is bigger than just to their family. When they grow up to be women, whether they work or make the choice to stay at home with their children should be encouraged to reach out to a greater purpose to serve in their communities. What if when children left home, their mothers continued to be engaged in community service instead of wondering “what do I do now?” as some do. So encouraging young girls to find personal purpose in family and then greater purpose in service to society would encourage women to be service-oriented mothers, professionals who benefit society, and then lifelong givers.

    My girls say things like “I want to marry someone like daddy” and I am fine with that since it represents a broader set of characteristics that I personally find to be essential to my own happiness.

  17. merrybits says:

    Living in Los Angeles, I really don’t see a lot of this “marrying the person you want to be”. The girls know (most of them, anyway) they can be whatever they want. Maybe it has to do with the combination of many single-parent families where girls grow up with the expectation of having to work, all the non-religious affiliated universities/colleges allowing exposure to the many strong female professors, and a workforce with women doing everything at all levels. I think it’s great you have become this person – well done.

  18. In our YW presidency, we always try to tell the girls to have more than 1 plan, because you do not know how your life will unfold. We always emphasize temple marriage, but we always say there’s no way to know if or when that will happen, so it’s important to live in such a way that you will be able to receive revelation for what the Lord wants you to do.

    When we taught them about education, we let them know that they needed to consider if they could earn enough to support themselves or an entire family in their chosen field, and then after considering, bring the choice to the Lord. We have done career-goal lists, but also the future husband characteristic lists because both are important. We emphasize that having a husband who is a hard worker (no matter what he does) is more important than having one who is rich (that the girls themselves need to work hard too is also discussed). We teach that generally, mothers should stay home with their children and fathers go out and “provide,” but that every family is different (“individual adaptation”), and the main thing is that you live in such a way as to be able to receive revelation. That way, you’ll know if the Lord would have you do something different (like mom goes out and dad stays home) than “the norm.”

    I guess the main thing we want them to know is there is to be joy in the journey, no matter where the Lord takes you. Some will be married practically right out of high school and have lots of kids right away. Some will not ever marry. Some will marry, but have no or few children or have children later in life. Some will be rich, some poor, some in-between. There will be trials no matter what, there will be joys also. If they listen to the Lord, they will be where they need to be. I just want them to know all the options, study it out, make a decision, then bring it to the Lord for confirmation (or a “no,” or a “not now,” or whatever). Life is not easy, but it’s a little easier if you have confirmation from the Lord that you’re doing the right thing, whatever it is.

  19. “Mormon girls are supposed to dream of home and family, not career. Period.”

    Ann, I really hope your tongue was firmly in your cheek for that.

  20. HeidiAnn, you sound like a YW all-star.

  21. Karen,
    How discouraging that 20 years behind me you lived the same thought patterns as I did. In the 1980s I was involved with a group of women in math and science careers who worked to encourage girls of your generation to not close off their options. Unfortunately, our reasoning to them mostly reinforced the situation you described; i.e. they will need these skills in the future if they face “death, divorce, desertion (of the breadwinner spouse) or desire for a career.” This last item was tucked surreptitiously at the end of the list.

    I agree with your comments to Aloysius,
    “I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to have their future happiness dependent on (a) a person that may/may not exist; (b) another person at all. Even in the best marriages, spouses disappoint each other. Certainly in broader society, people disappoint. If my entire self is wrapped up in someone else’s identity, I’m setting myself up for disappointment and failure. I need to know how to be a happy, fulfilled person, irrespective of what relationship I am or am not in”

    These are concepts I think should be taught to everyone, irrespective of gender, along with the good things mentioned by others: learn as much as you can, do your best, be worthy of and listen to guidance of the Spirit. Then, also teach the principles of good relationships: respect, commitment, communication, flexibility, humor.

  22. I teach my daughters that an education is very important and I have never taught them that their only purpose in life is to be a wife and a mother. Having said that, I don’t see anything wrong with having dreams of marrying a man one day and having children together with him. If that is the dream that stands out to them more at one time in their life than another, then more power to them. I have not found anything more rewarding in my life than being with the the man I adore and love and it has brought me more joy than I would have ever known otherwise. I do realize though, that this is not the way it goes for everyone.

    I would never try to discourage my daughters from being all they want to be. I am here to help them be what they want to be and to live with what they choose in their life. The reality is not everyone meets Prince Charming and even if they think they have, it doesn’t always end up happily forever. The more a woman is prepared to deal with the realities of mortality the better. I like to look at different women in different situations and talk to my daughters about them. I can point out the differences in their lives and how each woman has a story of their own. I think teaching them that their are many different life situations for women and they can all be right for women is a great way to leave open the ability for my daughters to hear the Lord’s promptings when He teaches them about their individual purpose and path. Do I hope they are able to meet their best friend and spend their life with him? Absolutely. I know how wonderful that can be, BUT if it doesn’t work out that way, I know that life can be just as wonderful in different ways as well and I realize it is important for my daughters to understand that.

  23. Count me as another that suffers from a sort of listless “what do I even want to do?” I think it is a sort of self-preservation mechanism.
    I was very clearly raised with the idea that getting married and having kids were/are my primary goals, and that everything else is all just for contingency plans. The idea that I would get halfway into a degree, or a career just to have to drop it all whenever the right guy showed up is hard, so you just tamp down the ambition and bide your time until the right guy shows up so that you don’t have to give up anything you were really attached to.
    I finished my degree, but I haven’t had any actual career ambitions since I was a preteen. Now I’m at a point where I think I should start on a career sometime in the next couple years (because it would benefit everyone in our family), and I have absolutely no idea what field I would want to work in. It’s a terrible position to be in.

  24. Thanks all for your comments. It’s really inspiring to hear about so many women who are involved in mentoring girls.

    Starfoxy, I definitely know what you’re talking about. I have a lot of friends in your situation, and it is a force of constant worry. However, I think it’s also important to realize that almost everyone comes to a career crossroads multiple times in their lives. I really felt that before I went to work for the government, and despite all the discomfort, it was really great for me to just ask myself, what do I really want to do. It used to be that people started work and stayed in the same field, if not at the same company, for their entire careers. The economy just doesn’t work that way anymore, so looking down the road and asking “what do I want to do” is this incredible opportunity. I have so many friends now in jobs that they never imagined–and didn’t know they could make money at, but they’re happy and enjoying themselves. You’re smart, there’s no reason you won’t wind up doing something great for you.

  25. Stephanie says:

    I think part of the problem is that there does seem to be an either/or mentality regarding women in the church. Either you are planning to be a SAHM or you are planning to be a career woman, and you work toward that plan. I think that sometimes young women who are extremely ambitious get painted into a corner where they “can’t” plan to be a mother, too, because it conflicts with their career goals.

    We need to encourage young women to plan for both – to keep all their options open regardless of what they think they want to do now.

  26. I think we need a survey to document the occupations represented by BCC commenters. Is everyone out there a lawyer?

  27. I wonder how much of this still applies for the next generation. My daughters want to be rangers in Africa, doctors, nurses, teachers, white lions, biologists, engineers, and mothers. Maritally it appears that they would settle for a prince.

  28. smb, how old are your daughters?

  29. Fascinating post, Karen, and excellent questions.

    I grew up feeling there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I loved books and had no interest in babies. I was raised in the heart of Utah County, in a neighborhood in which all the women were up to their elbows in child-rearing. I looked on their lives with despair; I knew no adult women whose life I could imagine myself happy in. But I knew also that it was my godly duty to become a wife and mother–a terrible fate, in my view–and I absorbed the message it was sinful to plan for a career (education, yes, to a point, but “career women” were universally reviled as selfish).

    I also absorbed the attitude that it was deeply, unfemininely self-promoting to take stock of one’s strengths and make plans for a career accordingly. That, and my impression that careers for women were an affront to God, did not serve me well in my adolescence. In retrospect I very much wish that I had been able to admit to myself what I loved and wanted to do so that I could begin pursuing classes in that direction seriously. I wish someone had been able to help me see that there was nothing godly about burying God-given talents and helped me take my own life seriously enough to plan and work toward advanced educational and career goals. Instead I drifted aimlessly through school, because what was the point? I wish I had known at twelve that I wouldn’t have a child until I was almost 37. That knowledge might have helped me take those two and a half decades of my life more seriously and put them to better, more directed use.

    I’ve been very fortunate to have received specific spiritual promptings to pursue advanced education–even when more than one bishop has explicitly counseled me against getting advanced degrees. These experiences have given me hope that God is more broad-minded than many Mormons are. As it turns out, my daughter arrived almost exactly at the point in my program at which I’d finished coursework. It’s a struggle sometimes to balance grad school and SAHMhood, but grad school is also a lifeline in the midst of isolation and diapers and playgroups. I have no idea how my life will continue to play out–I’d very much like to have another child–but I think I’ll always need some form of intellectual stimulation, some of my own goals I’m pursuing, however slowly.

    Teaching girls to take themselves, their lives, their talents and educations seriously while simultaneously emphasizing the priority of marriage and children is an extremely difficult balancing act. The problem is, as Starfoxy said, that if all one’s ambitions are to be set aside the moment the right man shows up, it’s very hard to invest much in them in the first place. I really hope our views of marriage are evolving to the point that women’s educational and career pursuits are not automatically to be set aside.

  30. StillConfused says:

    #26 – I am a lawyer now (just estate planning and business planning so don’t worry, not the creepy kind) and I am the director of womenow.org. I used to be an accountant and then an air traffic controller.

  31. StillConfused says:

    I never really understood the either/or mentality. My mother had nine children and was a nurse pretty much the whole time. My maternal grandmother was a college graduate and a teacher. My paternal grandmother was as vital a part of the farm operations as her husband. So, in all honesty, it never occured to me to be a SAHM. I worked; my spouse worked; I provided for the kids; my spouse provided for the kids. Now granted, I only had two children so it was easy for me to be an air traffic controller and complete my undergraduate degree before my children were in school.

    But then again, I am the kind of mom that doesn’t care if my kids want to wear the same thing multiple days or just want cereal for dinner. I am about as laid back as they come in that regard. So I never really did feel any of that pressure. My personality type is such that I will always work.

  32. “I have absolutely no idea what field I would want to work in”
    Starfoxy, I know this feeling well. It is difficult to be surrounded by people who have one passion or goal and who know what to pursue. I, however, have many interests yet balk at pursuing any one of them fulltime. I have many strengths and talents but it seems to make it harder to choose one career to pursue.
    It is almost easier if there were less choice involved.
    I wish you the best of luck. I hope things work out. Sometimes if there isn’t one obvious “right” path, its because none of them are actually the wrong path.

  33. Stephanie says:

    StillConfused, I still see the either/or mentality with grown women, too. Either you are a SAHM or you are a career woman (who also has kids). Motherhood is more fluid than that. It does seem to be changing, though. I love the ward I am in. Some moms are SAHMs. Some work. The YW President works full-time in the field of finance and has two kids. We don’t seem to have any of that working mom/SAHM conflict I always hear about.

  34. My experience was a lot like ZD Eve’s (feeling lost and angry as I tried to figure out how my immense passion for school fit into the discourses about wifehood and motherhood). Luckily, I had 1) parents who were super-encouraging when it came to their daughters’ education and achievements–it helped that my parents were really proud of their daughters’ educational achievements and encouraged them to follow their passions, and 2) I had a really strong competitive, achievement-oriented personality. While I’ve mellowed in the more recent past, my drive when I was younger really helped me to decide that I was going to pursue education even though I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me for doing so.

    As others have pointed out, it’s difficult to balance encouraging marriage/motherhood while still allowing plenty of room for educational and career pursuits for women. I think what would have helped me not feel so strange (when I was younger) would have been to have women around me who had careers and education share their thoughts on how their experiences in these areas were directed/encouraged/approved by God (kind of like the mentoring that m&m described). I think it would have allowed me to more fully see that my own desires to pursue educational goals were noble, righteous desires.

  35. Karen, you rock on so many levels. I think about my daughter and her future much and I love pointing out role models like you. Thanks for this.

    P.S. I am not a lawyer. I thought all the BCCers were entomologists? Most of you are right?

  36. Karen–
    I sort of get the lawyer thing, but what made your young self want to live in NOVA? I mean, it’s nice enough–I lived there in HS–but why was it your dream?

    I like all the talk about helping girls know they don’t have limits, but I think it is just as important to help boys know not to limit themselves to one specific type of girl/woman who could be an acceptable wife. I am sure I am not the only girl who saw the lights go out in some BYU boys eyes every time they realized I had post graduation plans. I mean, what did they expect? Was I supposed to graduate and then just bum around UT waiting to get married? Of course I had plans! I was an adult.

  37. Good point, ESO. We can instill ambition and goal-setting and career planning in girls until the cows come home, but until we teach boys to take girls’ educational and career plans seriously, to some degree we’re wasting our breath.

  38. why was my dream to live in nova? I don’t know, I was nine. I think we visited Mount Vernon on a family vacation about that time. Maybe I secretly wanted to be Martha Washington, only taller and with indoor plumbing.

    why do I live here now? my job’s in dc and I wanted to live in the suburbs on a metro line. Now that I’m here, I feel strangely invested in the VA/MD debate. I cannot go to Maryland without getting seriously lost. In my head, every time I cross state lines, I hear “thar be dragons!”

  39. Mount Vernon–that IS a dream home. I’ve lived in MD too–loved it just as much. Next time I move there, I’ll try DC proper.

  40. One of the counselors in my former branch stood up one Fast Sunday and told the YW they should get married b/c that was what the Lord wanted for them and that nothing else was as important for them to do ever than to marry and have children. He even said college wasn’t that important for them ! And this in a county where even high school graduates weren’t in the majority ! He certainly never addressed the same concepts to the YM. We moved not long after but too many of the YW have done just as he suggested including becoming pregnant almost right away. Several have even expressed surprise, disappointment and regrets that they were unprepared for their situation. Breaks my heart that too many members treat the YW AND adult women in this way. I do not have children, but my husband and I are too often dismissed as non-contributing members b/c we are ‘child-free’. We have been told directly & indirectly how we will regret not having children; we are wrong; we’re committing a sin, etc; even though we have not shared the reasons why. Whether life turns out how we expect/want, regardless of circumstances, no one should be made to feel that if they are not the LDS super woman stereotype then they are not valuable and important. Married late in life, too, that didn’t go over any better either. :) Sorry so long, too.

  41. Starfoxy’s # 23 seems to imply that it’s a woman’s issue to “have absolutely no idea what field I would want to work in”. Most readers will agree that “it’s a terrible position to be in” but this is not something uniquely experienced by Mormon women. The reality is that most people are forced to do something to earn a living. I think that only the very privileged few can speak of a “career” or, more accurately, a career of choice that derives from ambitions and dreams. I’m also still thinking through why teaching about the joys and divinity of motherhood to kids in church should result in girls and young women deciding that there’s no point to school or planning for a career (that applies to ZDEve’s comments as well). That doesn’t seem consistent with repeated counsel by President Hinckley, though I am aware that the women participating here probably came of age before the Hinckley era.

    Karen’s comment # 24 realistically notes that “almost everyone comes to a career crossroads multiple times in their lives” — this applies to both men and women.

    It seems that the following statement, although wonderful for you, is truly rare and only available to a very fortunate few, regardless of gender: “it was really great for me to just ask myself, what do I really want to do”. The comment acknowledges that “looking down the road and asking ‘what do I want to do’ is this incredible opportunity”. It’s also a luxury. “You’re smart, there’s no reason you won’t wind up doing something great for you.” I think it’s great to express optimism at someone else’s potential in this manner but the reality is that there are a lot of reasons that someone who is smart won’t wind up doing something great for that person, independent of what someone learned in their church’s children’s sunday school classes — those reasons stem from the economy and the need to put food on the table day by day absent an independent source of income.

    The key to having the freedom and flexibility to have the career that you want, I would think, is to postpone marriage and family until you are already in that career — this applies to both men and women. If someone doesn’t have dependents (whether spouse or child(ren)), then one can do anything one wants, get whatever education one wants wherever and whenever one wants at whatever cost and switch in and out of careers at one’s own leisure to choose the one that most perfectly gives an outlet to personal professional ambitions. Postponing marriage and family, however, probably won’t figure into the Church’s counsel anytime in the near future, whether for men or women.

    The issue of having the career that one truly wants and that fulfills one’s amibitions is a different point, it seems to me, from the issue of girls and women feeling like they shouldn’t have goals and fully develop intellectual and other talents through education and work. Only the lucky few — whether men or women — will succeed in having the career of their choice that truly fits their ambition. On the separate point, though, it may well be true that women in the church will more often forego a career of their choice (this is assuming that absent a family they would be in the career of their choice, rather than just a job that pays their rent, and I view this as a very big and largely unwarranted assumption), than men, given the overall traditional leanings of many religious people with regard to family life, particularly in the Church, and the ideas about women being “naturally selected” as nurturers of infants and young children that are often discussed in the context of “roles” in the Church. But it is unclear why religious teachings about women ideally experiencing joy by tapping into the potential of their bodies for creating new life and then nurturing that wholly dependent new life in ways that they are physiologically uniquely suited to do should be presented by teachers or understood by students in the Church as exclusive of taking school seriously to make the most of intellectual or other abilities. If this is the source of the choice of some of the women commenting here to float aimlessly through school and not develop some talents, or to not have goals, then their local teachers or parents have done them a disservice and they’ve also done themselves a disservice as well. But it is worth asking whether such an approach to teaching about women and families that some of the commenters here experienced from their local leader/teachers/parents, or the way actual doctrines of the Church about families as found in scripture or expressed by general (as opposed to local) leadership (not necessarily the same as the teachings mentioned before the comma) were received by some of the commenters here, actually resonate with Gospel truths about women and their potential in families and in the professional world. If there is a way to improve teaching of young women at the local level and in their homes that encourages them to develop their strengths then that is a positive thing and well worth working toward through our own efforts to be the best teachers we can be in those contexts.

  42. re: 26
    No, but it does seem that way because the lawyers in the Bloggernacle are disproportionately verbose.

  43. I wanted to endorse John F’s comments and had the following question. Is Karen H in fact married with children? The key it seems to me to having the absolutely ideal career of our dreams is to postpone children and marriage (or intentional childlessness in marriage) until well into our thirties. Like 33-37. In my view this has 2 problems.

    1. Biology esp for women but also has new studies are showing for men as well fertility wise. As I have aged I have felt my body start to wear out and am thankful that I had 4-5 kids in my twenties.

    2. its a form of idol worship. We are in essence worshipping our careers or potential careers over what the scriptures and church teach us about families and their importance in the world.

    This is John’s money quote on this topic

    “The key to having the freedom and flexibility to have the career that you want, I would think, is to postpone marriage and family until you are already in that career — this applies to both men and women. If someone doesn’t have dependents (whether spouse or child(ren)), then one can do anything one wants, get whatever education one wants wherever and whenever one wants at whatever cost and switch in and out of careers at one’s own leisure to choose the one that most perfectly gives an outlet to personal professional ambitions. Postponing marriage and family, however, probably won’t figure into the Church’s counsel anytime in the near future, whether men or women”

  44. StillConfused says:

    I can see postponing children for careers to be established. But I hope that that doesn’t feel like the requirement. Because of my ovarian cancer, I had to have my children very young. But I am so glad that I did because I am now 41 and essentially an empty nester. Careers really peak in the forties anyway. Plus, it takes a lot of energy to have little guys. I could not imagine doing that now.

    Again, this is not an all or nothing situation. It is really not that hard to do both (family and career) so long as you do it the way that works for you and your family and not based on someone else’s perceived ideas of how a family should run.

    Because I grew up in a very large family with two working parents and living way out on a farm, I never had a soccer mom who was a glorified taxi. When my children started doing activities, they understood that it was their responsibility to arrange carpools etc if needed because I was not a taxi (except on Saturdays from 10 to 2). If you feel like you should be a mom’s taxi 24/7 then you are going to have a hard time having a career too. You will have to make some choices.

  45. Stephanie says:

    StillConfused, if you are not the one taxiing your kids around, and you are telling them to arrange their own rides, then doesn’t that mean that someone else’s parent is taxiing your kids around?

    I play taxi for cub scouts whose parents work. Their parents are single and work because they have to, and I am happy to help out.

    But, I admit that if I was approached with the attitude that, “I am working to be fulfilled, and since you’re just a ‘soccer mom who is a glorified taxi’ anyways, will you carpool my kid along with you”, I don’t know that I’d be so generous.

    Doing both a career and family and working it out on your own is one thing. Relying on other parents who have made the other choice is another thing. I am not sure that is what you are saying in your comment, but that’s how it came across to me.

  46. Stephanie says:

    At the very least, I would ask to be compensated. Getting kids to and from activities is the responsibility of the parent. I don’t agree that making them do the one asking for a ride makes it “their” responsibility. That’s still just putting the job of transporting off on someone else. I see this like childcare. Watching your kids is the job of the parent. If you choose to work, then you need to pay someone else to do your job. Same with transporting kids (assuming they need to be transported and can’t bike, walk, etc.)

  47. Hey Karen. Nice to hear from you–I always enjoy your posts.

  48. Congratulations on meeting your goals ;)

    I’m working very hard on the real issue (I’ve two daughters I still have responsibility for).

  49. Stillconfused,

    It’s a good thing you’re not a creepy kind of lawyer, but as a former air traffic controller, you have to be very, very familiar with creepy faux professionals. Hard to imagine a more creepy segment of the federal workforce than the controllers. I would place the creepiest lawyer way above the average controller-not even close in my experience.

  50. I did my share of taxi driving even as a working mom. What I don’t understand is SAHMs who ask others to take their children to activities because they can’t afford the gas, then brag that they are completely out of debt except for their mortgage.

  51. Stephanie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like that, [nr], but it would bug me, too.

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