Reframing Parental Roles in the Proclamation on the Family

Among other ideas, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, emphasizes the importance or gender identity and roles. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on several sentences that relate to the responsibilities of parents within the family as they rear children.  

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation…

In 1990 Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack and her counselors Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde met to decide their priorities for Relief Society. They outlined five points that would become the hallmarks of their presidency. The fourth read:

Strengthen families. Many types of families are part of the church today. All families need strengthening. 

Women of Covenant. Page 402 

In the subsequent years, Jack and her counselors travelled the globe meeting with focus groups, groups of Relief Society sisters with whom they talked to identify the needs and understand the circumstances of a worldwide sisterhood. One important circumstance that came to their attention through these meetings and with the help of Church statisticians was that globally, only one in ten sisters in the Church will not work outside the home at some point. Think it’s different in Utah? Think again.

Recently on Facebook , one woman’s choice to work outside the home was maligned by other members of the Church, or justified by well-meaning people ‘because her husband is in school’, with the logic that was the reason it was ok, assuming she would quit when he finished. Yet 90% of Mormon women will work outside the home.

Most often the Proclamation is read with the interpretation that working women outside the home are either the result of unforeseen tragedy, extreme financial necessity, or an unrighteous decision, abandoning the family on their part—in other words, a rarity.

Often gender roles within the home are taught in such a way that inadvertently invites judgment of one another amongst members. For instance, during Relief Society lessons sisters are sometimes warned that working outside the home may lead to wayward children, or a troubled marriage.  It is easy to see how in gossip circles, and sometimes even in lesson discussions, this way of teaching often leads to an explanation of why some peoples’ children have turned out badly, to use as an indicator that some women are more righteous than others by virtue of not-working, to show that a man who isn’t providing enough is failing in his duty, or, most sadly, used as a weapon between spouses.  Assuming the ideas in the Proclamation will continue to be part of doctrinal discourse within church settings, and assuming the reality that 9 in 10 Mormon women will work, is there a better way to teach these ideas, inviting members to support one another rather than judge one another, and encourage women to prepare for the workforce by obtaining an education?

In the Saturday morning session of General Conference, Elder Quentin Cook taught ideas from the Proclamation using a less-common approach.

 “Marriage requires a full partnership, where wives and husbands work side by side to meet the needs of the family…These are very emotional, personal decisions; but there are two principles that we should always keep in mind. First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or to feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children, nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Be careful not to be judgmental, or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances. Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions…I would hope that Latter Day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.”

His approach is more affirming of personal family choices, personal revelation and the real need for family-friendly workplaces for both men and women, both parents being important in the nurture of their children.  Would taking this approach in our wards help curb judgment amongst members and help families better support one another? Will this approach allow families to feel they have more options on how to approach child rearing in their own homes?

Comments

  1. The Proclamation is worded in such a way that it can be read as a plea for more partnering equality if you are looking for that, or as a strict admonition for traditional definition of gender roles in the family if that is your prefered reading. It’s quasi- canonical status only confuses the situation, making an appeal to it for clarification just not, umm, all that clarifying. I deeply appreciated Elder Cook’s talk, for its refreshing perspective. I say this while I am doing laundry, and my wife is grading math journals for her advanced algebra class.

  2. Naismith says:

    I loved this talk, but it didn’t strike me as anything new. That’s how it is seen where I live, and what I’ve always thought, consistent with existing church teachings on personal revelation, not judging one another, etc. I don’t think snarky comments about other folks’ choices are near as acceptable as this makes it sound.

    “assuming the reality that 9 in 10 Mormon women will work…”

    I never assumed otherwise. And at BYU even in the 1970s, we were taught to prepare for this reality: “Get the most education you can so you can spend the least time away from your family,” was the mantra. That advice was a major reason that I went to grad school, and I found it to be true for me, at least in my field. We were able to juggle childcare so that we cared for our kids ourselves during all the years I was part-time employed with little children.

    Also “assuming the reality that 9 in 10 Mormon women will work” is not the same as 9 out of 10 Mormon mothers of young children being employed. A lot of women do the career thing sequentially rather than simultaneously.

  3. I think the key is that we can’t judge people for their individual choices either way nor should people let themselves be bullied into doing what is not right for them. Life is too hard. Careers are full of disappointments and difficulties, and so is parenting. People need support whatever they are doing.

  4. Also “assuming the reality that 9 in 10 Mormon women will work” is not the same as 9 out of 10 Mormon mothers of young children being employed. A lot of women do the career thing sequentially rather than simultaneously….THIS is what I was thinking as well.

    I also think that with the internet changing what work looks like. Is a mommy blog with advertizing work?How about pampered chef? how about a couponer who takes hours to save money? Is a part time job more distracting than an obsessive hobby?

    It will not change that the child bearing year is a heavy burden on a woman and she needs support and protection during that year. The priority on procreation makes this a child bearing decade potentially…which skews that decade heavily towards the traditional roles (assuming traditional means dad does a lot of dishes and laundry).

  5. kentslarsen says:

    Apparently this issue isn’t just overall policy for the Church (or wasn’t), since author Terry Tempest Williams says an interview with a General Authority on this very issue led her to become a feminist:

    http://www.progressive.org/williams0411.html

  6. #2: I agree 9 out 10 work outside the home is a good number to start changing mind sets. But it must be broken down: How many of that number before having small kids, how many while caring for small kids, how many after the kids left, how many hours, etc.
    My wife and I married at 21-22. We waited 4 years to have kids. This made it possible for me to work my way through college, and her to use her RN training that took her 3 years to get. We also got enough money to get a house, have savings, not debt. She continued to work part time when the kids got into school, my job allowed to cover the time she was not home. She went full time when the kids were in High School. I did not see where our kids were damaged by this.

  7. #5 – Kent, two things: 1) That appears to be written about an experience quite a while ago; 2) It is about not having children, not how to make decisions regarding the raising of children and work. That is an entirely different issue. Iow, the link doesn’t address the point of the post at all, except perhaps to highlight how things used to be.

    nmiles, I was struck at the time that Elder Cook’s talk was an attempt to frame the Proclamation and how we address these issues in a very clear, fundamentally different way. There was another example of a High Priests Group Leader asking for help for a man OR a woman who was struggling to support his OR her family. There was a statement about husbands AND wives “presiding” together in their homes.

    I was very encouraged to hear such direct statements from multiple speakers.

  8. mmiles, I did not realise that so many women in the Church worked outside the home. The rhetoric about SAHM’s is not something I have ever really heard over the pulpit or in classes in the local wards I have attended (admittedly I go to RS infrequently) and so I had supposed that this was more of a problem in areas where women actually have the ability to be a SAHM.

    Can I ask whether this 90% is compressed into a specific part of the life-course, i.e. after the age of 50?

  9. Bob,
    Why must it be broken down? That may be true, but that’s not the point. 1. Many women aren’t prepared for the workforce.
    2. Lots of women will work with young children, it’s not our job to decide when that’s a good idea for anyone but ourselves.

  10. “Would taking this approach in our wards help curb judgment amongst members and help families better support one another? Will this approach allow families to feel they have more options on how to approach child rearing in their own homes?”

    I want to say yes, but I suspect no. After General Conference one of my coworkers (I word in a predominately LDS workplace) started a discussion on our favorite talks. I mentioned that I thought it was interesting that multiple GAs could talk about the family dynamic in such different ways and that I liked Elder Cook’s take best – as I have a problem with the word “preside” in family relationships and Elder Cook didn’t use it once, and indeed emphasized the equality of partners multiple times.

    Wrong thing to say! My coworker – divorced – launched into a tirade against my opinion culminating in shouting across the office that I could think that I was equal to my husband but that I was “WRONG!”

    It seems to me that the emphasis on traditional gender roles has a generational divide with those who are older clinging to it with more fervor than my age group. But this older group (which includes my coworker) seems to think our generation degenerate and trapped in a downward spiral of moral decay…and feels the need to A) tell us so and B) fix us.

  11. Sort of tangentially, I was amazed yesterday while viewing some of the new mormon.org “I am a Mormon” videos that one of them highlights a family in Spain with a young son, a working mother, and a stay-at-home dad who cares for the son.

  12. Gina,
    That’s in the post.

  13. Swisster says:

    Another reason the Jack-Clyde-Okazaki presidency will always stand out to me. So glad to hear someone reference them.

  14. #9: I feel it needs to be broken down so a SAHM does not feel she is off base because 90% of Mormon women work outside the home. It’s like telling men less than 50% of males in America have a job.

  15. Bob,
    I don’t think SAHM in the Church feel off base in any way. They are hardly marginialized.

  16. Bob,
    I think there is a parallel to what you are saying:
    During the nineties the professional organization for fertility doctors came forward with a statement, which warned women that fertility rates decline rapidly in the thirties. They had seen too many women coming in to their practices later thirties, early forties and older, expecting it would not be a problem with fertility treatments to get pregnant. They felt they needed to let women know the reality that even with fertility treatments pregnancy rate were low.

    NOW (Nationaly Organization for Women) came out and complained about the statement, stating that this was pressuring women to have kids before they were ready. That’s silly, it’s just information. Women need to make their decisions about reproduction fully educated about the realities.

    We have this statistic that 9 out of 10 women will work outside the home at some point. You seem to be saying, break it down–or you’ll pressure women to go to work when they have small children.

    First, this presumes women aren’t capable of making good choices for their families, so you need to protect them from making a bad choice.

    Secondly, it’s just information. Women need to make their decisions about education and job preparation fully educated about the realities.

  17. Well, if I can’t judge women for working outside the home, what the heck can I judge them for? I mean, I have to be able to judge them for SOMETHING! Otherwise, how will I smugly keep my place in the Pecking Order of Righteousness that I carefully maintain in my head, and consult daily? (Kind of like watching Dow Jones index fluctuations, and I wish someone would create an app for it, but I digress).

  18. it's a series of tubes says:

    Yet 90% of Mormon women will work outside the home.

    I’d like to learn more about this. Could you provide a link to the study / report in question?

  19. #18,
    Sorry, I heard it from Aileen Clyde. She didn’t give the audience a study.

  20. #16: “This presumes women aren’t capable of making good choices”. I live in CA__50% of the marriages fail_bad choices?
    I am saying the pressure is coming from INSIDE the SAHM when they are only told 90% of Mormon women work ouside the home. “At sometime” are words you have added. I am only saying those words need to be added to the simple 9 of 10 number.

  21. #12 Thanks for pointing that out mmiles. I didn’t click through to see what the link was referring to; a Facebook firestorm about a woman’s choice to work outside the home just didn’t sound too appealing. Blech.

  22. “I would hope that Latter Day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.” Elder Cook

    This was perhaps my favorite line in Elder Cook’s talk. A few years ago I hear Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute speak on how modern feminism movements are actually doing a disservice to women. (Yes this was very controversial for a law school setting full of 25 year old feminists). The main point of her presentation could be summed up by Elder Cook’s statement listed above.

    She related how fervent her zeal was to pioneer her career as a young woman. She waited until later in life to have children. She shared how difficult this experience ended up being for her, and some of the medical problems she suffered as a result. Her main message was business owners/husbands should allow women easy ‘entrance ramps’ and ‘exit ramps’ into the workforce – thereby allowing women to have a family at a younger age yet still pursuing a career.

    Hopefully, the message of Elder Cooks talk will not only reduce any criticism/judgment of families with both spouses working or with the nontraditional stay-at-home dad and encourage LDS business owners to increase flexibility for parents. Generous maternity leave policies can go a long way, but also appreciating time outside the workforce for raising children should not discredit a person’s candidacy for a job.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Amen, K Day.

  24. Sorry, didn’t like his talk or quote AT ALL.

    His comments were NOT balanced and did NOT give equal creedence (in connotation) to a righteous mother in either situation. By putting the SAHM FIRST, he prioritizes her stand. He then gives the SAHM an unparalleld compliment “nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan”.

    Then as a caveat, he turns to the working mom. She receives NO compliments, no spiritual kudos for doing the exact same thing as a SAHM – putting the needs of her family as her priority. Why couldn’t the statement “nothing could be more significant” apply to ANY righteous mother regardless of her working status? No such luck. We only hear the admonision to not judge the working mom. Well, we are also told not to judge sinners. What is left unsaid here speaks volumes and it ISN’T respectful of the working mother.

    Every time there is an opportunity for the GAs to actually praise working moms in spiritual terms, I hear just crickets chirping.

  25. “What is left unsaid here speaks volumes and it ISN’T respectful of the working mother.”

    Of course referring to someone as a “working mother” implies that somewhere there are “non-working” mothers. Which is pretty darn disrespectful as well. I’ve never been one.

    “Employed mother” is the more accurate and respectful term.

    Also, I see a huge difference between “nothing could be more significant” and “that is the most significant work.” The former implies that that there are other equally significant options, just none more. He did not choose to use the latter, which praises only that one as pre-eminent.

  26. Naismith, your tirelessness in promoting this idiosyncratic usage is remarkable, if not precisely admirable.

  27. Kristine, if you’d start respecting Naismith’s work as a working mother in favor of not disrespecting non-existent non-working mothers, then maybe she would take a nap.

  28. Thomas Parkin says:

    I never judge moral busybodies who insert their moral snoots into other people business. I when I do judge them, I am judging righteous judgement. In the same way that I will be judging angels later on. Not that moral busybodies can be compared to angels, at least until they shuffle of this mortal coil and start whispering their nonsense in our ears from beyond the veil. I used to take hope in the fact that that generation will all die out someday soon. Then my dead grandparents started whispering this stuff to me when I was stuck in traffic. I’m just kidding, of course; when my dead grandparents whisper to me, they whisper to me the words of Jesus.

  29. Naismith says:

    “Naismith, your tirelessness in promoting this idiosyncratic usage is remarkable, if not precisely admirable.”

    It isn’t idiosyncratic, it is actually in the dictionary.

    I don’t care if my neighbors start out a request for help by saying, “Listen, since you don’t work, would you mind….?” That is harmless.

    But there can be real harm done by the assumption that parents at home “don’t work.” It can make it (unnecessarily ) harder to re-enter the workforce later. And I found that on numerous occasions I got substandard health care.

    I have a letter from the Mayo Clinic explaining that my problems were a result of the stress of being a fulltime parent, and that they would resolve when I returned to paid work. That’s when I started putting down my occupation as a freelance writer (which was not a lie; I did sell a few articles but I considered myself a mom).

    Because they blew me off as a hysterical housewife, permanent damage was done. I have scars on my larynx that will never be the same, and I can only maintain a classroom voice for 20 minutes. And I am at much greater risk of laryngeal cancer.

    On the other hand, when I was in grad school, a physician prescribed antibiotics for me, in one of those occasions when it was unclear whether the drug was necessary or not. But his justification was that, “…as a busy working mother and grad student, you need the extra help.” Hello? It was much harder when those three kids were little.

    There were several studies by the American Medical Association showing that men got better care than women. Nowadays, it seems that same kind of bias is rampant, but with the employment status of women as the basis of unequal treatment.

    So yeah, it doesn’t seem non-trivial to me. I went through six years of hell and have scars.

  30. Kristine says:

    Naismith, I’m entirely on the bandwagon about SAHM’s being dissed–it’s widespread, and it’s wrong. But in English, people (even people who are entirely sympathetic to your point) tend to use “working” and “employed” interchangeably. I just don’t think insisting that women who work as full-time caregivers in the home be called “working mothers” is likely to have any effect except to alienate potential allies.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Naismith, given the frequency of your blog comments, I don’t think you work either.

  32. Bob,
    I don’t follow. Are you saying working mothers are the cause of a 50% divorce rate? I’m not sure where you’re going with that.
    It comes from within for women to have children also. The parallel stands.

    JAT- Despite your relentless use of CAPS, you make some good points.

    Naismith,
    Personally, I find it a bit patronizing when someone asks me if I work and when I say no, they insist on saying something like, “Oh, sure you do! You do lots of work with 4 kids.”
    I’m pretty happy with my decision thanks–I don’t need someone to pretend I’m a working mother.

  33. #32: Maybe I wrote badly. My 50% example was only showing why I ‘assume’ (your word) that people can and do make choices. No, I do not blame 50% of working mothers (or SAHMs) for CA’s divorce rate.

  34. “Personally, I find it a bit patronizing when someone asks me if I work and when I say no, they insist on saying something like, “Oh, sure you do! You do lots of work with 4 kids.”
    I’m pretty happy with my decision thanks–I don’t need someone to pretend I’m a working mother.”

    Like.

  35. Bob,
    So you are trying to protect women from making the wrong choice by breaking it down?

  36. Wes Brown says:

    Just yesterday there was an interesting article relating to this. It is not rude to suggest that women in Utah could do more to contribute financially and educationally, especially when the problem comes from the paternal nature of Mormonism. It would have been nice to see this issue addressed in GC.

    “The nation’s wage gap is punishing Utah women, costing them and their families nearly $5 billion annually, according to a report released Tuesday. If the wage gap vanished, each full-time working woman in Utah could have purchased two more years’ worth of food; family health-insurance premiums for five years; or paid mortgage and utility bills for 10 more months than they otherwise could afford.”

    “Utah has the worst gap in the nation between men and women earning bachelor’s degrees or higher — a difference of 6 percentage points. The Utah education gap more than doubles that of the next closest state, Idaho, at 2.7 percentage points, while the national average is 1.3 points.”

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/51607664-79/women-utah-gap-families.html.csp

  37. Um, that’s in the post.

  38. Wes Brown says:

    Ahem- I do, however, think it is extremely rude to point out when someone has obviously skipped over a very important part of your post, mmiles. I was enjoying the view from atop my high horse.

  39. No worries. The quotes add to the thread.

  40. Interesting how so many of these posts refer to the stresses that raising children place on parents (particularly mothers), unequal treatment and opportunties based on gender, and parochial nature of church leaders. I agree. But believe it or not, things have changed in the past generation. The stake in which I resided as a young single adult in the late 70s and early 80s had at its helm a stake president who taught from the pulpit that using any form of birth control other than for reasons of serious health problems of the woman was a sin. He refused temple recommends to young couples who were preparing to get married and who planned on using birth control or delaying having children (believe me, he asked lots of questions to find out). And of course most of the high councilors and bishops fell in line in order to maintain support for their leader. Coincidentally, he also refused temple recommends to men who had beards. I believe a stake president who did the same thing today would quickly be corrected or else let go. Am I wrong?

  41. #35: At ten years, the UNC checks to see what Dept. producted the highest pay level for it’s graduates after ten years. To their Wow!__it was the Sociology Dept. But then, breaking it down, they found M. Jordan’s money was giving them misleading stats.
    I think I am say that working outside the home or being a SAHM are both Ok. That giving only 9 out 10 work Mormon women work outside the home as information is not enough.

  42. Bob,
    Enough for what? If chances are a woman will work, she needs to be prepared. She needs an education. It doesn’t matter at all when she does it, or how many kids she has. She could be working 60 hours a week or 15 hours a week; 5 years of marriage or 25 years. She needs to be prepared either way. So breaking it down does nothing.

  43. #42: If by an ‘education’ you mean a ‘college degree’, most working women don’t have that. (Note the GAs never says get a job__only an ‘education’).
    By ‘enough’ I mean good information to make a good choice in their lives. It DOES matter when she has a job, how mant kids she has, the kind of job she gets, as much as it does for a man.

  44. Bob,
    This post is not about telling women to go get a job. I’m not sure why you are worried about that. It does matter how much parents work, but it matters to the family, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else.

    Most working women? Do you have stats on that?
    It is probably true that most working Mormon women do not. That’s the problem. If women are educated when they do work, they have more options. They can be choosier about their job, their hours, and get higher pay.

    I’m not sure why you think if we tell women 9 out of 10 of them will work they will suddenly all run out and abandon family and work 80 hours a week. You are trying to protect them from making a bad decision by withholding information. That hurts them.

  45. #44: We are clearly talking passed each other and that’s not my wish, so I will end my comments to this post.

  46. As someone who studies and watches the world of work closely I want to second the line by E. Cook about the importance of creating women (and family) friendly workplaces as important to me.

    The fact is that rising income inequality in the US which is marked by the “hollowing out” of middle skill family sustaining jobs in favor of very good jobs marked by high levels of education and training and very poor jobs – mostly service sector jobs (the gendered ones paying the least) means that more and more Mormon families will find they can not support a family on one income. This trend also makes the “get a degree just in case” or “on and off ramping” for women (or men) who leave and enter the workforce much more complicated. A woman who wants to maintain earning power capable of sustaining her family in the case of death, sickness, divorce or whatever have increasingly fewer options that allow them to off and on ramp into *good* jobs. They can do this easily in *bad* jobs.

    This trend and its consequences I think require many to rethink about how employment and child rearing related to both male and female roles. Even in the US now the fifties and sixties with its stable family sustaining jobs for people with moderate or decayed education is rapidly disappearing. We are this seeing and continue to see lots of “third way” mormon families. The good news is that if you can get into the right part of the labor market things are looking up for institutionalized accommodations such as flexwork, jobsharing, on and off ramps (developing) that can help make this a reality. But this is only available at the top end of the market.

  47. Thanks rah. Great comment.

  48. Thank you for this post. I’ve found that women in the church are extremely judgmental of one another. Twelve years ago, my husband and I made the decision for me to be the primary breadwinner and he became a stay at home dad. It works for our family and the decision was made through thoughtful prayer and counseling with each other. And yet, I have been asked by other RS members if my husband, “was still going to school”, “is physically disabled”, or “had mental health issues”. No, my husband is a healthy, stable college graduate who quit his career to be the primary caregiver in the home– women do it every day. At any rate, as my Dad always says– the doctrine or the church is true in spite of the people, not because of them. Thanks again for reminding us all that our most important role in the church is to love and help each other.

  49. Jennifer says:

    I must say that I find the arguments about the “9 out of 10 Mormon women work” slightly annoying. All of the followup comments seem to only state that making the “9 out of 10″ statement will make people want to work, feel thu have to work, etc. All these posts point only to SAHMs deciding that they want to work. Not one person (unless I missed it) talk about those of us who would LOVE to stay home with our children but financial issues prevent it. I work full time as a nurse. On night shift. And I have a 5 month old baby and an 8 year old at home. I don’t “choose” to work. I have no choice. My husbands income would not be nearly enough to support us. We are both working to keep the bills paid. If I could stay home, I would in a heartbeat. I HATE going to work and missing out on my sons life, even if it’s just the small things. It pains me to have him at a sitter. It hurts to think that I may miss his first steps or first words. I hate that I can’t be home taking care of him because I have to be at work caring for other people.
    So please don’t make an assumption that these working moms “choose” to be there.

  50. Jennifer,
    Thanks for your perspective. I don’t think everyone was claiming that women all choose to work. I think the 9 out of 10 number is important because most women who work feel they need to. You’re comment highlights that reality. Thank you.

  51. Rah, so glad you brought that part up. I was hoping the conversation would turn there. With my background in family studies through the lens of public policy, its those workplace accommodations that are immensely important to sustaining families economically. This is where I believe that action needs to be taken and now that Mormons have an apostle of God calling for this, it seems like a number of Mormons are going to have to question their allegiance to Republican values. The MOTHERS platform of MomsRising.org that calls for these workplace changes is mostly considered a Democratic and progressive movement. Maybe now we can move past that and get Mormons working together to make the workplace more supportive and sensitive families’ needs. The Women’s Service Mission at WAVE has been covering these issues in a number of posts and with this encouragement from General Conference, you can be sure that more will be covered in the near future. I really do believe that societal change like Elder Cook is calling for will make a difference in the lives of Mormon women even though it seems that so many believe that employment doesn’t have any affect on them. I just hope that members of the church will follow this call and work together. Modeling off the Dutch system (featured in the book The War on Moms: Life in a Family Unfriendly Nation) is a good place to start.

  52. Kristine says:

    We probably ought to start making those changes by having a generous parental leave policy for Church employees on the books before preaching to other companies. Just sayin.

  53. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the church were to lead the way on this? But already being 50 years behind the times, how likely is it that they all of a sudden are going to get progressive on us?

    I’ll maintain that its the responsibility of the members of the church to do what is right on this front regardless of when the church does.

  54. 51 – Jenne

    Many of the family-supporting and family-sustaining organizational and public policies are, unfortunately, very partisan issues. The underlying fact is that the trends of rising wage inequality and median wages/compensation not rising with the rate of productivity is the trend most harmful to the goal of sustaining families on a single income, a value shared by many Mormons. As Jennifer #49 points out there are large number of families that desperately want a parent home with the children and simply can’t afford it. As things like decreased employment security, lack of benefits, and flat wages have become more and more widespread it is harder and harder for many families w/o graduate school education to justify the risk of single income career planning. No one disputes that this is happening. Economists argue over why it is happening (skill-biased technological change, break down of worker friendly policies and institutions, global trade). Best knowledge right now is that technological change and institutions each count for a good portion. New work seems to cast doubt that global trade has much to do with it (outside shifts in industry composition). There is also plenty of legitimate disagreement on how to address it. Tax and transfer, labor policy, protectionist trade policies. Personally, I think society is better off when people can reliably work for a personal and family sustaining wage. Dignity of work, social cohesion and all that. So I back policies that keep wages higher even at the expense of some net economic loss (ducking libertarian economists throwing Ayn Rand novels at my head) though I have a feeling that when it all shakes out such policies probably don’t cost very much as economic growth starts to sputter at high levels of inequality as we have now.

    I have heard the Church’s own HR policies are archaic and not so family friendly. I have heard the managers there tend to be fairly sensitive to family issues though not necessarily to women’s issues.

    Long and short of it – get your kids as much education as possible, especially in math and technical skills. Women work hard, don’t waste time, get some good work experience under your belt before kids. Choose your occupations wisely. Encourage couples that try and find a third way.

  55. “I have heard the managers there tend to be fairly sensitive to family issues though not necessarily to women’s issues.”

    Not if you count benefits, including coverage for family planning.

  56. Kristine says:

    uh, what “women’s issues” are not “family issues”?

  57. mmiles

    I was trying to draw a distinction between policies – such as health coverage which I have heard were bad and general manager behavior such as being supportive and flexible with sick children or need to attend to family obligations on a give day which i hear is generally better (though I am sure it is by no means ubiquitous across all managers).

    Kristine – yeah that was poorly worded. I mean that they tend to get family issues that aren’t exclusively women-specific, but that women specific issues (a subset of family issues such as maternity) are dealt with much more spottily as i am sure few would be surprised.

  58. rah,
    Thanks for clarifying, and thanks for participating in the discussion.

  59. Sweden seems to be a very family-friendly nation in which to live and work. Anyone with first-hand experience can weigh in?

    I have not reproduced, but I haven’t worked for a couple months either. Welcome to the post-recession economy, kiddos. When only 1 in 5 college graduates had a job in 2009…

    I certainly don’t feel particularly respected or that my contributions to society are appreciated. I live on money I saved from my last job, I go out and do things, I volunteer. I’ve had it up to here with the over-30 crowd thinking people like me should just “try harder.” I don’t live with my parents, so I don’t see how my lack of career training and loneliness are any skin off your backs! Look up “Generation Y” on Wikipedia, we don’t have jobs because older people ain’t retirin’, and ironically, we have more college education! The Oregonian recently ran an embittered op-ed about this that’s worth checking out.

    Basically, I have stopped caring about being a producer in the capitalist economy, because it didn’t do squat for me. Who wants to use their college education to shuffle around the blue stack of papers to the red stack for minimum wage? I’ve decided to pursue a dream of a non-9 to 5 career; no less risky, and probably more intellectually stimulating.

    There’s a whole legion of us, under 25 and getting your coffee, wandering the streets getting some fresh air while the rest of you get paid to browse the Internet 75% of the time, a not-insignificant number of us suffering from PTSD from a decade of Middle Eastern wars.

    If I am an unemployed mother, it won’t be because I had the LUXURY of taking time out of a career. I will never have had more than benefit-less jobs to begin with. Buck up, future mothers, because the yuppies with their SUVs and McMansions and “stress” don’t get it. We shall bring children into this world as our great-grandmothers did, with blood, sweat and tears, perhaps working from home but working nonetheless, taking what we can get–no longer laundry and sewing, perhaps–in the information age, we will write, we will translate, we will create useful goods and sell them, we will take our kid with us to the park and the museum and whatever else is cheap–private, tutored, expensive preschool and violin lessons be damned! We shall use our college Shakespeare and genetics and tap dance classes to teach our kids, we will use these brains we worked so hard at developing, not to be just some dude’s $9 an hour secretary but to do what we freaking dreamed of! We will not get caught up in the asinine mommy wars and fret over organic baby food and whether some lady at Starbucks breastfeeds or not, for we are strong, we are poor, and we were robbed of economic opportunity but not our families and dreams! Our great-grandmothers lived respectable, hardworking, and hopefully happy lives without the benefits afforded to women in our day, so so can we!

    Great for you if you get to have the white, middle-aged, affluent woman’s dilemma of “aprons or heels.” But it’s hard for a psychologically scarred generation to muster up the energy, or money, to care. We will never have the houses you had, the cars you drove, the Baby Gap clothes. My plumber father could send his kids to private school. I’d be shocked if my actuary husband will be able to do the same: the cost of living is just so unbelievably high. Twenty-somethings just don’t sign mortgages or go to law or med school to”do it.”

    When we have our first child, everyone will be working: working to maintain whatever jobs we have, working to cough up $4 per gallon (and walk that kid around and take the bus), working to stay educated and hopeful and hopefully be able to have 2 bedrooms.

    Employed vs unemployed is a stupid way to divided anyone up these days. Kids or no kids, man or woman.

  60. Kristine says:

    rah–my point was actually that “women-specific” issues like maternity should be regarded as central to the family, and pertinent to EVERYONE. We need a paradigm shift that leads to _all_ workers being treated as human beings with lives and responsibilities for care-taking, instead of continuing to pretend that men are automatons who can be fully in service to their employer and women are defective men who need to be coddled and are thus less valuable employees. The Church ought to be at the forefront of this thinking, not at the very tail end.

  61. Kristine,

    Couldn’t agree more. That is where the Church cum employer has huge room to improve as I understand it and is in many ways caught way way in the past. People inside tend treat these things as too gender-roled and not enough as an over all family matter letting the families themselves sort out the details. If you happen to fall afoul of the Mormon “mainstream” way then they have trouble dealing with the situation. Again this is all from what I have heard from different people working at CHQ. So take it all with a grain of salt.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,831 other followers