There seems to be a growing undercurrent in church culture of treating single women with careers with a certain amount of suspicion. I’ve noticed the following, or been part of the following conversations in the last six months or so. 1) Someone in the Bloggernacle linked to a letter to the editor to the Daily Universe by a male student’s mother. She lamented the number of women who seemed uninterested in having families, and instead were pursuing their careers. She suggested that the women spend more time pursuing an MRS. degree at BYU. 2) I was having a conversation with a favorite cousin of mine in Utah. He wants to get married and was looking for girls to date. I asked him what he was looking for and he said "Well, you know, not the Hillary Clinton type." Intrigued and amused, I pressed him. "You know, women who don’t care about their families." 3) The very helpful talk by the local bishop at the annual Duck Beach phenomenon for singles in North Carolina. Basically, "I know your single life is so fun, but you really should want to get married." 4) The apparently controversial cover article in the Ensign this month mentioned this same observation. Overall I liked the article, but bristled a little at the suggestion that staying single and having a career was "glamorous. " Perhaps assuming that the glamour was outweighing the desire to get married and have children, women were choosing to turn their backs on having families.
Let me respond with a little anecdotal evidence of my own. I’m pretty plugged into the culture of career- oriented single women in the church. I live in DC, a major metropolitan magnet for LDS singles. I’ve also lived in Boston. I’ve known a lot of successful, career-oriented single women. My closest friends are engineers, nurses, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, talent agents, musicians, lobbyists, and government workers. Many of us own our own homes. All of us have college degrees, and many have advanced degrees. In fact, it seems to me that I personify the fears that people seem to have about single women. I have a law degree from a good school and I’m going back to school in the fall to focus that law degree in international public policy. I’m starting a new promotion-oriented job in the next week or two. I have debt from law school, and own my own home. I travel a lot, and spend a good amount of my free time socializing with my many friends in the area. Further, I’m really a happy person–I love my life, and recognize that I’ve been greatly blessed. Apparently, I’m the glamour girl that everyone seems to be afraid of. (And trust me, I’m chuckling an ironic chuckle at the thought of me being anything remotely related to glamorous…thanks for the compliment, but….)
Let me tell you something else about me and my career-oriented, successful single friends. We all love the gospel. We’re active in the church, and hold (at times) multiple callings. Most of us are returned missionaries, and we’re all endowed. We have strong testimonies, and we rely on those testimonies to get us through hard times. We also rely on each other, and confide in each other, and let me let you in on a little secret. Without exception, every one of my friends, me included, want with all our hearts to get married and have children. Here’s a little more of a shocker, as far as I know, every single one of us wants to stay home and raise those children if it will be financially feasible in our families. We talk about it a lot. (Just last week, I had a long discussion with my two closest friends (those graduate degree holding successful women) about what kind of community we want to raise our children in.) Further, and here’s something many may not have considered, each of us embarked on our careers with the thought of being mothers on our minds. We all chose success-oriented positions because we knew that if it ever became necessary (for the good of our families) to work while we were mothers, a professional career would allow us much more freedom to go part time, cyber-commute, or simply arrange flexible schedules.
Here’s another reason we chose our careers. We want to be happy. There is no way that I’m sitting around, biding my time in a dead end job that I hate, waiting for someone else to come in and "fix" my life. If I want to be a happy person, I’m responsible for making that happen. I’m responsible for developing my own testimony. I’m responsible for making my career happen, and finding satisfaction in that career. I’m responsible for making scary financial decisions on my own–buying a house on my own, refinancing on my own, buying a car on my own, figuring out what to do when the water main breaks and front yard floods–on my own. Would I rather share that responsibility with someone? Would I rather share the joy of my life with someone? Would I rather embark on parenthood with someone? Would I rather travel with someone? Would I rather engage in mundane daily living knowing that someone else loved me and had my back? You bet. Am I going to wait around for someone else before I start living my life? Absolutely not. Men (and women) are that they might have joy, and I choose joy.
So here’s the thing, in the name of both Christianity and feminism, please stop judging other peoples’ lives when you don’t understand their situations. This cuts both ways. Women who work, or choose careers, need to stop snarking at women who choose to stay home with their children. The entire women’s rights movement was built on the principle that we trust women enough to let them make decisions about their lives. The same arguments that gave women the vote should be applied in allowing women to stay home and raise their babies. Judge not that ye be not judged…you don’t know the thoughts and intents of another’s heart. So stop judging women who have lives that you don’t lead. Let women (and if they are fortunate enough to have husbands, let wives and husbands) make decisions for their own families, and choose the best path for their own lives. If we love the gospel, and strive to make it the centerpiece of our lives, we’ll stay close to the spirit, and rely on the guidance of the One who has the capacity and right to judge.