Thursday, March 12, 2009

An appreciated question

A friend of mine in another ward asked if I'd be willing to sing as part of a group performing for their ward talent show. I'm always game to sing, so I showed up to the practice on Tuesday, and was the only one there. I showed up to the practice this evening, and again, was the only one there. It's kind of sad that of the 14 people who said they'd sing (I believe all of them in the other ward) I'm the only one who actually shows up to practices.

But, because we didn't sing, I did have an interesting discussion with this friend and her husband. I'm a pretty liberal, somewhat unorthodox Mormon, and I'm a working mother. There are any number of statements one could point to indicating my working outside the home is sub-optimal, from a church perspective. This friend's husband wanted to know if I felt like I got any flak for being a working mom.

I'd have to say, no. I'm sure there are people who are uncomfortable with my decision, whether because they think it's the wrong one, or because they expect that I disagree with their decision. For the most part, I don't hear a single word about my working outside the home, except possibly in support. Perhaps it's because people are sensitive about the possibility that they might alienate me; perhaps I'm oblivious to their judgment; perhaps everyone around me is just too busy with their own lives to care about how I'm living mine. I claimed this evening that there may be a generational difference--those of us who are too young to remember Pres. Benson telling all the women in the church to quit their jobs in order to say home with children haven't experienced the same intensity of the mommy wars, I suspect, and I don't think care so much, or don't feel as threatened by the choices other women make. At least, that's my hope. I certainly hope that none of the women who I go to church with feel threatened at all by my choice to pursue a career (of sorts, anyway--I'm not sure grad school really counts as a career. My in-laws certainly don't think so :P ).

Anyway, this friend's husband said he thought it was because the church has switched its emphasis from specific behaviors, and from culture, to more teaching of doctrinal principles, with the expectation that we'll figure it out for ourselves. I like that explanation too--it's another one that resonates as true for me.

Just to prove we're dutifully teaching our daughter about the many roles open to her, here are some pictures of Derrick letting Sylvia help him work on the computer, and Sylvia helping her mom with laundry (no gender roles there!), and a cute one of Sylvia laughing in her highchair, just because it's cute.


  1. I would hope that it's because people are becoming less judgemental and more accepting of other people's choices. I think more diverse lifestyles have started to infiltrate the Mormon culture, including working moms. And while I would debate you over your political views, I would never (and I hope others wouldn't) debate you on a decision that is between you, your family, and the Lord.

  2. I'm glad you haven't had those conversations or been "talked too" by those people in our ward. I've decided that there will always be those people and to not let it bother me (but there are some in our ward now)... Maybe they think grad school is ok, but not an actual job?

  3. That's what I'm hoping too--that people are becoming less judgmental and, as my friend's husband said, focusing on principles rather than on individual choices. So, we realize the principle is "nurture your children," not "don't work outside the home."

    It would be kind of funny if I don't get "talked to" because grad school isn't a job, given that I work longer hours as a grad student than I have for any "real" job (or did, at least, until Sylvia came along). I suppose it could also be I'm oblivious (definitely true), or those who would chastise me already think I'm a flaming liberal and realize I'm a lost cause :)

  4. I don't think anyone said anything to me while I was working. The truth is, very few women stay completely unemployed their entire married lives. It seems like a lot of women find employment in some capacity here or there. What I don't like is when women's employment gets "ranked." For example, if someone is able to work while also caring for her children, it is usually talked about as a better situation -- and women who hire childcare while they work are for some reason not as good. Maybe all that may be true, but it sure sucks when someone ranks your employment situation and finds it lacking when you, your spouse, and God decided that what you are doing is best for all parties involved.