Thursday, September 25, 2014

On "The Working (Mormon) Mother Problem"

This is actually something that has been on my mind for quite some time, but as the urge to actually blog about it was inspired by a particular thing, I'm going to do this in "open letter" format, as those are kind of popular these days.

Dear Leaders of the Latter Day Saint Church/Directors of the LDS Institute of Religion,

First of all, I love you guys.  I really do.  I know we don't always see eye-to-eye on things and sometimes you make me cry and question my self-worth entirely, but hey, I'm a Mormon feminist, so that's just part of the package.  I try to trust in your counsel and believe that you mean well and kind of know what you're doing (your line of communication to the Person In Charge is much shorter than mine, after all), but then I read this (for people who don't like to click on things, it's the chapter on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home" in the "Eternal Marriage" Institute Student Manual), and I felt a little perturbed, to be quite honest with you.  As a single LDS woman who hopes to one day have a PhD and also a husband and children, this is something that's on my mind quite a bit, and I hope you don't mind if I offer some of my thoughts:

First, this manual was published in 2003; however, the most recent quote in this chapter is from 1996, and the majority of the quotes are from before I was born.  I know that some principles are eternal, but things have changed.  As Dallin H. Oaks so kindly pointed out last October, the median age for first marriage for men and women is on the rise.  A lot of LDS women aren't getting married at age 21 anymore.  And not because we're too busy burning our bras and singing along to Helen Reddy--we're just facing the reality that marriage isn't a guarantee.  So we're following the counsel of Gordon B. Hinckley and "getting all the education that we possibly can," and with that education comes opportunities and careers, hopes and plans.  Imagine what it would be like to plan for several years to build a house, and lay a foundation, and then have to leave it behind.  Getting married and having children would be lovely; but sacrificing our entire careers to do so would feel as if we were abandoning a huge part of ourselves.  It's not that we love our careers more than our families, but we've loved them longer.  Furthermore, with that large amount of education we obtained, many of us also obtained student debt.  Even if I were married to a billionaire, I would still feel a responsibility to pay for my education myself.  And unless my mommy blogging really takes off, that means I need a job outside of the home.

Secondly, many of the quotes seem to imply that the only reason mothers would work (if they have husbands who also work) would be to afford fancy and unnecessary things.  This is not why most mothers work outside the home.  As I mentioned before--we put a great deal of time and sacrifice into developing our talents and our careers.  We find fulfillment and joy in them.  One quote by Ezra Taft Benson wondered how any woman could find anything more exciting and fulfilling than housework and changing diapers, begging the question, has Ezra Taft Benson ever changed a diaper?  Of course there is joy in motherhood, and some women need only that to be fulfilled, and that's great, but every personality is different.  A woman should not be made to feel like a bad parent (or the instigator of her divorce or the cause of gang violence and societal collapse) because she is truly happy being a working mother.

Third, not only are the quotes in the lesson a little outdated, they also lack variety of source.  None of the people cited have ever had the experience of being a working mother...or a stay-at-home mother...or a mother...or a woman.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if women who are trying to make important decisions about their families and careers could hear the perspectives of women who have had to make these same decisions?  I'm sure there are women in the General Auxiliary Presidencies who would love to chime in about their experiences as mothers or as career women (as some of them haven't even been married!).

Finally (though I could say more), and maybe this part is to all of the married or hoping-to-be-married people who read this blog, but I want to stress two words in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World":  "individual adaptation."  Actually, I just want to stress one word:  "individual."  I strongly believe that there is no "one size fits all" approach to raising a family.  I came from the "working dad/homemaker mom" household, but we weren't the Cleavers.  Some kids I knew came from the "two-income family" household, but they weren't the Huxtables.  (I don't know of any pop-culture reference of a family where the mom worked and the dad stayed home off the top of my head.)  Following a tradition out of a sense of societal obligation only can be really harmful and can cause resentment if partners feel that compromises are unfair or sacrifices are unequal.  (Also, they could be limiting to men who are--gasp!--actually better at nurturing than their wives are.)  Husbands and wives should consider together, as equal partners, what situation works best for them as a couple and as a family.

And that's all I have to say about that.  To sum up, maybe just think about updating the Institute Manual a little bit.  Thanks.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Life as of Late: September 2014

Guys, I've been really remiss with my blogging.  I've just been super busy!  Complete with "Buffy" .gif's to illustrate, here's what's been up:

In mid-August, I started working as a Back and Limbs TA/prosector for Medical Gross Anatomy.  This means lots of teaching students, but also lots of dissecting.

I am not this creepy when I handle scalpels.
Dissection was really tedious.  And also time-consuming.  So much so that I wished there was a magical spell for it.  (This is the part where I would post a .gif of Dark Willow flaying Warren with her magical powers,* but I decided against it because I already posted a Gentleman which is sure to give the ladies from my home ward nightmares as it is.)  The students just had their first exam, so thankfully I have a break for a little while until the Head and Neck module starts.

And by "I have a break," I mean, "I will just be incredibly busy doing other things."  Real school has started up again.  My two "real" classes are "Advanced Kinesiology and Biomechanics" and "Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience," both of which involve a lot of reading and keep me quite stressed out.

Forty-minute presentation on an article about apical-basal polarity of neuroepithelial cells.
Also, this is the year that I take qualifying exams, so you know....

Maybe if I could brain-suck the QE committee...
My summer/fall transition hasn't been completely devoid of fun.  Thanks to some talented and creative people in my ward, I got to participate in a film that will be entered in a film festival for our tri-ward campout.  It was a musical riff-off similar to the one in "Pitch Perfect," and it was quite fun to pretend that I lived in the world where complex emotions can only be expressed through singing.

Yes, we did.
Other than that, things haven't really been all that exciting or great.  I've had some confusing life stuff going on that's kind of put me on a tilt-o-whirl of emotions.**  Add to that the fact that the weather has gotten significantly colder over the past few weeks and I have an upper respiratory tract thing which turned into a coughing thing which means cough medicine.

Even the tablet stuff is is that even possible?
Anyway, at least it's kind of officially fall now (or it will be in a few days, I guess).  Maybe that will make things more interesting.  At least there's Halloween!

Even Giles is down with it.

*Don't worry, he was a murderer and a misogynist and totally deserved it.
**This is probably stuff that will be written about in my memoirs once I'm dead.