Monday, December 8, 2008

Defending motherhood

Please excuse the excessive use of capital letters and exclamation points. I'm extremely passionate about all this...

During my reading of today's paper, I came across an article that sucked me in. The title included the words "women's role" and "controversy." Now you're hooked, right?:) So I read it, got very aggravated, and feel the need to respond by writing in this record-keeping blog, and reaching out to my little sphere of influence.

Here's a summary of the article for you (if you want to read the whole thing, email me and I'll send you a link):

-The general president of the LDS Relief Society (that's the Church's organization for women) gave an address on motherhood Oct. 2007.

-One year later there is still much discussion and disagreement on it. Some people are so incensed that they started a website to counter what Sister Beck said.

-A symposium was recently held where one topic discussed was titled: "Mormon Motherhood: Choice or Destiny?" [excuse me while I get some eye-rolling out of my system so I can get on with a mature response]

-Five presenters spoke for over an hour about their beliefs that Sister Beck's talk, and other messages on the same subject by LDS leaders, "narrow the role of women in the church by minimizing the contribution of those who don't have children and stay at home to raise them, whether by choice or through circumstances they can't control." (thoughts to follow on that)

-A question and answer session was held. (and that)

-Things are mentioned about the "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (and that)

-Quotes are given about feelings on motherhood. (and that)

-Ends by quoting one of the commenters and relating the scene that followed in the hallway after the presentation. One woman got up and said, "I'm a mother of five, I'm not a Ph.D. candidate, and that's not in my future. I've always had a very confident sense of self, and I attribute that to being raised in the church. I feel powerful. I don't need anything more than what I do, but I want that mutual respect [that panelists had discussed for those outside traditional LDS roles]." Apparently, several audience members sought her out in the hallway and had a "heated discussion" with the following quote involved, "You're a slave and you don't even know it."

Whaaaaaaat?! I can't express how disappointed I am. And about so many things! Sister Beck is a leader, called of God. Time and effort is much better spent listening to and applying what she says to our lives than getting offended and working against her (and by extension, God). I'm so disappointed that members of the LDS church would willfully and publicly cause such dissension. And mostly, I'm disappointed that SO MANY people are missing the mark. And instead of looking more intently for the mark, they berate others for trying.

Here's what one woman was quoted as saying (she starts by quoting an author that isn't named),
"We are fed up with the myth that it's the most honorable and important thing we do...and if you don't love every second of it, there is something wrong with you. (that's the end of the author quote) Motherhood is prescribed essentially as the only role for women eternally."

First of all, the only people that I have ever heard (or read) say that if you don't love every second of it there is something wrong with you are people who are complaining. NEVER have I heard a leader of the church or any proponent of stay-at-home motherhood say anything remotely like that. Of course you're not going to love every second of it! It's HARD WORK! But nothing worthwhile was ever achieved easily. Secondly, one of the most beautiful things about motherhood is that it is an eternal role. This woman makes it sound like women will only be wiping runny noses and sweeping for eternity.

Next quote, by a different woman:

On Sister Beck's talk: "...once again, women felt they were being handed a script for their lives that they couldn't follow."

On the Proclamation: "[It] gives a woman only one role. The single woman exists in the proclamation only as daughter of heavenly parents waiting to fulfill her destiny...Being a mother is a good and a necessary role, but a good mother must first be a good person, with roles and needs outside that of mother."

One more quote by another woman: "Motherhood really is meaningless unless there is a person being the mother in the first place."

First, God would never give us guidelines for how to return to Him if He didn't think we could do it. Yes, it's hard. But that doesn't mean we can't do it! Yes, there are extenuating circumstances that fall outside the preferred route, but that does not mean that we should stop working toward the ideal!

Second, the Proclamation does not give a woman only one role. Sounds like someone hasn't really read it; or if she did she saw only what she wanted to see. Read it for yourself; it's amazingly enlightening.

Third, I agree that a good mother must first be a good person, but being a good person is not contingent upon having "roles and needs outside that of mother." Yes, motherhood needs a person there in the first place. However, the implication that full-time dedication to being a mother precludes a woman from being a person is false (not to mention insulting). I'm so SO tired of hearing things like this that insinuate that motherhood is confining, suffocating, or destructive to a woman's individuality.

The general tasks mothers perform make it easy to give in to feelings of confinement or loss of self. This is where we are given the opportunity to grow! Motherhood is so much bigger than keeping kids alive and keeping the house clean. My friend Jordan posted this about how motherhood is not about losing yourself, but finding out who you are in relation to someone else. Read that as well if you would like more enlightenment. Motherhood requires countless sacrifices of the mother. The easy way to look at those sacrifices is to get tired and say that you've lost your sense of self. Thoughts like that just make it harder to keep going. Instead, look at those sacrifices as the fact that you are part of something bigger and more incredible than you could ever be by yourself. Motherhood is such a huge job, it's going to be a huge part of who a woman is.

Lastly, the only people who "narrow the role of women in the church" are those who minimize the influence of stay at home mothers. Church leaders are trying to show us the amazing influence for good that mothers can have if they focus on their families instead of escaping through jobs, hobbies, etc in search of themselves. Sometimes jobs are necessary, and I applaud mothers who appropriately balance necessary employment with their duties as wife and mother. Hobbies are good and can be wonderfully enriching activities. But when a mother lets these things get too high on the priority list when they aren't needed, she is taking away from what her family could be.

I feel incredibly blessed to live the life I do. My husband works hard for our family. He's working even harder these days working full time and going to school for a masters degree. His efforts make it possible for me to focus my time on our sons and our home. I have been blessed with three healthy, happy, incredible sons who bring me more joy in this life than I ever thought possible. These same boys push my mind, body, emotions, and every other part of me to their limits. They have caused me to grow and I have learned so much from being their mother and Bret's wife. I still have so much to learn, and I'm looking forward to it. Sometimes I look forward with trepidation, but I'm confident that whatever I may go through as a mother will bring me closer to my goal of an eternal family. I know that there is immense joy to be found in family. Perhaps I will post on why I know that one of these days, but this is already too long:)

Thanks for reading this all the way through. I really feel like I did not do this justice. I'm at a loss of how to do better. Ultimately, understanding and embracing the role of motherhood, and parenthood in general (father's have just as rough a time as mothers do), requires an understanding of Heavenly Father, His plan, His roles, His will, and principles such as service and self-sacrifice.

Originally written: August 9, 2008

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