Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In "Praise" of Stay-At-Home-Moms

Forgive me if I come on strong in this post.... I was pretty riled up at first, and I'm trying to simmer down a bit. I was just so disappointed and appalled! Despite my cool down though, I think I probably still read a little intense, so hopefully you'll be patient with me ;).

I had a friend recommend Dr. Laura's book In Praise of Stay-at-Home-Moms to me. To her credit, she was first recommending it to another friend who currently stays at home and I hopped in on the conversation and said that it sounded interesting, and she said I ought to check it out. Well, I only got through about half of it. Don't get me wrong-- I have praise for stay-at-home moms ("SAHMs" in her book) too, and certainly I think there is a case for staying home with your children. In my opinion, Dr. Laura is just not making that case. In fact I feel that she made SAHMs look small-minded and condescending, and managed to spew out an impressive spray of slander against every woman on the planet who doesn't spend every waking and would-be sleeping moment coddling and nurturing their child. Her approach was very close-minded and showed no compassion for the incredible variety of family situations, touting the singular approach of mother at home all day, father at work all day. She continually made extreme, unsupported statements. Here's my favorite example: 
"Unless their mothers ran cathouses or often lay prone on the couch in a drunken stupor, women who had SAHMs describe always feeling safe and cared for" (p. 18, underline added).

????

Okay I'm sorry, but that is completely absurd, and quite frankly it is wrong. There is no need for such crude exaggeration (okay, I know I'm also being a little strong... but come on). I think the thing that bothered me most about her book was that she kept emphasizing mother being home as the paramount parenting quality, when in fact there are plenty of women who stay at home that may not be very good mothers. (see this quote from Elder Ballard: There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else). There are undoubtedly other parenting qualities that could take a higher precedent, like "prioritizing children above all else," which doesn't necessarily always happen just because a mother stays home. 

She also continually attacked women who stated that they felt like they would be crazy if they were home all day, so they kept part-time jobs or something. She stated, without exception, that those women needed to get over themselves and spend every moment of their entire day with their children (It sounds like I must be exaggerating, right? I'm not, she really expressed herself in extremes). Here's my thought: if a woman feels insane when she is at home all the time, she's probably not going to be the most amazing mother. Give her a break-- if she's going crazy, it would be healthier for all parties, including the children, if she had some outside activities. Whether that's a part-time gig, volunteer work, time spent developing talents, or whatever it doesn't really matter. But I do know this: everyone in the family is better off when mother is happy. And if mother is unhappy being at home all day, then there needs to be a different arrangement. This idea is probably better articulated by Elder Russell M. Ballard:
Sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children.

Further, Dr. Laura continually emphasized that every possible sacrifice should be made so that the mother can be at home all the time. If the husband has to take on 4 jobs and never spend a moment with his family, so be it. It's better for the children to have the 24/7 attention of their mother. This approach also concerned me, perhaps because I have a much higher opinion of my husband and the future father of my children than that. Her assertion was that the most valuable contribution a father can make is to support his wife in staying at home, and provide for the family. Certainly a man who works hard enough to support his family ought to be praised and acknowledged, but I am confident that is not the sole, nor the most important offering that a father has for his children. Having had a father that worked non-stop for many years of my childhood and then switched careers so he could better support my mother at home and spend more time with the family, I will tell you this: I would take an involved father over a financially-focused father every single time. Fathers need to be involved in the raising of their children! They have a valuable, wonderful perspective to offer that cannot be compensated in any other way. I find it concerning that Dr. Laura thinks so low of men that she considers their only viable offering to be an income. Personally, I am not so conceited to think that my attention and nurturing alone is enough to meet my (future) child's every possible need. I know that their father needs to be a part of that, and rightfully so.

To her credit, based on reviews from SAHMs it seems that she did make many women who are currently staying at home feel validated about the work they are doing. She also made some fair points about second wave feminism and other movements that have been unkind to SAHMs. For that reason I suppose this could be a good read to validate someone who is already at home and hopes to feel better about her decision. Though I feel that on that front she may have done poorly as well, largely because one of her key tactics in building up SAHMs is to slander women who make different life choices. Additionally, her tone of derision and belittlement towards other women is not any way to enlighten and inspire about the important role of SAHMs. No one, both SAHMs and all other women, benefit from belittling the women who don't stay home. If she was hoping at all to persuade other women of the merit of staying home (and she may not have wanted that; perhaps her goal was only to make SAHMs feel good) I am not convinced of her approach. As we know, true persuasion is done with evidence, love, and insight, not unkindness and criticism.

All that aside, I do think there is a strong case for women to stay at home with their children, particularly when they are infants and young children. But there is a better case for them than the one Dr. Laura makes, and there is a better balance to be found than the caricature of family life that Dr. Laura paints here. As one who admires and defends all mothers who make their children the highest priority, I raise my voice in praise of the sacrifice and love they consistently give. And to those that stay at home, I applaud you. Your work is valuable and irreplaceable. I would like to now endeavor to make at least a partial case for the important work stay-at-home moms do.

First, if I were to recommend a book that praises moms, I would first recommend this one:


Okay, I know that's not a book :). But we do get an excellent magazine every six months that records everything said in this conference. And in my experience, it is an amazing resource of insight and inspiration regarding the important role of mothers-- just see our motherhood page.

Second, I'd like to share some excellent insights that I gained from a class I took a couple years ago. Part of the discussion we had in that class consisted of analyzing the work that is done by women, and the value that is assigned to it. By value I mean not only the perceived importance of it, but also its monetary place in our worldwide economy. I'll start by sharing a couple of "case studies":

1) If a woman decided to go work for another family and did all the housework and raising of the children, and then the mother of that family decided to go and clean and care for the household of the first woman, they would both be considered "productive" in the GDP. However if both those ladies decided to stay home and cook and clean and care for their own respective families, it's the same as if they had done nothing (economically, they produced nothing of value, made no income, etc.).

2) One of our classmates had a baby recently. Her OBGYN, who delivered the baby, was considered "productive" and assigned a value by our GDP (and a high one at that). However the new mother, who carried the baby for 9 months, labored to deliver the baby for 26 hours, and brought a new little life into the world, did nothing!

Some pretty crazy thoughts, right? Makes you consider how we value things in the world, even in America. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's necessary for something to have a monetary value stamped on it for it to actually have value, but unfortunately the world seems to look at it that way doesn't it? That leaves stay-at-home mothers and nurturers in a rough, defensive spot. That is probably why Dr. Laura endeavored to write her book, and for that I suppose I admire her.

(I love this little gem, it's called "My wife doesn't work" lol)

Well here's a refreshing conclusion. Recent studies have concluded that the average cost of buying the services of a wife and mother, per year, would be about $109,000. Wow, right?! Those are some big dollars right there. So although "reproductive" work may not yet be considered "productive," by economic standards, you beautiful mommas out there can sit back and know that your net worth is at least a pretty six figures. And that's without even talking about how valuable your work really is! For that, I'd like to turn again to our esteemed and insightful Church leadership:

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels."
--The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

and
President Brigham Young expressed the thought that mothers are the moving instruments in the hands of Providence and are the machinery that give zest to the whole man, and guide the destinies and lives of men and nations upon the earth. He further said, “Let mothers of any nation teach their children not to make war, and the children would not grow up and enter into it.”

and here is perhaps my favorite:
"When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this. No wonder the men of God support and sustain you sisters in your unique roles, for the act of deserting home in order to shape society is like thoughtlessly removing crucial fingers from an imperiled dike in order to teach people to swim."
--Elder Neal A. Maxwell

I couldn't agree more; no wonder they support and sustain the mothers of the world! What an irreplaceable role mothers play in the lives of their children and the people around them. Today in the refugee health class I teach we were discussing whether a person can really make a "big difference." Many asserted that no, none of us are going to really change the world. But the resounding answer from one woman was that many people had made a "big difference" to her, namely her mother. Immediately the tone changed and everyone was nodding and smiling. I don't think I even need to say anything else.

If you want more on that "mom salary," it's all at: http://mom.salary.com.
And for more fun/interesting reading, there's this: NYT "The Economic Unit Called Supermom"


So what do you think about all this?
Was I too hard on Dr. Laura? That's okay if you think so, I confess I got emotional about it.
For what reasons would you praise stay-at-home-moms?

27 comments:

Stephanie said...

Kels,

I thought this was a great post, and I appreciated how you pointed out the incredible work that SAHMS do, while still pointing out that its not necessary to belittle other women in order to praise SAHMS.

I think its a natural reaction for people who are insecure about a decision they've chosen to criticize different choices others make: I know I fall victim to that mindset sometimes. I think that's why working moms might feel tempted to criticize SAHMS as not having sufficient ambition or drive, while SAHMS might be tempted to criticize working moms for not being sufficiently righteous or devoted to family.

I'm reminded of President Monson's recent talk on charity (WHICH I LOVED), where he said:

"My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways...Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. ...Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?"

Another article that I love by Michael Hardy at Square Two sums my feelings on this topic:

"Stay-at-home motherhood, desirable though it may be, is not a measurement of inherent righteousness. As Elder Ballard taught, since “there is no one perfect way to be a good mother,” we should start reinforcing that “what matters is that a mother loves her children deeply,” prioritizing her precious relationships with God, her husband, and them “above all else.” [18] Mormon women do work, some at home, some away. We should assume, first, that our sisters are doing best they can, rather than wasting our effort judging others against a checklist that Church leaders themselves have noted is not inflexible. This is not an attack on the traditional roles of women who stay at home, only a call for a stronger recognition that there are many reasons why women might not choose that path. We should work to meet their needs—such as daycare, domestic necessities, and spiritual and social support—and recognize their deep sacrifice, instead of suggesting that lack of full-time homemaking is a spiritual deficiency, making those who are leaving the home feel like they are inadequate. One hopes this does not contribute to the below average self-esteem exhibited among LDS women. [19]

Unrestrained or even self-righteous endorsement of stay-at-home mothers, to the exclusion of other possibilities, can indirectly condone career-driven fathers who disguise shirking fatherhood as “providing” by encouraging a total segregation of work within the marriage. Nothing is further from the example of a nurturing, loving, training, nourishing, and highly involved Father in Heaven working with His children, who exhibits both fatherly and motherly attributes. The ideal parenting situation is one where both parents can be just that: parents, with neither of them missing in action." http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHardyFeminism.html.

michelle said...

This is a hard one. I think motherhood -- and being home with kids -- has been devalued in our culture. At the same time, the complexity of life has made it harder for many women to stay home. And a lot of women are really defensive about all of this so it can be hard to have conversations about it. I'm glad y'all are talking about these things here.

I was glad to hear some of your thoughts on Dr. Laura's book. I haven't read it and wondered what it was like. I have felt similar things about some of the other things she has said. To her credit, though, I think she speaks in extremes to work against the extremes that have affected our culture. To knock some sense into people who aren't really challenging the way they see others living their lives. Still, it doesn't really acknowledge the complexity of individual lives.

I'm grateful we have the doctrine of personal revelation in our faith, because that makes a big difference. Still, I think that sometimes some of us who really do have some space for choice can be tempted to use that as an excuse to do what we want to do rather than what we should do. I say that because focusing on motherhood is not something that comes 'naturally' to me. I'm much more suited to the board room and other strengths. So I have to revisit the roots of my faith and my priorities on a regular basis to make sure I'm not selfishly doing my own thing to the expense of my kids. I have felt my appreciation for what it means to be a mother as I continue to try to be a better one.

I also have felt God lead me to ways that I can develop my own talents and abilities along the way. But I also feel Him constantly giving me opportunities to make sure I'm keeping them in their proper place.

Another thought I have is this: I think at some point, we all have to really own our own choices and I think on the whole, we as women struggle with that. I think the church is too often blamed for women's guilt or whatever. It's not the church's fault that we feel guilty. Guilt is either an invitation to repent (if healthy) or an indication of insecurity (if not healthy). Either way, the answer is to go to God. ;)

Karissa said...

Hmm... I wrote a comment that was really long and involved and then somehow an error occurred and it got deleted. Lame-o.

But I will say this: (climbing on soapbox) I don't really care for Dr. Laura, from a therapeutic perspective. And I haven't for a long time- ever since I heard her ask a woman whose husband was cheating, "What did you do to make him leave?" Granted the heart of the question, "What was your part in the breakdown of your marriage?" is valuable, but she communicates in a harsh and judgmental way that belies true therapy. That, and public radio (or television) is absolutely, 100% NOT the place to do therapy. (Climbing down from soapbox all huffy.)

While it is true she is combating extremes in our society, I don't think her extreme response is the right answer. The world may be wrong to the very left, but she is wrong to the very right. Does that make sense? And the wrong answer will never temper the other side. Extremes alienate other people. The truth is more intermediate, and while some extremists (on both sides)are still offended by the truth, most people can hear the truth and accept it.

The truth is, some women receive spiritual guidance to be a SAHM, while others receive spiritual guidance to not, or some combination of the two, etc.(Of course the "spiritual" part will vary depending on religion and involvement with religion. I believe all mothers have some level of spiritual guidance regardless of religion or lack thereof- it's far too important of a job for God to ignore.) (Sorry for that tangent.)

The comment I typed out before kind of detailed why Cory and I don't have children yet and the spiritual journey that the whole process has been for us. But it ended with a thought I haven't been able to shake: isn't true feminism valuing women regardless of their decisions, and trusting in their ability to make their own appropriate decisions?

Karissa said...

P.S. I just remembered that we have many readers who don't know who the heck I am, and why on earth I would judge Dr. Laura from a therapeutic perspective. I'm a therapist... but not on tv or the radio ;-)

Xan said...

Dr. Laura has never been high on my list of advice-givers. Probably because she made a statement once on radio about even single mom's weren't good moms. (So...single mom's need to get married so they can stay home and be good moms? That seems to be her solution...)

Anyway, I know that I go stir crazy staying in my house all day. Maybe having kids will make it different, but at this point I am not planning on being a tradition SAHM. My current job (here's to hoping it sticks around!) is really good about letting women work from home when they have kids. So being able to stay home with kids, and work (interacting with adults?! Yes, please) from home is my solution.

Will that make me a bad mom? Probably by some people's standards. But my mom always worked and managed to make us feel like she was available to us at ALL times. I've never felt neglected by her working. I felt loved and cared for. She's been there for everything for me. I think working helped her be a better mom.

Thanks for the post!

Yukiko said...

I don't think you sounded harsh at all; I think it was right on. And I appreciate you bringing up the importance that a husband/father has in the home because I feel like that's often overlooked both in and outside of Church culture.

This weekend I was hanging out with a few couples and one husband announced that since his wife (who recently had her second child) decided she didn't want to "work" anymore, it was now her responsibility to do all housework. He proudly announced to the other men in the room that he doesn't have to change diapers, or put the kids to sleep, or do anything else he doesn't want to. He just comes home and plays with the kids and is "the fun dad". His wife was right there, too, and she seemed to agree, although she lamented that she had to be the sole disciplinarian and her son seemed to like the dad more. I was so shocked and incensed at all this, but I also had to restrain myself because I know everyone comes from a different background and trying to push my beliefs on others will only lead to contention. However, I did try to reiterate Elder Packer's point that "There is no task, however menial, connected with the care of babies, the nurturing of children, or with the maintenance of the home that is not the husband’s equal obligation." I completely butchered it though (I need to try and memorize all these quotations!). Then the wife of this guy referenced a talk that I believe she said was by Sheri Dew, where Sister Dew told mothers that if they feel like they "need a break" they essentially need to get over themselves and stop being so selfish.

Now, I seriously doubt Sister Dew told mothers to "get over themselves". I'm wondering if anyone knows what talk she possibly could have been referencing? Because I would like to know what was REALLY said. Also, for any who are still reading this comment, what do you do when someone around you says something that you believe is so... wrong? I often kind of bite my tongue because these people may be extended family, or friends of friends (not exactly people I want to start an argument with), but then I wonder if I should say something, and how? I don't want to come off as judgmental or pretentious, but I also don't want to let harmful comments go unchecked.

Yukiko said...

Also, I feel like the harshest critics of mothers (whether they choose to stay at home, work outside the home, are single parent, etc.) are other mothers! What's up with that? Shouldn't we be supporting one another instead of being stumbling blocks?

Yukiko said...

OK, last comment I swear! But after making my earlier comments, I read Patricia Holland's talk "One Thing Needful" (http://lds.org/ensign/1987/10/one-thing-needful-becoming-women-of-greater-faith-in-christ?lang=eng&query=patricia+holland) and it is amazing and answered all my questions and made me realize that I am totally being judgmental and insecure. I ended up highlighting half the talk, but this really spoke to me:

"Obviously the Lord has created us with different personalities, as well as differing degrees of energy, interest, health, talent, and opportunity. So long as we are committed to righteousness and living a life of faithful devotion, we should celebrate these divine differences, knowing they are a gift from God. We must not feel so frightened, so threatened and insecure; we must not need to find exact replicas of ourselves in order to feel validated as women of worth. There are many things over which we can be divided, but one thing is needful for our unity—the empathy and compassion of the living Son of God."

Also, in answering my own question about why women and mothers seem to be the harshest critics of other women and mothers...

"I am very appreciative of the added awareness that the women’s movement has given to a gospel principle we have had since Mother Eve and before—that of agency, the right to choose.

But one of the most unfortunate side effects we have faced in this matter of agency is that, because of the increasing diversity of life-styles for women of today, we seem even more uncertain and less secure with each other. We are not getting closer, but further away from that sense of community and sisterhood that has sustained us and given us strength for generations. There seems to be an increase in our competitiveness and a decrease in our generosity with one another.

Those who have the time and energy to can their fruit and vegetables develop a skill that will serve them well in time of need—and in our uncertain economy, that could be almost any time. But they shouldn’t look down their noses at those who buy their peaches or who don’t like zucchini in any of the thirty-five ways there are to disguise it, or who have simply made a conscious choice to use their time and energy in some other purposeful way."

Stephanie said...

Yukiko, I LOVE those quotes! I think it's so true that we could be so much more united as sisters if we weren't threatened by different choices and lifestyles, but instead embraced each others' unique talents.

I think we may have to add those quotes to some of our quote pages on the blog. Thanks for sharing!

michelle said...

Then the wife of this guy referenced a talk that I believe she said was by Sheri Dew, where Sister Dew told mothers that if they feel like they "need a break" they essentially need to get over themselves and stop being so selfish.

Whoa. Sister Beck talked about being sure that we weren't always looking for reasons to not be home, but that isn't the same as saying women should never need a break.

Life is more fluid than that. I agree with whoever said that the extremes are usually not right, regardless of the direction they point. As passionate as I am about SAHMhood, I also believe very strongly that women benefit from education and from leaning on God to find ways to keep their selves also alive -- and to keep an active résumé. I think women's roles are more complex than men's in the LDS world, and as such, require more creativity and flexibility to be able to find the right balance at different stages between the primary roles of wife and mother and other opportunities that may present themselves. I believe God can help us make the choices about these things, and that our choices can and of necessity often will look different at different times in our lives.

And for the record, I love Sister Holland. ;)

michelle said...

One other thing -- I think the increased diversity can sometimes be confusing, too. Through it all, I think it's essential to stay grounded in doctrine and prophetic teachings and then turn to God to help us make the choices. It never ceases to amaze me how much variety can end up showing up with such choices. It's a great time to be a woman, but doesn't any one else also feel the great responsibility to sift through the choices and voices to find what is right for you? I sure do!

Emily said...

I agree, I don't think any type of mom needs to demean any other type of mom. There is definitely a competition going on between women, too. Wendy Shalit in both A Return to Modesty and the Good Girl Revolution addresses it, at least in part, as a sexual competition. Interesting to look at it that way.

I do see a sad trend, though: many moms seem to feel like staying home makes them too crazy, so they don't stay home. Could staying home to raise a family really be that bad for that many moms? Again, are we just not teaching our girls how to deal with staying home? Are we not teaching them the skills they need? I wish I knew.

Ruth said...

Emily, I really liked your last comment. I think it's a society-wide problem in a lot of ways--we just don't want to grow up and do hard things. I'm not saying that being a stay-at-home mom is harder than being a working mom, or vis versa. I think that each of us has the ability to receive revelation as to what is best for us and our family, and I have a deep respect for any woman who is trying to figure out that balance in the way that will be best for her and her family's situation. But I think you're right, I do think that we need to teach our daughters and our sons that the question shouldn't be "what will be the easiest/most fun for me," but "what is right for me and my family at this time?" Having been a mom and full-time student for most of my mothering career, I can tell you that it was not easy, and often I wished that I could spend more time at home with my baby (I'm sure that a lot of SAHMs have felt the same way, but opposite). But it was the right thing for me to be doing at that time in my life, just like it was the right thing for one of my best friends, who lives down the street from me, to be staying at home full time with her baby. And I know it wasn't (and isn't) easy for her either, but both of our experiences have been fulfilling and worthwhile for each of us. I guess the moral of this is, I hope that when I have a daughter and she is making that choice, I've been able to teach her so that the decision she makes, as to whether to stay at home or whatever else she may do, is based on revelation and love, not on selfishness. As long as that is the case, I think she will be able to be a wonderful wife and mother no matter what her circumstances are. And I guess maybe some of the problem with all the harsh criticisms that often get thrown around between working women and SAHMs is that sometimes we want to validate our own choices by having someone else to point to who is "taking the easy way out" and doesn't have it as hard as we do. But sadly, that isn't ever a real solution, because we can't and don't know other people's situations, and we don't have the right to tell them that what they are doing is easier or lazier or more selfish than what we are doing. We can only look at our own motives and make sure we ourselves are doing the right thing for the right reason.
Sorry that this was kind of a rambling post--you're all getting the benefit of my stream of consciousness at the moment :)

Stephanie said...

Emily,

In general I would agree with you and Ruth that even though being a stay at home mom is hard, it is absolutely worth while, and we need to teach our daughters the importance of making selfless decisions for their families.

However, sometimes in Mormon culture I think we make being a stay-at-home more demanding than it has to be by defining "stay at home momhood" so restrictively.

For instance, my ideal plan of being a stay at home mom is being able to spend most of my time with my children, but then also work part time from home as a method of keeping up some sort of connection with the "real world," as well as do something that helps me rejuvenate intellectually and emotionally.

With a law degree, there are actually lots of options to work from home.

Anyway, when I explained these plans to a well-meaning friend of mine, she told me (with kind intentions I'm sure) that she really didn't think it was possible to be a good stay at home mom and really be there for my children unless I was spending every possible second of the day focusing on my children, and a part time job would detrimentally compete with my time with them.

I think this idea (that seems to be somewhat prevalent in Mormon culture) that a mom is only being a good mom if she spends all day long gazing happily into her childrens' eyes definitely sets women up to either feel guilt and failure (if heaven forbid they take on another activity), or it really will drive a woman crazy because she becomes the "empty well" with no time for herself that Elder Ballard cautioned about.

I also think that when husbands are more involved in helping with children, moms are less likely to "go crazy" through shouldering the burden of child rearing in isolation and without appreciation. That's why I think it's so important to emphasize the role of fathers whenever we emphasize the importance of moms, because parenting isn't a mother's burden or joy to experience alone.

kels said...

Emily, I think that is a great question, and I'd like to offer my perspective at least. I would probably consider myself one of those girls that worries about feeling "crazy" (though I'd probably choose a different adjective) if I were to become a full-time stay at home mom. My guess is that there are diverse reasons that girls have this fear, but at least for me it stems more not from the concern that kids will make me crazy, rather that I worry that working with kids alone would not be completely fulfilling for me, nor would it allow me to reach my greatest potential. Perhaps that is the reason why many stay at home moms also teach piano lessons, volunteer with the PTA, in their children's classrooms, write blogs ;), etc. Though I expect my children to be my primary responsibility, I also expect to maintain and follow through with other responsibilities, like the ones I discussed in the "not only a childbearing task" post. My guess is that many women feel this way, including stay at home moms, and they fulfill their full capacity by doing one of the many things moms do: crafts, groups, work, etc. It's just that "my generation" if you will seems to vocalize that concern of finding a balance by saying things like "If I'm home all the time I think I'll go crazy..."

Does that make sense? I'm not sure if I articulated that well, but that's one idea at least. And if I'm accurate then it's not so much an issue of teaching girls to be prepared for homemaking, but teaching them how to receive personal revelation and obtain balance in their life (something I'm sure we are all still working on! I am, at least).

Everyone else-- amazing comments, I wish I had time to respond to them all!!

kels said...

And Ruth I loved your ideas/response too. Good insight.

Emily said...

Thanks Ruth. And I forgot to add 2 things -- oh man, being a stay at home mom I do need a break for sure, and more often probably than I should have!! I need to buck up sometimes and do the hard stuff (i.e. stop checking my e-mail and living in computer land -- that's my escape lately, doesn't profit to much). My husband's been traveling a bit lately and it is hard!!

And yes! Those dads are so important, too! This was an interesting perspective on fathers if anyone wants to read it: http://artofmanliness.com/2010/12/13/a-generation-of-men-raised-by-women/#ixzz187r0zd3B -- kind of a funny site.

kels said...

Steph I love how we commented on this at the same time. You said exactly the things I also wanted to say but wasn't sure how to spit it out. go team! ;) lol

Anyway Emily maybe that helped give some different ideas, and I hope you'll share a response with us!

Stephanie said...

Kels, that cracked me up to. I loved how you pointed out how motherhood encompasses more than just child bearing.

Emily, I wouldn't be hard on yourself for times when you need to take a break. I think we women are often too hard on ourselves. I don't know you personally, but from what I have read about you it sounds like you're a rock star stay at home mom who does her best to prioritize her family, so keep up the awesome work!

Emily said...

Oh funny! Yes we were all commenting at the same time. I think my last comment addressed what you were commenting on, but to expound: Yes, we all have those outlets, sometimes they are being on the computer and they're just a waste of time, sometimes they're a hobby that's just for fun, sometimes whatever we're doing makes some money, sometimes it's just some sort of volunteering... and we're able to connect at an adult level with others.

So, we all have something, sometimes it brings in income, sometimes it doesn't; I don't think it really matters if it does or doesn't -- I think the most important thing is that the family is first and that they're not neglected -- and there are some times when it feels like they take 99% of your time and there's no time for an outlet, and you give and you give, and then you just need a babysitter and it all becomes okay again!

Sorry, I'm just rambling. Sometimes my comments are just really short and I don't take the time to explain!! I've got to go to bed. That husband is home from his trip!

Emily said...

Dang it. I said I was going to go to bed, but I thought of one more thing. For me, I have a really hard time doing projects for money because I get really obsessed and obligated when money is involved -- and there have been a few times when people have asked me in recent years to work for them.

I have to tell them no because, for me, it will take me too much away from my primary responsibility at this point in my life. However, I'm sure part of that is just my personality and many others are able to balance it better. I'm probably OCD that way! Sorry, that's opening up another conversation there!

Ruth said...

Steph and Kels, thanks for your comments. I really agree with what you said. I think defining stay-at-home-motherhood as doing nothing but sitting around on the floor with your children, cooking, and cleaning house is not productive. I was actually talking about this with a friend this evening--before I was married, I read the classics and politics, kept up with current events, wrote, hiked, traveled, was involved in discussion groups, played music, gardened, etc. And I was a really fun and interesting person to be around. I haven't had time to do nearly as much of that as I used to when I was single, because of school, work, my baby, etc., but I think that if I were to drop all the things that made me happy and fun and interesting in order to be a "good" wife and mother and do nothing but stay home and cook and clean and change my baby's diaper (which, as Steph was saying, I for a while almost felt like I needed to do to be a good wife and mom), I would be doing a huge disservice not only to myself, but to my honey and my baby as well. My husband married a woman, not a kitchen drone, and my baby deserves a mom, not a housemaid. By keeping up the things that allow me to carry on an intelligent conversation with my husband and teach interesting things to my baby, I think I am a much better wife and mom.
As a side note, I have also found that a lot of those things are things that I can do with my baby and/or my husband--for example, my baby and I read poetry together, we go on family hiking and camping trips, we road-trip and travel together, etc. I think it really is about finding a balance and figuring out what you can and need to do to become the best person, and by extension the best mom and/or wife, you can be. I think forcing women to give up what helps them become their best selves, whatever that may be, so that they can be tagged as "good mothers," is counterproductive. This is something I have really been thinking about these past few months, because sometimes I do feel selfish when I take time to do things and go places "just for me." But in moderation, doing those things are really what make me able to be a happy, cheerful, interesting, and fun person for my husband and baby to be with. I think things like that in moderation are essential.
I guess perhaps the danger comes when, as you and Emily all pointed out, we slide too far one way or the other, either so focused on being the perfect wife and mom that we give up the very things about us that make us good, or so focused on our own personal interests and hobbies that we are not willing to give our time to our families when we should and need to.

michelle said...

Ido see a sad trend, though: many moms seem to feel like staying home makes them too crazy, so they don't stay home. Could staying home to raise a family really be that bad for that many moms? Again, are we just not teaching our girls how to deal with staying home? Are we not teaching them the skills they need? I wish I knew.

This is one of those things that I really wonder about, too. I struggle when I hear things like "I'm not the mom type" because I think that suggests that motherhood is supposed to come naturally for us all in some magical way. I've said this elsewhere, but I like to think of motherhood as something akin to a gift of the Spirit that some of us may have to work and pray for more than others. My experience has been that I have grown (or, rather, am growing) into motherhood, and really the only way for me to do that has been to DO IT. Very little about homemaking comes naturally to me, except maybe gospel teaching, so it's a constant effort to push through those barriers and and try to do what is hard. But I don't feel that in so doing I'm expected to forget anything and everything that I care about as an individual.

My personal feeling is that part of the reason we hear so much about the importance of motherhood in the church is for the very fact that God knows it isn't easy, so I see it as encouragement from Him to keep on keeping on!

I think forcing women to give up what helps them become their best selves, whatever that may be, so that they can be tagged as "good mothers," is counterproductive.

Hm. My feeling is maybe, maybe not, here. I think only God can really be the one to guide a woman about what really will help her achieve her 'best' self. I think sometimes motherhood does require some sacrifice, but I also believe that God can and does give us guidance along the way about ways we can keep our 'selves' alive -- and/or helps us refine our notion of self so that we can be more effective instruments in His hands -- and that obviously will be at home but along the way may include other spheres as well.

I also think so much of this is trial and error, and the vulnerability of that reality may be what may cause us to sometimes sabotage ourselves and each other. I think if we can see the struggle to balance and figure it all out as an opportunity to learn to lean on God, it might help us not do so much of that. We are here to learn by experience to discern right from wrong, light from darkness, and even good from better or best. Our leaders help us keep the highest priorities -- God and family -- always at the forefront, but they have never said that to be a good mom we have to give up everything else about ourselves.

p.s. I'd love to hear others' experiences about how they have felt God guiding them in their personal circumstances about how to balance all of these things -- family, education, personal passions and interests, etc. My experiences have been a bit varied and are still something I struggle with -- hard to know sometimes whether I'm following my will or His! KWIM?

kels said...

michelle,
those are good insights, i appreciate your perspective. I love what you said here: "Our leaders help us keep the highest priorities -- God and family -- always at the forefront, but they have never said that to be a good mom we have to give up everything else about ourselves."-- I totally agree, and think that is not only in harmony with the goals of our blog, but in harmony with the doctrines of the gospel.

ps I checked out your blog and really loved some of the videos and ideas you've got on there-- awesome. If it's alright I might borrow those videos as resource/content sometime.

I also love your idea of discussing our various experiences in obtaining guidance from God for balance in our life. If you're interested, I think it would be great if you could write up a guest post on that and we'll put it up here. If not, I'd be happy to put something together because I think that deserves an entirely new train of discussion. Let me know!

michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Michelle and Kelsey,

I love the idea of having others share how they've attained guidance to find balance in lives. I know Karissa mentioned above that she wanted to write about her spiritual journey.

It might be cool to do a series of small posts from different women where each one discusses her personal journey to navigate the difficult balancing act of womanhood/wifehood/motherhood/etc.

If anyone would be interested in doing that, let us know, either through a comment here or by emailing empoweringldswomen@gmail.com

Brooke said...

I haven't read all the comments, so maybe this has already been said, but I find Dr. Laura's advice completely ridiculously because she herself isn't following it. She is a working mom telling others how horrible working moms are?

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