On Creating Happy Families

It is only after long consideration that I am finally writing this post. I was somewhat taken aback, perhaps naively so, by the discussion sparked by the brief statement in my intro post that I work full time and that my children are in daycare. Ensuing comments focused on working mothers, following the prophet, the Proclamation on the Family. My mention of my husband’s long commute to Chicago while we lived in Indiana led to a brief discussion of the joint sacrifices required to support a working spouse and how common such support might be among Mormon men for their working wives. I replied to these comments, and wondered if I should leave it at that, especially because these topics are clearly debated regularly, and in great detail, here and on other sites (notably Mormon Feminist Housewives). But I have decided that I am willing to enter these thematic waters once more partly because several people have asked me to say more, and partly because in doing so I can contribute to shaping the discussion around two issues that seem somewhat underrepresented but that I believe are central and closely intertwined, namely:

– that even though the Church’s teachings on women’s roles emphasize the benefits of having a mother in the home full-time, a variety of other models for happy families exist within the church and are acceptable to the Lord, and

– that, if we accept this variety, we must also acknowledge that discerning God’s will in this aspect of our lives (for moms to work or not to work) as in other aspects, is and should be an individual endeavor and experience.

So here are some questions that might arise: What varieties of families have you known in the church? How have they been accepted (by you or other members)? Why? Do you feel that we need greater acceptance of working mothers in the church. Why or why not?

And what experiences have you had in receiving divine guidance in your family on the issue of whether you (or your spouse,) should work? Have you ever been asked to defend your choices in this area to other church members? Do you feel you should?


Perhaps I was unprepared for the response to the “working mom/kids in daycare” part of my introduction because these facts of my life have never been a source of tension in my extended family or in any of the wards I have been in. Some of the comments on a stay-at-home-dad thread at Mormon Feminist Housewives describe judgmental comments to and alienation of couples who have made choices for their families that differ from the norm. So perhaps the acceptance and support my husband and I have received is exceptional. I don’t know. I hope, instead, that negative experiences are the exception. We have made deep friendships in our wards, in spite of the difference of our family model from that of most of our friends. We have always held temple recommends and have been blessed with a variety of challenging and humbling callings. I grew up in a loving, conservative home with a stay-at-home mother, but no one in my family and almost no one in any of our wards has ever expressed distress (at least not to my face) over the fact that I work or that our children are in daycare, nor has anyone ever called my obedience or faith into question because of these things. And it has frankly never occurred to me to explain or justify our choices to any of them.

One friend, the teenage son of a family in our ward a few years ago, did seem troubled by my family’s choices. After getting to know me a little bit, this young man decided to write a research paper on working mothers and their children. When he was finished, he gave me a copy of the paper to read, with no real comment. As I recall, it was based on a single magazine article that was mostly negative about children in daycare. Perhaps he thought I’d never read any research on the subject. I’m not sure, but I was touched, somehow, that the issue occupied his thoughts. His mother later told me that he had expressed consternation and confusion to her over the fact that I worked and our kids were in daycare and that Ted and I were active in the church and our kids apparently happy and well-balanced. He didn’t know how to reconcile us with what he had learned about what families were supposed to be.

This experience suggests that the issue of working mothers may be such a hot one for some church members not only because of the church’s strong teachings on women’s roles, but also often for far more personal reasons. I think we are interested in others’ experiences and convictions because it makes us reflect on our own. Any mother who has faced the choice to work or not work realizes that every choice excludes other choices and will lead her and her family down one path and not another. As a result, I am certain that both admiration and some envy flow both directions -from working moms to stay-at-home moms and vice versa, as we wonder what our lives might be like if we made different choices. Any negative energy that might be directed at working moms in the church or that surrounds discussions of working moms is probably due not just to a prevailing belief that working outside the home is wrong, but perhaps also because the presence of happy, faithful working mothers in the church could be viewed as undermining the more dominant model. We want to know that we have made the right choice. So we pray and seek confirmation. And we also look around us to see if others’ experiences might, perhaps, be part of that confirmation. And if someone is doing something radically different from me and is nonetheless happy, I might feel that this denigrates or calls my own decision or beliefs into question. I am grateful that my associations with other women in the church have never been burdened in this way. I have been blessed instead to be around other mothers who have been overwhelmingly joyous and resolute in their own choices to work or not to work, but who have also been willing to talk about the challenges of their particular decisions, without a need to justify them to me or have me justify mine to them.

This is not to say that the fact that I work has not created tension within me. I don’t know how it could be otherwise for a girl who grew up in the church and in a loving, conservative home with an exemplary stay-at-home mother. And although I know that many LDS women work outside the home, the women closest to me, all of them with families I admire greatly, have overwhelmingly been women who have not worked or do not work while their children were or are young. I have very few associations with other Mormon women who work outside the home full-time and whose children are in daycare, so I’ve had no real role models. My husband and I have charted our own path, as all families ultimately do.

Although some may find this surprising, my husband and I have never really grappled with the issue of whether it is ok, in some broad sense, for women to work and children to be in daycare. We have only grappled with it narrowly and very personally-whether _I_ should work and whether _our_ children should be in daycare. We have always shared an understanding that the teachings of the prophets and the Lord’s desires for His children center on the creation of happy families. We have always been aware that the church promotes a dominant model for achieving that goal, but we have never believed that that model was the only one that could produce happy families and thus be acceptable to the Lord.

I am not interested in being particularly detailed about our situation, because I sense that doing so could be construed as an attempt to justify our choices or judge someone else’s. But a few details might be helpful in highlighting the simple but sometimes obscured truth that, in or outside of the church, no two situations are identical, nor is there ever a category, description-or road map-that fits every family. In some families mothers with young children work to put husbands through school. Other couples do not feel that school is a reason to have the mother work outside the home, and the husband takes on extra jobs to make it unnecessary. In other families, parents strike other workable balances-which may change as circumstances or desires change-of who works and who stays home and who helps care for their children. In our case, although both my husband and I are employed full-time, the flexibility we enjoy in our respective careers means that we are usually able to arrange our schedules so that our boys are not in daycare full time. It has also meant, at various times, that one or the other of us has been home full time for up to a year. Our desire to minimize the time our children spend away from us means that we are often ‘tag-teaming it,’ which impacts the amount of time we have together as a family or a couple. But of course finding sufficient couple time is a challenge not unique to two-career families.

Both my husband and I love what we do and believe that we have important contributions that God wants us to make through our professional endeavors. This belief is powerfully motivating for both of us. (For those who don’t know or remember, my husband is a photojournalist, and I am a Germanist/medievalist.) We both also earn money and find personal fulfillment through our professions. It would never occur to my husband (or to most men, I suspect) to apologize for the money or the fulfillment. Nor does it occur to me, even though these factors are often portrayed in very negative light in LDS discussions of mothers who work. (I must say that I wish our economy also remunerated stay-at-home mothers for their work). My husband and I both love our children. And we know that these loves (of our children and our chosen professions) are not mutually exclusive. One of the greatest (and most fraught) discoveries of my life was that my love for my work did not disappear when I became a mother, as I had secretly hoped it would. I wanted God to make that choice simple for me by removing my desire. He didn’t, and my subsequent choices have led me to a career. Many others on this list and elsewhere with similar desire and drive have chosen to stay at home full-time and express their ambitions in other ways. I admire and honor them, because I accept that different families can make very different choices and that both can be right and divinely inspired.

Of course our choice for both of us to work while we are raising our children brings plenty of stress. I sometimes consider quitting because I don’t feel that I am doing justice to my family or my work. My husband, incidentally, never considers quitting. He just considers other ways to make things better. And the sacrifices, large and small, that both my husband and I have had to make so that the other could progress professionally have often been painful and have strained our marriage and thus our family. And, although our children love the daycares they have attended, of course there are days when they would rather stay home. In spite of all of these things, we feel that, for now, we are doing what we should be doing, and we seek, as all families do, to mix the costs and benefits of our choices together in a fruitful way. I must say that I prefer the verb ‘mix’ over ‘balance’ to describe what we all do with family and career (and church and friends and hobbies and…), because a balanced scale seems precarious and almost impossible to maintain. Instead, I prefer to strive, as my husband and I mix life’s batter, not to forget any crucial ingredients. Some days there is too much of the wrong thing mixed in, we leave out something vital, or maybe just something optional, and what we produce as a result doesn’t taste like we’d hoped. So we mix again the next day, maybe with a slightly different recipe or with ingredients borrowed from a trusted friend, and maybe some days top it off with frosting, but every day we try to produce a cake that not only edible, but hopefully delicious and sustaining for our families.

Here, finally and briefly, is the other issue I wanted to raise–that of discerning God’s will. Numerous comments on the aforementioned stay-at-home-dad thread on the MFH site suggested that receiving personal revelation about a woman’s decision to work outside the home would both trump more general church teachings on the subject and silence critics. “Just tell ’em God told you to work” was a suggestion that came up repeatedly in various forms. While I absolutely believe that we must seek to understand God’s will through personal revelation, I found this part of the thread unsettling for two reasons; first, because I believe that in most cases we owe no one besides God an explanation for the choices we make for our families, even if we have personal revelation to back us up. Second, God reveals His will to all of us differently, and even the most profound choices in our lives are not always accompanied, at least not immediately, by an unequivocal stamp of divine approval or disapproval that we can neatly unwrap for critics, or even for ourselves. Rather, at least in my experience, God’s will is often made manifest only after trial and sometimes error, after working through and selecting options and seeing what He desires for us. Only in the very fewest of cases in my own life can I say that I knew clearly what the Lord wanted of me before I had to act. Our family’s current situation, for example, has been a series of many earlier stages at which we have usually felt gently guided, sometimes unmistakably tugged, in a particular direction. Confirmation of our decisions, or awareness that we needed to make changes, have come-sometimes subtly, sometimes unmistakably-as we have acted on our best understanding of the Lord’s will for us and our children.

Right now, for my family and me, this means that we have been guided onto a path on which both my husband and I work and on which other loving people share in the care of our children. We acknowledge that the Lord might lead us toward another path at any time. We simply strive to be humble enough to continue to follow Him. I believe this is all that the Lord and our church leaders desire of us.

145 comments for “On Creating Happy Families

  1. Julie in Austin
    July 27, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Very interesting post, Kirsten.

    Maybe blogging just brings out the judgmental side of people, but I’ve been stunned at some of the comments directed at you (and, at me and others on the M* post about family size). I think the Saints would do much better if they assumed that everyone else was acting under personal inspiration.

    One general thought: I’m not suggesting that you are doing this at all, but I am often disapointed that so many discussions of working mothers focus so much on what the mother is doing and so little on what the children are doing. I can, for example, imagine a full-time mother who ignores her children for several hours per day so she could, you know, blog, or something. I can also imagine a mother who works full time from that same computer, confining her hours to when her children are asleep, napping, having TV time, whatever. Obviously, these two situations have very different impacts on the children involved. I wish the Saints would be more sensitive to this.

    Finally, just a reminder to all commentors: we have a policy here that prohibits some things you might be tempted to say. See here for details: http://www.timesandseasons.org/misc.php#policies

  2. July 27, 2005 at 2:11 pm

    In the end, its important to understand the Lord is concerned with each of us individually. How we mix and balance our lives in accordance with the Gospel is a very personal thing. What works for one family may not, and often does not, work for another.

    My wife and I have been tag-teaming since our first child was born and have thus far avoided placing either child in day-care. We make it work because we’ve found it very important that my wife have a life outside the walls of our home. That said, not everyone has always “approved” of our arrangement. That’s okay with me. They aren’t responsible for my family.

    There are two extremes to this subject – those who believe a woman working outside the home is committing a sin just short of denying the Holy Ghost, and those who believe a woman NOT working outside the home is short changing herself of the professional recognition and awards availible to her – a mortal sin in their eyes.

    The Lord granted unto all of us intelligence with which to make decisions, and an the inspirational outlet of prayer and personal revelation to assist us in making the best decisions for ourselves and our families.

    Myself, I’m far too busy trying to keep my own family on the Gospel path to pry into the personal revelations of others.

    Thanks for your insight, Kirsten. Sounds to me like you’re on the right path.

  3. lyle stamps
    July 27, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    Real issues. Real choices. Honest and thoughtful evaluation of both. Thank you for sharing.

    You remarked that “I wish our economy also remunerated stay-at-home mothers for their work.”

    Interesting comment. What would that change though?

    If a mother chooses, using the “Austin” assumtion that said individual is acting under personal/familial inspiration, to magnify talents [or insert here whatever the reason is] via a job, then wouldn’t said mother do so regardless of whether there was a paycheck from our economy/society?

    Putting that aside, assuming one could control for the full-time mother ignoring her children, it seems that direct payments to mothers would be a societally profitable program. If lack of parenting is the cause of increased crime, delinquency, vices, etc…why not just go to the root of the problem? Perhaps even somewhat ironic given the past decade’s crusade vs. the “welfare queen” (which seems to be code for full time mother ignorign her children).

  4. Tim
    July 27, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    I’ve not had a chance to read this post yet (work’s busy, but I’ll get to it soon!), although I did read–and very much enjoy–your introductory post. I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences on these questions. My wife and I are getting ready to start a family and are still trying out how to come up with a good plan for how we will work together to make raising a family work for both of us. We certainly want to follow prophetic counsel, but both of us believe there is much room for families to adjust caregiving/breadwinning duties to individual circumstances and still remain true to prophetic counsel and God’s will. It’s very, very helpful for us to see how others have gone through the process of making these decisions. So, thanks for sharing.

  5. A. Greenwood
    July 27, 2005 at 2:26 pm

    An interesting post.

    I think portraying staying at home as just one alternative among many is wrong. Even if its an ’emphasized alternative,’ a first among equals. Family relations are not areas in which each should follow our bliss. It follows that any account of how personal revelation drives these decisions, that doesn’t include staying at home as a strong default, is disordered. For the same reasons, it follows that attempts to carve out public and discursive space for the disfavored alternatives are wrongheaded. Which is why, though I greatly like and admire Kirsten Christensen, I’m posting this, as a bit of a counterweight. That’s enough to do my duty, I think, so I do not intend to engage in further polemics with friends.

  6. Rosalynde Welch
    July 27, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Very interesting, Kirsten. I wonder what sort of impact your husband’s very stimulating, personally fulfilling and (it sounds like) demanding career has had on your personal decisions. I know that I have struggled most with my choices when I’ve seen a glaring disparity between my husband’s experience in his life/career-stage and my own, and that I’m most content when I sense a general equivalence in our levels of achievement and stimulation. The happiest (and most demanding) time in our married life so far was when we were both in graduate school and parenting our young children; although our arrangement didn’t even approach anything like an equal division of labor (I did the vast, vast majority of childcare), we felt like we were equally stimulated academically and personally. By contrast, the most difficult time was about a year ago, when we had both just graduated (on the same day!), and he was going on to further his medical career while mine had abruptly and rather definitively ended: suddenly there was a huge disparity in our respective levels of intellectual stimulation and our satisfaction with our daily activities. Fortunately I discovered T&S (!) and have been able to find ways to continue my research and writing, and it turns out that life as a medical intern isn’t especially glamorous after all, so I think we’ve come back to a rough equivalence in our feelings of satisfaction and stimulation—which, at this stage, are about middling-level.

    All this is just a long way of wondering whether your choices might have been different if your husband had chosen a job that was, say, less glamorous and demanding. (This is not at all to suggest that you ought to have chosen differently; I’m just consistently intrigued by the ways in which women make these decisions, since many women I identify with closely have chosen so differently than I have.)

  7. Rosalynde Welch
    July 27, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    In response to Adam (but not trying to engage you, Adam, since I respect your desire to say your piece and then sit it out): I agree that the favored arrangement should occupy a privileged rhetorical position—within the discursive spaces of official (that is, prophetic) utterance. I’d never expect Elder Oaks to give a discourse in General Conference, for example, on “Alternative Family Structures” or even “Not Judging Alternative Family Structures”—nor do I think these topics or emphasis on these topics are necessary in Sacrament Meeting or the Ensign, etc. But in other sorts of discursive spaces and with other kinds of voices—places like T&S, or Relief Society, or BYU Studies—I think discussions like these are immensely helpful for families working through the decisions, and can be carried on without threatening the ideological preeminence of the preferred arrangement.

  8. Jesse
    July 27, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    In a lot of ways, the struggle that’s being talked about is a result of specialization of labor within industrialized societies. My own family is pretty traditional. I work full time and my wife is at home with our children. But a lot of times this arrangement seems to be so strange, so just plain unnatural. The fact that I have to leave my family for up to 10 hours a day really bothers me. I often mentally idealize a pre-industrial era when my work would have been along side my wife and children, on a farm or a workshop attached to my home. For most of the world’s history, and in many places still today, this is how the work of life is structured. On the flip side, specialized labor away from the primary dwelling has brought me such useful and wonderful things as hot and cold running water and air conditioning (not to mention the computer I’m banging away on). It’s hard to see, when incremental societal changes are taking place, what their end point will be, and what we are giving up as we accept them. It will be interesting to discuss, in the afterlife, the comparative merits (or challenges) of spending our entire working day in the presence of the family, versus having air conditioning and sewage treatment, etc. etc. etc.

  9. Julie in Austin
    July 27, 2005 at 3:38 pm


    You make excellent points. My greatest hope is that we’ll get to the point where both parents are alternating banging away at computers, with occassional meetings outside the home, and will have come full circle to the home as the new focal point of production (such as it is).

  10. alamojag
    July 27, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    My two cents’ worth: I think the only difference that matters in “Alternate Family Structures”, or anything else that the Brethren talk about that affects the way we live our lives is our reaction when we hear the advice from the pulpit. It doesn’t matter whether it is on the subject of hunting for sport, earings and tattoos, working mothers, or gambling. I think we are doing things right if our reaction is “I wonder if he’s talking about me? Do I need to change something?” as compared with the reaction of “Well, he isn’t talking about me! I don’t need to change anything!” From what I read, Kirsten, it looks like you are asking the right questions.

    There is something to be learned from the apostles’ reaction when the Savior told them one of them would betray him. “Lord, is it I?”

  11. Kevin Barney
    July 27, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Maybe it’s because I’m a man and (obviously) don’t hang out in Relief Society. But I can’t say that I’ve noticed any negative commentary in our ward on anyone’s working arrangements. We have wives who work and wives who don’t, and to my perception at least it just doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    This is one of those things that the couple involved should consider for themselves carefully, but that others should mind their own business about. If my ward is any indication, we’re well on our way there.

  12. greenfrog
    July 27, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    I prefer to receive and consider empirical data regarding family structures, rather than to receive normative pronouncements intended to discount, ex ante, empirical data.

    So thanks for the post, Kirsten.

  13. July 27, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    I have two points to make.

    First we have no business being critical of other people’s personal choices in this difficult area. We can offer support but we must presume that most people are trying to do what is right and help them in any way we can. “Bear one another’s burdens,” etc.

    Second is to describe what my wife actually did and why. My wife has an IQ, I’d guess around 200 and graduated with a degree in Engineering/Computer Science and Mathematics with honors. She worked for NASA for a few years before we had children and recieved an award for being the most productive employee back in the 1980’s. She had her first child and almost died during the birthing process. She has a medical condition that makes it extremely difficult for her to have children. We were doubly blessed in the extreme to have a second child without too much difficulty, but a third has not been possible.

    My wife underwent a fundamental shift in what was valuable to her. She continued to work for NASA part time at home but eventually left her field entirely. She has worked as a part time preschool teacher at a large Methodist church for several years while her children are in school. The pay hardly covers her expenses. If she had started up some dot.com company it probably would be worth millions by now, she was really talented in that area. Instead she helps young mothers teach their children the most basic things such as toilet training, handling tantrums, praying, skills needed to survive in school. She finds this work very fulfilling. Recently she told me that none of the programs she wrote for NASA is being used any more, but every one of those little kids she helped “program” is running around the community and the first batch are among the friends and peer group of our teenage children.

    She gives this work her heart and soul and believes that her talents and abilities brush off on her little students in significant ways and that they will go on to do better than they might have done with a nice but less talented teacher. We all have to find out how God would have us make the world a better place and not listen to outside voices that would tell us not to do those things that our inner compass directs us to do.

    If a woman (or a man) is doing what they know God is directing them to do and it is obviously not wicked, (porn, illegal drugs, dishonest, etc.) then I think we should praise their efforts. None of us is perfect and our own children tend to magnify our faults so we will have ample opportunity to correct them. How the good Lord will help us sort this all out and where we will be collectively in another generation or two is hard to say.

  14. Jud
    July 27, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    “First we have no business being critical of other people’s personal choices in this difficult area.”

    Yes, we actually do. The reason being, when people introduce ‘personal choices’ into the public discourse to create an atmosphere where certain things are permissible, they are fair game and should be reviewed critically. I am not being critical of someone personally. I am being critical of a philosophy they are endorsing. It is clear where the church stands on this point of mothers working outside the home. It would be so much more refreshing to hear someone say, “I know what the general authorities say and I flatly disagree with it. I prefer to spend time with my career more than nurturing my children.” For crying out loud, be honest in the dialogue.

  15. JKS
    July 27, 2005 at 5:42 pm

    ” I am often disapointed that so many discussions of working mothers focus so much on what the mother is doing and so little on what the children are doing.”

    I agree, Julie. My pet peeve is that it sometimes seems to me that working mothers forget that the time they spend away from their children actually exists for their children. There is no time warp that puts them on hold while you are at work.

    This issue is so difficult to discuss. There are many reasons for not working. There are many reasons for working. If someone really has to work, I do not want to make them feel bad. If working really is the best choice for their family, I don’t want to make them feel bad either. I avoid saying anything negative while in the (real life) presense of a working mother.
    This is, of course, good manners and consideration.
    If I am talking with a SAHM friend, I can be more open. Keeping in mind that one of my favorite compliments paid to me once was “I never hear you say anything bad about anyone,” I don’t sit around badmouthing people but in discussing our lives, a friend and I talk about parenting (no big surprise) and our current struggles and triumphs. And when talking about parenting with someone with the same views you can say things like, “It’s so important to read books to your children” or “I’m trying to be consistant with time out over this issue, because consistancy is so important.” SAHMs usually also have priorities that involve being a SAHM that are on par with “its so important not to let babies play with knifes” so it becomes difficult to approve in others a choice you would not make.
    Working moms have their priorities and make their choices. Sometimes I can hear what they are thinking. When I babysat a baby fulltime for an acquaintance who would rather die than be a SAHM, I thought it was interesting that she was letting her child be taken care of by a person who she did not really respect, and I was willing to perform this service for money even though I did not really approve of daycare.
    PC on this topic is simply admitting every mother has the right to make her own decision and that there can be good or poor parenting either way.

  16. danithew
    July 27, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    In comment #1, Julie wrote: “Maybe blogging just brings out the judgmental side of people, but I’ve been stunned at some of the comments directed at you (and, at me and others on the M* post about family size). I think the Saints would do much better if they assumed that everyone else was acting under personal inspiration.”

    This is going to sound strange … but there might be a benefit to people expressing what they really think — even if it seems unusually harsh, biased or hardhearted. I have a little theory that a lot of people walk in exclusive circles with friends and family that largely agree with them. Already I can see problems with that last sentence … but what I mean to say is that so often people pass judgment in silence because they are polite, don’t want to hurt feelings, etc. Then they go home and talk to their spouse, kid or whoever about their disapproval. It’s a “teaching moment” where certain rigid beliefs get reinforced — but only in a safe environment of people who are in agreement.

    Something about blogging might make it more possible for people to express their beliefs and to argue. And consequently, I would hope, there are adjustments made due to an increase of consideration. Even if people firmly maintain their disagreement in a particular thread, I have to think they go home with more information and perspectives. This allows them to revisit the arguments, rethink them and make changes accordingly. At least that is my hope.

    I know that I’ve made course corrections in my thinking as I’ve read people’s criticisms of my ideas and positions on specific issues.

    Boiled down, my point is that though we are sometimes astounded at the positions people take and are even offended at times, though we already know perfectly well that these opinons are commonly held in the LDS community. I think (or at least hope) there’s something healthy about all these positions coming out into the open and bouncing off of each other.

  17. Mrs. Greenwood
    July 27, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    As your friend I stand by you and say you seek out virtue according to the dictates of your own conscience. I love your struggle to obey the prophets and magnify your real talents for writing, teaching, and German. In these dark struggles, where two polemics don’t meet, I find the most capacity for either, due to the striving. God bless you in your quest, and may I get to enjoy the fruits of your labor all the days of my life.

  18. July 27, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    I have worked full time for most of my children’s lives–not something I’d have chosen to do while they were young, but the situation required it and I will not and need not explain it here.

    What is I wish is that the stay at home Moms and the working Moms–LDS and non-LDS alike would stop criticizing each other’s choices and motives. We need to support each other–especially as sisters in the Church.

    I cringe every time I hear in church meetings the term, “full-time mother” applied to mothers who stay at home. Let me tell you–I think of my children often during the work day, email their teachers, I volunteer on my lunch hour once a week in the classroom–and guess what us working mothers, us “part time mothers” talk about to each other on work breaks–our kids, our schools, parenting choices.

    I am too exhausted to go to home-making night. I have begun to say no to callings that I consider too demanding and time consuming–I have only recently begun to understand what it means to put family first in a culture that all too often actually puts church first. I wish Church Leadership would examine closely the demands it makes on our time and schedules. I personally long for more uninterrupted time with my family, more time to ponder, think and pray, but I’m too busy with the to-do lists of modern life and Utah church life.

    I love the gospel and I love the church. I love serving in the church and I love fellowshipping with other women in the church. But I feel that the programs and the demands that are made upon us women–esp. those of us who work (for whatever reason) are becoming increasingly incompatible with the pace of modern life.

    Just my two cents worth. Is there anyone out there who feels the same way I do? I’d pay to take President Bonnie Parkin out to lunch and have a chat with her. I think she is a marvelous lady.

  19. TMD
    July 27, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    Kirsten–the thing I appreciated most was the non-ideological character of your discussion. I think this is good evidence that your approach to this issue is as it should be. Far too often, here and elsewhere, I see family decisions discussed, argued about, and insulted in terms of surprisingly rigid ideological postures, as if being principled or having diginity or respecting others requires conformity with some ideological perspective, be it feminism, anti-feminism, or some desire to withdraw entirely from the world. Doing so too often leads to bad outcomes–beyond the guilt or boredom that comes from being a square peg in a round hole, SAHM’s so confident in the sacrifices they fail to effectively prepare their children, and working mothers who are so obsessed with the home that they do not attend to their own progression. Both happen more than most admit, in my observation (though I admit I’m but a ‘lone man’ in graduate school yet).

    It’s only because of this ideological tinge that _General_ counsel from the brethren on these issues, as opposed to counsel on other issues, is so charged, making the word ‘daycare’ seem a red flag. Whenever possible, I believe in rejecting the injection of politics into the personal: these choices should be about our relationships between ourselves, our fellow family members, and Heavenly Father. Those who would inject themselves into them reveal themselves as silly and willing to put their politics over people, even if they don’t realize it as such. Drawing intergroup lines tied to self-esteem on this basis (though, perhaps from a social psych basis, hard to avoid, though they can be resisted) only divides zion, it does not help build it.

  20. lyle
    July 28, 2005 at 10:06 am

    I think TMD has a very important reminder: it’s about honoring our covenants and building zion; the difference seems to be about how different individuals go about doing that.

    also the discussion about what is “official” vs. “public” discursive space. Seems like a set answer to this question would answer alot (or end or approve) alot of bloggernackling.

    p.s. the phrase “injecting politics into the personal” very catchy/rhetorically powerfl…however much i completely disagree witht he statement.

  21. A. Greenwood
    July 28, 2005 at 11:25 am

    I’m trying to stay out of this, so I’ll just make a meta-point. The ‘non-ideological’ position that TMD advocates is heavily ideological.

  22. comet
    July 28, 2005 at 11:39 am

    For those defending the church’s position, I’d like to hear a reasoned defense rather than calls to order.

  23. Kristine
    July 28, 2005 at 12:05 pm

    I think that before one can mount a defense of the church’s position, one has to establish what that position actually is. I maintain that doing so is not as simple as parsing a single sentence from the Proclamation in the way that supports one’s cultural prejudices (even if those prejudices are shared by the majority of church members).

  24. TMD
    July 28, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    A.G.–(my meta friend?)–Actually I think it’s meta-ideological: an argument not against a particular ideology (or for one), but against the application of any ideology to a certain sphere of life. If meta-ideology is still ideology, then, yes, it’s heavily ideological, but it’s ideology marshalled against the violence that other ideologies do.

  25. lyle stamps
    July 28, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    I think that before one should mount a defense; one needs to know why a defense is necessary.

    Isn’t the standard “innocent, i.e. correct, until proven guilty, i.e. incorrect”?

    I’m much more interested in seeing a defense of an attack on the LDS Church’s position; which may/may not be such an easy target to pin down; per Kristine.

  26. July 28, 2005 at 12:28 pm


    Before parsing, how about collecting? Over the last 10, 20, or 30 years, what are the important works from Church leaders on the subject? Clearly the Proclamation is a big one, but so would President Hinckley’s talk given right around the same time. Or his more recent talk about raising children. And presumably the talk President Hunter gave on Fatherhood. And the ones President Benson gave on Fatherhood and Motherhood. Going farther out to the FP and the Quorum of the 12, one could probably come up with a fair list of just what has been said.

    Then one does not need to parse a sentence in isolation, but can do so within a context. For example, it may help one’s interpretation of the Proclamation to know that President Benson, in his 1981 address to the Relief Society, said that the work for one’s primary responsibility cannot be delegated to others.

    We may also get some perspective on the subject by recognizing that it is a B-list item in terms of air time in General Conference. So if Church leaders don’t think it is a good idea to pound on the subject every 6 months, perhaps the rest of us shouldn’t either.

  27. A. Greenwood
    July 28, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    “an argument not against a particular ideology (or for one), but against the application of any ideology to a certain sphere of life.”

    Not at all. Perhaps a comparison will clarify. Suppose someone suggested that we should stop blanket, ideological condemnations of drinking and drinkers, that we should respect personal choice in this matter, etc.

    Isn’t it clear that there is a substantive, ideological posititon on the merits of drinking and on God’s view of drinking in this?

  28. Julie in Austin
    July 28, 2005 at 12:35 pm


    I think there is a much larger context to this issue; namely, every talk that has ever been given about the importance of family and raising children to be strong in the Gospel is part of the backdrop. While those talks may not always lead a family to have a full-time mother at home, they should lead *all* families to prioritize the children’s emotional, spiritual, and moral development and then make decisions about working arrangements that allow for those things (not the desires of the mother or the father) to have first place.

    Another advantage of this approach is that it requires people like me to stop blogging and pay more attention to my children instead of feeling off the hook just because I’m technically with them all day.

  29. B Bell
    July 28, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Would also like to hear a defense of the professional working mom position. Rather than “personal choice” or “do not judge me” Why did you choose it? How do you feel when you read or hear comments from the Bretheren in favor of staying home?

    What role did large student loans, mortgages, etc PRIOR to having children play into the decision? This can be a trap that leads to women remaining in the workforce in my opinion.

    What role does working play into fertility? CAUTION GENERALIZATION FOLLOWING… I generally see fewer kids in the LDS two professional careeer families.

    Lets hear from you working Moms on these issues.

  30. July 28, 2005 at 12:47 pm


    I’m all for collecting a library of all those talks. But, as you may have noticed, that is largely the content of the talks I cited. They not only talk about work decisions but also about what we should be doing in our families (fathers and mothers). President Benson, for example, gives rather long and detailed lists of the sorts of things we should be doing with our children. And they are time and planning intensive things that most of us could improve on.

    I think your comment also links in to why I think this issue gets more air time among members than it should. Having a mother in the home is one of a large array of things we can and should do when possible. The fact that some people disagree with this sentiment is what brings out the pitchforks. Everybody agrees that we should be studying the scriptures and praying more, so there are fewer arguments about it even if behaviorally we still aren’t very good at it.

  31. A. Greenwood
    July 28, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    “The fact that some people disagree with this sentiment is what brings out the pitchforks.”

    I’m thinking of changing my moniker to Pitchfork Greenwood. Maybe A. Pitchfork. Truth in advertising. :)

  32. Christina
    July 28, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    B Bell,

    You should probably consider this question too, “What role does fertility play into working?” Your generalization has been a source of much pain for me as I’ve been interrogated many times for my supposedly greedy choice to work full-time. Generalizations run rampant, but the whole story is often unclear, like in my case. Interestingly, while researching infertility I read that one in five couples will experience problems with conception; that’s a lot of married couples in the church. On the bright side, because we don’t have children we’re pretty much exempt from almost every admonition and counsel from the pulpit, hehe.

  33. lyle stamps
    July 28, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Christina brings up an excellent question:

    To what extent, if any, does ones current status (as single and/or married w/o children) _exempt_ one from making choices that will allow one to follow Prophetic advice on the subject in the future (i.e. when status changes)?

  34. TMD
    July 28, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    A.G.: Unsurprisingly, I disagree. We can talk about whether the application of any ideology to some sphere of life is good or not independent of the substance of the possible ideologies which we could apply, so long as ideology is indeed a single phenomena.
    Put differently: if ideology is a single set whose elements are functionally similar, this is possible; but if it in fact describes more than one set based on the functional dis-similarity of its elements (i.e., if it is in fact more than one phenomena), this would not be possible. Being that I think that this is the case, they are, indeed, analytically separable. So, mine is a meta-ideological argument. (To butress this point, on this question feminist and queer theorists like Judith Butler would disagree with the effects of my argument just as much as you do.)
    Note also that I did not say it was all just personal choice: I said it was about relationships between ourselves, our family members, and our heavenly father. Of course these are “personal choices”–agency is implicated–but these relationships constrain all the same.
    Last, vis-your example, (“Suppose someone suggested that we should stop blanket, ideological condemnations of drinking and drinkers, that we should respect personal choice in this matter, etc.”) I don’t recall being counseled to condemn drinkers: I just recall making covenants that implied the acceptance of a commandment not to drink myself. Even here, though, we can discuss whether its an appropriate place to apply ideologies without the specific ideologies prejudicing that discussion.

  35. Serious Questioner
    July 28, 2005 at 1:37 pm

    To be honest, I think Rosalynde’s comment (#6) is probably the most important one on this subject so far. A marriage is about a partnership between two individuals with different needs, desires and capabilities. Balancing those needs and desires with the stewardship over one’s children is what we need to be concerned about. Just because the prophet has expressed a preference for women to be in the home does not necessarily make it the best choice for any particular family, or for most families. As several notable people, including numerous prophets and apostles, have pointed out, we are to live our life by the Spirit. We are to try to discern what God’s thoughts are for us as INDIVIDUALS or as a FAMILY! This means that there are going to be differences.

    Even though the scriptures describe God as unchanging, there seem to be only one or two constants in the scriptures related to God. That constant is that He loves us. You might include various other attributes as constants, but in terms of commandments, strictures, etc., those seem as often mutable as constant. Perhaps it is only our understanding of those commandments which has changed over time, but I would hesitate to say that they are “true” in the sense of “is, was, will be” so often quoted. (Examples would include restrictions on killing and being commanded to kill, restrictions on allowed foods and being commanded to eat restricted foods)

    I would venture that it is the same with the “commandment” for women to stay at home. I don’t believe it is a commandment, but more of an admonition to remind us of our obligations associated with the stewardship of our children. We are to teach them the necessity for repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are to teach them of the Atonement. Provided we are satisfying our obligations in that respect, I don’t think the Lord gives a flying whing-ding about whether or not anyone is staying at home.

  36. Daniel
    July 28, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    A. Greenwood, thanks for your comments. I agree with the spirit of your post — namely, that it is easy for us to justify and rationalize decisions that conflict, or appear to conflict, with the teachings of the prophets. As Elder Oaks said, it is not ours to make final judgments, but we must make temporal judgments. There is nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, especially since if we are mistaken, we are more likely to come to see the error of our ways by doing so.

    Kirsten’s comment was interesting because she points out that rarely do we get an answer in a neat little package that we can definitively say is an answer from God. I believe this is because when we receive such answers, our reward is less, per D&C 58, than it would be if we had studied it out in our hearts and minds. However, and this should not be construed as a criticism, I have found that when I do not necessarily receive an answer in a nice little package, if I allow my decision to be influenced by the words of the prophets on the issue, even if I do not necessarily see the wisdom in this at the moment (and perhaps especially when it appears to contradict what seems to be the most rational course), I am often pleased much later to see the benefits of having followed the wisdom given by them. Kirsten, I would be very interested to hear your comments on this, as I have never faced the decisions that you’ve made (and this should not be construed as an opinion that you did not allow their words to influence you).

    It is very difficult to prove a negative, so it will be impossible to ever know what children might have been had they had the dedicated influence of a mother at home with them all day. In other words, a child that appears well-balanced and healthy and happy in day care may very well be so, but we can never know what that child would have been had the mother been home with him/her through development. There are just so many crystal clear teaching moments that do not come when we are on scheduled time or at the end of the day when we are home with our children. My mother was very educated for her time (Master’s Degree and a thesis that Dr. Cracroft called the best he’d seen to the time), yet she chose to stay home. She never regretted it, though we could certainly have used the extra income many times. My wife and I have had this discussion many times, and she has often pointed out that women live their lives in seasons — and that right now (while we have young children) it is not her season to work outside the home. This is dissatisfying on a personal level, I realize, but are we only here to please ourselves personally in the short term?

    Having said that, please note that this is not a personal judgment on Kirsten specifically, but rather a general statement that having mothers in the home is a blessing to the children of such a home when the mother approaches this object with dedication. Can anyone seriously argue that we are as to have youth with faith of the caliber of the 2000 stripling warriors with mothers working outside the home and with their concentration and minds focused elsewhere than on the spiritual, emotional, and mental development of their children? I do not deny that it is possible to have such children in situations like this, but I find that as a general rule, mothers at home with children with the uplifting of those children as their focus (and fathers as much as possible home and with the same focus) is the best formula for building children of character who are likely to achieve exaltation.

    It is lamentable that our society does not recognize the importance of the production of human capital, and ironic given the extreme value we place on that capital, yet that does not change the reality that children are better off almost always when mothers are SAHMs. The General Authorities give general rules, not the exceptions. There is an old adage that if you give the exception with the rule, you will always get the exception. For that reason, I express my agreement with Adam, whose point is well-taken that discussion of the reasons why a given person chose not to follow the general counsel given by the prophets can lead others to take license (I hope I’m being faithful to your meaning, Adam). My comments are made in the spirit of discussion, so please save your calumny if you disagree. I struggle with these issues as I’ve urged my wife to go back to school and watched my youngest child’s face whenever his wonderful, Lutheran daycare is mentioned (one day a week for five hours).

  37. Sue M
    July 28, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    Sometimes when I read about what my life is supposed to be, according to the church, according to the proclamation, according to doctrine – I really do wonder how much agency I have. If your choice is to follow and make myself fit into the role that has been prescribed for me and therefore obtain the celestial kingdom, or to not follow the prescribed role/life and not obtain the celestial kingdom – is that really a choice? How is it really different from Satan’s plan? I don’t mean this sarcastically, I really want to understand – and I don’t.

  38. Ana
    July 28, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Why did you choose it?

    It’s a financial necessity because of my husband’s decision to pursue a Ph.D. My last year at home (his first year back at school) landed us almost $15K in debt, not counting cars and mortgage. However, if his post-Ph.D. career keeps us in California I will probably need to continue working. On my salary plus his graduate student stipend, we can live comfortably as renters but not buy a home in this area. At some point we will want to do that.

    How do you feel when you read or hear comments from the Bretheren in favor of staying home?

    Fine. Every time they mention it, they say they know there are situations where mothers need to work. I know I’m in one of those situations right now. I know it’s a serious decision to leave your children and go to work. I took it very seriously and I feel I’m doing the right thing. For some people maybe that’s not good enough. For me it is the best possible thing to be able to say.
    I was home with my kids for five years, by the way. I don’t think I was particularly good at it. But I’d go back to it if I could, or at least go part-time. Full-time work just sucks up too much of each day, each week. I desperately miss the outings to the swimming pool and library. I flounder on housekeeping and laundry because there simply are not enough hours, even though my husband is very involved in both parenting and housekeeping. A home and family need a lot of time and work. It’s very, very hard to do it all.

    What role did large student loans, mortgages, etc PRIOR to having children play into the decision?

    We were debt free when we brought our children home. We had even saved enough to pay for their adoption processes without going into debt to do so. Now that I have been working a year we are very close to being debt free again.
    We did buy a home in Utah prior to our decision to move to California for school. Then we were unable to sell when we moved. That did play into our indebtedness that first year. But I don’t think buying a home was a particularly poor decision. We just had some bad luck. It’s refinanced and rented out now, and it’s all okay.

    What role does working play into fertility?

    What fertility? We have no fertility here. Next question?
    Seriously, I’ve said it before, but in my personal searches for answers I have come to believe one of the main reasons I am working full time is so that we can save for more adoptions, rather than just scraping by on more freelance work or babysitting or a part time retail job.

    Christina and other still waiting for your kids, coming from my experience (6 years of infertility, 2 adoptions so far) the best thing is to try to make plans and decisions regarding your career and your debt level that will allow you to spend sufficient time with your children when they finally arrive. After all that time and work to bring them into your family, you probably won’t want to drop them off in daycare when they’re six weeks old. Freelance writing and editing was a great opportunity for me during my at-home years. Just not great enough once we made the leap back into student family life.

  39. lyle stamps
    July 28, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Daniel: Good point re: difficulty in proving the negative. The best available evidence seems to be personal/anecdotal. My wife nannies a 5 year old girl (only child) of two attorneys. My wife tells me often how much the little girl wants her mother to be there for her; yet isn’t.

    In my mind, if the 5 year old grows up great, whether because of the substitute influence of my wife, and/or whatever attention she actually gets from her mother, that would be the best outcome (esp. for the little girl). However, I feel sad because I’m sure she would become even more with the personal influence of a mother. Regardless, it makes for one sad child who doesn’t deserve such a fate.

    When we talk about how shephards are preferable to hirelings…do we apply that to our own families? Granted, this is done usually when discussing the Savior (who is perfect), while we mortals aren’t.

  40. Ana
    July 28, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    (I guess it’s really 12 years of infertility but after we adopted our first 6 years ago, it stopped being so all-consuming.)

  41. A. Greenwood
    July 28, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    Christina makes an excellent point in #32. If we see that childless couples tend to have both the husband and the wife work, we shouldn’t assume that the desire to work has led to childlessness, instead of vice versa. I will point out, though, that working outside the home has generally increased and birth rates have dropped; I don’t know if infertility rates have been going up too, sufficiently to explain it.

    Sue M.,
    Satan’s plan was to take away the moral value of what we did by taking away our choice to do it or not. Proclaiming that all choices are equal–that all paths and roles lead to the Celestial Kingdom–also takes away the moral value from what we do. Giving us a model and a destination and letting us decide whether to adopt that model and seek that destination is freedom.

  42. B Bell
    July 28, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    Christina: Please note that I cautioned everybody that this was a generalization. I know all about infertility having struggled with it at one point myself.

    I am still waiting for a strong defense of working moms who choose a professional lifestyle, not those who have to work out of simple need. Saying that my work is so important is ludicrous. See the quote from the opening comments in this thread “This belief is powerfully motivating for both of us. (For those who don’t know or remember, my husband is a photojournalist, and I am a Germanist/medievalist.)”

    Try saying that in the hereafter. This applies to both men and women. Say that on judgment day. For women “I decided to limit my family and ignore the prophets counsel regarding working outside of the home because my career was so important” The response I can imagine is. We can tell by your choices what was really important to you. Sorry you cannot take your career with you into the celestial kingdom

    For men “I decided to pursue a career that involved 60 hour work weeks and many many days on the road. I watched as my kids drifted off the path as my sainted wife tried to hold down the fort. I ignored the prophets counsel that no success compensates for failure outside of the home” Same response: We can tell by your choices what was really important to you. Sorry you cannot take your career with you into the celestial kingdom

  43. B Bell
    July 28, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Ana, #38.

    Good response. Sounds like simple need and personal circumstance. Congrats on the adoptions. That is great…

    I am still waiting to hear from professional working women who are in circumstances unlike Ana. Lawyer, DR, MBA etc.

  44. Daniel
    July 28, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It sounds like you are one of the exceptions. Also, I believe that some things take time and work only over time. Yours sounds like one challenge that can be dealt with only in this way. The ideal is still out there, but the messy little world often requires other realities.

    Sue M.,
    Thanks for an honest question. It used to seem to me that the CK would be pretty boring if we were all like God and no individual characteristics remain. I guess I hear shades of that old concern for me in your question. I don’t think that now, since I am now convinced that God lets us work out our own way, and there are many right ways to do a certain thing, each reflecting our different personality. Still though, I’m not sure I understand your query as to how guidelines take away our agency. Is this what you are saying? I guess the primary difference I draw between Satan and God is force. Satan wasn’t going to allow us to make the choice. God explains to us the consequences, but we are free to run around and use our agency any way we please. If we get frustrated that we cannot do as we like and still get the reward, that doesn’t in any way take away our agency. We shouldn’t be mad if God won’t permit us to keep trying to find happiness in wickedness. My son may not like it that he doesn’t get dessert if he doesn’t eat his dinner, but I am not taking away his agency by withholding something within my power and obtainable only by the rules I’ve established if he doesn’t follow those rules. And, it’s important to note that I am actually withholding that “blessing” for his own good. Help me understand what you are asking because I’m not sure I understand.

  45. Stephanie
    July 28, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    B. Bell – Your tone is overwhelmingly antagonistic, not inquisitive, so don’t hold your breath for many responses.

  46. Ana
    July 28, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    I think if someone moved into my ward they wouldn’t immediately know all those things about me. I look from the outside like another career woman with a job she loves, two dependable cars, only two kids, a nice house and a cell phone.

    Similarly you will not know all the details of the decisions made by a woman who has earned a higher degree and is choosing to use it. And it doesn’t look like they want to share, and that’s their right.

    I think in general there are women who do not take the decision to work outside the home seriously enough. I would never presume to say — and I don’t think anyone should — whether someone else fits into that category.

    At other times in my life it’s been different. I have been more judgemental. It’s not constructive. Don’t go there.

  47. JKS
    July 28, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    Sue M
    Satan’s plan was to force us to be perfect. God’s plan was for us to choose to be perfect.
    We have a choice. Even when there is only one “right” way that the gospel tells us. We can choose the right, or choose the wrong.
    It is an invitation, a gift, to be able to choose the right. It is also very hard to do sometimes since we are in fact mortal and have weaknesses.

  48. b bell
    July 28, 2005 at 6:12 pm


    I think your last comments are very relevant.

  49. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 28, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    I was unavailable for a day after I posted this, so sorry for my delay in participating in the discussion. Where to start. Interesting responses. Lots of them.

    I appreciate Julie’s reminder (#1) that we should make children’s needs central to this discussion (as JKS later did–#15). I’ll be honest that I’m not always sure how to do this — that is, I’m not really sure how to talk about it in the abstract. I think I didn’t make it a clearer theme in my post because I assumed that in this LDS context readers would know that the decisions my husband and I have prayerfully made about our professional lives have always been approached with our knowledge that we are parents first. So when we grapple with whether, where, when or how much to work, it is _always_ in the specificity of our lives right now, which means, as parents of young children. This is our context. When we have felt that it was right to take some particular professional step, we have pondered–usually agonized over–the ramifications of that step for our children. And we know that God commands that we not undermine this first, sacred responsibility when we carry out any decisions He has helped us make.

    Along with inspiration from above, we try to let our children’s responses to what is happening in our life be our best guide. Of course, sometimes discerning or interpreting these responses is more straightforward than at other times. I find that it is becoming easier as my children get older and can talk to us.

    We have tried to maximize time for our boys at home, and with both parents. This means, for example, that I try to take advantage of the fact that, as a professor, I have a lot of flexibility with my time. So I sometimes work crazy hours (3:30-6:30 a.m., for example) so that I can be around more when my kids are awake. JKS is absolutely right that when we are not together with our kids the impact is indeed very real. There is no time warp. Tag-teaming it is one of the ways we have sought to mitigate this. In other words, it has not just been about our kids having time with mom, but time home, and time with dad. When we lived in Indiana, my husband’s shift started at 2:00 pm. This meant he was almost always home all morning with first one, then both sons. I would wish more fathers such an opportunity. Now he works some days and some nights, so our boys continue to get far more day time with him than if he worked a regular 9-5 job. This flexibility means that he frequently gets to work on our home or yard with little helpers at his side or be a room dad at school or go on field trips.

    My boys love meeting my students each semester when I have them over to our home. I value (and they seem to) this exposure to a wide variety of God’s children. This winter our whole family will go to Germany together while I advise a study abroad program. I am enormously grateful that we will get to share such an opportunity. But it seems odd, on some level, to mention such things, since, of course, if I ever come to feel that it would be better for our children and our family for me not to work, dinners with students or study abroad trips would certainly not keep me here.

  50. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 28, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    Adam, my friend (#5): I have to say that I agree with Rosalynde (#7) that opening up appropriate space for dialogue about alternatives does not need to undermine the standard. It actually seems unfair, even cruel, somehow, to admit that the possibility for personal revelation–and thus a choice different from the standard–exists, but then to say that it is wrong or even “wrongheaded” to talk about that reality. Stated otherwise, _if_ one agrees (obviously not everyone at T&S does) that there is real room (however limited) in God’s eyes and thus the church for multiple models on the who-stays-at-home-front, even when one model is clearly favored both in principle and in practice, then I say it is not right to construe alternatives as not worthy of discussion or worse, somehow harmful to the greater good. And I’d be shocked if such dialogue proved to be harmful. For example, I cannot imagine any mother actually making a decision to work just because she heard of another mother who did. She might learn something she didn’t know about the challenges or blessings of that woman’s situation, but surely for everyone the decision to work or not work is far too personal to be justified by someone else’s experiences.

    Obviously, as you and others say, standards are standards for a reason, so I agree with you somewhat (and further agree with Rosalynde) in not suggesting that the discussion of these alternatives would or should ever be in Gen. Conf., for example. Nor do I advocate that smaller-scale discussions of alternatives, such as the one we’re having here, should promote alternative models or personal experiences as a new standard. I hope my post made this clear. But why not imagine an article in the Ensign, for example, that offers suggestions for strengthening families in which both parents work?

    Obviously this is not an exact parallel, but I wonder if the topic of divorce might not be a somewhat relevant comparison. The church obviously promotes marriage, but in some cases divorce is the right, if excruciating, choice. I recall a recent Ensign article in which a mother described her personal experience with divorce and offered suggestions for how to strengthen families during and after a divorce. This article must have been enormously comforting and helpful to divorced members.

    Divorce may not be the best example or comparison here for a variety of reasons, but I think it is much closer than your example of drinking as a personal choice (#27), with which I take strong issue (unless I misunderstood it). Drinking will keep you out of the temple. That is not true of most divorce situations, nor is it true of families’ ‘alternative’ choices in working and parenting.

    I would be very interested to know how many families in the church have working mothers. There are lots of us in a dizzying array of circumstances, I suspect. Perhaps some never considered their children or the Lord’s will in their decision. It’s hard to imagine. Surely most have made their decisions with the Lord’s help and need love and support–and perhaps, in the right contexts, some open dialogue–as they raise their families up to Him.

  51. Kristine
    July 28, 2005 at 7:06 pm

    A small interjection: it may not have been in General Conference (depending on whether one believes the General RS meetings “count”), but there has been discussion of at least one “alternative” choice over the tabernacle pulpit, by President Hinckley, when he praised a mother of young children who was keeping her nursing skills up to date by working part-time. No financial necessity was mentioned as justification for her employment, only her obvious skill and her enjoyment of her work.

    So clearly some people are ok talking about a situation other than the “ideal.” Or maybe, just maybe, the ideal is a little wider target than people sometimes suppose :)

  52. Ana
    July 28, 2005 at 8:10 pm

    Good reminder, Kristine. President Hinckley gave that talk in the May 2001 Young Women’s meeting. The text is found here:


    You may need to cut and paste the link. I’m not html savvy enough to make you a nice, tidy one — sorry.

    Here’s the relevant part of the talk:

    Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.

    Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution.

    The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.

    I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.

    For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.

  53. Julie in Austin
    July 28, 2005 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for quoting that Ana.

    It’s really amazing when you think about comparing Pres. Benson’s ‘Mothers in Zion’ talk with PRes. Hinckley telling YW to ‘dream’ of becoming a mother of three who chooses to work.

    However, I don’t think that the *counsel* has done an aboutface as much as the *circumstances* have: There are so many more flextime, parttime, from home, etc. positions that I suspect if he were here today, Pres. Benson would be saying the same thing that Pres. Hinckley did.

  54. comet
    July 28, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    Kristine, I agree that a univocal statement on the family that attempts to eliminate all ambiguity probably does not exist, and so a reasoned defense of the church’s position would need to first define and defend the position, as well as do it justice by pointing up the wisdom of the position rather than merely sounding off calls to order.
    You yourself showed the lack of a unified position when you deftly parsed the ideological seams of the Proclamation in an earlier post. Beyond the Proclamation itself what we usually get regarding the family are dispersed, discrete statements, homilies, sermons, articles, photo layouts etc. that attempt both to consolidate an ideal image of home life and to contain the inevitable concessions to socioeconomic realities of the modern world. Whatever situation a family finds itself in it can always draw from this fund of discourse to justify its current needs. The fact that the church nuances this issue shows that it acknowledges multiple audiences within its stewardship. Nothing new here.

    But I wonder if the church can really expect the various trends to reverse (educated women in the professions, smaller families, delayed families, non-standard work and home arrangements that stem as much from economics as social change). Can the church as an upwardly mobile institution with obvious aspirations to world leadership expect to retain the post-Manifesto family as the model for the most educated segments of its membership? The church wants an educated membership (the three b’s) that can not only navigate the hyercompetitive globalized labor markets (and thus be economically independent and not welfare burdens on the church) but bring the church into proximate positions of power i.e. government, business. No one would explicitly state the latter point as the church’s intention but look at its social trajectory. The fact is that higher education, higher incomes, etc. bring a different set of lifestyle dynamics and adjustments. Maybe not determinative but powerful nonetheless. I don’t have statistics but I would imagine that the upwardly mobile segment of church membership — the ones going into the professions, etc. — tend to have delayed families and smaller family sizes (as well as other unorthodox arrangements to meet the demands of the new social positions). We often chalk this up to freely chosen lifestyles but I think theorists such as P. Bourdieu have shown that lifestyles harbor socioeconomic necessities that are not easily shrugged off. The ward I attended last was a wealthy ward comprised mostly of successful professionals and a university population with a large med student component. On average smaller families with women who had gone to grad school and 1.) left the profession to have a (small) family, 2.) reared (small) family along with substantial (though not fulltime) professional involvement, 3.) transitioning to full-time professional activity. The hiring of nannies and maids, although less frequent in lds settings, is nevertheless ubiquitous among professional elites and sure to be an increasing option.

    The professional woman is fully entrenched in the national economy and indispensable to competitiveness in the global labor market ; the professional woman is fully theorized (and largely assented to) in the current intellectual climate (and not likely reversible); in the US, immigration (not domestic births) shores up population replacement; the list could go on; the macro trends seem to be in place.

    How would a fully (or partially) defended church position deal with these developments?
    1. It could dismiss the trends as inaccurate.
    2. It could align itself with other parts of the world where the division of domestic labor still resembles the lds ideal, and hope that modernity peeters out.
    3. Although it is now seen as an emergency or fall-back option, the extended family might be seen as a way to cope with these trends. With the rise of divorce in the church it isn’t uncommon for the extended family to step in for extended periods (this is also the case for students going through school). This is quite common in Japan, and Japanese wards, for extended families to have more than usual authority in rearing grandchildren, nieces and nephews. The ward “family” has become a para family in some ways. Of course, ultimate responsibility still devolves on the nuclear family but the lines blur at times.

    Well, that’s probably a enough hot air for now.
    Interested in what others are thinking.

  55. Bill
    July 28, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    “that I suspect if he were here today, Pres. Benson would be saying the same thing that Pres. Hinckley did. ”

    Are you really serious about this? I have difficulty imagining it.

  56. comet
    July 28, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    Sorry, got Kristine and Kirstine mixed up in my post.

  57. comet
    July 28, 2005 at 10:01 pm

    That’s Kirsten, with an “en” at the end. Names really are important to me but sometimes…

  58. lyle
    July 28, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    y’all seem to forget that he said “she works as much or as little as she wants”; i.e. she can stop working on a dime if she wants to. no financial necessity. this shows:

    1. that work is possible for a mother; even outside the home. however, it seems this is conditioned and limited by near absolute control over whether she _has_ to work and can quit immediately if she chooses to.

  59. Stephanie
    July 28, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    It’s interesting that only the men here (and elsewhere on the bloggernacle) seem to be calling the women to repentence for working outside the home. Where are all the women who agree with the men?

  60. paloma
    July 29, 2005 at 8:08 am

    i think there are a lot of women out there that judge other women for working. i see it all the time at my children’s school–small, curt comments about the mothers who don’t care enough to come help at the school because they are too busy w-o-r-k-i-n-g (like it’s a four letter word!) give me a break! it happens at church, too, often by women who have enough money that they don’t have to work, or by other women who have foregone careers to stay at home and feel that because they have made that choice, other women should too….i think these types of judgements are bad enough coming from uninformed men, but are especially stinging coming from other mothers. no woman that i know of wants to hurt their child—certainly we should trust women to make the appropriate decision for their family.

  61. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 8:55 am

    Rosalynde, you asked (#6): “I wonder what sort of impact your husband’s very stimulating, personally fulfilling and (it sounds like) demanding career has had on your personal decisions.”

    This is an interesting question, and one I’d never really considered in exactly the terms you formulated it. My husband and I were both already fairly far down the path toward our respective careers before we met, so I made a decision about my field of interest, at least, without considerinig his, since I didn’t know him at the time. I think my husband would agree that the fact that we were both pursuing fields that we found stimulating and fulfilling was an important part of what attracted us to one another. And since he has always been so supportive of the intellectual and professional parts of me, I have never felt a sense of competition, if that’s the right word, or concern about our respective levels of stimulation, so I can’t say that it has ever played a role for me in decision-making.

    I’m not 100% sure Ted would say the same for himself, since he has had more zig-zags than I in his career trajectory that were directly related to my pursuits (i.e. he has quit working full-time twice–once to join me in Germany, the second to stay home for a year with our first son) and thus more times when he wondered or worried about whether or not he’d have the long-term opportunities he desired.

    Times when we feel unbalance (and sometimes resentment) about our pursuits since we’ve had children are not about levels of stimulation or satisfaction, but rather usually when one of us feels that we were making unequal sacrifices on the work front in support of family on a day-to-day basis. This continues to be a tricky area for me, in part because my profession is much more flexible time-wise, so it often makes most sense for me to stay home when our boys our sick, for example, or to take them to appointments. But that flexibility can quickly overwhelm me if I have to take advantage of it too often, since whatever work I don’t get done in that time piles up and is waiting for me when I return.

    We have learned that it is impossible, of course, for things to be equal all the time, in terms of fulfilment, satisfaction, or workload. So we just try to keep everyone’s needs in mind and have the big picture before us.

  62. Stephanie
    July 29, 2005 at 9:02 am

    Paloma – I agree with your observations of cattiness and disapproval among SAHMs and “working” moms, but I find it rare that the judgmental SAHMs are judgmental because the working moms are ignoring prophetic counsel. The men seem to whip out the prophetic counsel judgment all the time, but the SAHMs don’t seem to be as concerned about calling their sisters to repentence.

    Anyway, my point is that I have rarely read a comment on the bloggernacle from a SAHM telling other mothers that they should stay at home with their kids or they will jeopardize their salvation (or whatever the punishment or consequences are for not staying at home). The men have no problem saying things like this, and I’m wondering if it’s a gender issue (i.e., lots of bloggernacle SAHM’s may secretly think that working moms are wrong for working, but these women are hesitant to speak their minds), or if the men in the Church just don’t understand the complexities of child care and the difficult choices women face in today’s society.

  63. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 9:02 am

    Lyle – you asked (#3) what it would change if SAHMs were remunerated for their work. I don’t know how many individual decisions it would change. I imagine that some women who now work would be able to or would prefer to stay home if they were paid to do so. But I was really just thinking that it would be nice if we were willing to value, in hard cash, the immense societal contribution of SAHMs.

  64. July 29, 2005 at 9:33 am


    You hit on a pet peeve of mine, so I hope you will excuse this aside. It is a very unfortunate thing that people are under the impression that job salaries are linked to value. Salaries are high for lots of valuable careers, but they are low for just as many valuable careers. Salaries are not determined by value, nor should they be. They are determined by how many people want to do a job and how much others are willing to pay for it. They have nothing to do, inherently, with value.

    I would suggest that we would be better off teaching that way of thinking to people rather than try to eradicate labor markets and replace them with a system where the lowest paying jobs were all the most demeaning and pointless.


    I know for a fact that what President Hinckley said is true. Nursing is an extremely flexible job. Many people in other careers complain that they can’t find part time work. I know one nurse who worked one 12-hour shift a week. And she worked it largely while her family was sleeping. Now that is serious flexibility! Having skills that give you that flexibility is great. And that is clearly what President Hinckley is urging these young women to do. After all, most women work at some point in their lives whether they work when they have children in the home or not.

    I do not, on the other hand, see any reason to jump to any conclusions from GBH’s silence about why the woman was working or how many hours. He was pretty clear on his stance in his talk at the beginning of his Presidency—Nov. 96. We can go to what he said, rather than making guesses based on what he didn’t say.

    Here it is.

    President Hinckley specifically addresses the question of good reasons to leave children to engage in full time work. And, per his style, he does his best to do it in a loving way.

  65. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 9:56 am

    Frank – remember I’m a Germanist, so I know that not all careers are remunerated according to their value! :)

    I’d also like to mention the obvious – that your statement that “[salaries] are determined by how many people want to do a job” is obviously not true in the case of SAHMs.

  66. Sue M
    July 29, 2005 at 10:08 am

    Just wanted to thank Daniel, JKS & Adam for the responses to my question – they helped me to clarify some things.

  67. July 29, 2005 at 10:09 am


    That is the supply side. It alone does not determine anything. You need the demand side, which is the second half of the sentence you quoted “and how much others are willing to pay for it.” Wages lie at the interesection of supply and demand.

    But I am curious why you find that part of the sentence to be especially important to mothers staying at home. Lots of women want to stay at home with their children. So naturally that would drive down the salary–if there were a market.

    Another way to think about it is to recognize that mothers are implicitly paying themselves. The demand side of the market is made up of parents who want their children cared for. The supply side is a mix of mothers and fathers who do their own child care, and others (nannies and day cares) who are willing to do it for money. If a woman chooses to stay home and care for her children, she and her husband are “paying” her everything she could be making as an employee; because that is what they are giving up in order to have those children cared for. Viewed this way, there are a lot of highly paid stay-at-home mothers. They see no paycheck because they are both the worker and the employer, but the sacrifice is the same, you just don’t have to pay payroll and income taxes!

  68. annegb
    July 29, 2005 at 10:10 am

    I read something somewhere about that Tolstoy quote (I think he’s the one), you know, about happy families being all alike. The author of this book (I wish I could remember who it was, maybe David Sedaris) says, no UNHAPPY families are all alike, there is selfishness and despair, etc., but happy families are all different.

    I think that’s sort of true. My neighbor’s husband is the patriarch, she’s great and all their kids have married in the temple, etc. They’re happy, really, and very good and nice people.

    Last night I went over to my daughter’s fiance’s house, where they were all working overnight to fix up the yard for a wedding (not ours, yet). Both parents have become inactive, taken off their garments, the mom is the principle wage earner, their kids haven’t married in the temple, very non-traditional family. YET, they are happy. I was so impressed as they all worked together and they are kind and loving to each other. I’m glad my daughter is marrying into a family like that. The rest, the “list” will work itself out.

    I know another family, the parents married in the temple and are very active, they have three kids, and they are the most screwed up people I know. There is that selfishness, despair, and hypocrisy.

    Another family we are close to, both parents work, out of necessity. Their kids do well, they are close, and they contribute.

    Happy families run the gamut. Mine is sort of unhappy, and happy sometimes and really non-traditional. I don’t know what the magic answer is as far as happy and unhappy, but I do know it’s NOT church activity, and it’s usually NOT if the mom works or not.

  69. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Thanks for the link to this other talk by Pres. Hinkley, Frank. It does have an interestingly different tone, I think, than the one with the story of the nurse, probably in part because the latter was directed at YW, not the RS. I’m not convinced that he was saying by his example of the nurse that only part-time work is acceptable. What strikes me about the talk to the YW, in fact, is his enthusiastic declaration that “[t]he whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women.” He also says “there is not anything you cannot do” and “the sky is the limit.” This is the conundrum, of course, for many women (both in and out of the church), since pursuing our dreams _while_ raising young children is seldom as ideal as the situation of the nurse he describes. I’d say that nursing is quite unusual in its flexibiltiy. Imagine a doctor or lawyer, say, working as much as or little as she pleased. If only that were possible…

    Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that nursing hasn’t always been (and might not always be) as flexible as it happens to be right now. There’s an extreme shortage of nurses nationwide, which obviously significantly impacts employee flexibility.

  70. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 10:18 am

    Interesting look at the economics of childcare, Frank. I’ve never been good at economics, so I can’t contribute much of substance. I just have ideas and questions.

    So here’s another question: in your model, where SAHMs are both employer and employee and pay themselves, essentially, what about retirement? Don’t self-employed workers still get SS, for example?

  71. July 29, 2005 at 10:23 am

    Yes, so the less flexible careers (like doctors and lawyers) are apparently not as good as the ones that let you work as much or as little as you wish. And that flexibility was one of the key things that President Hinckley emphasized about this woman’s career.

    As for the different tone, the sky is the limit language seems just right to me. While recognizing that, in God’s view, raising his children is the top of the sky. It is the greatest, most wonderful of things. It is the top of the heap. It is how God defines Himself. President Hinckley is pretty clear about that. When that option is not open, or after that option is closed, there are lots of other wonderful things women can do. And they need to be prepared in order to do that, so they need to get skills as young women.

    So no, I see no difference in tone or direction. Women can and should do wonderful things. The most wonderful thing is to raise children well. That is run-of-the-mill Church doctrine. It is pretty similar to the counsel given to men, who are encouraged not to work so much under the guise of providing that they neglect their families.

  72. July 29, 2005 at 10:28 am

    Good question. Self employed get SS because they have to pay payroll taxes (the full 12%). In this case, a SAHM can legally evade the payroll tax laws and is instead paying that money towards caring for her children. Obviously, any family that invests all its resources into child care has no outside funds, and so they can’t buy bread or a house. So somebody has to work to provide for these other things and ideally that is the husband– who also is to provide for retirement, presumably thorugh a 401K.

    Alternatively, you could go back to the old way of doing it and consider your children your savings. At which point they (not the government or your investments) are in charge of caring for your old age.

  73. Elisabeth
    July 29, 2005 at 10:38 am

    Interesting sidenote about nursing. The shortage of nurses in Massachusetts as well as in other states is thought to be a direct result of the opening of other career tracks to women. For many young women contemplating careers in health services they ask themselves, “why be a nurse when I can be a doctor?” I found it interesting that Pres. Hinckley used nursing, a traditional female career, as an example of a family-friendly career. I would imagine that he could extend this example to teaching, as well. Maybe even teaching German literature.

  74. July 29, 2005 at 10:43 am


    Presumably it also has to do with supply restrictions imposed at the nursing school level. Nothing like a guild to keep supply down!

    I think teaching a class at a university or college would hold out real promise for part time work. Not, mind you, a tenure track job with high research expectations. But teaching a 3 hour class (that you’ve already prepped) probably takes less than 10 hours a week– depending largely on the grading. And there is an enormous amount of flexibility.

  75. paloma
    July 29, 2005 at 10:49 am

    thank you, kirsten for a great comment (#69)

  76. Elisabeth
    July 29, 2005 at 10:58 am

    Frank – the real problem in Massachusetts is that nursing schools can’t recruit enough nursing teachers to teach all the students who want to become nurses. It’s more lucrative to be a nurse working full time at Mass General than to be a nursing teacher. So even though there is a huge demand for nurses, and a relatively large supply of qualified students seeking to become nurses, there is a critical piece (nursing teachers) missing to bring these two groups together to stabilize the nursing labor market.

    There are many flexible career options – I don’t think that is the question here. The question is whether a mother should be encouraged to pursue these flexible options.

  77. Rosalynde Welch
    July 29, 2005 at 11:02 am

    “I think teaching a class at a university or college would hold out real promise for part time work. Not, mind you, a tenure track job with high research expectations.”

    This is so unspeakably depressing to me. I know you didn’t intend it to sound patronizing and infantilizing—but the reality is that, structurally, it is infantilizing and exploitive.

  78. Mark B.
    July 29, 2005 at 11:07 am

    To answer a question that Kirsten asked Frank: Yes, self-employed people do PAY social security contributions. (Calling it that doesn’t make it any less taxing.) Since there is no employer to pay its share, the self-employed person pays a little more than 15% of his or her net income to the government.

    And, if the self-employed person has paid the contributions for the required number of years, he or she will be entitled to social security benefits.

  79. Mark B.
    July 29, 2005 at 11:11 am

    Rosalynde, was Frank saying anything other than that tenure track positions for which research and writing are expected are not really possible for a part-time employee?

  80. lyle stamps
    July 29, 2005 at 11:16 am

    re: #78. and…they get to count 1/2 of that 15% as a write off, and can claim just about any/all expenses related to their “business” as “costs”; which matters because only your “net” or “profit” income is taxed; both for income _and_ the 15% purposes.

  81. Mark B.
    July 29, 2005 at 11:21 am

    Given IRS audit rates, those writeoffs are limited only, lyle, by one’s integrity. For some of us, that still matters.

  82. July 29, 2005 at 11:23 am


    Do you mean the fact that tenure track jobs are not available on a part time basis? Personally, I am more inclined to phasing out tenure rather than handing it out more freely.

    I am mostly concerned with whether or not the statement is true. And I think it is. Sorry if it depresses you though.


    As you know, in economics professors can get far more outside academia than inside, but there is not a shortage of professors. That’s because the teaching labor market is in equilibrium. If there were no restrictions on enrollment, nurse teaching salaries (at private schools anyway) should rise to clear the teaching market. So, although I certainly haven’t studied the issue, my guess is that the low pay is a result of restricted enrollment, rather than the reason. Perhaps you know some reason why that particular teaching labor market won’t clear, but I don’t.

  83. Elisabeth
    July 29, 2005 at 11:31 am

    Frank – You’re right that restricted enrollment in the past caused the nursing shortage today. I’m sure the market will stabilize eventually, but it’s frustrating for employers here who are willing to pay high wages for qualified nurses, and there are qualified students who are willing to become nurses, but there aren’t any teachers to teach them. Now, employers are paying their own nurses extra money to teach nursing classes after work.

    Rosalynde – I understand what you meant.

  84. lyle stamps
    July 29, 2005 at 11:38 am

    Mark: Au contraire. Write-offs are only limited by what the IRS allows. Try reading the tax publications the IRS puts out. Follow their instructions. I did. That’s integrity. On the other hand, if you believe in giving the government more money than it is asking for, that’s your choice; but its hardly integrity.

    disclaimer: This is neither tax nor legal advice; just what one lawyer who happened to be self-employed last year, found out after spending 6 hours reading IRS publications and regulations while filling his own returns.

  85. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Rosalynde – I think I do understand your reaction to the comment about the “real possibility” of teaching a class. In my case, I made a decision long ago that if I ever leave the tenure-track, it will almost certainly not be so that I can teach part-time, even if the possibility were to be there at the time. The non-tenure-track market in academia, and esp. in the humanities, is exploitative in the extreme almost everywhere. Usually terrible pay per course (even which, if combined to make a full-time load, is usually below the poverty level), almost always no benefits, frequently no office or even other basic teaching support, such as access to copiers, etc. , and almost never any job security semester-to-semester. And even full-time non-tenure-track jobs (lecturers, visiting appointments) that _might_ offer benefits usually have such burdensome teaching loads as to make research–and thus staying marketable should a tenure-track job come along–almost impossible. (Jonathan…?)

    I’m guessing that probably at the very heart of your response, though, Rosalynde, is that, for most of us with a PhD, it is our research interests that are most deeply meaningful to us. And pursuing these is nearly impossible (depending on the library resources and other support, say, travel to conferences, archives one needs) outside of the tenure-track. There are, of course, independent scholars out there. But most of them face enormous hurdles. And few people can afford to put the time research requires while earning a living elsewhere.

    Ironically, though, depending in part on the type of school, even tenure-track faculty are increasingly so overwhelmed by teaching and service requirements that research can feel like a distant dream, or something that has to be done in one’s free time.

    I’d be interested to hear more about your response, Rosalynde.

  86. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    Julie in Austin is a good example to me of a successful independent scholar.

  87. Julie in Austin
    July 29, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    Kirsten wrote, “Imagine a doctor or lawyer, say, working as much as or little as she pleased. If only that were possible…”

    I know a female doctor who works one shift per week and a lawyer who works out of her home (while homeschooling) reviewing contracts. So it is possible, if unlikely. I imagine that the larger point of your statement, though, is that in many professions it is very difficult if not impossible to find (meaningful) part-time work. If there was ever a public policy issue that the Saints should and could get behind, I would think it would be encouraging the professions to create parttime and flextime options.


    I am grateful that Pres. Hinckley did NOT mention teaching (K-12), which I is amazingly UNflexible, if you think about it. No flextime at all (an extremely rigid schedule), extremely few parttime opportunities, and low pay is not a good combination. All other things being equal (which they never are), teaching is about the worst choice if you want to work while your kids are young.

  88. Rosalynde Welch
    July 29, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    Kirsten, like you I have very little interest in teaching on an adjunct or part-time basis: for one thing, most English departments do the university’s scutwork by housing the required writing programs, and adjuncts overwhelmingly end up teaching these; not coincidentally, my idea of hell is teaching writing in a required freshman course. (However, I have genuine respect for those, like my sister, who take real satisfaction in this extremely demanding and under-appreciated work.) Furthermore, I would never choose to put myself in a position, solely on the basis of my gender, that relegated me to (relatively) unskilled and undervalued work and precluded any access to decision-making power. (There are those who put themselves in that position for other reasons that have nothing to do with gender, of course—but if I took an adjunct job, it would be precisely because of my gender, and I just couldn’t stomach that.)

    I’m sort of half-heartedly trying to make a go of the independent scholar thing; I’ve only been at it for a year, and I’ve had mixed results. Like you say, the absence of basic academic support such as access to libraries, travel budgets, basic office space, and colleagues makes it very difficult. If a tenure-track opportunity does come my way at the right time, ten years down the line, or so, I’d be ecstatic—but I realize this is a laughably unlikely scenario, no matter what volume of research I’m able to produce in the interim.

  89. Clay Whipkey
    July 29, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    I apologize for any circumstantial redundancy, as I don’t have enough available time to read all the comments here. I do want to share my perspective, which I suppose for some may come with the obligatory priviledged-male grain of salt:

    Years ago, I had no identified career aspiration. No conventional profession I could imagine sounded inspiring or inviting to me at all. I was a musician and songwriter, and music was my greatest passion and what I thought was my greatest God-given talent by far. Why would God bless me in that way without expecting me to do something with it? It was the only thing I could imagine doing for a living, but I married the girl that I love and who has the same eternal goals that I do. She just happens to have no interest in living on the road while I tour. She also has no interest in hanging out at home alone while I’m on tour. Touring is how 99% of rock musicians make their living. I also knew deep down that even in an environment where I could drag my whole family with me, it is not a life that is good for the development of children.

    I was a child who moved constantly, mostly due to my parent’s poverty resulting from my father’s extreme lack of ambition and responsibility (they are not mormon). I know from my own experience that security and familiarity and consistent and long-term friendships are things for which children have a strong need. I hated my childhood. I was always the new kid, and for several years it happend 2-3 times each school year.

    I knew that being a touring musician, regardless of how much influence I could have on people through my music, was not the life that was right for a family. So I chose a different path. I actually discovered that I have other talents that were only buried. However, for a long time the issue was a constant internal struggle. I felt drawn and quartered by my knowing what was right and at the same time feeling like my individuality and my self-expression was being stifled. As I have continued to allow the good side to win over my pride, I have been blessed with comfort and peace in my life as well as a more recent personal revelation of how God will use my musical and intellectual talents to do good in the world.

    Perhaps the summary I want to draw from my story is that I believe there is certainly a place for us to acheive our goals and potential to be important, to contribute, and to have an impact in our world. However, the greatest impact we can have is with our own families. God has placed them firmly within OUR responsibility to teach and prepare for eternity. The rest of the world belong within their own stewardships. There is no nobility from our accomplishments out in the world that will ever be more important than what we do for our own families, regardless of the number of people impacted or the depth thereof. I also believe that if we choose to sacrifice of our own aspirations for the time that our children need us more desparately, God will bless us for our obedience with a more abundant and fulfilling opportunity for impact in the world.

  90. Rosalynde Welch
    July 29, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    As for Frank’s comment, I believe, knowing him, that he simply meant that tenure-track positions require more than ten hours a week, which seems to be his acceptable limit for women’s part-time work. Nothing more.

    However, if I didn’t know Frank, it would be easy to construe his tone (“mind you,” etc) as a patronizing pat on the head: you go ahead and do your little part-time teaching thing, that’s just great, but don’t get any big ideas about actually being able to do research! Leave that sort of thing to the big boys.

    As for tenure generally, I don’t have enough experience in academia to take a firm position on whether it should be abolished. Doing away with tenure would at least have the virtue of dismantling a two-tiered system that, for Mormon women who construe prophetic counsel in a certain way, relegates women to the bottom tier with no possibility for advancement.

  91. Jonathan Green
    July 29, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Considering the recent turn in the conversation, it’s too bad we haven’t had a recent discussion of non-tenure-track faculty in the humanities. Oh, wait…

    I understand the problem Kirsten is referring to. Some days I stew over the very real possibility that some twit with no family and a prestigious fellowship, who is publishing like mad while I spend all my time teaching, will get the one good position that might be advertised in my field this year, and over how much I would dearly love to be that twit (although with a family), including the fellowship and publications. Other days I think that the demands and conditions of my career are such that any good LDS father should find a different line of work. But usually I take note of the fact that, at least for the moment, my family seems pretty happy, I’m making progress in my career, and we’re staying out of debt. The positions I’ve had have been pretty good, all things considered. If it had worked out otherwise, then it would have been time to look for a new line of work. My impression is that most opportunities for part-time teaching don’t offer me the things I want for my family or my career.

  92. Mark B.
    July 29, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    I’m a lawyer in solo practice, and I generally work about as much as I want to. There are times, of course, when events take over and leave me no choice about how many hours I put in.

    The catch, though, is that I didn’t have this flexibility when my children were young.

  93. MDS
    July 29, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    I know a sister who simultaneously was a mom of fairly young children, RS president in my ward, and a highly skilled trauma nurse in the ER of a major U.S. hospital. She loved the rush of working in the ER. She didn’t work that many shifts, and when she did, they were often at night while her kids were in bed.

  94. Elisabeth
    July 29, 2005 at 2:36 pm

    Julie – there are many opportunities to be involved in teaching – but yes, the typical K-12 teacher does have unflexible hours. I was thinking more along the lines of teaching a class or two at a university or college (or community education class, aerobics studio, etc.). I’m an “adjunct” instructor at a law school, and am fine with that arrangement, but I can understand how others wouldn’t be fine with it. My dream job is to be a personal trainer – that’s pretty flexible – and fun.

    Anyway, my point is that there are many opportunities for flexible part time work, but you have to be committed to your work in order to juggle all your family, work and Church responsibilities effectively. And since most jobs are pretty lame, after a few months of juggling, you might wonder why bother.

  95. July 29, 2005 at 3:01 pm


    Thanks for not misinterpreting my comment. I should add that I have no particular definition of part-time work in mind. Just that I am unaware of tenure track jobs (of those with high research expectations) that require less than 40 hours a week.

    The stipulation of high research expectations was because, quite frankly, there are lots of institutions and departments that grant tenure but without much serious research required. I was not saying anything about whether part time workers can do research.

  96. Lisa B.
    July 29, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    I take heart in President Hinckley’s words to the YW even now, as the mother of two young children. As a teen and young adult, I felt discouraged from pursuing any career that interested me even before I was married, both by YW lessons and church leaders (growing up during Pres Kimball and Pres Benson’s presidencies). I wonder how much of the judgment women level against eachother is a result of regret for ones’ own choices, and perhaps resentment that the choices they feel they were given were much more limited. (Maybe I’m admitting here some judgment on my own part.)

  97. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 29, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    Frank is certainly right about the differences in tenure requirements at various institutions. However, lower research requirements doesn’t necessarily mean a lower work load, especially if you account for the people who try to do research even when it’s not required for tenure. I’m learning this first-hand since my recent move. At Notre Dame, where I spent five years, the never-quantified but generally understood research requirements for tenure were intense–one to two _well-placed_ (tortuous ambiguity…) articles per year, oh, and a book. To help make this possible,
    the teaching load there was a humane 2 courses per semester, nothing in the summer (unless you wanted it). There was also copious institutional support for both research and teaching, everything from to-your-door library delivery service to grant-writing support staff to nearly guaranteed pre-tenure research leave, not to mention excellent travel support, library budget and research funds to support everything from joining professional organizations to purchasing books, microfilms, AND excellent paid maternity leave policy, tenure-clock extension for having a baby, etc. It was a dream job in many ways, but I still was always stretched to my capacity–and worried about getting tenure–as were all my untenured mommy colleagues there.

    I’m now at an institution that does not require anywhere near that level of research. As a result, it also offers almost no research support. Instead, being a ‘team player’ counts enormously here. Where at ND I could often be nearly invisible and hammer away at research when I wasn’t teaching, here my teaching load is 3-3, I’ m on a gazillion committees and task forces already, it seems, and, as one of only two colleagues in our German program, I have many programming duties. And I still have some research expectations from the institution, not to mention great desire to be involved in research beyond what is required. ND felt like a pressure cooker, PLU feels like a treadmill. Both feel, many days, as if they are incompatible, as Jonathan suggested, with the family life any good LDS parents should want. So far, with a supportive husband and the ability to work unusual hours, I’ve found ways to make things work, but I’ve been intrigued that the number of thoughts I’ve had about leaving the profession have gone way up since coming to a place with less research pressure. Many aspects of my job at PLU are things that I wished for at ND – more of a community feeling, more respect and ‘credit’ (for tenure) for excellent and innovative teaching, a healthy dept. . Still, after a year of having almost no time for my research, it has felt harder and harder to feel that the trade-offs on the homefront are worth it, when I don’t feel that I’m making the unique contribution through my research that is, I’m discovering, really at the core of why I have felt the Lord wants me in the profession.

    Interestingly, there are studies and disucssions brewing in the academy about ways to make academia more family-friendly, including suggestions for job-sharing and even part-time tenure track positions, in which, for example, a parent of young children, mostly likely a mother, would have lower per-year requirements, and thus take longer to achieve tenure. I nearly wept when I first read an article proposing this change, since I believe that I would have snatched this option up in a heartbeat, had it been offered to me. But many women in the academy are remarkably skeptical of changes like this, fearing that anything that makes major concessions for the realities of women’s lives as mothers will ultimately offer another way for men to marginalize women. While I appreciate the caution, I can only say that I am hungry, as many women in this and other professions are, for _real_ ways to make professional and family lives more compatible. I can only second what Julie in Austin said: “If there was ever a public policy issue that the Saints should and could get behind, I would think it would be encouraging the professions to create parttime and flextime options.”

  98. July 29, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    The typical way to encourage a company to offer something is to be willing to work for less if that benefit is available. Or, equivalently, to show that offering the benefit will raise productivity by enough to offset its costs.

    Sure enough, part-time work typically does pay less per hour.

  99. JKS
    July 29, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    I’m a SAHM. In response to some questions about SAHMs views on working women.
    1. I think mothers should try to be a SAHM whenever possible. I think the church encourages us to do this.
    2. I try to be careful about what I say about the issue because I don’t want to be mean! I try to not make women who have to work feel bad about not being able to be a SAHM. I try to respect the choice of women who choose to work and assume they are trying to do what is best in there case.
    3. I regret none of my choices about marriage, having children, and my education and career. Not the timing or anything. I made certain decisions deliberately so that being a SAHM would be possible and am absolutely fulfilled and satisfied and happy. (OK, so maybe not during PMS but the rest of the time yeah). I don’t have any problems with resentment.
    4. It is difficult for me to see how I could have accomplished as much as I have as a mother if I had not been home full-time. I have had a certain learning curve and feel I have really progressed as a person in the gospel at the same time that I have been able to help my children and acheive success in marriage.

  100. JKS
    July 29, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    “I am grateful that Pres. Hinckley did NOT mention teaching (K-12), which I is amazingly UNflexible, if you think about it. No flextime at all (an extremely rigid schedule), extremely few parttime opportunities, and low pay is not a good combination. All other things being equal (which they never are), teaching is about the worst choice if you want to work while your kids are young. ”

    Julie, kids are not in school year round. Days off, summer vacations, etc. If all your children are IN school, it is difficult to find a part-time job to work only on school days.
    Having young children or school age children means different hours that might work best.
    If my children are someday all in school, I would consider a part-time job. HOwever, even when they are teenagers I want to be around during school vacations and non school days. So, I might consider a school district job, or I might want to do taxes which could be kept to the tax season and not have to quit my job each June when my kids got out of school.

  101. Ben
    July 29, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    JKS, I find your response #2 very intriguing, and I suspect you speak for many. It seems that your main statement here is that you try not to offend, although your privately-held feelings may be much more severe than you let on in a face-to-face situation. I say this as the spouse of a mostly-SAHM who battles the idea that there are those who would judge her for what she does.

    My contention has been that because nobody says anything, more than likely there is no real judgement occurring, because we all know that other people care much less about what we do than we ourselves do. Then I read a post such as yours and I worry that maybe I am wrong.

    In fact, I have observed that the inner conflict can be very difficult for a mother who decides to work. The statement from the prophet is pretty clear that having mothers in the home is to everyone’s advantage. Any mother who is not a full-time SAHM is probably already battling a conscience which repeats that. Then, there is the stigma of not being as good a mother as those who are full-time SAHMs. To say that stigma does not exist would be a betrayal of your original statement, which illuminates clearly that it does, although you do not state it explicitly. Those are two fairly powerful forces: the voice of the prophet, and the unspoken opinion of the people.

    So when an LDS mother does decide to work outside the home, it is much more likely to be for a good reason than it would be without those opposing forces. Money is not the only reason to do so. I know several LDS mothers who work a few hours outside the home so they can get some adult interaction. I know some who do it because they are still not totally at ease with the idea of being home all the time. Some struggle with depression and need a distraction from their normal daily at-home routine. I know some who do it because they are single mothers. And others whose husbands are injured or otherwise incapacitated. And many of them do not feel comfortable discussing these reasons in public, because as I said, they feel they are judged just for working outside the home, and for not being full-time SAHMs.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s important to do more than “try” to respect the choice of some mothers to work. Oftentimes, it is much less a choice than it seems to the uninformed observer. It really does go much deeper than the money.

  102. Jack
    July 29, 2005 at 11:48 pm

    C’mon Ben. JKS is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t according to your view. Why is it that her best effort to be sensitive to the choices of others is not an acceptable offering?

  103. Ben
    July 30, 2005 at 1:05 am

    I’m not saying that it isn’t, Jack. Did you read my entire post? We all do our best, and I certainly didn’t intend to single out JKS as somehow being worse than anyone else. My apologies if it sounded that way; that was not my intended meaning.

    What I’m saying is that the comment was the evidence of something greater: the unspoken judgement by those who do against those who don’t. When JKS says that she tries to avoid talking about it so as to avoid being mean, I think that pretty much articulates exactly what I’m talking about. Certainly, biting one’s tongue is better than the alternative in that case, but the sentiment is there.

    Think about it from the point of view of the LDS mother who has to work (for whatever reason) but wishes she didn’t. Spending time with SAHMs isn’t always a pleasant experience when you feel judged. It’s like being the only one without enough money when a group of friends says they are going out to eat. It makes you feel uncomfortable.

    The difference is, as a non-SAHM, this situation comes up much more frequently. Because in many places (such as where we live), being a SAHM is the norm, the non-SAHM finds herself in this company whenever she is at church, at playgroups, at parties. When you feel judged in this company, it is not long before one decides not to attend those parties, those playgroups…

    The SAHMs who have a large impact on those mothers who don’t SAH are those who make a real effort to discuss the issues, to understand and sympathize with those who for some reason can not stay at home. That sort of inclusive attitude makes a big difference and goes a long way toward building strong wards and supporting those who feel left out.

  104. July 30, 2005 at 4:10 am

    Why is it that women who make the decision to stay at home while their children are young often feel freed up to work (part time, full time, whatever) when their children are teenagers? (This question is completely avoiding need-to-work situations.) My children are still very young (7, 4, and 1) and I don’t know what I’ll decide or what my children will need (in terms of parental time and attention) as they get older–but several mothers have remarked to me that their teenagers needed them more than their young children did. It gives me pause.

    Like Rosalynde (in # 88), I’ve thought in 10 or so years down the road I would enter another phase, one with far more personal possibilities…and I’m finding a shift in my thinking. I suppose I’m no longer actually planning to change my full-time SAHM status, but rather wondering if I will.

  105. Julie Allen
    July 30, 2005 at 4:26 am

    This debate is clearly one that all of us have strong personal feelings about. As I have read through the responses to Kirsten’s excellent and well-balanced post, I have felt sympathetic, annoyed, enraged, delighted, optimistic, and emphatic by turns. I can’t possibly say something to everyone whose post I either strongly agreed or strongly disagreed with (though there were many of both kinds), but I would like to say that I think Cara O’Sullivan (Comment #18) made an incredibly important point about how moms who work are still full-time moms. Kirsten clarified that her initial post presupposed that her LDS audience would understand that she and her husband are parents first and foremost, but that point seems to get lost in the rabblerousing about how working moms are or are not adhering to the counsel of the prophet.

    For my part, I am also a Germanist (in excellent company here, I see) with two kids (2 and 4) and a husband just starting graduate school and I work. I have always worked, since I was 15 years old. Whether or not I am getting paid, whether or not what I am paid seems a fair price for my labors, whether I am in my home or outside of it, I work. I work at jobs that I like (teaching first-year Danish at Harvard to a class of 4 while I was pregnant with my first child was one of the best teaching experiences of my life) because I like them and jobs that I don’t particularly (Rosalynde, I will be teaching 2 English 101 classes this fall to primarily non-native English speakers as an underpaid adjunct, but at the last minute I was given a Humanities 202 class as well to save my sanity) in order to survive financially. But through all of this, in every working scenario that I have experienced since 2000, I am a mom, a full-time, utterly devoted, totally dedicated, gospel-oriented mom.

    To borrow a page from Nate Oman’s latest post, I generally don’t really care what mortal people think of my life choices. Maybe that is why I have never sensed much disapproval from anyone about my simultaneous working and parenting. In reading all of these posts, however, I have tried each comment on for size in regards to my life and my choices and found some more constricting than I deem necessary or warranted, which is why I decided to write this response. President Hinckley had it right when he told the YW that the whole range of career options were open to women. I think we all agree that motherhood is by far the most important and rewarding career a woman can have, but I do not believe that being a working mom necessarily precludes being a fantastic full-time mom, just as being a SAHM absolutely does not mean that the mom in question is uneducated, unmotivated, or incapable of competing successfully in the global marketplace. I could go on and on and on, but I will rest here.

  106. A. Greenwood
    July 30, 2005 at 10:31 am

    If everyone is a full-time mother, regardless of what they actually spend their time doing, then I fail to see why we would ever recieve any prophetic counsel in this regard. But to make the claim is to be footloose with language. My wife is a full-time mother. I am not a full-time father. I work.

  107. Julie in Austin
    July 30, 2005 at 11:11 am

    Julie Allen, you wrote about trying each comment on for size. I did that with this comment of yours: “but I do not believe that being a working mom necessarily precludes being a fantastic full-time mom”

    (Let me locate myself before I go on for those who don’t know: homeschooling mother of 7, 4, and baby, no paid job, invests lots of time in teaching Institute, Sunday School, and research and writing for publication).

    Let’s assume (although my numbers may be off) that a full-time working mother spends something like 40 hours per week with her kids while they are awake (I’m thinking 3 per weekday and about 12 per weekend day) while I spend about 80 hours per week with my children while they are awake. If the 40 hour/week mom can be “fantastic,” I’m not sure what conclusion to draw except that I am wasting those additional 40 hours per week (after all, I’d be a fantastic mother even without them).

    We’ve talked in this thread about the sense that SAHM are judging WMs. But as a SAHM, it seems that I am (implicitly, even if nothing is ever articulated or even consciously thought) judged by WMs as ‘wasting my time’ because that investment of hours in my children has, on some level, been deemed as unnecessary by them.

    This isn’t meant to be an attack on anyone posting on this thread, but this is something that has always puzzled me, and I honestly don’t know how to resolve it. I think that many SAHMs feel this way about WMs: her very existence implies that what they do all day is nonessential. If there is a way out of this conundrum, I’d like to learn what it is.

  108. July 30, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Juline in Austin,

    In the talk by GBH I linked to above, he says that it is “It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.” So you are on solid ground in asserting that full time motherhood is an 80+ hour job.

    The real question is how to make those hours powerful in teaching your children.

  109. Jack
    July 30, 2005 at 12:30 pm


    By the same token, I’m not assuming that you’re lashing out at JKS personally. But, your views, however sincerely you may hold to them, condemn most (if not all) SAHMs as the decision to stay at home nowadays is, well, just that–a decision, a choice. And inasmuch as the vast majority of LDS women are trying to make good decisions–whether one decides to work in or out of the home–that decision is typically going to be laced with strong moral implications.

  110. Rosalynde Welch
    July 30, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Julie, try thinking about it with an analogy. You spend two hours a day doing housework; let’s say for argument’s sake that I spend four hours a day on housework (and that’s not too far off). Prophets have exhorted women to maintain clean and organized homes; I spend twice as much time doing that as you do; do you consider the extra hours that I spend cleaning to be nonessential and wasted? It all depends, of course, on the opportunity costs, on what else I would be doing if I weren’t doing housework.

    Maybe you spend your extra two hours watching soap operas and your house truly is an unhygienic, unsafe sty (I highly doubt that, but go with me), while my house is a clean, organized, warm and inviting haven (again, don’t count on that). In that case, my extra two hours wouldn’t be wasted, but would be essential and valuable effort expended. On the other hand, maybe I spend those two extra hours re-organizing my children’s sock drawers and alphabetizing their legos; in this case, you would be right to consider those hours nonessential and wasted.

    Both of those scenarios are pretty unlikely, though. More likely you’re simply more efficient than I, you accomplish in two hours what I accomplish in four, and our houses are equally clean and organized; in that case, you wouldn’t consider my hours wasted, either, since they’re spent accomplishing work that you value too (but you might give me some efficiency tips!). Or maybe your house is slightly less clean and organized than mine, but that difference doesn’t negatively affect your family life or mental health; in that case, you shouldn’t consider my extra hours wasted, but simply an expression of individual priorities and preferences. Or possibly your house is less clean and organized than mine, and this does take a toll on your family life and mental health, but you use the extra two hours to take meals to shut-ins, nurse orphan preemies, and counsel homeless people—that is, you decide that the marginal cost at home is outweighed by the benefits of doing other things; in this case, you recognize that my hours of work are valuable and have a beneficial effect, but you see a greater beneficial effect in doing other things.

    In any of these scenarios, you wouldn’t consider my housework time wasted and nonessential, even though you yourself chose to allocate your time differently.

  111. Ben
    July 30, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    No, I don’t think I condemn anyone. I think that the decision for any woman to stay home as a SAHM in this society is a hard one, and yes, the world in general probably places more value on a working mom than a SAHM. We as members of the Church prize our SAHMs and their contribution to their families and our world. There is pressure from the world not to do so, and we understand that it is in many cases a very spiritual decision and a sacrifice to be a SAHM. Which we honor.
    The decision of an LDS mom to work can be similar in magnitude — in the other direction — because of the pressures I have mentioned earlier. And yes, there are biases by those who work against those who SAH, and I agree that that is totally wrong as well. Maybe if everyone understood, like you say, that the decision either way (especially for LDS women) is laced with so many moral implications and best spiritual intentions, people in general would be more open to those who for whatever reason have gone the other way.

  112. Julie in Austin
    July 30, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    RW, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and your analogy, but it doesn’t work for me for reasons that I think you hint at: you acknowledge that the two hours that I’m not cleaning might be spent in some activity of equal or even greater value to my family. My two hours of reading to the kids (or serving orphans, or whatever) may provide my family with a different-but-equal value to your two additional cleaning hours. So by analogy, you’d need to think that working (away from kids) is of equal or greater value to the family. While this would obviously be the case in times of extreme financial need, that isn’t the scenario that I am talking about. Unless you think that a mother working (not out of necessity) is simply providing her family with a different-but-equal good as a mother with her kids all day, I don’t see how your analogy would apply. If a working mother is providing a different-but-equal good, why do the prophets want mothers at home when possibe? (And what would it say about motherhood that someone paid subminimum wage can do as good of a job as I can?)

  113. Rosalynde Welch
    July 30, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    Julie, not quite: I’m suggesting those extra two hours might be spent in an activity of greater value to the larger community (that’s why I suggested homeless orphans, not reading to your kids). So mothers who work outside the home can value the work that SAHMs perform, recognize that in not performing it they are exacting some cost from their family, but can simultaneously conclude that they have the opportunity to perform work that is of sufficient benefit in the community to offset the cost at home. (Please, please, please, all—don’t start throwing quotes about “No success can compensate…”; I understand that, I’m not making a defense of WOHMs (here), I’m simply trying to explain how they might choose to work outside the home but still value the work of an at-home mother.) In recognizing that mothering can claim a place in the hierarchy of socially-valuable labor—more important than lots of kinds of work, and, yes, less (or equally) important than some—I think we pay it a far greater tribute than by insisting that it can in no way be compared with other sorts of socially-valuable labor.

    As for your final question, well, we’ve already talked about the differences in what we understand “mothering” to entail; I don’t see it to be a highly-skilled form of labor, however important, whereas I would guess that you do. And as Frank would say, the only thing the low wages of childcare workers reveals is that there are lots of people who are willing to work for that wage—it doesn’t reveal the intrinsic value of the activity.

  114. Jack
    July 30, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    Ben: “Maybe if everyone understood […] that the decision either way (especially for LDS women) is laced with so many moral implications and best spiritual intentions, people in general would be more open to those who for whatever reason have gone the other way.”

    I agree. And I think this is what JKS was getting at when she said: “I try to respect the choice of women who choose to work and assume they are trying to do what is best in their case.”

  115. JKS
    July 30, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the support! You understood exactly what I was trying to express. People were asking for SAHM input, I gave it. I am a SAHM for a reason, very important ones in my opinion, but I don’t go around condemning others for having different reasons for what they do and instead understand that they can make their own choices.

    I have posted twice explaining why I can’t really “approve” of others choices, just acknowledge that it is their choice. ANY parent has parenting ideals that they believe are important.
    I see other people’s marriages. Perhaps the spouses lie to each other. I think that is WRONG. We don’t do that in our marriage. But I acknowledge that they have every right to make the marriage the way they want it.
    In fact, NO ONE makes the exact same choices I do about marriage or about parenting.
    I’m going to think that my ideals and priorities are right….because that is the very definit
    of what they are. I will agree with people who have similar ideals and priorities. I will also, of course, learn from others around me and my ideals and priorities will change a little as I go with knowledge, experience and wisdom.
    I don’t sit in judgement of working mothers. I realize that most of them are very good mothers. ANd even based on my own set of priorities, each of them probably has an area that they are doing “better” at than I am, and I can still try to be like them.
    Staying home with children isn’t the ONLY thing that makes you a good mother, even in my set of ideals.

  116. JKS
    July 30, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Julie in Austin
    I also have a little problem with the fulltime working mom is also a fulltime mom. But its not really that big of a deal to me, though, because looking from the fulltime mom’s perspective:
    Working means that she (usually, and especially if she does not have money for convenience or help) still does almost the exact same laundry, homework helping, grocery shopping, bathing, food preparation, dishes, etc.). Also, a working mom at work usually tries to be available if her child is sick or hurt.
    This past year I had my first child enter school all day every day for 1st grade. She is gone now for 7.25 hours per day 180 days of the year. I still feel like a full-time mom though.
    THere is the time warp thing. I know she is learning and doing things, and feeling something every second of the day…..yet I don’t know what her experiences are anymore. She has them away from home.
    It is definitely hard, yet my responsibility to help her deal with her experiences is still there, so I have to learn to equip her with the skills she needs. We have to have good talks about her life now, because I rely on her to tell me things.
    I have to say it is easier for me, in my daily work, to have her gone. She is my challenging child–challenging to my patience. I miss her though, and I”m glad to have her around for summer vacations and all those non school days during the year. But it is VERY definite that having her home means more work for me.

  117. JKS
    July 30, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    I am currently trying to make friends…..working moms, SAHMs, women with no kids. I can be friends with people even if they voted for Kerry, let their 5 year old watch Star Wars Episode III, wear their SUnday clothes all day long, have children who seem out of control, think visiting teaching is boring, send their children to expensive preschools that they can’t afford, nurse for more than 18 months, don’t ever have FHE, have an hour of scripture study each day, have 2 cars, are divorced, are poorer than me, richer than me, let their kids wander the neighborhood, homeschool their kids, put their kids in millions of programs, don’t put their kids in any programs, don’t read to their kids or teach their kids to read, go to other churches, don’t go to church, sit in the foyer during RS, have husbands who are the bishop…..
    It is difficult to be friends with someone when your life is very different. Making friends requires a lot of effort. I have discovered that many women wish for more friends. I’m a SAHM and I am having to work VERY hard to try to make friends in my ward. Its been 8 months and it is starting to pay off a little, but it will still require lots of effort.

  118. JKS
    July 30, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    One of the things that I thought was cool about my husband when we were first dating. I asked him how he felt about mothers and working. He said, “I think it is important for mothers to be home with kids, especially when they are teenagers.”
    I have never heard that before or since. Its always about young children, you know?
    Recently in the past couple weeks we’ve had a very sad situation in our ward victimizing several teenagers. As I grieve for the children and parents involved, I have tried to process the experience. I have just posted that my oldest now attends school and is away from home much of the day.
    I wonder, how can I protect my children as they get older? How can I be there for them….when I can’t really be right next to them all the time? How can I help my children through whatever struggles they will have as they grow up.
    I have many ideas. I have one on one dates with my daughter now. I think being able to focus one on one with a child is important as they get older and their problems get harder for them to bring up when there are other children around. I think teaching them the gospel, helping them develop a relationship with our HF through prayer is important. I will also never let a job take me away from my teenagers. I know I am blessed because I don’t think a job would ever be necessary.

    But how can I say this without sounding judgemental? It isn’t about me being “better” than other people. It is about making choices for my family.
    I used to feel a little judged as a SAHM. I knew how I was viewed by feminists and working moms. I no longer feel that (well, ok, maybe a tiny bit every once in a while). I don’t resent that they try to judge my merit to my family or catagorize me as a type. I know my own worth. I have the support of a wonderful husband. I have the gift of supportive parents who through every challenge they tell me that I can do it.
    Judging can go both ways. Everywhere in the US its a major issue. There is a huge working mom vs. SAHM divide. I don’t have an answer for it, except…..
    I wouldn’t have married any of my friends husbands. I think to myself, “I’m glad my husband doesn’t do that, etc.” Does that mean my friends are miserable and have bad marriages?

  119. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 30, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    I understand and value what you were trying to emphasize, Adam, but the semantics matter here. You may not be the full-time caregiver in your family, but you _are_ a full-time father.

  120. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 30, 2005 at 6:26 pm

    It may go without saying that the impact of our choices on our parenting is not confined to our children’s 80 waking hours.

    But let’s start with those for now.

    Every parent (not just every mother!) has roughly the same 80 hours of her or his children’s waking hours to fill. We can stick to mothers for now for the sake of examples. It’s not as simple as putting all full-time working moms in one pot and all SAHMs in the other. There are many varieties of each, and those 80 hours are divided up with great diversity. Every mother will spend at least _some_ of those 80 hours away from her kids. For one mother, this might mean a full- or part-time job. For another it might mean a yoga class two hours a week, for another taking a college class for four hours, or teaching seminary for six. Or maybe it’s a demanding calling, or a girl’s lunch out, or a date with her husband, or volunteering, or, or, or… . In most of these cases, assumedly, the mom chooses to be away from her children and have someone else care for them. It may be her husband, it may be someone else. Of course this doesn’t mean that she thinks her husband or her babysitter offers the same care to her children that she would, no matter how highly they’re paid, just that she feels confident that they’re getting good care.

    As Rosalynde said, in each case the mom also decides that the benefit to her, her entire family, society at large–or all of the above–is worth the effects of her absence on her children. This is not the same as saying that yoga or seminary or lunch with friends is equal to the value of a child or time with a child. Rather it is an acceptance (arrived at differently for every woman) that other factors contribute to the well-being of a family. Obviously, when it comes to activities outside the home and away from children, whether for pay or not, one family’s Too Much is another family’s Just Right, but these choices do not inherently include any judgment of anyone else’s.

    This is not to say that there isn’t sometimes tension between women who make different decisions, but I simply have a hard time believing that those tensions center on thoughts that a SAHM is ever “wasting her time” when she is with her children. Some of my professors might think I was wasting my doctoral education if I chose to stay home, but I can’t imagine that even the most hardened of them would actually think it was a waste of time to care for my children. I think that’s a crucial difference.

    As for children’s non-waking hours, I think it’s worth more overt discussion that the things we do in these hours also have an impact on our family. I can’t imagine, for example, that a nurse who works a 12-hour graveyard shift has the same emotional resources the next day in dealing with her children that she would had she been home sleeping. So she and her husband may decide that, although it means more hour away from her children, it’s better for everyone when she works a day-time shift and has someone else care for the kids. As so many have said, we just need to trust each family to make these decisions appropriately.

  121. Julie in Austin
    July 30, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    OK, RW, you have actually answered my original question: it is possible for a WM to *not* be offering an inherent critique of the SAHM *if* the WM assumes that the value (to society, and her family) of her paid work is equal to the value (to society, to her family) of her missed opportunity at home. Which, I think, is what Kirsten is saying in the next comment.

    (Of course, the position that something other than SAHM could provide equal value (to society, to the family) to full-time mothering is, of course, a critique of the value of SAHM).

    Kirsten, you have a very good point about non-waking hours. I would be vile beyond belief to my kids the next day if I worked the graveyard shift!

  122. Emma Marsh
    July 30, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    Kirsten mentioned:

    “Obviously, when it comes to activities outside the home and away from children, whether for pay or not, one family’s Too Much is another family’s Just Right, but these choices do not inherently include any judgment of anyone else’s.”

    Kirsten’s right in that different women have different needs, and it is healthy (for both the mother and the children) to get away from the kids. For some women this means enrichment night once a month, for others it means a class once a week, for some it means working 3 hours every morning, and for others it means working full time. (Along with the various options Kirsten gave).

    I think we too often focus on what’s best for the children, and not on what’s best for the mother. We’ve all heard, “When Mom is happy, everyone is happy”. Mother’s have emotional, mental, and physical needs, and if these aren’t met, it’s not going to matter whether she’s at home or at work, she’s not going to be able to be the best mother she can be to her children. If a mother feels that staying at home with her kids is what makes her happy and fulfilled, then that’s what she should be doing. If she feels that she is not happy and fulfilled by staying home (i.e., something is missing that is a core part of her person or identity), then she should be *encouraged* to pursue whatever path and combinations of things that makes her complete. Regardless of what she does, she can still take the “primary responsibility for raising the children” (as in the proclamation).

    The problem with the whole staying at home vs. working debate is the assumption in the church that every woman will be, or should be, satisfied and fulfilled and happy staying at home. This is simply not true. I know it’s not true for me. I would prefer that instead of encouraging mother’s to stay at home, the church would take no stance and simply encourage individuals to accept Christ’s love and to develop a personal relationship so that you know what you do in your life is in accordance with God’s hopes for you and with your talents. At times I’ve joked about wishing I could take a pill that took away all my ambition, desire, and drive to be intellectually stimulated and fulfilled, so that I could be happy being at home all the time. Even the thought that Heavenly Father, or my children, would want me to give up my ambitions and desires and intellectual pursuits (which up until having children were related to the ‘talents’ I pursued) so that I can call myself a ‘stay-at-home-mom’ and obey the prophets ‘general counsel’ (even if it makes me unhappy) doesn’t make sense to me.

    I understand where the stay-at-home moms are coming from, and I, in no way, want to be critical of others choices. But, I do feel that there is little room for discussing alternative needs for ‘working outside the home’ for mormon women in mormon culture. There’s only the “I’ve prayed about it and know what’s best for me”, but sometimes when you continually pray and realize that’s what’s best for you is different and against the norm, it can be hard to co-exist with those the are living the gospel by following the ideal…

    In any case, those are my thoughts. I appreciate the bloggernacle because of the opportunity to engage in a dialogue and I appreciate being able to state things that can’t be said at church (and because of such, are too often not said at all).

  123. manaen
    July 30, 2005 at 8:07 pm

    # 113
    Rosalynde, I write without tracing the thread of your comments all the way back…

    RE: your comments, 1. “I don’t see it [mothering] to be a highly-skilled form of labor, however important, whereas I would guess that you do.” and 2. “And as Frank would say, the only thing the low wages of childcare workers reveals is that there are lots of people who are willing to work for that wage—it doesn’t reveal the intrinsic value of the activity.”

    1. I suppose that depends upon how skilled someone decides to become as a mother/parent. My my girlf friend, ex, my bio sisters, and some sisters in my ward have highly-developed skills that are invisible to those that use other maps. With a psych undergrad, secondary-ed training, grad mgt degree, a couple decades of management experience, and even having taught several Primary classes, I can’t approach their ability to help kids to develop. It’s not that parenting isn’t highly-skilled work, it’s that many don’t value the work enough to develop highly those skills.

    2. I agree that the low wages of child care workers says nothing about the intrinsic value of child care. To say that these workers are willing to work for lower wages would be like saying that the state colleges charge less tuition than Stanford because they’re willing to do so. I believe that the low wages of child-care workers show more about how much (voluntarily) absent parents value caring for their children — in the level of skill they decide to hire — than the truly intrinsic value of child care. More accurately, they likely start with how much of their disposable income to allocate across their household expenses, like caring for their children, then hire the level of worker available for the allocated amount. It starts with working outside as the prioity, with caring for the children subordinate.

  124. Julie in Austin
    July 30, 2005 at 8:07 pm


    While, obviously, mothers have needs that must be met for them to be the balanced, happy, etc., mothers that their children deserve, I think there must be a cap, at some point, on the line of thinking that begins, “Well, I wouldn’t be able to be good mother if I didn’t X, so I must X.” I cannot use this line of reasoning to justify, for example, spending all of the family’s money on things I want (leaving nothing for the family’s needs), and nor do I think I could use it for spending all of my time on things I want to do (leaving no time to meet my family’s needs). I cannot use it to violate commandments (“I just won’t be a calm, relaxed mother without a glass of chardonnay at 3pm, so . . .). And I am concerned about women (and men) who use it to justify spending too much (ah, there’s that magic phrase again–what’s too much?) time away from their children.

    You wrote, “I think we too often focus on what�s best for the children, and not on what�s best for the mother.”

    Actually, I think we do the opposite: we focus on what the parents need and want and not what is optimum for the development (moral, spiritual, emotional) of the children. If I were in a position to offer counsel to someone (male or female) trying to work all of this out, I’d suggest that they think about that trite, cheesy, overused object lesson with the stones and the sand. Your children’s needs are the stones. Put those in first. Your needs, wants, and ambitions are the sand: fit those in around the children’s needs. If you put the sand first, the stones won’t fit. But if you put the stones first, you’ll be amazed at how much sand you can fit around them if you use all of the opportunites.

  125. Ben
    July 30, 2005 at 9:14 pm

    Maybe I misinterpreted the original comment. Because it is a hot topic in my house, my bias resides with my wife on the issue. I appreciate the discussion and the comments. If JKS’ actual feelings are more toward your interpretation than my original one, then truly she is much more a part of the solution than the problem.

    Julie in Austin,
    At the extreme we have Andrea Yates, where the mother’s needs went so underaddressed that the horrible tragedy occurred. I think the point you were really trying to make (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that the “I wouldn’t be a good mother if…” logic must be corralled by spiritual guidance. Certainly, as you said, there is some limit to what is justifiable and what isn’t, but in general that which the Spirit confirms would, yes, be considered justifiable.

    The rocks and sand analogy is tired, but it’s a reasonable one which is why it gets so much use. Sometimes what I see is not so much that people fill their jars with too much sand first, but that they fill it with more stones than necessary — going beyond the “needs” for children’s optimum development and including excessive wants and entitlements. A healthy family, well balanced in spiritual, emotional, physical and mental aspects, is good for all involved, including children and parents.

  126. Suzanne
    July 30, 2005 at 10:05 pm

    I just discovered this online world of bloggers, and I haven’t ever posted before. I’m not sure what to expect, as it seems you all know each other pretty well. This post has been really fun for me to read!

    I guess I should give some background before saying my two cents. I’m an active happily married mom of a 22 month old with another due in a few weeks. I’m 3 weeks from finishing my residency training (YAY!!) and becoming a fully trained physician. Any of you who know residents know it is a long often painfull process to get to the end. I could not have done it without the love and constant support of my husband (who also works full time– luckily from home). He is an amazing dad and pretty much does everything for our son in the mornings (as I leave for work by 6 am most days to get to the OR). I’m usually home by 5pm or so (anesthesia tends to be a little more reasonable as far as residencies go) except when i’m on call in which case I’m at the hospital for 24 hours or so. After the baby is born I’m taking time off from working for a bit then returning part time (2 days a week with a few calls a month).

    My situation is such that I don’t HAVE to work to make ends meet, but I am very much looking forward to the 2 days a week I’ll be able to work. I love what I do (except the call part of being an anesthesiologist), and I’m so happy to have found a situation where I can work a few days a week. I am also excited to be home with my babies more in a few weeks. I guess for me it is a matter of balance in my life. I think medical school and residency have been entirely too long and taken up too much of my time. I wish I could have gone part time when my son was born (not an option in most residency programs), but at that point with only 22 months to go, I felt I needed to finish my training.

    My husband and I feel very comfortable with the decisions we’ve made thus far, and I don’t feel there is a conflict between what I’m doing and any doctrine. I feel we both have made our son our priority (although my husband has taken care of more of his physical and emotional needs thus far).

    I also think my job and training has afforded my husband more choices as well. He is considering going part time himself or starting his own company at some point so we can all spend time together as a family.

    I don’t see that big of a difference between what I will be doing and the many other stay at home moms in my ward who volunteer one day a week at a museum (away from their children) or other moms who regularly swap kids with each other to have a day to themselves.

    I agree with what has been said in this post and others that as women (and men) we should be supportive of each other’s choices and support each other. I have been so blessed to be in a ward that is supportive (in fact, two of the sisters watch my son a few days a week so they can make ends meet). I could not have asked for a more supportive set of sisters. I have to say I’m very nervous to move back to utah in a few weeks where my experience was very different at church.

    Sorry this is a bit disjointed– i’m on call tonight at the hospital so not much time to polish it up…..

  127. July 30, 2005 at 11:41 pm

    I am a Germanist/medievalist.) We both also earn money struck me more than anything else. I’ve never known a medievalist who was making much money if they stayed in the field.

    Interesting to see all the tenure track, etc. comments. Most people are unaware of just how exploited adjuncts are. Think 50% of minimum wage, no benefits (to add some context to post 85).

    is that in many professions it is very difficult if not impossible to find (meaningful) part-time work

    Doctors can find work at $30 to $60 an hour, but I’ve known a lot of attorneys who tried to find “part time” work (defined as working only 40 to 45 hours a week) and who could not.

    Interesting thoughts, I’ll go back to reading.

  128. JKS
    July 31, 2005 at 1:06 am

    I think you misinterpreted my original comment. I consider it good manners not to talk about how important I think it is being home around moms who are not home with their children. I am not sure exactly how I can think it is not important, since I do it. So I can’t truly be PC and say I don’t think it matters. But I can say that it isn’t the only thing I think is important, so working moms can still be good mothers in my opinion because there are probably so many other things they do that I do agree with (read to them, brush their kids teeth, consistant discipline, care about their education, etc). And a SAHM can be a bad parent in so many other ways according to my list of priorities even though she’s at home.
    I think the SAHM/WM thing shouldn’t be so divisive.

  129. Monica
    July 31, 2005 at 2:57 am

    I am a SAHM of 3 young children. I cannot help but have a guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach as I look around my ward and notice that I am one of the very few women in the ward who does not hold some type of job. Almost every woman in our ward works either outside the home, or does some type of at-home job. I’m sitting here and can literally think of 4 women in the entire ward who don’t have some money-making something or other. It is never stated outright, but the understanding is certainly there that I ought to be doing something, anything at all, to contribute to our family’s income and that we would certainly be better off if I did. We live in a great big SLC UT ward. I thought that perhaps this was all due to the fact that we live in a mostly apartment ward, however, I spoke with my sister who lives in a brand new housing development – nice homes – also in a great big UT ward and she reported that all but 1 of the women that she knows in the ward works in some way.

  130. MegaEagle
    July 31, 2005 at 2:59 am

    As a male reader, I’m pretty bothered by the men’s contributions to this discussion. Why are you men unable (or unwilling?) to see how the teachings of the prophets have evolved over time on this issue? Why are you so willing to condemn the choices of other people and assume the worst about them?

    I think there was a very good treatment of this subject by Ida Smith in a women’s conference some time ago (I apologize for the length of the quote):

    “…let us examine some of the reasons we stay at home in addition to child-rearing responsibilities: is it not safe there? Do we not feel secure and know that we will be taken care of there? (Any of you who have been through a divorce and consequently forced out of the home to be a breadwinner have learned that that sense of security can be illusory.) There may be less pressure to change there. Familiar chores fill the day and with this routine comes a sense of belonging. If you have done what is expected of you, you feel you have a right to be happy. That is why feelings of malaise are so disquieting. How often I have heard women complain: “I have a wonderful husband, lovely children, money to spare. I have no ‘right’ or ‘reason’ to be depressed—so what is wrong with me?” The facts are that women are twice as likely to suffer depression as are men, and doctors tend to prescribe more drugs for women than for men suffering from depression. The greatest drug abuse in Utah—and perhaps elsewhere—continues to be with prescription drugs. According to the Deseret News, Utah has the highest per capita drug prescription rate in the country, and the highest abuse is among women ages thirty-five to fifty who are at home full time. fn Any woman who must have downers to get to sleep at night, uppers to get out of bed in the morning, and something else in between just to get through the day is demonstrating neither a positive self-esteem nor control over her life.

    Medical research shows overwhelming evidence that both positive self-esteem and good health are related to the degree of control a person feels over events in his or her life. Women who do feel they are in control of their lives rarely need to abuse drugs to help them function. Eating disorders—anorexia and bulimia—are other serious problems for women, which also grow out of problems of low self-esteem and issues of control. We tend to be happy in large part to the degree we feel we have control of our own lives. A bird in a gilded cage—no matter how opulent the cage—is still in prison. A gorgeous spacious house on a hill can be a prison to the woman who is confined there if she sees it as the only proper place for her to be. If the door of the bird cage were opened, many a bird might very well stay, but knowing she had the option to spread her wings and fly occasionally would in all likelihood make her staying a happier experience. So, too, with the woman who stays at home because she wants to, not because she has to.

    It is crucial for a woman’s mental health that she have victories of her own, accomplishments for which she alone is responsible. If she lives only through the accomplishments of her husband or her children, she runs the risk of either becoming a nag or feeling that if they fail, she is a failure. We all at one time or another make a big mistake in thinking we are, or can be, responsible for the happiness of others. No person can make another person happy. Abraham Lincoln once said that a man is just about as happy as he decides to be. We need to be concerned about our own happiness. Happy people shed their own sunlight, warming others as they warm themselves. They give of themselves freely, dispensing joy to those around them; blessed is the home that has such people in it. But no individual can make another happy unless that person is already inclined to be happy. Women who feel that they are responsible for the happiness of their husband and children have placed themselves in a no-win situation. If family members are in a mode of daring their mother to make them happy, no matter how much she does for them, it will never be enough. Many abused mothers and battered wives have had to learn this lesson the hard way. Children need to be reared to understand that they are not only responsible for their own things and their own rooms, but for their own moods and their own happiness as well. Husbands need to understand that principle too, as children will learn responsibility by modeling responsible parents.

    Often women seeing their own children having problems will entrench themselves in the home in the belief that pulling up the drawbridge and backing off from all outside activities will somehow “fix” their children’s problems when, in fact, perspectives and insights they might gain from working with others in the Church and in the community might offer them the very things they need in order to deal with problems at home in a more effective way.

    Too often, also, many of us put on our veils and feel justified in shunning our responsibilities and withholding contributions (i.e., hiding our light under a bushel) to the community by using “my place is in the home” as an excuse not to be involved with or responsible for anything that happens outside it. There are others who feel so secure and comfortable at home they want someone else—anyone else—to deal with any trouble or unpleasantness that might arise in the community. If so-called “adult” bookstores and movies abound in your community, you need to be concerned about it. If there are drugs in your children’s school, or if there are antichrist or atheistic ideas being taught to your children, you need to be concerned about them. If satanism is taking root in your community (and it is in some Utah communities), you had better be concerned about it. Paraphrasing Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men—and good women—do nothing. The best way for you to protect your home might be to take off your veil and spend a few volunteer hours in your local school, hospital, or shelter for the homeless, or to monitor school board and city council meetings or sessions of the state legislature. You may determine that you can best serve your child and affect the climate in which he is growing up by running for an office in one of these bodies yourself. If you wait to engage the battle until it has reached your own door, you may very well be too late.
    Family concerns and issues do not stop at the front door of our houses. To show we care, sometimes we will have to do things outside the home. Mothers with small children may not have the freedom to do what they might later when the children are older or in school, but they still have options, such as using the telephone or exercising the power of the pen. If your imagination has atrophied to the point where you cannot even imagine an activity outside the home, perhaps you are doing not only yourself and your family a disservice but your community and the world as well.

    Being “housebound” is a state of mind, not just a physical state. There is nothing wrong with being at home. But if you are at home because you feel there is no other choice, you are denying God’s greatest gift to His children: agency.”

    (Ida Smith, “Understanding your World” As Women of Faith: Talks Selected from the BYU Women’s Conferences [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 203.)

  131. lyle
    July 31, 2005 at 3:05 am

    Mega: One doesn’t have to work outside the home to magnify their talents and/or contribute to the community. I’ve often heard that with so many “good” choices to make; the real task is to make the “best” choice. Leaving your children in the hands of strangers isn’t the sign of a shephard.

  132. Soyde River
    July 31, 2005 at 5:25 am

    We have learned in our physical environment that our ownership of property and does not give us the right to do with that property whatever we wish. Human beings (and their governments) have learned that some limits must be put on our freedom to choose what we will do with that property, because of the effects on our physical environment. I am not free to selfishly use certain types of chemicals on my property because of the noxious and long lasting effects which could spread beyond my property and persist through time.

    It is perhaps tragic that we have not learned that in our spiritual and emotional environment the same principle applies, even when no legal restrictions exist. We may feel we should be free to choose what we will do with our lives; and selfishly pursue any career or vocation for which we feel we have the talent. In this case, the limit will not be placed by the government, but the cumulative results of our desire to do what WE want will be inescapable. There are undercurrents to our culture which we perceive but dimly, but they will carry us along to places we never imagined.

    They say that no CEO of a large corporation ever whispers on his deathbed: “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

    “The wordly hope men set their hearts upon,
    Turns ashes; or it prospers, and anon,
    like snow upon the desert’s dusty face,
    Lighting an hour or two, is gone.” The Rubaiyat

    Or, as the old Spanish saying goes:

    “Take what you want, and pay for it, says God.”

  133. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 31, 2005 at 6:34 am

    This article “Weighing Investment of Time in Family” from the Boston Globe about LDS Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen is very timely for our current discussion. It’s linked on the church’s main home page, incidentally.


  134. MegaEagle
    July 31, 2005 at 7:47 am


    You said, “One doesn’t have to work outside the home to magnify their talents and/or contribute to the community.”

    I agree. Is there anything in my post that would lead you to believe otherwise? If so, you’re imagining a categorical assertion that’s really not there. Why don’t you go back and give it a re-read; this time, look for what the author is actually saying, instead of what you want to believe she is saying.

    What do you think of the woman Pres. Hinckley praised in post #52? Would you consider her a bad shepherd? And in what universe do working women only leave their children in the hands of strangers? In that universe, are there no grandparents or other family members around to help out from time to time? My best friend’s wife was able to finish her Ph.D by dropping off her kids to play at her parents’ house a couple of times a week while she was in class. The kids loved going to grandma’s and the grandparents were thrilled at every visit. In your universe, is there more than one way of doing things?

  135. MegaEagle
    July 31, 2005 at 9:08 am

    Soyde River,

    Let me imagine a typical conversation in your home.

    Spouse: Good morning, honey.
    Soyde River (in an ominous, foreboding voice): The incidents and developments of this morning have yet to come to pass, rendering such an assessment perhaps inadequate or even ironic in future retrospection.
    Spouse: Right. Do you remember where you put the car keys?
    Soyde River (in an ominous, foreboding voice): Oftentimes, a lack of diligence in seemingly inconsequential matters such as the one under consideration, can result in events unfortunate, nay, tragic, such as a loss of mobility both unintended and unforeseen at the time the bearer of said keys exhibited such a lack of foresight. Were this lack of diligence to be indulged more broadly among the human family, the consequences might threaten civilization as we know it. This is illustrated in the following poem…
    Spouse (leaving the room): Sure. I’ll get my backup key. See you when I’m back from work!

    Soyde, No one on their deathbed will ever be heard to say “I wish I had been less plain-speaking!”



  136. lyle
    July 31, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Mega: That not all non-mothers are strangers is obvious; hence, maybe some shepherds change out with other shepherds. Hm…

    As I’ve already stated re: #52, _complete control_ over the timing and _whether to work or not_ seem to be critical factors in Pres. Hinckley’s approval.

    There is only one universe…

  137. Kirsten M. Christensen
    July 31, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    Lyle – Actually, the critical factor I see arising from Pres. Hinckley’s description of this engaging young nurse is her _desire_ to work. She can work as MUCH or as little as she chooses, he says. He doesn’t tell us how many hours a week she works, nor does he say who is watching her children while she is gone (perhaps a _paid_ shepherd? hm).

    And, although I can’t remember who said it (maybe Frank?), I have to say that I disagree that Pres. Hinckley’s statement in this talk to the YW that “the sky’s the limit” was referring to the mission of motherhood. Of course that motherhood is a woman’s greatest mission underpins everything he says, but he is _very_ clearly talking here about educational and professional dreams. Having grown up as a young woman in the church, and having taught recently for five years in YW, I can’t tell you how desperately needed and critical such vista-widening is for the young women of the church. President Hinckley obviously knows this. He knows they need to be given confidence that _any endeavor_ is open to them, to ignore their detractors and to forge ahead with the things that are meaningful and invigorating to them, as they try to do the Lord’s will. He also seems to be sharing a vision that women’s influence is increasingly needed, both in _and_ outside of the home.

  138. JKS
    July 31, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Your universe is interesting. Grandparents have so much extra time to raise their various grandchildren because…..wait, don’t they have jobs?

  139. JKS
    July 31, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    Don’t feel guilty. I assume you are happily being a SAHM and thought about the other options and don’t like any of them for your family. If you can make it on one income, don’t worry about it. Making it possible to make it on one income can take a lot of time and effort. I assume you aren’t shopping and shopping with no thought as to how your husband will pay because its “his job to provide.” So by actively being involved in making one income work, you are sharing the responsibility.

  140. July 31, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    Soyde, No one on their deathbed will ever be heard to say “I wish I had been less plain-speaking!”

    You would be surprised. People get shot sometimes because someone understood them ;)

    Emma Marsh

    Hello from another Marsh.

  141. Lisa B.
    July 31, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    Julie–thanks for your points re: the merit of being a SAHP. I agree or I wouldn’t have made the choice myself. For us, we felt extended nursing and not limiting our family size more than necessary were important enough that it only made sense for me to be the one home, rather than my husband. Not to mention the economics, his more serious career preparations, his being a more consistent and harder worker, etc. We have decided to homeschool now, too, so clearly I think there is value to the togetherness itself. By discussing regrets in conjunction with criticisms of others choices in my ealier comment, I was not meaning to imply that a SAHP would only take issue with moms who work if they regretted their own decision to not work. Rather to merely recognize that regret can be a contributing factor to criticism.

    I also agree that as a culture we tend to focus on individual needs as adults rather than the needs of our own and our larger community’s children. We have so many young kids who just run around our neighborhood and seem to have very little adult supervision even when the parents are home. As noted, “at home” parents can be equally guilty of neglect, attention to the quality of parenting and nurturing we do is likely something we can all improve on, whether or not we have outside responsibilities, hobbies, interests, volunteer work, etc that take us away from our families for significant amounts of time.

  142. A. Greenwood
    July 31, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Monica, #129,

    I hear you. Your task is a lonely one in today’s world, and, as your experience has shown you, getting lonelier. I admire you for doing it. God bless you.

  143. Jack
    August 1, 2005 at 12:10 am


    IMO, Pres. Hinckley was simply being his pragmatic self when he spoke of the “engaging young nurse”. When he speaks of the nurse having the choice to work as much or as little as she wants, he is only emphasizing the fact that she has prepared herself in such a way so as to have a wide range of options.

  144. alamojag
    August 1, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    Jack (143),

    I think that is an excellent point. We should all, men and women, mothers and fathers, prepare so we can have as wide a range of options as possible. That is, I believe, part of the reasoning behind the perpetual education fund–to give recipients options out of poverty. I have chosen a profession that makes it so my wife can work or not–we really don’t need her money. When she has worked, it has been for the purposes talked about by many posters, to get out of the house, for some kind of fulfilment, to serve others, and even to get a little extra cash for extras. We are lucky that we don’t need her income for food, shelter, and clothing.

  145. Tatiana
    August 6, 2005 at 8:13 am

    I’m interested to know what people think of this quote from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual of Brigham Young, p. 135.

    “As I have often told my sisters in the Female Relief Societies, we have sisters here who, if they had the privilege of studying, would make just as good mathematicians or accountants as any man; and we think they ought to have the privilege to study these branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed. We believe that women are useful not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic (medicine), or become good book-keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large (DBY 216-17).”

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