Not surprisingly to anyone but ourselves, matrimony was more expensive than either George or I anticipated. Paychecks that look huge to those living with their parents dwindle when they must cover rent, utilities, and food. And when we started looking for houses, I realized why friends and family settled for standard development-dwellings rather than the homes I’d admired on the pages of House Beautiful.
Eventually, we saved enough for a house down payment, crib, and washing machine. We were ready to start a family. I finished the school year before Wort was born and planned to be a stay-at-home-mom. We could watch TV and entertain guests on kitchen chairs for a while longer. We knew our charming, 70-year-old house needed renovation. With the innocence of youth, we figured it wouldn’t cost much since George could do the work himself. As expenses mounted, we postponed a second child and I returned to teaching when Wort neared his first birthday.
I found a baby sitter who gave Wort far wiser care than my inexperience allowed. But with a baby to pick up at 4:00, I could no longer spend long hours at school. I resorted to more worksheets and fewer hands-on learning experiences, and felt I was cheating my students. I quit teaching with a sigh of relief after two years. The house was livable and living room furniture could wait.
Life moved on. We added four more kids to the family. I gardened, canned, and shopped thrift stores to stretch our tight budget. George is very good as his work, but it’s not a high-paying field. By the time our youngest hit school, we knew I needed a job to provide health insurance and retirement benefits as well as to keep shoes on five pairs of fast-growing feet.
Throughout my teaching years, my senses were assaulted by General Conference addresses and Relief Society lessons criticizing mothers who love luxuries more than their children and take jobs outside the home. The pervasive rhetoric even encouraged one ward member with an unemployed husband to ask for Church welfare rather than get a job herself—although her three children were in their teens.
But, I think the times are a-changing. At a funeral last week, a white-haired bishop in a rural ward began his remarks by praising the deceased woman for improving her skills and taking a job to help support the family. Hallelujah! I could have hugged the man. And I hope he conveyed this message to my elderly relative before her death. Her family, as well the Church, criticized her efforts to keep her kids fed, in school, and on missions.
Bishop Rural was a breath of fresh air. I hope he’s frontrunner for a new Church-wide attitude toward women. Mormons have long praised fathers who take an active role in child-rearing. Now, it’s time to honor mothers who help provide financial security for the family.