An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Family values’

Into the 21st Century

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.

Message from My Journal

Entries from a 19-year-old journal reveal why my non-Mo kids and I still harbor some resentment against the Church. This journal describes a time of life when I had a full time teaching job, was working on my masters’ degree, had four teens still at home, and was 2nd counselor in the YW presidency. Angst flames from the pages where I recorded my struggle to balance the demands on my time and energy:

This week has been wild. Tuesday I got home at 8 p.m. Said hello to the family for 10 minutes, ran to presidency meeting which started at 8:00. Got home after 10:30. George was asleep.

Wed. I got home at 4:00, spent an hour making a complex dessert for New Beginnings which left me no time to review my part on the program nor to prepare my part for the board meeting afterward. Was supposed to be at the church to set up at 5:00. Got there at 5:20. Left at 6:00. Gathered up more stuff for both meetings, ate a couple of bites of fish sticks and potato patty, changed my pants for a skirt—including nylons and short garments. The program started at 7:00.

 At 6:30 I started telling Aroo to get ready. She argued that she wasn’t going because she had a math test to study for and hates church. At 20 to 7, I ordered her to get ready. Lolly had to greet, so she left at 6:45. Right after, Aroo came up to do her hair and makeup. I told her there wasn’t time, I had to leave now. She sassed me and I smacked her rear with the back of the hair brush. She gave me a hostile look and sassed me again and I slapped her face and told her as long as she lived in my house, she would do as I said.

So she and Jaycee and I rushed off to New Beginnings. It was awful. I stood up to welcome the mothers and daughters to a wonderful spiritual evening of togetherness, looked at Aroo’s scowling face, and expected a bolt of lightning to strike me.

I’m sharing this incident because I suspect my situation was not and is not unique. Like many devoted Church members, I clearly wasn’t coping with my overloaded life. We couldn’t afford for me to quit my job, which I loved, and I sure didn’t want to give up my family. The only options to drop were my masters’ program or my YW calling. I loved my masters’ classes and was learning things to apply to my teaching. I did not enjoy working with adolescent girls. I’ve never been good at planning activities, decorating, and concocting fancy refreshments.

Even a pea brain could see my best choice was to drop the load I wasn’t enjoying—my church calling. Unfortunately, my brain had shrunk smaller than a pea. I had internalized all the lessons and talks about serving the Lord and never turning down a calling nor asking for a release. I struggled for two more years—to the detriment of my family—especially Aroo.

She is grown now and, I think, has forgiven me. If I knew back then what I know now, I would have realized that trying to fulfill a calling which was harmful to my family and myself was not fulfilling God’s purposes. Caring for my family and teaching my students was my way to serve God at that time.

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