Thoughts on Women’s Rights and Motherhood

There are those who claim that my religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, oppresses women. Some fodder for this claim includes the fact that women largely do not hold leadership positions in the church, that women do not hold the priesthood, and that women are strongly encouraged to stay home with the children during their formative years. I want to talk about the last one.

Critics of this counsel from Church leaders say that it counteracts decades of progress in the area of women’s rights and that it limits women’s potential and insults their intelligence. They see having a career as a right, in other words. Or, to be fair, they see the option to have a career as a right. And maybe it is. I should be able to become a dentist if I want to, even if I am a woman.

But a lot of the rhetoric against having women stay home and take care of the children starts from the assumption that being a homemaker, for lack of a better word, is inherently degrading or unappealing. And I disagree wholeheartedly with that idea. From the time I was very young, I’ve wanted to be a homemaker when I grew up. It’s what my mom did, and it was obvious she loved it. I remember her telling us, “I love being your mother,” and I believed her. I remember thinking how glad I was that I was born a girl so that when I grew up I wouldn’t have to go to work; instead I could stay home and “play with” my kids. Now that I’m older, I know that being a mother involves a LOT of work that is largely thankless because it just needs to be done again tomorrow. However, there are certain aspects of this job that make it more appealing than any other in the whole world.

1. My coworkers, boss, and clients are my family. And I get to mold that family to become what I want it to be. Not that I aim to change any one person in the family to fit my ideals, but by holding family dinners, spending quality time together, setting rules and expectations, showing lots of love, and having rituals and traditions, we create bonds that will hopefully keep us together even when the children leave the nest. In other words, the people I work with and who keep me busy all day are some of my absolute favorite people in the world. Who else can say that?

2. I have almost complete autonomy as to how I do my job. This is incredibly important to me for job satisfaction, I found in college. I do NOT like to be micromanaged or to be required to adjust my work to satisfy a long list of requirements. I almost became an English teacher, and I know I would have hated having to “teach to the test” all the time.

3. I love children. Oh, like any adult, I sometimes find them annoying and incomprehensible. But I love the way their minds work. I love their uncomplicated emotions. I love how affectionate they are to those who show them the least bit of attention. I love how they bounce, how they examine the world, how they try and try and try new things until they finally figure them out. I love the sound of their voices, especially when they sing. I love how they get me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to act young again, to remember what’s fun.

4. No commute. Just sayin’.

5. I love how being a homemaker requires me to use lots of different skills, talents, and muscles. I have had to get organized so that I don’t just coast and find myself, years from now, wishing I’d done things differently. I’ve done a lot of research on teaching, disciplining, and playing. I’ve learned how to tend a garden, can tomatoes, make Ethiopian food, get an overtired baby to go to sleep, decorate, teach a child to read, and much more. I’ve learned to control my temper and to get up and do things even when I don’t want to. I’ve learned to multitask, to rely on friends and family, and to take time to think and pray.

6. In my other jobs, once I figured out how to do the job, I basically just did it, day in and day out, without much variation. Every day as a homemaker is a challenge and a surprise. Sometimes the challenge is keeping my emotions in check. Sometimes it’s forcing myself to do what needs to be done even though I’m exhausted. Sometimes it’s finding fun things to keep the kids busy that don’t cost a fortune. Some days surprise me by how effortless and joyful they are. I wonder what tomorrow will be like. 🙂

7. I’ve never felt pride in my work that compares to the satisfaction I feel looking at my boys. They’ve got a long way to go before they’re responsible adults, of course, but they’re turning out pretty darn well. They love each other and hardly ever fight. They are outgoing and happy and silly and smart. They have a sense of right and wrong. We’re still working on establishing a work ethic, but they’re young. It will come. I used to dream about publishing a novel someday, and of course I’d love the feeling I’d get seeing it in print for the first time. But to help shape a person to be good and kind and proactive, someone who can make his corner of the world a little better? That’s a whole nother thing entirely.

 

2 Comments

    Nice post. 🙂

    I, too, love being a mother. I stayed at home for a year with Toby, and I guess I was a homemaker during that year. (Though honestly I was really a baby feeder and exhausted mess for the first 6 months – does that count?).

    I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the time with Toby, but I also now enjoy being back at work and Toby being at daycare. Does that make me less of a mother? I don’t think so.

    I think both sides have it wrong, in the extremes of the debate (as is wont to happen). Is there anything wrong, or of less value, of staying home and being a homemaker? Absolutely not. But is there anything wrong, or of less value, of choosing a career outside the home? Absolutely not.

    And for my children (of *both* genders, if I have them), that’s the lesson I want to instill.

    So while I absolutely support and encourage your individual choice, I do not think it is one that should be foisted upon women wholesale (and that’s where I and your church disagree, I guess). I say let people do what is their natural inclination and talent to do, and let gender stay out of the equation. If that means a stay at home Dad and a working Mum so be it. Or both parents working and a wonderful daycare. Or, as is common, Mum at home and Dad working. Whatever works best for each family and the individuals within it.

    Very nice post, I see you wrote it back in March but so nice for mother’s day season. I am very much enjoying what my last boss called “mothership” last time she talked to me about coming back to work. I’m grateful for it, and hope it lasts.

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