I’ve more or less stopped saving my longish comments on others’ blogs to re-post them here, probably because they’re often so specifically responding to the post and to the other comments that it feels like a nuisance to try to fill in all that background here–or maybe I’m just trying to keep my own blog as content-free as possible. But I think I’ll share this one anyway:
In this post, Darlene talked about not feeling emotionally safe, even at church or on church-related blogs, to share conservative or traditional attitudes, such as her belief that it was a good decision to be a stay-home-mom with her kids. Here’s my response:
I often hold back my conservative opinions. Sometimes it’s because I value a relationship that’s not based on politics, sometimes it’s what I believe to be good manners, or other times I’ll avoid a discussion when I doubt I’ll change someone’s mind or the chance of volatility and contention seems high. Sometimes I do fantasize about starting a separate blog just to have a place to talk about my opinions on issues that I don’t want to define me entirely, but yet are part of who I am.
I remember one time in Berkeley overhearing a conversation between a couple of friends in the ward, who were talking about how working women in the church didn’t have a voice, and they were talking particularly about their mothers’ experiences with unkind judgments when they had worked. I remember thinking that I doubted these young women (who weren’t yet moms themselves) had experienced how far the pendulum had swung back, to where in many instances a mom who chooses to be home full-time is looked down on, diminished, or disapproved of, even occasionally by other women in the Church. Of course it’s true that mothers with a necessity (or at least a strong reason) for being in the workplace do sometimes get judged unkindly by others in the Church. But so has Julie Beck been, when she’s been so tactless or politically incorrect as to suggest that LDS women ought to be good homemakers. [Note: That was my tongue in my cheek; personally I do not find Julie Beck to be tactless or politically incorrect.]
Rarely, but occasionally, I’ll start thinking that I’m not doing enough to distinguish myself nor develop my talents–and it’s not because I’ve mastered my domestic responsibilities and need more pursuits to fill my time. In fact, I think it’s because I haven’t mastered homemaking and child rearing, and am beginning to doubt that I ever will master them, so I crave some other arena where I can shine. (An alternate arena that’s likely in some ways to be less demanding.) Again, I haven’t felt that way terribly often, but I’ve been feeling it somewhat lately. Maybe it’s because recently I’ve encountered some amazing and very talented people whose accomplishments I envy, or, again, maybe it’s because it’s hard for me to see my successes on the home front. I also, just occasionally, feel that I’m somehow spoiled or decadent to stay home with my kids, as that “privilege” becomes rarer in the world. But then I remind myself not just that doing this job involves real and great sacrifices, but also that I absolutely believe that having a present and engaged mother is by far the best circumstance for kids, whenever it’s possible. I even probably enjoy being stuck at home with my kids more than many women do, but I still really would love for it to be the kind of a job I felt like I could master. (I do also believe that all parents need some creative outlet other than parenting and homemaking, but often the demands of parenthood can mean keeping those interests at a simmer rather than a rolling boil, during the most crucial child-rearing years.)
I do think in the world in general, the role of stay-home-mom is under a heavy barrage of attack, and I’m extremely grateful for the encouragement and support I get from the Church in reminding me that this thing that I wanted for myself and for my kids really is possible, valuable, and worthwhile.
(I think I might also put this comment up at my blog. I don’t know why I typically write essays in other people’s comment boxes instead of at my own blog–although the first paragraph of this comment might partly explain that tendency of mine.)
After making the above comment a few days ago, by today I didn’t even recognize those feelings of semi-thwarted-ambition I expressed, because the things I’d said had helped me work through those feelings to the point that they evaporated (at least for now.)
I do have a few more responses to Darlene’s original post, now, though:
I think that creating a space where people feel safe to express their true feelings is very important, but in a Church context there’s an intrinsic tension in that the Church can and should stand for something; a Church whose only goal is to make everyone feel good about any and all choices can’t have any real meaning, but on the other hand, we definitely believe, in the Church, that we should be accepting and loving and that only God can ultimately judge our accountability for our decisions. (We can, however–and this is a very widely misunderstood concept–judge the actions themselves.) So I guess the fine line we walk is to teach true principles and let people govern themselves, and to stand for good general truths without presuming to know others’ hearts or the particulars of their circumstances. Hopefully the combination of frankness about true principles combined with compassion towards specific situations is what will make people feel “safe,” no matter what principles and practices they’re still struggling with or have mastered.