Voices From the Backlist: Finding the Balance

Recently one of our permabloggers emailed a question to our Exponent backlist on how to find balance between motherhood responsibilities and other pursuits. A lot of great responses followed. Here is a snapshot of some of our emails.


I don’t have to tell you all that the greatest response to why feminism isn’t need in the church is the trope of the glory of motherhood.

I have two beautiful children who capture my heart, bring me to tears, and also make me want to punch walls sometimes. I would never suggest that I don’t love being a mother.

But I must confess that this past year and a half as I have embarked on this faith transition/shift and feminist awakening, I realize that my family really HAS suffered. So much of my time is spent trying to sort through my own ghosts/dark places/questions/pain, that I haven’t devoted as much time to my children or my home.

This kills me because I really want to be both so badly. I want to be that stereotypical Mormon mother with the lovely home and well-tended children while also asserting my “role” is to be Amy–fierce, sensitive, unwavering in my convictions, and ever-faithful in forging a way for women in the future.

Balance. I have no idea how to find it.


I have a lot of different feelings about this, but my short answer is this: your kids are more likely to have dreams of their own if they see you pursuing yours.

Jess R:

I don’t have kids, but I do study them academically. I know it’s not the same AT ALL. But if it helps, research has shown that mothers who are involved in stuff outside the home (whether that is working or volunteering or something like The Exponent…as long as she finds it fulfilling or meaningful) tend to experience fewer mental health problems when their kids are at home but especially when their children grow up, are happier about being a mother, and have greater life satisfaction. Children of those mothers, in turn, are better adjusted, more successful, and happier across their life course. This pattern of findings has been replicated many times.

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Sisters Speak: Rituals and Practices that Bring the Holy into our Lives


Dear Exponent readers, the Sisters Speak column of the Exponent II magazine will focus on innovative rituals or practices that enrich our lives.  I am looking for brief (one or two paragraph) responses to the following question, and I will email some of you commenters to ask if I can quote you in the magazine. For those that would like to respond privately, please email me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com. 

Mormonism has an abundance of rituals and practices meant to imbue everyday life with holiness. I appreciate many of these, yet as a Mormon feminist, some of these rituals just don’t speak to my soul. From experience I know that I feel God more fully in my life when I supplement my Mormon worship with additional practices and rituals, particularly women-centered ones. 

Some of these practices which have been particularly moving and meaningful to me are:
  • a blessing ceremony for my baby daughter, in which a group of women friends brought a thought or a poem to help my daughter navigate her woman’s life, as well as a bead which symbolized some advice or insight for her
  • reading beautiful prayers from world religions
  • displaying images of the divine feminine in my home
  • shifting my God-language, so that I often mention Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father together
I feel like these practices are a good start, but I am sure there are many, many others that would add meaning and spirituality to my life. Please share your ideas on this subject. What spiritual practices or rituals have you developed (or do you hope to develop) to bring the holy into your life? What meaning do you find in them? Do you feel any tension because these practices are not developed or mandated by the Church, and if so, how do you deal with this tension?
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Relief Society Lesson 15: Eternal Marriage

a mother's love

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français


I would begin this lesson by mentioning that the topic is eternal marriage, and that this can be a difficult (or maybe just uninteresting)  topic for some people who are not currently sealed to a beloved partner. So as we discuss, let’s be sensitive to the fact that many of the people in this room don’t have this right now.

Starter question: In your own experience, or from what you have observed in others, what are the key characteristics of a successful marriage? As they are thinking, tell them a couple of your own insights or stories relating to this question. Personally, I might mention the idea of respecting my spouse’s desires and dreams and doing what I can to support them, as he does for me. That phrase from Marjorie Hinckley comes to mind, as she talked about what kind of husband President Hinckley was: “From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.” I think this applies to dreams and desires, and I also think it applies to conscience. My husband and I are not exactly on the same page on certain things ideologically, and after several years I think we are getting better at learning to honor the journey of the other person and allow each other space to follow our consciences. Giving each other this kind of space and respect has been key to the success of our marriage.

Other things people might say: love, kindness, consideration, helpfulness, respect, words of affirmation, quality time together, service, etc. As people mention kindness and consideration, mention that the manual points out how kind JFS was as a husband and how helpful he was. Read a few sentences describing that from the intro section.  Encourage a good discussion on this question – people should enjoy sharing their insights. 

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Guest Post: A Dysfunctional Marriage

by Margaret OH

My husband and I have been listening to a marriage therapy course with the fabulous Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.  We have found that meeting with a marriage therapist every few years for a “check-up” is great for heading off potential problems and for gaining skills that strengthen our relationship.  At this moment in our lives we don’t have the time to physically meet with someone in an office, but Dr. Finlayson-Fife (my husband and I refer to her as JFF) has been an excellent fit for us and conveniently comes to our house via the internet while our children sleep.

One of the skills that JFF emphasizes is effective speaking and listening in conflict.  I consider myself pretty good at listening but have learned a lot from the class.  JFF lays out strategies for productive speaking: state the facts, give a personal interpretation, make a manageable request.  The listener also has a responsibility: to listen with honest self-examination while holding the valued relationship close in his/her heart.  Both roles require vulnerability and a commitment to the relationship.  In my experience both roles, if done right, are difficult to perform.  It takes a faith in the relationship to be that humble and exposed.

In one video of a case study of a couple acting out a conflict, JFF lays out basic grading for the listener: An F grade for denying that there’s a problem; D for acknowledging there’s a problem; C for acknowledging and apologizing; a B for acknowledging, apologizing, and committing to change.   An A grade is more difficult: it requires seeing oneself through the eyes of your partner and taking ownership of the problem.  It is not just saying, “You’re right, I’ll change”, it is saying, “You’re right.  I see that in myself and I don’t like that about myself.  I am trying to be different.”

I have often throughout my adult life felt like I was in a marriage with the Church. 

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Heavenly Mother Art and Poetry Contest Winners!

a mother's loveThe A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest has announced its winners! Check out the website to read the winning poems and see the winning art pieces.  If you go to the online gallery, you can find descriptions of the art pieces by clicking on “artwork descriptions” at the bottom of the page.

I’ll mention a couple of pieces I particularly love. The first place visual arts piece winner, “A Mother’s Love” by Lynde Mott is stunning.  The artist says this about the piece. “The figure appears half opaque/half translucent, even half flesh/ half strong stone statue. This represents my continuing journey in trying to come to know and experience the reality of our Mother in heaven. She is solid and real–yet elusive at times as well.”

Rachel Hunt Steeblik’s “I Dreamed I Wrote Five Poems” captures a new mother’s reflections on Heavenly Mother.  This is one of my favorite sections of the poem.

I searched for my Mother, the way a baby roots
for her mother’s breast, head nuzzling from side to side,
mouth open, ready to suckle. But I was still thirsty.
Then my belly grew, and my breasts grew, and
a ravenous little thing came out. I offer her my milk
without money and without price. My husband
offered it to her once, while I sat beside them on a train.
She pursed her lips against the false nipple,
and stared at me with sad eyes. I wondered then,
if Heavenly Mother walked into another room
so we would take the bottle. I wondered then,
if we are weaned.

As someone who deeply yearns for more discussion and depictions of Heavenly Mother, I am thrilled with the material this contest has generated. We desperately need images and writings that bring Heavenly Mother into the forefront of Mormons’ consciousness, that communicate permission to think about her, pray about her, and bring her into our religious speech. This contest has generated scores of poetry and images that I believe help women to see themselves as gods. What a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Please check out the results of the contest and feel free to share which pieces particularly resonated with you. 


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