Exactly Backwards

Pop Quiz!

True or False? Young women and girls need zero career advice or information because we expect them to be at home mothers.
True or False? Young men and boys need zero information on caring for and teaching children because we expect them to work full time in order to provide for their families.

So? What’d you get? I think both are false and here’s why.

I stay at home with my kids full time. Because my husband earns enough to support us all, I have all the time in the world to practice becoming the best mother I can be. While the lessons on childcare that I received in Merrie miss and Young Women’s have been put to use, I learned more in the first month or two of being home with my kids than I learned in 8 years I spent in those programs. I am getting the ultimate on-the-job education.

My husband works works full time. Because he has me at home as a support system he can devote himself to his career as much as he needs or wants to. While what he learned about careers and the workforce in scouts has been put to use, he learned more about *his* career in the first few months of work than he ever did at church.

You know what would have really benefited me, and helped me feel more secure and prepared to be a full time mother? A thorough career plan. By knowing exactly what sorts of vocations are amenable to long absences from the work force I could have made much smarter choices about what to study while I was going to college. I would have benefited from learning from learning how to keep a resume current during the years I spend at home with my kids rather than letting those years become a black hole on my career history. If I felt confident that I could support myself and my kids should my husband pass away I would feel much safer having more children.

Specifically because we expect women to be stay at home moms whenever possible, girls and young women need more career advice than any other group in the church. Because the church is asking girls and women to walk a very uncommon career path, we need to give them very detailed maps to ensure they get through safely.

And you know what would have really benefited my husband? Learning more about developing a closeness with his kids, even when he is short on free time. My husband was very lucky to have good parents (and younger siblings) who taught him how to care for babies and young children. Not all young men are so lucky.

If we’re going to expect fathers to spend nearly all their time apart from their children (and give them church callings on top of that) they’re going to need help developing a closeness and familiarity with their kids in what little time they have left over. In this way fathers can feel confident in their ability to care for their children should anything happen to their wives.

I think that if we gave people information that would help them compensate for all the things that living traditional gender roles would prevent them from doing, we would find people not only more willing, but also more able to live those traditional gender roles safely and happily.

As far as I’m concerned right now the information we give our kids and youth is exactly backwards.

Starfoxy

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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20 Responses

  1. Janna says:

    Or, now here’s a radical idea, we actually teach boys and girls in the Church about Jesus.

    • Starfoxy says:

      You are right that we don’t focus on Christ enough during Sunday meetings.

      However don’t think we necessarily need to hold ourselves to that standard for weekday activities, such as scouts, or mutual, or activity days.

      • Amelia says:

        I’m completely with Janna in wanting more emphasis on Jesus and his actual teachings, rather than on prescribed gender roles. But I also agree with Starfoxy that there’s room during weekday meetings and activities for other, more practical kinds of activities. I say let’s teach Jesus and his gospel on Sundays, and then provide a diverse set of activities and opportunities in other forums. Diverse for both sexes.

  2. jks says:

    Good advice. I already work hard on guiding my girls about education and career. I will have to make sure I am guiding my son about raising children.

  3. Erin says:

    Great post. I’ve been pleased with what my mom and the rest of her YW presidency have been doing in their ward. They are inviting people from the community to talk to the YW about different careers, often ones that you aren’t necessarily introduced to through your typical high school classes. They started out intending to do this quarterly, but their YW asked to do it monthly. So far they’ve had a PA, an interior designer, and someone who takes care of horses (sorry, no idea what the term for that would be!), and they’re working on getting an architect. I just wish we had done things like that when I was in YW.

  4. beth says:

    I completely agree. I think there are a lot of skills that stay-at-home moms need that aren’t emphasized at all. My husband works from 6am to 6pm so when he is home, I want that to be family time. There are a lot of things that would traditionally be under his domain, but it really works out better if I take care of them, like the finances. I can go to the bank in the middle of the day. He can’t. Or other things like taking the car to the mechanic. I need to know what I’m talking about so I don’t get taken advantage of. Those are the things I would have loved to learn about ahead of time. They are really important for anyone to know. I mean, how cool would it have been to learn about investing? Instead, we toll-painted. Those skills became obsolete as soon as we left the 90’s.

  5. Jayme says:

    I completely agree! I am a recent college grad, but I still feel best equipped to be a mother, perhaps only equipped to be a mother, not to take care of my self with a career!

  6. Katrina says:

    fabulous post! if i had thought this through more carefully, i’m nearly certain i would have chosen a different major.

  7. Whitney says:

    Love this post. In the church we often hear that people get certain callings not because they would necessarily be *good* at it, but because it provides an opportunity for them to learn and grow in ways they otherwise might not. By this logic, if women are “naturally” more nurturing, shouldn’t *they* be the ones working outside the home, so men can learn to be nurturing through the ‘calling’ of being a stay-at-home-dad? Just sayin’.

  8. Chris says:

    Brilliant post!! If I had read this before I went to college and understood what you’re saying, I know I would have chosen a difference major. Thanks again for another outstanding post.

  9. spunky says:

    Brilliant, Starfoxy. I am reminded of the French feminist philosopher with the name I can never remember– who argued that if we don’t educate women, yet women educate children, society is doomed to fail. We must educate and support mothers if we are to progress as a society because mothers have such a powerful role in child and human development. If we do not support SAHMs in the development and creation of an employment profile and history, our children will not be able to gain enough confidence to enter and seek out what they would best succeed. No one wnats to limit the development of their children, but we do– every time we limit the development of women. We must develop women in order to develop and progress society.

    Keep up the good work, Starfoxy!!

  10. Kmillecam says:

    I always love a good Starfoxy post, and this one doesn’t disappoint either. It would have made a world of difference to me to have that kind of role model while I was growing up trying to balance out what I was taught at church (be a SAHM) and what everyone else said (don’t have kids until you’re 30! be a doctor!) A practical approach to career and parenthood would have been welcome indeed.

    I’m also glad to have that information now and change my next generation that is growing up in my home right now. Greater awareness will change this.

  11. Amelia says:

    Starfoxy, I like your proposal insofar as it recognizes that it’s wrong to ghettoize boys and girls into activities and bodies of knowledge that are strictly sexed. On the other hand, I’m hesitant to adopt any approach that is premised on strictly delineated roles like “stay at home mom” and “provider dad.” I think we would be much, much better served by teaching all of our children and young adults to become capable adults. They should all have the education and skills and practical know-how to live as single adults. And to be strong partners to their spouse, if they marry.

    A lot of my view is informed by the fact that I am single long after I thought I would be. And from where I sit now, it looks like I’ll be single for a good long time into my future. And I was terribly underprepared for this reality by the church and by my parents, by my young women’s leaders, my friends, my ward and stake members–all of them sent one message: you will grow up, and, if you’re a good girl, you’ll fall in love and get married and have babies. I just don’t see how the approach you propose here would be any better, since it would still send the message that when girls grow up and are good Mormon girls, they’ll be wives and mothers.

  12. Starfoxy says:

    Erin- I love what your mother is doing! What a blessing for the girls in her ward.

    Amelia- To be strictly honest with you, I wrote this point from a more orthodox point of view than I actually hold. If I were made Prophet I would toss out church endorsement of gender roles altogether. I’m very much of the opinion that we should teach correct principles (relationships are important, children need love and safety, be excellent to eachother, etc.) and let people figure out what that will look like in their own lives and families.

    I wrote this thinking, “Okay, say the church is totally right about the gender role thing. Even if we accept it as given that gender roles are divinely ordained, and we absolutely must keep shoe-horning people into these separate boxes, even if the church is perfectly right about all of that, we’re *still* doing it wrong.”

    If we are going to absolutely *insist* on enforcing gender roles, then we should at least recognize that girls who are going to be wives and mothers will need to have family friendly career options.

    • amelia says:

      that makes sense, Starfoxy. I just really wish the church would wake up and realize that the only thing they can actually guarantee their members is a life as an individual. Period. The church can offer absolutely no promises about whether we will get married, stay married, have babies, etc. Accordingly, I’d rather they gear their programs and lessons in such a fashion that they prepare everyone, regardless of their sex, for a successful adult life as an individual. I wouldn’t mind some of those lessons talking about how to navigate decision-making as part of a couple and as a parent, but it’s just far too large an assumption in the church that we’ll all grow up to be part of a couple and parents.

  13. Geoff-A says:

    From a different angle-I know of a number of older men who thought it was their p’hood responsibility to dispense dicipline as the leader of their family and without any training, and not much love have alienated at least half of their children.

    We also have a problem with women who are so righteous and insistent on scripture reading, family prayer, and FHE to the point of getting everyone up at 4.ooam if someone has to go then, that as soon as the children aqre old enough the husband leaves too. I know of 4 ex bishops who have done this in the last 2 years. Their wives seem to be more prone.

    SoI believe we need more training in how to live the Gospel in a ballanced way starting with the young.

  14. Ann says:

    I have totally felt the same way: wishing I would have been more focused on choosing something to study in college that would have been both useful and enjoyable in setting me on a career path that would make me feel more safe and prepared if at any moment a need arose that I did indeed need to support my family. History was my undergrad, and I’m currently an English Literature graduate student. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my studies, but have only recently started to really focus on the career part of such “useless” degrees. Looking back I think I could have made a great scientist or architect as well.
    I totally appreciate you opening my eyes a little bit more on the men and their families issue…I’ve always thought that I wanted to try for my husband to spend as much time with the kids as I did, but if the reality is that he has to spend much of his day working, away from the kids, it would be smart for us to figure out how he can most efficiently and meaningfully spend time with the family when he is around.
    Thanks so much for this post.

    • Diane says:

      I really don’t like the term “useless degrees,” I was watching the news recently and was pleasantly surprised and gratified when my theory about specialized degrees were realized. Donny Duestch actually said what i’ve always known. Unless you want to be a doctor, accountant, you really don’t need to specialized. CEO’s really just want to know that people know how to write well and communicate. Everything else can be taught.

  15. Diane says:

    ‘f we’re going to expect fathers to spend nearly all their time apart from their children (and give them church callings on top of that) they’re going to need help developing a closeness and familiarity with their kids in what little time they have left over. In this way fathers can feel confident in their ability to care for their children should anything happen to their wives.’

    This is KEY, not just for men, but, for women as well. Why are some mothers still only teaching their daughters how to do laundry, clean house and cook. We should be teaching our sons this as well. I remember going to college and being the only one of my suite mates who actually knew how to do any of these things. My room mates may have been book smart, but, they had no street smarts, nor did they have any basic common sense. They didn’t even know how to balance a check book. This is sad.

  1. May 8, 2012

    […] contemplates being single and having a baby Jana considers the scars of life her body carries Starfoxy wonders the disservice we may do by raising our youth to expect traditional gender roles of… TopHat shares her ideas for adding women to the nursery […]

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