In Pursuit of Happiness…

 

Yoga By BKUK

Yoga
By BKUK

By Jenny

Over the last year I have felt an explosion of energy surrounding my dreams and ambitions.  A few months ago I wrote about how my dreams and ambitions were squashed as I chained myself to motherhood.  I also wrote a little bit about my journey to release myself from those chains.  Since I started on that journey, I have created a beautiful vision of what I want my life to be.  Two years ago I took my first step toward discovering greater possibility for myself when I did a cheap online yoga certification.  Certifying further in yoga and teaching classes has opened me up to discovering a capacity to do even more.  Now I am doing massage therapy school and planning to do a Master’s degree in counselling in a few years.  When I think about this vision, my skin prickles and I know that it’s exactly right for me.  It’s hard for me to contain my vision without wanting to share it with the world.

Yet sometimes I’m still diffident in sharing it because the collective consciousness of the human race, often deeper rooted in Mormon culture than others, isn’t very friendly toward female dreams and ambitions.  Patriarchy instills a fear in us about creating and pursuing our individual visions.  I’ve received some negative feedback about my ambitions that stems from a patriarchal mindset.  I often hear, “You just don’t understand how important you are as a mom.”  The reaction I get most often from other women is, “Wow, you have a lot of plans.  I just hope I can get a shower in each day.”  I get it.  I’ve been there.  I am there.  And sometimes I don’t make it to that shower.

I won’t pretend that pursuing dreams is easy.  Especially not for a Mormon woman who has been told her whole life that motherhood is her highest and holiest calling, that in fact the world will crumble and fall apart if she is not there for her children every waking moment, and that she is divinely designed to be a better nurturer than her husband.  It takes a lot of reconditioning and practice to overcome this way of thinking.  I’ve had to come down from my highest and holiest calling to realize that the majority of what I do as the parent who stays home with my children is necessary, but not important.  Sweeping the floors, making dinner, organizing stuff, planning schedules, it’s all necessary to make my home run smoothly and to create an environment in which my kids can thrive.  But it’s not so important that only I in my divinely designed role of motherhood can do it.

As I have given myself more fully to pursuing my dreams, the burden of these necessary things has shifted more equally between my husband and me.  That process has been challenging and even painful at times, as we have had to rework our entire way of thinking and doing things.  Yet this shift has made life more fun and enjoyable for me and less burdensome. My husband now cooks half the dinners in a week while I teach yoga, and over the last several weeks we have been engaged in “housewife wars,” competing to see who can make the better meal, or have a cleaner house, etc.  And because I’m not responsible for all the necessary things to make life run smoothly for my family, I have time to work on my dreams.  All of these things have come through a long and difficult process that has greatly increased my happiness and confidence.

A few weeks ago I was at a Relief Society ice cream social.  We went around the circle and shared who we are with each other, and it was painful to hear so many women saying, “I’m just a mom.”  The way they said it, made it sound like they were embarrassed and resigned to an identity of “just a mom.”  I’ve been “just a mom” before.  I understand now that there is nothing embarrassing or degrading about choosing to stay home and raise your children.  But that doesn’t need to encompass your entire identity.  Staying home to raise my children for the last ten years has grounded me and helped me to build a foundation from which I could reach higher to embrace my full potential as a woman.  I just needed to know that I could reach higher.  When you are sitting on the pedestal of motherhood that the church creates, it’s hard to see that you aren’t necessarily as high as you can be.  As a Momon woman it’s not an understanding of how important I am as a mom that I lack.  I have had that importance drilled into my head since I was little.  What I have lacked and am still discovering is a capacity for greatness unbound by patriarchal limitations.

When it was my turn to share who I am, I felt deeply the change that has occurred in my life over the last few years.  I felt the juxtaposition between who I once was and who I am now.  I felt confident as I said, “I raise my four kids and I’m a yoga instructor and I’m starting massage therapy school this Fall.”  For me, there was power in the word “and.”  I am a Mormon woman.  That is my experience in life.  I fully understand the pain and the inadequacy Mormon women feel because I have known it as my own.  I can add to that the experience I have had in embarking on a journey to find empowerment.

I want all Mormon women to feel empowered in their own pursuits of happiness.  I want them to know that they can create their own identities and envision more for themselves than patriarchy ever has for them.  There are so many great and important things for women to do in this world if we can just let go of our fear of developing and pursuing our own visions for our lives.  In my experience, so much happiness can be found in the process of developing that kind of empowerment.  When a woman creates her own vision for herself, it will feel just right to her, it will feel like an explosion of energy.  That doesn’t happen when a patriarchal social structure mandates a narrow course or prescribed role for every woman.  This energy accompanies the path of an individual’s own pursuit of happiness.

Jenny

Jenny graduated from BYU with a bachelor degree in humanities. she teaches yoga classes and spends her time hanging out with her four kids, reading, writing, and running.

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20 Responses

  1. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    Your insight is right on. Families are best nurtured by parents who are personally fully developed and realized. Your pursuit of your dreams has given the gift of a richer experience to every member of your family. Good for you. Let your light shine.

  2. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for sharing this, and best of luck as you pursue those plans!

  3. Liz says:

    I really, really needed to read this today, Jenny. Thank you so much.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    You should share your story on Mormon.org as part of the “…and I’m a Mormon” campaign the church started in 2010. I like how the videos, after all other accomplishments of an individual end with “and I’m a Mormon” , much like your post here.

  5. Andrew R. says:

    It is good for everyone to find new things, and do things that bring them happiness. It is also important to understand balance. It is equally important to remember that we are all different and that what is important to one can appear silly to another.

    ““I’m just a mom.” The way they said it, made it sound like they were embarrassed and resigned to an identity of “just a mom.” I’ve been “just a mom” before. I understand now that there is nothing embarrassing or degrading about choosing to stay home and raise your children.”

    Unfortunately the march of feminism has, in the world at least, devalued motherhood. Over the summer there was a lot of talk in the UK about male/female pay differences being down in part to mothers having taken time off to have children. This slowed their career paths and was seen as unfair. Many defended each side of the problem – employer/employee.

    My mother who is a 75 year of mother of 4, grandmother of 15 and great grandmother of 4, was a trained teacher before marrying. Two year after marriage she had me. Over the following years she worked some, but not a lot. She found it very sad that in all the debate, and TV coverage, no one expressed the joy of being a mother and the profound experience that it can be.

    A career can be, for some a very important part of life. It can be the most. And I know that this doesn’t stop them being great mothers. But not everyone is the same – unfortunately because it isn’t PC to say, “motherhood is wonderful and it is the most important thing” people are afraid and feel devalued and “just a Mom”.

    • Quimby says:

      Andrew, you kind of have things around the wrong way. Feminism arose at least in part from a desire on the part of women to have other things in their life, apart from just their children. Feminism does not and really never has said there’s something wrong with being a mom (despite all those rumours that we like to eat our children, the most feminists really like to do is just nibble on their cute little baby toes). It does not devalue motherhood. Feminism is about giving more options to women.

      If you’d like to understand more about this, read Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique. She discusses in great detail the overwhelming monotony and lack of options that quite a few women feel/felt at being housewives.

    • Jenny says:

      Andrew I don’t think the joys of motherhood belong at all in a debate about male and female difference in pay and how to solve the problem of women having to give up careers to be mothers. Have you ever felt the need to consider the joys of fatherhood in determining your career choice? You can find joy in parenthood no matter how you are occupying your time. There are certainly pros and cons for both parents to consider as they choose what to do with their careers. And when society debates this issue, they should be talking about what they can do to make things easier for women to have more freedom of choice. If you want society to value motherhood, then it should support women and make it easier for them to stay home with their kids without giving up a career. It should make it easier for two parents to work and raise their children. It should make it more acceptable for men to stay home with their children. It should give absolute freedom to individuals to determine how they want to nurture and provide for their children, and support them in those choices. Joy in motherhood has nothing to do with that. The world is full of strong women with careers who also value their motherhood. They don’t have to make a big deal about it, they just do it. I would like to see the church giving us a little less, “motherhood is wonderful and it is the most important thing, ” and a little more actual support for women to really be happy, whether they are mothers or not, whether they stay home or not, whether they find joy in motherhood or not, or both.

      • Quimby says:

        Yes – Well put, Jenny. Until very recently I was a mother who worked outside the home. It didn’t make me any less of a mother. It didn’t make motherhood any less of a joy. It didn’t make housework any less of a drudgery. I wasn’t a worse mother because I worked outside the home. In fact in many ways I was a better mother. I was certainly better at being organised and having a routine which worked. Circumstances are such that I’m a stay at home mom now; and I don’t enjoy it. My kids are in school from 9:00 until 3:30. Where’s the joy in being a mother then? Or rather, why is it any more joyful to be a mother, at home, while my kids are in school, than to be a mother, at work, while my kids are in school? Those are hours I could be working – that time is not time taken away from my children (after all, they aren’t there anyway) – but trying to find a good, professional, well-paying job with the flexibility to work only during school hours isn’t all that easy. So, I’m a stay at home/work a little bit from home/study from home mom until something else comes along . . .

        Financially we’re doing just fine. Financially our income hasn’t really hanged, because me not working means my husband’s been able to lean into his career in a way he couldn’t when we had a more equitable division of household labor. But how stupid is it that, in 2016, we are still having to do this sort of math? His career success means greater financial prospects for the family (since he’s in a field with infinitely more earning potential than I am) but it also means me deliberately putting myself in an economically vulnerable situation, entirely reliant on his ability to support our family. But for me to go back to work would mean he’d have to curtail his career (no child care here!) and our household income would drop, because even once I finish my Master’s degree (one more class to go . . .), he’ll make more than I could make.

        So, Andrew, do you want to talk about the gender imbalance in pay? What about this: My husband has a graduate diploma and works in a field where his earning potential is unlimited. By the end of this year, assuming I pass this one last class, I’ll have a Master’s degree but in a field which is traditionally underpaid, specifically because women tend to migrate towards it. I worked for 12 years at my last job and quit because they wanted to demote me from management to a receptionist position – never mind that I’d outperformed every single person who had ever had that job before. My husband’s had his job for 4 years and in that time has gone from being barely qualified to being a partner. I’m happy for him. Really and truly, I am. It’s great for him and it’s great for our family. But it’s also crappy. It’s really, incredibly crappy that I can have a higher degree, and more work experience, and still – STILL – know that the next job I take, at any time, the boss might think, “Hey, she’s a woman, why not get her to be the receptionist?”

      • Andrew R. says:

        Actually since those here like to spend a lot of time saying I don’t understand female issues, and never can, because I am male I will answer this from my uniquely male viewpoint.

        I have, at least twice, made life changing decisions that affected my career choices.

        1 – I did not go to university because I chose to marry and start a family. I did get a job I wanted to do, but the career path was less than I could have had.

        2 – I did well in the career path and enjoyed my job very much. However with 5 children and plans to have more I switched to a career I knew I would do well in, and paid more, but has never been as exciting to me as my original choice.

        And many, many men do dead end jobs to keep their families fed and housed. They do not enjoy them, they are not fulfilled in them.

        The problem with these arguments is that they are predominantly for those already in a minority – educated people who actually have career choices. The vast majority of men and women don’t. For them work is a means to an end.

        PS – I did later obtain a degree, via a correspondence university here in the UK. It has made no difference to my life and I didn’t even bother to go to a graduation ceremony.

      • Quimby says:

        You’re right, Andrew. I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t have to work if I don’t want to. I am incredibly fortunate that my husband has an education, and has a good job that can support us. You’re right that I’m educated and have options. And you’re right that there are plenty of people who have jobs they hate, that they have to do just to keep food on the table. I’m not arguing with any of those points.

        But surely you can agree that it just plain sucks that in 2016, I still have to justify my choice to work. I still get told that I’m less of a mother because I have a job, when no man is ever told he’s less of a father because he has a job.

        Surely you can agree that it just plains sucks tat in 2016, I still have to worry about being demoted from a position of some power to being a receptionist, never mind that I kicked butt in my job for 12 years, never mind that they weren’t doing away with my position, just because I’m a woman – because I’m willing to bet there’s no way in hell any man has ever been expected to go from being in a management position to being a receptionist.

        Surely you can agree that it just plain sucks that families have to make these decisions about whose career is more important, whose career should take precedence, who should curtail their ambitions for the good of the family.

        Surely you can agree that it just plain sucks that the vast majority of older women live on the brink of poverty, because they were denied economic opportunities in their prime working years.

      • Andrew R. says:

        It does suck. But it is, to an extent, just life. Our ward YMP is now a stay at home Dad while his wife takes a Post Graduate Certificate of Education to become a teacher. Is it what they want? No, but he has gone from job to job and failed to fit in.

        As I have said before, I do not believe that in the UK the pressures are so great as they are in other places, in the church.

        Our stake RSP is a teacher. Our stake YWP is a teacher. Our stake PP is a farmer and horse riding teacher.

        Our stake president’s wife has a hair dressing business from home. His second counsellor’s wife is an intensive care nurse also take a master’s in intense nursing care.

        Our ward RSP has a masters degree and works (has four children and 5 grandchildren). Our ward YMP has a masters degree and her own home business (married but unable to have children). Our ward PP is a high school teacher (four children, one with Asperger’s) .

        In my ward and stake there are numerous examples of working mothers and fathers who make excellent parents.

        It is a shame that this is not the case in other parts of the world.

      • Quimby says:

        Oh Andrew – Listen to yourself, please. You came on here saying how sad it is that women can’t find joy in motherhood. You implied that there is something wrong with me for wanting to work outside the home, as I have done for most of my children’s lives – that I am less of a mother because of it. And now you are saying that those pressures don’t exist in the UK?

        Andrew, YOU are creating this pressure. Whether you intend to or not – and personally I think you’re a nice guy – YOU are being a part of the problem here, on this board.

        It’s really not too hard to say, “Whoops, I really stuck my foot in it this time, of course working mothers can find joy in being mothers, what I was trying to say was . . . ” But instead you get your back up and, first, tell me how bad it is to be a man; then tell me that in your little corner of the UK everything works perfectly and it’s a shame the rest of the world isn’t like that – entirely and completely discounting the fact that it was your words, in the first place, that triggered this; it was your insistence that feminism has taken all the joy from motherhood (thus implying that there is only one good, joyful way to be a mother, and it’s to be a mother like your grandmother was a mother – give up her own career and settle into domesticity).

        So no, I don’t buy it that everything is peachy-keen in your little world. I don’t buy it because your very words are exactly the sort of words that, intentionally or not, make women like me feel bad.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I am being misunderstood, and for that I am sorry. I did not mean to say that there is anything wrong in a mother working, or that doing so makes her less of a woman, or mother.

        What I did try to convey is that there is nothing wrong with only wanting to be a mother – and all too often that is the message that comes over from feminists. Being a mother, and only a mother, with no career aspirations is just fine – and should be applauded. Often however it seems that those wishing to work as well see those people as somehow standing in their way.

        How do my words make you feel bad. I pointed out, quite simply, that I live in a place (maybe unique, but I hope not) where women work and raise children and no one thinks any less of them for it. They have been, and continue to be, great mothers, great role models, and great at their chosen career. I have no problem with this at all.

        I confess, I do believe that choosing not to have children is contrary to the will of God. It contradicts the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. However, when to have children, and how many to have are for the couple to decide. And I believe I live in an area where that balance has been achieved.

        The first counsellor in our stake YWP is a lawyer, her husband is a teacher (and stake YMP). They have no children and the stake presidency has no idea why, nor do they care why, they do not have them – having been married for over 15 years. She is still seen as a women for the YW to listen to, look up to, and to aspire to be like.

        I know this is not the same everywhere, and I believe that is wrong.

        I admit, I come across strong sometimes. I have very conservative ideas about the place for SSM and female ordination. I also have different opinions from most (if not all) on what is means to preside.

        However, I do think women should be able to gain all the education they want, and use it however they see fit – always within the confines of of the Lord’s will in their life. And this is something only they can be certain of. I am an avid supporter of, and declarer for, personal revelation. There is very little people should be bothering to take to Bishops and stake presidents. Just live your life and don’t worry about the perceptions of others. If it is in harmony with God’s will, and you know that to be the case, and you are not breaking any commandments, or your covenants, then you will be fine – whatever anyone else says.

        Quimby, I am genuinely impressed that you can bring up your children and find fulfilment in your work. And I do not think any less of you than I would if you spent every working hour in your home.

        But as my, not well written, comments may have been misunderstood, so too might yours.

        “My kids are in school from 9:00 until 3:30. Where’s the joy in being a mother then?”

        Let me tell you, if my wife read this she would feel somewhat taken aback. She loves knowing that during this time she is doing things for her family, making beds, washing clothes. There are what bring her joy. That doesn’t mean it should be the case for all women. So for you, no joy and for her joy. And the reverse would be the case also. She has worked, and she has enjoyed the work she has done, but she would much rather be at home.

      • Quimby says:

        My apologies to your wife for any offense I’ve caused. Personally I don’t think housework has much to do with motherhood. It has to be done whether or not there are children around. Nor does it take me a great deal of time to do it, whether or not I’m employed. After all the kids are out of the home from 8:30 until 4:00 and go to bed at 8:00; how much of a mess can they make? (We also expect them to tidy up after themselves.) For me the main difference is that our house had a more equitable division of labor when I was employed.

        I like having a clean house; it is something that brings me joy. But again, to me, it’s not motherhood; it’s homemaking.

      • Andrew R. says:

        My wife doesn’t read this board. So no offence caused to her.

        I suspect that the reality is that much of how our two families exist is totally different. But the desires that we have as parents of our own children are probably not too dissimilar. And that is entirely to be expected. We might even be friendly in the “real world”, or even friends (not that I have too many of those).

        Interestingly my wife’s particular peculiarities about “homemaking” are driven more from the negative impression she had of her mother’s abilities in that area than from influences in the Church or Society. She didn’t just participate in the family housework, she practically did it all from the age of 14. She co-parented her youngest sibling. She did all her own laundry, including bedding, and did many of the meals.

  6. paws says:

    What you said about the majority of your household tasks being necessary but not important rang so true to me. I really want to have that explosion of energy that you describe. How did you find it?

    • Jenny says:

      I found my energy during 200 hours of yoga teacher training. I think a huge part of it was being away from my kids and the chaos and mundane aspects of my life and being able to really focus a lot of creative energy on something I love without fear of being interrupted. It was hard for me to invest the time and money at first, which is why I started with a cheap online certification. Even after certifying and getting a job, when someone offered an opportunity to do a better training, my first response was “no.” Then I hung up the phone and thought, “Why not?” As I’ve invested increasingly more time and energy to do things I love, I have discovered a huge passion for and interest in the human body, and that has reawakened my love for psychology. My two favorite classes in high school were human biology and psychology, but at that time I wasn’t considering a career path because I was just going to be a mom. After years of doing things only for other people, I think spending time doing something big for myself reawakened my true self and a passion for what I was born to do. Good luck on your journey too!

  7. Michael says:

    Jenny, great post. Men can also run into the “patriarchal” view—-my son-in-law wants to keep his dream alive of running an Outdoor Institute for teens. He has been several years in this business, all the while hearing from his dad that “he has to be practical.” He is married to my oldest daughter, who teaches school, and they raise 3 small children. I have been one of his supporters—I did what was “practical” & when unemployed a couple of times faced bishops who didn’t want to hear about a dream or quest—in other situations when I prayed about money I was ALWAYS directed to other things, which my soul needed for Healing. You’re fortunate when you have a spouse who will support you in seeking a Fulfilling Life, instead of just surviving. Those dreams can sometimes reach into areas of Life where money isn’t earned. . . Joy is NOT “practical” !!! (by the way, thelst year they were married they lived in Costa Rica while he taught surfing!!

  8. Kristine A says:

    Jenny I love this. As I struggle and fight to move forward with motherhood AND reaching for my dreams (going back to school) I see myself so much just a step behind you on your journey. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Leah says:

    After many years of being “just a mom” and then taking employment that fit my family’s schedule but not my dreams, I have finally started doing more of what feels right for me again. Somewhere along the way I stepped off that path. I think all of us do at one time or another. It feels good to find my way back to it again. I appreciated you post.

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