On Not Apologizing For Living

I have talked before about my feminist awakening, and how I grew up groomed by my family of origin and the Church to be a good girl.  A good girl goes to BYU, gets married in the temple, loves her children, wants to be home with them more than any job or career, and is happy in the gospel.  I did my very best, and I am fortunate that I do actually like staying at home with my children for the time being.  I am fortunate, because I have seen how those things do not fulfill many women who take the same path and find themselves lost and unhappy.

I am fortunate that I love my husband and like being married, and that I don’t mind being home with my children while they are young.  I don’t have much angst with regard to those roles that I have, because I genuinely find joy in them.  But even though I love being a mother and a wife, I don’t love the idea of being expected to fulfill these roles simply because I am a woman.  If I choose to marry and choose to bear children and choose to stay home with them, it’s my choice, not an obligation.  And I certainly cannot forget that I am quite privileged to be able to choose any of those roles to fulfill in the first place.

I had a choice more than a lot of people with regard to motherhood and marriage.  Some women in the world are not even able to choose these basic rights.  But the part of me that didn’t really choose, the part of me that felt obligated to get married and have children, that is the part that I resent when it comes to how the Church frames womanhood as an LDS member.  So I am fortunate that I mostly chose to do those things out of personal choice.  That little part of myself that nags “you should…” is something I have rejected in the past two years or so.

I am in a time of my life where I find myself constantly giddy at the thought that I can choose to do whatever I want.  You see, I used to put myself into a box and say things like “later” or “after my kids are grown” when it came to my dreams.  It was partly for safety, because all of us use excuses to not do the things we are passionate about.  But it was also partly about how I was shaped by my gender in the Church.  I knew that I could be a doctor, but that of course I would also be a wife and a mother, and those things would always win over medicine.  I knew I could become a modern dancer in New York City, but only if I wasn’t married or if my husband could get a job or school there to primarily support his career.  I was regurgitating the idea that I was in the periphery of my own existence.

I didn’t think of myself as the main character in my own life.  I framed my very self, in my own life, as a supporting character.  Even before I was married, I knew what I would automatically sacrifice in the name of supporting my future husband.  I would go to grad school for sure if I wasn’t married, but if I did marry at BYU then I would have an alternate plan with children and a husband, and grad school…someday.

It’s like I kept a pocketful of apologies ready to use at any moment.  I knew what the rules were, and if I broke them I would do the good girl thing and apologize.  I would say sorry for grad school, for wanting more than only being a mother and wife (as if I had to choose between them?!), for feeling unfulfilled in a one-dimensional role.

But I see more clearly now that if I want to go back to school, then I can.  If I want to start my own real food blog, then I can.  I had been telling myself a story about how I didn’t matter, and I wasn’t good enough to go back to school, or to make and manage a sucessful blog.  Well I have already told you all about how I am back in school.  And furthermore, today I launched Our Nourishing Roots, the real food blog I have been dreaming about but too scared to create.  But and there’s no doubt in my mind that I am capable and amazing.  I know that it will be a success, because I say so.  It’s like I finally get the true meaning of “well, excuse me for living!”

I don’t apologize anymore.  And I don’t ask permission either.  I see that I matter.  And that is no small thing.  I am very clear on the fact that my choices are my own.  And by extension, each individual person’s choices are their own.  So why would I apologize for doing what I love?  Why would ask permission to be who I want to be?  It’s my life.  It’s very simple.  If I want something in my life, I create it.  I trust other people in my life to respect that and support me, and I give that respect and support back to them fully.  I feel like I am truly alive for the first time with this realization.  It’s bigger than these words on a blog page.  It’s what life is truly about: passion, living in the moment, mindfulness, love.  I am happy.

Kendahl

kendahl is a queer fat left-handed INFJ synesthete mother warrior activist social worker abuse survivor unapologetically brilliant powerful witch

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41 Responses

  1. Gisela says:

    I’m so tired of apologizing, explaining, and asking permission!! I’m 40 years old, and I’m finally taking control of my life. Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t.

    Hugs 🙂

  2. Emmaline says:

    ” I was regurgitating the idea that I was in the periphery of my own existence.”

    I LOVE this sentence…I feel like it encapsulates so much of what that false dichotomy of “you can only do a family or work, not both” requires us to accept…that the things we want aren’t really the important ones. And I’m glad that we don’t have to accept it! This whole post is great.

    • kmillecam says:

      Thank you Emmaline! I agree about that false dichotomy, it’s a doozy. It’s also so ubiquitous that once you see it, you see it everywhere. So it’s almost silly when I think about how much stock I used to put into it. Of course I don’t have to choose between all the good things I want. Of. Course. So silly.

      • Emmaline says:

        This reminds me of a sacrament meeting talk on Mother’s Day (dare I mention it) when the speaker said “Mothers sacrifice their own dreams on the altar of helping their children to acheive theirs.”

        In my head I said “Unless of course those children are daughters, in which case I guess you mean mothers teach them to dream until they’re old enough to sacrifice THEIR dreams for the sake of their SONS. Seriously??” I rolled my eyes, grabbed my baby boy so that I could pretend to go nurse, and took a nap in the mother’s lounge for the rest of sacrament meeting.

      • kmillecam says:

        I am sometimes embarrassed at how long it took me to admit that I thought the same problem was built in to the system. So women just sacrifice over and over, generation by generation? Doesn’t that just mean that men get to realize their dreams? And if you are female then you either don’t get to realize your dreams if you do follow the good girl path, or you only get to realize it if you are a) fortunate to be married with children (a lot of women aren’t) and b) you happent to like that role. Pretty narrow definition of happiness.

    • Miri says:

      The same sentence stuck out to me. If a girl is LDS growing up–or, to be fair, a lot of other cultures too–she’s basically taught that the divinely ordained thing for her to do is to live her entire life for other people. As a teenager she should prepare herself to be a worthy wife, and then instantly she should become a homemaker and plan the rest of her life around children. And if those things don’t happen soon enough, she can devote a year and a half to God and investigators.

      What about being a person, just for herself? What about experiencing the world God created and put her on? What about learning things that interest her? What about doing things she cares about– not just as a side note, the waiting-room diversion until she finds that husband-and-baby idyllic Mormon life–but as actual valuable things that are worth doing just because she enjoys them? Honestly, do women have no purpose here beyond their ability to raise children? Is that all the plan of salvation is?

      Thanks for this post. If only we didn’t have to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t need to apologize.

      • anon says:

        “Honestly, do women have no purpose here beyond their ability to raise children? Is that all the plan of salvation is?”

        I used to fear that. A lot.

        After hearing so many times that my purpose was “to bear future generations of righteous priesthood holders” and “don’t worry, you’re important because men can’t make it to the celestial kingdom without a wife,” I used to wonder if my hopes and dreams, if my soul and inner life, were some kind of cosmic joke; a torture device, because how could the universe be so cruel as to make me so driven, so full of hope to see the world and to experience and learn so much, when my sole purpose, reiterated over and over, was described as fulfilling a requirement on a man’s celestial checklist.

      • kmillecam says:

        anon, I read this comment yesterday and cried, and now I’m reading it again and crying again. I just want you to know that I am sitting with you, and naming what that is. Thank you for this comment. I needed to hear it.

  3. Petra says:

    Did you take that photo of the Oakland temple? It’s amazing!

  4. Deborah says:

    The blog is beautiful. You are fabulous. Good work on living, my friend!

  5. Great blog. We do have the right to choose–and we should not use “the Church made me do it” as an excuse not to pursue goals that frighten us.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Thank you. And I agree that we should not use that as an excuse. Although I hope you don’t mean that I shouldn’t hold the Church responsible for what it teaches.

  6. Erin says:

    ” I would say sorry for grad school, for wanting more than only being a mother and wife (as if I had to choose between them?!), for feeling unfulfilled in a one-dimensional role.”

    “Only being a mother and wife”? A “one-dimensional role”? Surely you can’t be serious? I would love some clarification as to why you think being “only” a wife and mother is “one-dimensional”.

    • kmillecam says:

      Surely YOU can’t be serious. Do you know how many facets there are to being a human being? Being a wife to someone is only one of them. Being a mother to children is only one of them. It’s not belittling to call something what it is: a part of a greater whole. So I say again, I want to be more than only a wife and mother.

      I admit that I feel unfulfilled as “only a wife and a mother”, because I am so much more than that. I am a real, whole, complete, fully human, thinking, feeling, passionate being. And being a wife and a mother is wonderful, but it’s not everything. My husband and my sons are precious to me, but so is ME. I don’t value them over myself. I don’t value myself over them. I simply see that we are. And I don’t value motherhood over career, or career over motherhood. I simply want both. Do you see what I’m saying?

      I think that you heard the “only” in a different way than I meant it. I don’t mean that I am better than marriage and motherhood, I mean that I don’t want to only be that. I want it all. Same goes for “one-dimensional”: I don’t mean that all marriage and all motherhood is one-dimensional, I mean that being defined by only marriage and motherhood makes me feel flat, a sliver, one dimension of my true self.

    • Miri says:

      I’m obviously not speaking for kmillecam here, but just something I’ve thought of–have you noticed that “mother” and “wife” are both words that define a woman in relation to someone else? Both of those things are incredible things to be, but they can’t be the ONLY things; a woman needs to be just a person, too, in and of herself alone.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Thanks Miri, because that’s exactly what I mean. (I think we were posting on top of each other!)

      I also think this is one of those times where it’s incredibly helpful to look at the way men are taught to be fathers. They are not faced with the false dichotomy of “be a father OR have a career”. They get to have both. So there are two good questions from there:
      1. Why do the men get both and women don’t?
      2. Why do we assume that if both parents get to have careers and parenthood, that it can’t work without children always suffering?

      Question one is pretty much covered by my post and the discussion, and by the fact that we are feminist readers aware of the basic gender roles and their issues. Far more interesting to me is question two. My two-year-old loves going to day care at the gym. The women who are there (who have careers made out of watching children!) genuinely love my son. How could I possibly think that that would damage him? My point isn’t that we never see children harmed by day care, it’s simply that life is good! There are good people out there who want to support me as I follow my dreams. And I don’t have to sacrifice motherhood for it! I get both!

      • Diane says:

        Here’s another word that can apply:

        Actor/ Actress: Technically speaking a male/female can be an Actor, but, specifically speaking only a Female can be an Actress

  7. Annie B. says:

    I remember being in my backyard as a kid, probably kindergarten age, and telling my dad that I wanted to be an actress or a dancer when I grew up. He told me that it would be really hard to do that AND take care of my husband and kids.

    • Kmillecam says:

      This is far too common, and just so sad. I remember getting messages like this too, both overtly and subtlely. So goes the grooming of women in the patriarchy: death by a thousand cuts. Goddess bless feminism for helping me see more than this.

      • Annie B. says:

        yeah…he was speaking the truth, that it would be hard to do both. And I know he thought he was being a good father by pointing that out. If he had also helped me to develop talents and encouraged me to be ambitious and helped me through school then I’d say there was no harm in him saying that, but he did not. And my mom did not either. I really struggled in school, and although I didn’t want to consciously admit it, I felt marriage to a traditional mormon guy was my meal ticket. Married and two kids later I’m trying so hard to reverse that! It’s so satisfying to be able to build a business on my own steam and realize that I can take care of myself and my children should I need to.

      • kmillecam says:

        You sound so self-aware Annie B. I feel lucky that I at least got some messages of feminism from my parents, like that I could be anything when I grew up. But I still latched on to the churchy gender roles for a long time. They really stick with me.

        And thank you for being honest about getting married = meal ticket. It’s true! It’s a lot easier sometimes to just get married and do what is expected, than to do the hard work of grad school, a career, balancing kids and work, etc.

      • Beatrice says:

        My experience was in somewhere in between Annie’s and Kmillecam’s. My parents were always very excited about my educational achievements. They were excited about and supportive of my Ph.D. program. But….around the time I graduated my first son was born. As I told them about my plans to continue in my field I saw the reluctance in their eyes. I understand where they are coming from, but I feel a bit betrayed. I always felt the message was similar to the one that Kmillecam’s got, but then found out that it wasn’t.

  8. Corktree says:

    I’m so excited for your new adventure with this K! I love your can-do spirit and attitude of self acceptance and purpose that this is born out of and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it and your willingness to no longer make excuses and just live for the sake of it! Go you!

    In looking back at my own life choices and flow, I can see similar moments of deference to some weird internal moderation that came from the Church. I haven’t been as conscious of it, but I definitely see the ways in which I’ve been shedding those imposed boundaries and restrictions as I’ve simultaneously shed beliefs and opened myself up to my own possibilities. It’s a great feeling.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Thanks Corktree! Doesn’t it feel good to shed the boundaries? Who put them there in the first place? I often wonder that. I feel like a snake must feel after shedding a constricting skin that no longer fits.

  9. Quimby says:

    It’s interesting to me, as a 30-odd year old working mother (who largely supports the family while my husband is mostly a stay at home dad) how different the generational attitudes are towards my choice. People my age are scandalised; they think it’s shocking that I could (in the words of one friend) “trust him with the children – I’d never trust my husband with the kids!” (To which my husband replied, “Well, why is she having kids with a man she can’t trust?”) People who are moderately older – 15 to 30 years older – think it’s wonderful. People who are over about the age of 65, at first were scandalised, and now often will say to me, “Good for you! Good for your husband!” (I work in a small community. Everyone knows everyone else’s business.) Men are more accepting than women; I’ve had men say to me, “I wish I could’ve done that, but my wife would never let me.” All of which makes me wonder about these false dichotomies we set up – this idea that there is a woman’s role and a man’s role – and how it is still so firmly entrenched, after all these years.

    And how false it has always been! Just today my husband was examining the life of one of his ancestors, who was a shop-keeper during the gold rush. It was her store – not her husband’s – she ran it; and she was very successful in running it. He worked for her. And far from being the exception, as we look back in our family histories, we see many, many examples of women who worked outside of the home – as domestics, or as farmers (often side by side with their husbands), or as mill-workers. My father speaks of one of his great-great grandmothers, who was in a polygamist marriage and “never worked but supported her family and those of her sister-wives with her sewing and lace-making.” Never worked?!?!

    • kmillecam says:

      Ha! That’s a very good point. I think we think of work as 9 to 5 with your kids in daycare, and we think “that’s bad”. But work doesn’t always look like that, and more women work than not. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  10. Quimby says:

    One other point – Have you ever noticed this trend in literature? Women who play by the rules, get married, have babies, live happily ever after. Women who realise they want something else, die miserable deaths or end up bitter and alone. Madame Bovary, The Awakening (most any of Kate Chopin’s work actually), The Hours – women are punished for wanting to live for themselves, and not for others.

  11. Alicia schmidt says:

    I needed this reminder today. I am coming on the anniversary of my divorce finalizing and even in the energy I have found to learn more about myself and exert more of energy and hope into revisited aspects of my self that I laid to wait while I gladly did my duty as Mother and wife, and into new hopes and dreams for myself , I still hear loudly from my business partner and ex husband about my responsibilities to my children and to him (as my business partner of course (tongue in cheek here))
    So reading this topic this morning and needing a reminder that my hopes and dreams that extend beyond my first love of my children gives me jope and confidence being a multifaceted or multidimensional being is worthy and good and yes, actually allows me to use more of the talents and gifts god gave me, and that the pleasure that I derive from such growth and experiences is mine to enjoy in all their aspects. No guilt, no justification, no explaination. Thank you for the amazing reminder ladies! Namaste!

  12. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you so much for this post. You have no idea how much I need to hear this right now. How I wish I had heard it twenty or thirty years ago.
    I was raised by parents who were very progressive for the time (1950s & 60s), who always told me I could be and do anything I set my mind to. But then I went to BYU, where I internalized just the opposite. I have spent my whole adult life (at least until the past five or six years) sacrificing for the sake of my children and (even more so) my husband. So that is the expectation. It is very difficult to break from it, though I am trying, and it shocks people (as it did a nephew this past weekend).
    It is very possible that in the next few weeks I will have to decide yet again if I will sacrifice my own goals for the sake of my husband’s and the will of church leaders. I have not yet decided what to do, but this post gives me strength and courage to stand up for myself in the midst of immense pressure from an organization in which I feel I have so few choices.

    • kmillecam says:

      CatherineWO, no matter what you decide, I hear you. It’s not a failure on your part if you do choose sacrifice for them again, because you’re coming from a place of really being able to choose it. That being said, I want you to have what you want and what you need. So I’m here being a stand not just for myself, but for you too. Blessings to you as you decide what you will do. Thank you for bravely sharing that here.

  13. Alisa says:

    I’m a working mom and I still haven’t been able to get my head around what the LDS culture has taught me all these years about a very narrow definition of my worth and potential. I know I am more than that, but the Church would have me feel otherwise.

    • kmillecam says:

      I hear you Alisa. I think sometimes we think the women who work have it all figured out. But you’re detaching from the crappiness of the patriarchy just as much as anyone. I’m glad to have your perspective to teach me that.

  14. nat kelly says:

    kmillecam, this is just wonderful to read.

    I had an epiphany when I read these words you wrote:

    “I didn’t think of myself as the main character in my own life. I framed my very self, in my own life, as a supporting character. ”

    I’m the opposite. I ALWAYS thought of myself as the main character. Perhaps too much so. (Can I be the main character in others’ lives too?) But I never did feel oppressed growing up in the church, because I always felt in control of my own plot and character development. I envisioned other characters coming in and adding to the story, but I was always the protaganist.

    I think that’s why I was so shocked when I went to the temple for the first time and heard the hearken line. Suddenly, someone was telling me, “You are not the main character. You only get to access God through the main character.” And it was just so wrong, and so contrary to my sense of self, that I could not rationalize it away.

    And now I’m a crazed, rabid feminist. Woops!

    Thanks for making me think.

    • kmillecam says:

      I love this! Thanks for your comment and the kind words 🙂 This way of framing my life has been huge, and to name it as “seeing myself as a supporting character” is just the tool I needed to see outside of that box.

  15. Maureen says:

    I’m sorry, I meant to comment earlier, but it got tangled in my life mess. I just wanted to say that you are such an inspiration kmillecam. Your post prompted so many thoughts and questions. Thank you for writing it.

    Do you or did you find yourself holding out for approval and permission from any one person in particular, even after freeing yourself from most sources? As I find in thought (a little harder in practice, considering all the indoctrination) that I don’t feel a need to gain permission or approval from most. But I still get hung up on wanting that from my husband before I act.

  1. May 8, 2012

    […] “Is there divinity without motherhood?” Whoa-Man write a letter to Heavenly Mother kmillecam defines her life, mothering and beyond Jessawhy on finding a career after motherhood Two of Three’s guest post on giving children […]

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