In Pursuit of Happiness…
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.