Poll: Work

At first I contemplated asking a trick question. Poll: Do you work? Because the answer for all of us should be, yes. Of course, I know that as women with Mormon backgrounds, work is a loaded word, and not as simple as it really is. The truth is, it’s not even to varying degrees or different pay scales; we all work in this world (with arguable exceptions I suppose). Labor intensive is relative, spheres and markets are not always clearly defined and we all need a break from what it is that we do. But do we value what we do as much as we wish others would? Do we watch the clock and measure our worth in hours, or do our projects extend and reach beyond calculable moments of time? Do we find creative fulfillment in our work? Is our work a job?

Do you know someone who seems to find joy in their work, even though it is something you can’t imagine doing? Or do you know someone who seems to have a dream job and yet can’t seem to enjoy the perceived ease of it? If work is as universal as it seems, and differences are more perception than reality, is there a way to love what you do, regardless of what it is? Tell us how you feel about your work and how you view your contributions to the world.


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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29 Responses

  1. Diane says:

    Of course, I know that as women with Mormon backgrounds, work is a loaded word, and not as simple as it really is:

    I would think Women in general know what a loaded word ,”Work” is. I don’t think work as a word is any different for women who are Catholic, Muslim, Wicca. to try to say that it is is duplicitous.

    • Corktree says:

      I meant it only in the context of how sensitive we are culturally to considering “working” as outside the home. I know that this is present in other religions that place a lot of emphasis on the dichotomy, but I was highlighting what is mostly common to our perspective here.

      • Diane says:


        I understand what your perspective is, truly I do, but, what I am saying is that this attitude is not just pervasive in a Mormon context, i to say other that it affects Mormon women more differently than the rest of the female population is just dismissive and marginalizing

      • Corktree says:

        I don’t think you do Diane. I’m not saying that it affects us more. I do think it affects all women that receive conflicting messages about what work really is – I was only trying to communicate how that feels coming from our specific church culture, which *is* different.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      “Duplicitous”? Really? No. This is a blog about Mormon women for Mormon women by Mormon women in various stages of their Mormon-ness. Were the women of other religions mentioned and then dismissed as if the question didn’t apply to them?

      The distilled questions are: Do you define yourself by what you DO? And if so, does it make you happy?

      What’s difficult about that? And how is the question, in any way, trickery? Or deceitful?

      (And my answer to that is yes, definitely, I do define myself by what I do and how much money I make is a big part of that value.)

      • Diane says:

        You certainly are entitled to your opinion, especially since you wrote the piece, but, again your taking offense to the fact that I disagree that the problem is specifically different because we are Mormon Woman. I just don’t see it. This is not a problem specific to us because of our culture, it is specific to us because of gender period

  2. Janna says:

    I dearly love my work. I own my own business, and have learned a lot from it. I am lucky, as well, to”make a living” (e.g., I get paid for what I do) doing this work.

    That said, while I am pretty sure that not everyone has to take major risks to be able to work doing what they love, I certainly did. But, I’m glad that I took those risks.

    • Corktree says:

      Thank you for pointing out the risks that are often associated with finding work that you can love and be satisfied with. Sometimes I worry about discussing these things from a position of privilege and choice, considering the percentage of the population that doesn’t really get to decide between the two (a job that pays the bills and something that they love), but I think it’s good to also acknowledge the real cost that may come with making those choices.

      • Janna says:

        I completely get where you are coming from, which is, I believe, interpreting my comment as referencing women who stay at home with their children rather than having a paying job or vice versa, and the costs involved with that particular choice.

        That said, I wasn’t thinking about “risk” as having anything to do with opportunity costs relating to women and children, as is often the rhetoric in the Mormon female world. Although, again, I completely see how my comment could be seen that way! 🙂

        Rather, my comment was about risk as it relates to stepping out of your comfort zone in the professional world specifically – whether that means emotionally, psychologically, financially, and even spiritually – to pursue the paying job that you love, even if it means coloring outside the lines – a lot. Not only did I end up creating my own job, but I do it fairly differently than most others in my profession.

        In addition, over the years many women who are very unhappy in their jobs say to me, “You are so lucky to love what you do!” as if I just fell into starting a business in the most competitive market in the world (Manhattan) and it all worked out. Oh, how I wish! I had to really quell my fears (I still have to do so, daily), swallow hard, and keep moving forward.

      • Corktree says:

        Thanks for not taking it the wrong way, but I actually did get what you were trying to say about risks, and I wasn’t thinking about sacrificing family and children in any way. I was more looking at it from a class perspective when I mention privilege and choice. It’s what I think of first when I read discussions about careers and opportunity costs – though I can understand why it would be assumed that I look at things through the filter of being a mother. (I know it doesn’t always come across, but I do try hard not to limit my perspective to my own experience)

        What I was actually thinking was that so few of us are in a position to think about whether our work (paid, mostly) will bring us satisfaction and actually do something about it. And I do think there are real risks, as you mention, to finding or creating something that fulfills both needs. I’m glad to see your risks paid off. 🙂

      • Janna says:

        “What I was actually thinking was that so few of us are in a position to think about whether our work (paid, mostly) will bring us satisfaction and actually do something about it.”

        So true, Corktree! So few have this privilege. I never consider myself privileged because I have to get paid for my work otherwise I wouldn’t have food to eat! But, I see now that it is a privilege that I could even pursue my interests in the first place, and that the people around me (and the country’s laws and changing cultural mores) encourage me to do so.

  3. TopHat says:

    My work is highly varied and feeling satisfied in it also varies widely. I always love the volunteer work I do and I love knitting for both volunteer and for pay. And I do love my children and being a mom, but sometimes, it’s overwhelming. And I loathe housework, but I do a bare minimum that satisfies me (somewhat).

    I’m split between earning money in general. I would love to contribute, but I also care very little about money- I would rather do something for free than to do it for pay, because the dynamic of money irks me (related to my post about rewards last Friday- I just struggle with any sort of compensation). Maybe if I find something I love to do AND get paid for it- that would be nice.

  4. spunky says:

    I love my work too and I don’t get paid nearly as much as my husband, but I also see my paid work as part time, and my other work is keeping the house in order. I like it this way; and it works for us- he easily puts in a 60 hour week week, as do I, but my paid work is maybe 30 hours, and my running around/house/church work is 30 hours.

    I think the biggest issue for me is the voluntary work that we are supposed to do within the church. For men, it is anticipated that men donate chunks of time as bishops, etc. and rightfully gain respect and individual credit for this donated time and effort, with admiration that he sacrificed time with family in order to serve. In addition, to add skills acquired as Branch President, etc, to a resume or CV can even result in a pay increase because of the recognised leadership experience required and obtained to oversee a congregation (almost like the “manger” of a congregation of 300).

    Compare that to women’s voluntary callings… I think women are more likely to be caterers for church events, clean crew for dishes after these events, first aid crew, financial budgeters who are given smaller budgets and then assumed to sacrifice household money for callings/activities, not to mention primary cab drivers, teachers, and all rounders… but, these voluntary women’s positions are usually recognised in bulk, i.e. compare the visiting stake leader who says, “This ward has a good and righteous Bishop who is anxious to serve at the expense of his family” to “The Relief Society helped out the youth last week.” The individual women may have donated as much or more time as the bishop, but because the bishop has the title and leadership position as bishop, he gets specific “credit” whereas women’s constant contribution is diminished in bulk.

    So… although I love my work, my gender-assumed church work is not included in that.

    • Corktree says:

      Very interesting thoughts on the differences between types of work and recognition in the Church, Spunky. I had never looked at it in quite this way (and as usual with something I didn’t see before, I’m a little irked!) Clearly this is a natural extension of how “women’s work” is viewed in society in general, but the part about women only receiving recognition in bulk compared to the male leaders that are so often praised for their sacrifices is so obvious to me now that I’m quite mad!

      I do however like that you are able to equate your non-paid work hours with your husband’s in a healthy form.

      • spunky says:

        Sorry for irking you! 😉
        DH was the employment guy (don’t recall the actual “calling title”) for a period; in that calling, people would forward resumes to him all the time. He pointed out that whilst I may be primary president, to say that I am the “president” of 30 children and associated teachers is not really viable on a resume, unless I am applying to be a teacher or day care provider. Whereas for male leadership positions, i.e. bishop or even elder’s quorum president, because the scope of the calling is larger, and the management of the calling is more diverse, it is something of better value to place on a resume. It can highlight management, communication, public speaking, and organization skills, etc. Women’s callings do not encompass this to the same standard.

        So I guess I think of church work in this way; I do not argue that spiritual development comes from callings, that is a given for me. But, because of the lower position of women in the church, their church service and experience is not competitive and therefore can not translate into any benefit outside of the church (the only difference is maybe in the Young Women’s program, since working in a presidency in youth is beneficial to put on a resume). Compared to men’s callings which because of the authoritative/higher status of the calling can be put on a resume, which can result in a better financial (outside the church) benefit.

        It’s all work, but as usual, men stand to benefit more from volunteering in positions within the church than do women.

      • Corktree says:

        It’s good to be irked over things like this. I just have to remind myself not to let it turn into bad energy. But it makes a very interesting argument for having women in higher leadership positions in the Church, completely aside from the priesthood discussion.

  5. Caroline says:

    Corktree, thank you for your thoughtful post/poll. I know how hard it is to come up with polls, and I know how risky it is when so many people are quick to take offense.

    I think this is a great question. My answer is yes and no. In a way I am satisfied. I love the classes I’m taking in women’s studies in religion. However, since I have small kids, I can’t spend the time on these classes that they really deserve, and that makes me feel stressed. I spend the rest of my time with my small kids. Which is nice in a way — I know it’s a privilege to be able to do that — and yet I fee like I don’t parent up to capacity either, since I’ve always got readings and papers hanging over my head.

    And I won’t lie — the fact that I’m not monetarily compensated for what I do is also something that decreases my satisfaction with my work. It makes me feel vulnerable and dependent on my spouse.

    • Corktree says:

      I feel very similarly Caroline. This summer has been a balancing act for me between the work that I feel I have chosen, and the responsibilities and burdens that come with that, and the work that I feel I have been expected to do; not without its own reward, but also more difficult to see the results of when the cost of self is higher.

      Unfortunately, I also recently noticed a lack of creative outlet in what I do. I used to write for fun, but lost that ability somewhere in all the “shoulds, needs, musts” and deadlines that come with outside expectations. It occurred to me that creativity may be the missing link in whether someone enjoys their work or not. Some people’s paid jobs center around their expression of creativity, but I think other people have figured out how to add in the missing element somehow. The thing is, even when we find our outlet outside of a job, I think it is still part of the “work” that we do. And in this way, I feel like work itself can feel like less of a burden. (I’m also thinking of the phenomena of crafting in our culture that allows women to retain this element in the face of parenting work that never ends).

  6. DefyGravity says:

    I wasn’t sure how to answer… I work full time, but I don’t find a lot of fulfillment in my job. Yes I get paid, my job has no real value to the world or things that matter to me. I get really antsy if all I’m doing is going to work and coming home. On the other hand I get a great deal of fulfillment from projects I don’t get paid for but that have meaning in my life, like the theatre and teaching projects I work on and various feminist and uncorrelated Mormon communities I’m involved with. At this point my paid employment is something to sustain life, and projects I dig up and don’t get paid for give my life meaning.

  7. aerin says:

    Like DefyGravity, my paid employment sustains life. I find it fulfilling sometimes, but mostly I appreciate being able to give to causes I believe in. I would love to work for a non profit, but it seems that there is never enough money in those organizations.

    In terms of LDS women, I found out that many women “worked” outside the home historically for extra money. Maybe money was tight one holiday season and so they worked as a cashier or clerk. Where does that fit into “working”? These women did what they had to do to support their families, which ultimately was their goal. It’s a part of being a SAHM, but it’s not the traditional stay at home model (to my mind).

    I think the reality of supporting and raising a family is much more complicated than any Ozzie and Harriet model.

  8. Gillian says:

    I feel very fortunate in my work and have come to discover, just this past year, that I actually love what I do – after 15 years in my paid profession (part time) and 9 years of motherhood! Although I find it a juggle trying to satify demands in both arenas I think I’ve found some surprising joy and satisfaction in the balance of both. I’m also really grateful that knoweledge and skills gained through my paid profession has enriched my efforts in church service and motherhood; and visa versa for that matter!

    • spunky says:

      Great comment! I am just starting to find a balance in where I am as well, and a confidence in the work I do, though I still struggle to put aside the snarky comments (no matter how small) from those around me who think I should do more…. or less. Have any secrets you can share with us?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have a high stress career which requires a lot of my time and is mentally and emotionally demanding. Sometimes I find it frustrating, but it is very fulfilling (and is financially necessary for my family). In many ways, I feel that my job, in which I serve others daily, is more of a calling from God than any church calling I have ever received. However, I do feel a divide between myself and women who don’t work outside of the home, which is the vast majority of LDS women I know. Part of it has to do with my schedule keeping me from participating in more church activities – I’ve had women exclaim, “You work those hours every day?!” I’ve also heard lessons in RS admonishing women who “choose work over family” (albeit before the conference talk mentioning avoidance of judging a women’s work vs home life situation). From a women’s lib standpoint, I think women should be allowed to choose to do whatever they feel is best for them, whether that’s working in the home or working outside. But the attitude I’ve encountered towards working outside the home saddens me because there is so much that women have to offer society. Sometimes I wonder about the talents and skills that are being either hidden away in the home or are not nurtured/trained up because of the examples we’re giving our young women. Do young women have a strong desire to have a career, whether it’s law or health care or government? I don’t know… The young women I know don’t appear to. And I think society’s loses a lot by this.

    • Corktree says:

      I do think society loses by not encouraging development of working interests in young women. It makes me think of the anecdote about Bill Gates visiting a middle eastern country ( I think Saudi Arabia) and being asked about how they can become leaders in technology, but in the room, the women were behind a screen or wall, and Bill Gates said, not until they utilize the other half of their country’s talent. I think our country is obviously more progressive than this, but when I look at the under utilized skills of women in the Church and the lack of encouragement to go after what they might *really* be good at (even if it is time and resource demanding), it makes me a bit worried for the future of our young women. And I see plenty of discouragement on a local level coming from the mothers and leaders, so I know it’s real.

  10. Rachel says:

    I answered yes. I work outside the home about 25 hours a week, and I love my career, and feel it is a ‘calling’ as much as teaching RS, or being a parent to two wonderful daughters. And I genuinely feel lucky to have a career that I do love. My mother taught elementary school to put braces on kids’ teeth, pay for missions/college, and while she was very good at her job, she didn’t love it.
    As to your question re: perceived ease of it–not touching that one. Every comment I’ve written and then deleted had come out really snarky. 🙂

    • Corktree says:

      Thanks for being charitable in not attacking my poor word choice on that one. I can see why it might be taken badly, but I hope it comes across as it was meant; perception from others. I know some things and situations look easy that aren’t – trust me, I know. 🙂

      • Rachel says:

        I don’t think it was poor word choice on your part. I can just think of women who I really think, Seriously? You think your life is hard? Anybody who lists on FB their day consists of quilting, making dinner and helping a child with homework and is exhausted by their day…..
        See….the snark is just about to come pouring out.
        But then, maybe that’s all she can handle. And then I feel bad for judging.

  11. DefyGravity says:

    I agree with those who have said that they feel their work outside the home, whatever that is, is a calling from the Divine as much or more then their church callings. The job I’m currently working is not my final career goal, or anywhere related to it; the career I’m aiming for feels like something I’ve been called to do, as do the unpaid projects I work on. I feel that my work as a theatre practitioner, teacher and feminist are Divinely inspired, and may even be more important then having children (I don’t have kids.) I tend to get negative reactions to that, but I believe we can be called to all kinds of things depending on our talents and personalities.

  12. Corktree says:

    Thanks to those who have mentioned feeling called to their vocations. I think it’s hard to voice this in church because it’s hard for some people to understand how it could be possible that God would actually *want* (not just tolerate) you to do something other than the roles we hear so much about.

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