The Awakening: On SAHMs

Note: I have done my best to write a clear post that presents my current thinking, but I know there are going to be many questions. I appreciate the conversation we have with each other, and will do my best to step in and clarify when possible, but it will not be possible for me to address every person and every concern. Thank you so much for all of the encouragement I’ve received thus far!

To understand this next shift, I think you have to take a moment to try to understand where I was coming from. Raised as a member of the LDS Church I understood that the living Prophet was God’s literal mouthpiece on the earth. Whatever the prophet said in an official capacity it was as though God Himself was right there letting me know what He wants for all of us. At least that’s how I interpreted things. Throughout this period of Awakening, I have realized that I am no longer interested in just accepting what I am told, I want to figure out for myself why the advice in question is right/wrong/best for me/best for everyone.

Lately That Husband has been pointing out some of my tendencies toward being a martyr. I would think, “We should move to Poland!” Why? Because maybe God wants/needs us to build up the Church there. Living in Poland would be difficult due to language and cultural barriers, but by golly, we would be able to serve as the bishop and relief society president and provide an example to the new converts of what a happy little Mormon family is like (no matter that it would mean never seeing my husband between his work and church responsibilities). In some weird way I felt that the only way to please God was to suffer a little bit. The natural man is an enemy to God, and so I needed to put my own desires aside, look toward  the men who lead the Church, and let them tell me how to deepen my relationship with my own Father in Heaven.

What I didn’t understand until recently is that the leadership of the Church can do no more than teach general principles. With a membership that numbers in the millions, filled with members from Japan, Poland, Africa,  Brazil,  Utah all looking to the same handful of men to tell them how to fit the Gospel of Jesus Christ into their culture and lifestyle. One of those leaders, Elder Oaks, once said:

“As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”

I wrote a post about one of these general principles titled Mothers Working Outside the Home and made a lot of people really angry. As I said before, this was not my intention. I needed to believe that this was the key to being what God wanted me to be, because then the sacrifice of myself would be worth it. It was a topic that kept coming up, and I wanted to explain my perspective on what I considered LDS doctrine to be on the subject. I think this sentence from my previous post is key:

I try to seek out the teachings that I believe came from God and apply them in my own life

I was seeking, but I wasn’t asking. I looked at the source (church leaders) and then tried my best to fit the idea into my life, because I was *going to be obedient*. It’s that martyr thing popping up again. It didn’t matter if I enjoyed staying home, or if I’m the best at it, I would force myself to work harder every day to make it work because that’s what we’ve been told to do.

But as I started questioning things, I started thinking about the reasons behind telling women they had to stay at home. It could be that women should stay home because they know and love their own children best and would be able to best judge what their children need. This certainly feels right to me, but from my own experience I realized that knowing what he needs most, and actually being able to provide that for him consistently are two seperate things (we’ll get into that more in a moment). Mentions have also been made about women taking time to talk about Jesus Christ with their children throughout the day, and so it seems to me that some might have been hoping that evangelical work would be done more often between parents and children. These statements about women staying home first started popping up decades ago, when there wasn’t the same professional childcare structure that we have today. As the men who are now our leaders at the highest level were raised up in the church, they would have heard those statements, they would have enjoyed the time spent at home with their mothers, and it stands to reason that they would have over time developed the opinion that women should stay home and raise children just like their own mothers did (because look at how they turned out after all). But at what cost to the mothers? Science today tells us that there is not right way for everyone to do it, that decisions should be made based on the individual child/parent situation.

This is the point in the post where I, as a mother, get real. I love my son, as he is a part of me. It’s biological, emotional, and spiritual. There are moments throughout the day when I pull him in close and feel the desire to never let go, smothering him with kisses and telling him how beautiful and wonderful he is to me. Sometimes when we are headed to the elevator I will run ahead, push the button, bend down and open my arms. He picks up speed and throws his own arms open, running full speed into me and that moment of impact is full of some of the most pure joy I have ever felt. Overall though, I’m not a baby mom. I have realized over time, that this is something you are never, ever supposed to say out loud. For babies/young children are perfect, precious, helpless, and I am never to question how lucky I am. I must Carpe Diem every moment with my, because when I am old I will sit around filled with regret that I don’t have a tiny human dependent on me for everything except breathing.

I read about a lot of women on blogs who I would classify as baby moms. They talk about how they want to do nothing but hold their new baby all day long, how they derive so much pleasure from coming up with games and new ways to interact with their toddler. I certainly enjoy both of those things, but not for 10-12 hours a day (go Mrs. Yoyo for admitting she sometimes feels drained after full days with her baby). My friend leaves her apartment a minimum of twice a day for museum trips, swimming, free classes and other adventures. Just the thought of doing that leaves me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. How can you possibly keep up the house, cook all the meals, finish all of your goals for the day when you do those things? There are people out there running programs filled with employees who want to do nothing but those things with their charges. It’s so freeing to think that I can spend my time capitalizing on my strengths, while giving my child the opportunity to spend time with someone who is capitalizing on theirs. I’m not saying I want to outsource my childcare the moment they are out of the womb, but I am now allowing myself the option to think about full or part-time options for T1 and his siblings before they reach five and enter kindergarten. I have pondered how a social environment might help T1 with his speech delays, but I thought I had to figure out a way to force myself to make that sort of thing happen myself. Now I can look at each child individually and determine what would best meet their unique needs.

In recent years we as LDS members have been told both that women need to try to stay home, and that women need to get an education. When it came to that contradiction, I preferred to bury my head in the sand. Does education mean an associate’s degree? Bachelor’s? Master’s? What about women who spend over a decade in higher education earning a PhD, are they then supposed to just lay that aside and care for their brood for the next decade or so until the children are all old enough to be in school all day? I didn’t have to worry about it because I had no intention of pursuing any formal education past what I already had. Those other women could just work it out on their own while I forced myself to do what God had told someone else that I should do.  It was only a few months ago that my friend brought up this blog for LDS women pursuing careers in medicine, asking how I felt about the claims these women made that they felt called by God into the work they were doing. I did not have an answer, because it didn’t make sense to me. Why would God tell most of us that we had to stay home, but a few others were told something different?

Now, I don’t think He did. I now think that the counsel/command to women about staying home was a product of culture. The law I want to follow moving forward is “How can I be happy and fulfilled, and leave this world knowing I worked to make it a better place?

Because I think this will come up in the comments made by LDS readers, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the word “sustain”. In the past I have felt like the phrase “Sustain our leaders” was used to say we should never disagree with them, ever. I no longer believe this is the case. I think we should sustain them in the literal sense of the word, support them. We can pray for them, we fund their lifestyles via tithing (if they use the stipend that is offered general authorities), we can talk positively about them. Disagreeing with someone’s interpretation of a situation is not bashing them it is done in a respectful manner, and I’ve come to realize that everything we know is in some way a mortal’s attempt to interpret the Divine. We are shaped by our experiences and knowledge base, biases and opinion develop, and we make our decisions accordingly. The leaders of the Church are no different. And so, as I have outlined in one way with this post, I do not always agree with the way the interpretation of God’s will is applied. Why would God give me Free Will and Personal Revelation if He didn’t want me to use them?

My friend Sophia has pointed out multiple times that many of the I Am A Mormon feature ads currently running highlight women who are doing more than staying home with their children. Like Emily, Ruth, and Irene. Again, I had no answer for this. Could it be that the Church is slowly moving toward a similar mindset, that women should work to figure out what works best for them personally? I like this approach so much more than the previous one that sounded to me more like “We prefer you stay home with your kids, but a very small minority of you can go out and work. It’s up to you to figure out what group you fall into.”

I was really touched by Beatrice’s story on Daughters of Mormonism, and how sincere she was in her desires to continue her research and contribute to the world in a way that feels meaningful for her. I realized I want to be like her. Moving forward, I have so many exciting possibilities ahead of me. I can write out a list of my dreams and make them happen. Before I felt limited, that I had to force my desires and ambitions to fit inside a specific mold. No more. For now I think I’m going to stick with part-time photography, as it’s something that works well with our family goals and lifestyle, and I find it very fulfilling on a mental/artistic/emotional level. It’s also incredibly flexible, which means I can make my schedule work around future pregnancies and little kids. After that, I don’t know. I know what I’m good at, and what I liked in high-school/college, and maybe I’ll explore some full or part-time work in those areas.

I’m still not sure where I’ll go, but I love that I’m the one who gets to decide.

*I didn’t feel like I had the time and space to get into it here, but if you’re curious about the Church’s stance on what is doctrine and what isn’t, this link is a good place to start. 


142 thoughts on “The Awakening: On SAHMs

  1. While I really did not like your last awakening post, I do like this one. I feel very strongly that I am supposed to be a SAHM, but I don’t think that is the case for everyone. I have never felt like I have been told by the church that I have to stay at home. I have wonderful friends who are in school, are nurses, etc that do a fabulous job being a full time mom but also an employee. I do not envy them because the thought of doing both would be too much for me, but I think it is great for them. I think everyone needs to decide their own family and personal goals. Putting family at the top of that list and then deciding how they are going to go about reaching those goals.

  2. interesting post, jenna.

    Perhaps you are already there, but I as you awaken, I would encourage you to look at some alternatives to the LDS interpretation of the Bible and the addition of the Book of Mormon.
    By God’s grace, I hope that you would see that while modern day prophets do not speak directly from God, the Bible is the only living and definitive word of God.

    Michelle Reply:

    Claire – considering Jenna’s open and honest writing about her changing her opinions (or at least examining them closely), you might want to consider tacking on an “In my opinion” to your post.

    “while modern day prophets do not speak directly from God, the Bible is the only living and definitive word of God.”

    That is a very strong sentence that leaves no room for interpretation or opinion, and it shows the unquestioning trust you have in the teachings of your church. Such conviction is laudable, and I am very happy for you to be so solid in your beliefs. But not everyone (even of the Christian church) believes that statement to be true. [It is an act of faith on your part to believe that statement as neither you, nor I, nor the leaders of your (or my) church were there to see the original moments recorded, nor the subsequent editings and translations. There is nothing wrong with that faith and belief, but it is an opinion not shared by all.]

    And since Jenna has done a very good job of speaking her mind in a non-confrontational manner, I would urge you to do the same.

    Sloane Reply:

    +1 to Claire! And I don’t think it’s necessary for Jenna OR her commenters to couch everything in, “in my opinion.”

    Jenna, I am loving this series and excited to hear more!

  3. I think you did a great job stating your new opinion on this very hot topic without being offensive to us working moms of the world. Kudos to you, Jenna. I also feel like if and when you do go the route of outsourcing childcare part time (which is what I do, by the way, working outside of the home 3 days per week in the medical field) you will be surprised at all of the new/unexpected emotions that come with that choice. The balancing act of working part time outside of the home and the rest of the time as a SAHM is not always easy, but for me personally it does bring me great satisfaction to help others along with being there for my child. I commend you for opening your mind to ideas outside of your comfort zone!

  4. Jenna,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now, but have never commented. This must have been very difficult for you to write, and I want to recognize you for doing it. Questioning what we have always thought to be true is HARD! You really impress me with your willingness to be honest about the good and bad things in your life, the easy parts and the hard parts. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I’m one of the people who was left angry after your previous post (and lots of the subsequent comments). I know full well that I am not going to be a baby mom. I love children and definitely want one or two of my own, but they exhaust me. I know that I will need some ‘me’ time away from home. Heck, I need time away from my husband from time to time.

    I am 4 months away from finishing my PhD. I’m not setting aside my degree to stay home. I intentionally chose a career that would be flexible, should I ever marry (I didn’t get married until after my 3rd year of graduate school). Every time that I’ve felt like giving up in pursuit of this degree, I have unequivocally felt the Spirit (through prayer and personal study, trips to the temple, Priesthood blessings, etc) indicate that THIS is the path for me. No, it’s not traditional, but I know that it is right for me.

    The good news is that an old blog post or comments didn’t really change the way that I thought. Still, I am so glad to see that others are recognizing that there is no right answer for everyone. Parents nurturing their children as much as they can? That’s the right answer. Every mother ever in the entire world staying home? It just isn’t the answer for everyone.

  6. I am not Mormon and if I’m honest, I’ll tell you I know very little about the faith … probably more than the average person, but not nearly enough to be dangerous. What I appreciate about this time of self-reflection is you’re spending a lot of time thinking, researching, thinking, questioning, researching, thinking, etc. and finally discussing. I don’t think you rush to publish your thoughts immediately. I also don’t feel you’re writing to intimidate or judge others.

    As a mother of a 15-month old boy, I find the mothering community to be just as hurtful/judgmental to one another as they are helpful/supportive. What you write here, as a LDS mother considering the options that work best for you and your family … I wish all mothers could do the same. Figure out what works best for our own families and support other mothers in their quest to do the same.

  7. I’m so proud of you, Jenna. Self awareness and believe in self are some of the hardest things we have to learn as adults.

    The fact that you know that you need to look within, while cautiously listening to without is an admirable trait.

    Good luck with your journey.

  8. I’m proud of you, and thought this blog post was really well-written. I was one of those people that stopped reading your blog for a while after the last SAHM post… I was actually shaking with anger reading through it. It’s clear that your independent thinking has matured significantly since then, and I’m excited to read the rest in this series.

    Mags Reply:

    I was really angered by the last SAHM post you wrote as well. I appreciate here how you have come to understand that this really is a personal decision and each mother should do what is best (or necessary) for herself and her family. One of my best friends, who got pregnant while taking the bar exam, decided to give up her dreams of being a lawyer and be a SAHM as it is what brought her the most fulfillment. Another of my girlfriends dreamed of being a SAHM but decided when her son was 7 months old it really wasn’t the right decision for her family. I am a working mother, had every intention of keeping my career on track before I had children and in my case this decision has proved to be right. This is because the fulfillment and sense of self I get from my job makes me a better mother and wife. Great post.

  9. This is super interesting to me, Jenna. Thank you for posting it. I think you raised some really interesting questions – timeless questions, almost.

    These points really stuck with me:

    “Why would God give me Free Will and Personal Revelation if He didn’t want me to use them?”

    “I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. – Elder Oaks”

    “Why would God tell most of us that we had to stay home, but a few others were told something different?”

    I applaud you for not only asking questions and seeking the answers – even if they may not fit in with your background – but for sharing it with us. It takes courage and personal insight and I hope it helps you develop a stronger relationship with yourself and God.

  10. Jenna, I think this post is really beautiful. You sound impressively self-aware and mature, not only in admitting you’ve changed your mind, but in acknowledging some of your weaknesses (like the tendency to be a martyr), which is something I struggle with all the time (It’s so hard to fess up to not being perfect!).

    I am sure whatever decision you decide to make will be the right one for you and your family.

  11. Just wanting to know more– to what extent do you think your revelation on this issue is brought on by your experience as a mother verses reading, praying, thinking– intellectually working it out? Will you share with us at all the extent to which TH and you worked together in coming to this discovery? I think it’s very unusual for this kind of growth to happen mutually in a marriage.

    Life of a Doctor's Wife Reply:

    I second Turtle’s request for more details. :-)

    I think knowing about how you came to this awakening is as interesting as (if not more interesting than) knowing about the awakening itself. I understand it might be too personal to discuss, but if you feel like you can share it, I’d love to learn more about what influenced this awakening and how you and TH approached it together.

    Jenna Reply:

    Interesting idea. I think what you are suggesting, is wold I have made this change in thinking if I was the kind of person that wanted to do nothing more than drink in my baby’s presence all day? I don’t think so, although I of course can never be sure. Over the last few months we both went through this really intense period of questioning, and almost everything was turned on its head in some way.

    Although my views don’t align perfect with what TH has come up with, we haven’t found any major areas of disagreement yet. I think he really liked this change in my thinking because education is so important to him, and though he supported me in whatever I chose (be it staying home, not finishing my degree, finishing my degree, working at home, working outside the home) I think he would have encouraged our daughters (if we had them) to do and think differently. Now we can both encourage them that way together :).

    We have two different friends who within the past year or so have also gone through similar changes (we’ve been told it’s kind of a mid-20s thing). One couple has done it together, one has made the changes separately. Another marriage I know of is trying to figure out how to navigate one spouse wanting to question everything, and another wanting to question nothing. I’m just glad we are where we are, and that our changes have been a result of mutual discussion.

    Anni Reply:

    Jenna, I find this comment especially very interesting, because R and I went through a very similar time, in our early years of college, where we began changing philosophically (looking back, it was separate at first as we took in everything that college opens one’s mind to, and we came to similar conclusions through a lot of open discussion.) Anyway, I know I’ve told you a little about this before, but the result is that we have very different beliefs from our families now, and I do think that presents a certain dilemma. I’m curious to keep up with your continued introspection and how it affects your relationships and interactions.

    As a general post, I think it’s great that you’re asking such valid questions. I’m excited to see your next Awakening post.

    Sarah Reply:

    I think this growth-spurt seems to happen to a lot of individuals in their 20′s, not just Mormons. I’m not sure I’d call it an “awakening” as much as just doing some maturing.

    I think it comes from having finally experienced life as an adult for several years and discovering it’s not quite what you thought. We all begin to question what we really want out of life. Maybe we have a quarter-life crisis, change careers, change locations, change ideologies, etc. I think the most important revelation is that life is about being in process, constantly developing, but always toward that goal of putting good things out in the world.

    Jackie Reply:

    I am not a mother- but I do stay at home half of the week. I am working on my masters and at this time we did not need the money for me to be working. My Hubs felt that doing what was best for my heart was what is best. I feel as though this is how it is for you. All choices are faith guided- but that doesn’t mean that one has to follow the doctrine verbatim. That is why I feel that religion is such a powerful institution. I love that you Jenna, are a strong enough woman to be able to share your good times right next to your hard decisions. As you back to school to finish you degree I hope you find it as empowering as you hope it to be. I wish you all the luck!

    Kate Reply:

    This is exactly what I was going to ask and commend Jenna and TH on- it’s incredibly challenging to grow, in general, together in a marriage and even harder to do so when part of that growing means questioning the religion that is the basis for a marriage. I am so heartened by TH and Jenna doing this exploring together, and so excited that it’s producing, what seems like, an increased closeness.

  12. I almost never comment here, but just wanted to say that this feels really honest and mature, and I’m so glad you posted it. Yay!

    You have always seemed to me like you weren’t thriving all by yourself at home with T1; you seem like you feel isolated (which is how I would feel too). I know lots of SAHMs that love what they do and are great at it. I’m a working mom, and I can attest that I have an awesome, super-close relationship with my kids. While I’m at work they get tons of interesting activities, outings, and structure that I would not necessarily be able to provide them as a SAHM, and I think everyone is better off with the system that we have.

    Jenna Reply:

    I don’t think isolated is a good word to describe it. I hear women talk about how they feel cooped up, like they are going crazy, like they have to get out and experience some other adults, but I don’t feel that way. I just feel this really overwhelming, intense desire to accomplish everything on my to-do list, and I can’t possibly get it all done and spend time working one-on-one with T1 throughout the day. Now, I can work faster and more efficiently while he spends time with someone who doesn’t feel that constant pressure of “I should clean the bathroom or work on my homework, but I also should do a puzzle”. That certainly doesn’t mean we never sit down and play together, but I never feel like it’s “enough” whatever enough is.

    Lala Reply:

    That makes total sense. I am probably projecting my own feelings of isolation that I had when I was alone with an infant at home. (I sadly lack the impulse to get everything done on my to-do list–ha.) In any case, I think it’s great that you can recognize this about yourself, and I’m glad you shared it–you will probably help a lot of people!

    Tabitha (From Single to Married) Reply:

    That’s how I feel too – that I never have enough “me” time or enough time just to get everything done that I need to do. Taking care of a little one is more than a full-time job and leaves little room for everything else sometimes.

  13. Jenna, I love this post — and this whole series — so much. One of my biggest problems with organized religion is that so many people don’t stop and think about why they do something; they just do it because they were told by their leaders to do so. I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with following religion, but I think it’s so much more meaningful when you think about why you are told to do something, and decide on your own that you agree and comply (or, alternatively, don’t agree and decide you can be just as spiritual and devoted without following that particular guideline), instead of just following along like a sheep because you are told to do so.

    Andrea Reply:

    i agree with this comment!

    Melissa Reply:

    I love this comment. It says everything I was thinking.

  14. Yup. I am totally with you on the “Baby Mom”. I think I’m what some would classify a “Teen Mom”. After all, I did teach high school. My son is 10 months and I love him with absolutely all of me. We have wonderful, magical days together. But I do think he needs stimulation that I can’t provide. I do want him to have socialization with other children his age. I don’t live in an area with a lot of those opportunities outside of childcare. So as soon as we have a spot in the daycare on base (we’re a military family), he’s off to school and I’m off to work. I’m most excited about discovering how God wants me to use my talents. I hope you can find your joy!

    Katy Reply:

    We are military as well (Air Force) and when we first moved, we put the 2 1/2 year old in the CDC (is that what you call it if you aren’t AF?) so I could get us all moved in and get things squared away. And at 2 1/2, he’s at a great age to be around other kids, so it was a win-win. We put ourselves on the list long before we moved and it came available just as we got here – unfortunately though, because the list is so long we can’t do part time care or I would have LOVED to keep sending him there. Even if you wanted to pay full time hours, you had to both be working or going to school to qualify. I liked the people there and it’s very, very close to us here. I wish they’d do some part time care as well! Maybe a few classrooms that meet 3 days a week. That would be awesome.

    Monique Reply:

    We’re an Army family on an AF base! We’re like 10 on the list now. We were 25 when we got here. They do a mommy play group twice a day but if I’m in the vicinity he’s not interested in other kids. I wish they had a separate list for part-time, or a couple classes without moms present. Our CDC also has great staff and my husband could drop my son off on the way in to work. I can’t wait to get in!

  15. I read this with great interest! I am not a Mormon but I really, really liked this post. I think it takes a lot of courage to question and explore your own previously held beliefs.

  16. Great post. I am not a mormon or a mom but I enjoyed reading about your new perspective and how your views have changed over time. You insipre me to continue to challange my views on all sorts of topics. Again, kudos to you for sharing your new views.

  17. Interesting post Jenna. I agree that this is a personal decision and isn’t one that is easy to decide on. Question for you–and i mean this with the utmost respect. Do you feel that through your awakening, you may consider a different form of Christianity, if you feel that one of the main tenants of being LDS is to rely heavily on what the inspired truth of the prophet, and you find yourself disagreeing with him? Some other Christian faiths do depend on their pastor for guidance, but I feel that personal discernment is taken more seriously in those faiths.

    Jenna Reply:

    No, there are some really central tenets of Mormonism that are too important to me. I’ll talk about them some more in my final post in the Awakening series.

    Sarah C Reply:

    Awesome, I’m really interested to hear what you have to say


  18. I really appreciate how you wrote this post. I had a very close friend recently who wrote on this very topic, and as much as she tried to not sound harsh and abrasive, she did. And as much as she said she tried to not be offensive, I was offended by the time I got to the end of her post. I don’t have kids yet, but because of our situation I know I will always have to work. And I’m ok with it.

    I love my job, and since I am a teacher, I feel like my career choice is very conducive to raising a family. I will be at work the same hours my children are at school (they can even be at the same school with me!), and I will have weekends and all the same holidays off. It will take a little more work on our part before they are old enough to go to school (finding child care, getting children to and from babysitter), but we’ll make it work.

    My mom always worked, so did my husband’s mom, and neither of us feel like we’ve missed out on anything because our moms weren’t able to stay home. I hope that when our children are grown they can say the same thing.

    I appreciate the overall feel of your post–we are given guidance and council, and we are to take that, pray about it, ponder on it, and do what is best (and sometimes necessary) for our family and our situation. (I hope this all makes sense!)

  19. Like many others, I applaud you for your journey.

    You know, being a mom is hard in general. Although my situation is different than yours – single mom, with a 4 year old boy who has special needs – I’ve been unemployed and mainly watching him while doing freelance work on the side.

    Let me tell you, it is HARD WORK. I’m exhausted and as much as I love my child with my heart and soul, I am counting down the days until he goes to kindergarten! He needs to be around kids for longer periods of time and I need the time to be able to work, be around adults, etc.

    My mom worked when I was growing up and she truly was a good role model for me.

  20. I agree that being a SAHM or not is all up to you and Heavenly Father and whatever you feel best for your family. I am wondering what you meant by saying that the counsel for staying home is based on culture?

  21. Do you worry your mom will be offended? My mom stayed at home and I feel like when/if/okay when I work outside the home, she will take it as a rejection of her.

    Jenna Reply:

    My mom didn’t stay home. They were really poor and not working wasn’t an option for her (she didn’t work constantly throughout our childhoods, but she didn’t stay home all day every day either).

    TH’s mom worked, and he’s always been an advocate that working moms can be just as good or better (I think most of us think that however our moms did it is a really, really good way to do things :) )

    Katy Reply:

    Also, Jenna isn’t saying that choosing to stay home is a bad or foolish idea – if that’s what someone wants to do it’s a wonderful choice with it’s own set of benefits (just as choosing to work has it’s own set of benefits).

    For me, the benefits of staying home far outweigh my desire to seek paid employment elsewhere, but should that balance ever change (because of circumstance or my own desires) then work I shall do!

  22. I love this post. My husband and I don’t have children together yet but we have talked about when we eventually have or adopt children. I have to say that there is a lot of pressure to be a SAHM if finances allow in the LDS community. About once every few months, someone in my ward gives a talk during sacrament meeting about how important it is for a mother to “be around”.

    I am currently a student working toward a nursing degree. I am choosing a career path that I think I will love. My husband hates his job and would much rather stay at home and work on starting a hunting/fishing guide service. We’ve decided together that once I have my degree, am working and have paid down the majority of our debt, he will quit his job.

    We want more children but I can’t see myself as a SAHM. I don’t like being around children until they reach about 3-4 years of age and I can interact with them better. My husband is wonderful with babies and children, and while it wouldn’t be his first choice to be a stay at home dad, he would prefer it over working. He doesn’t like socializing and I do. I need adult interaction. I also fear that my mental health would suffer dramatically if I had to stay at home with a child.

    We came to a mutual decision that once one of us has to be a stay at home parent, he is the better candidate. Sometimes what is generally a good thing (like being a SAHM) is not the best thing for your personal situation.

    BTW, SAH dads seem to be looked down upon in the LDS community. I think it is seen as being emasculating to have the wife be the breadwinner in a family. Has anyone else noticed this?

    Thais Reply:


    I hope you do find joy in nursing. I have been a nurse for almost three years and don’t enjoy it. I find the 12 hrs miserable, the fact that getting time off is always a fight and can be denied, the fact that I’d miss out on a Christmas with my children in order to be at the hospital just simply not worth it. I’m overall not happy as a hospital RN. Now that I’ve gone all negative on you I’ll go to the positives.

    1- Be aware that you will have to pay your dues as a new nurse. You will work the crappy shifts and most holidays because seniority is still very much part of the culture

    2 – That passes after about two years!!! New grads are coming in ever semester and so are new employees. Seniority is not earned by years in profession, but by years at a certain job.

    3 – Have a plan for something else besides bedside nursing. I didn’t think I’d become so incredibly burned out so early on in my career. I worked so stinking hard to do what I thought I loved and started despising it within one year. The job is hard. Patients wear on you hardcore. So think about where you might want to move on to later on whether it is as a professor, nurse educator, nurse researcher, nurse practitioner, or nurse manager. Get experience that will get you to something else. It is a guarantee that at some point bedside nursing will not be something you enjoy anymore.

    4 – Find your niche. Women’s health (NICU, L&D, Post Partum) and Pediatrics are extremely competitive and have the highest job satisfaction rates. Other extremely competitive areas are ER and ICU. These are nearly impossible to get into as a new grad unless you have connections. Most needed area is by far the OR! OR nursing shortage is estimated to get pretty bad in the near future. During your clinicals figure out what you love, try your best to get to those fields, and if you are not able to then get experience and then move on to where you think you’ll be happier.

    5 – BSN. BSN. BSN. BSN. If you’re not on that track now consider going that track and if not be ready to not find employment in a hospital until you have a BSN.

    and the best advice I was given as a GN that I still follow to this day!

    6 – When picking a job, career path find out what’s most important to you. Is it schedule? Specialty? A certain hospital? For me my number one priority was no weekends! I had worked weekends in the past and it did a number on our marriage so I said never again. My second was the hospital. My third was specialty. So now I have a sweet Mon-Wed Schedule (most of the time) at the hospital I liked at a specialty that wasn’t my number one. Something usually has to give when it comes to nursing, so you have to pick what matters most and that may change through the years.

    Okay. I’m done. Jenna sorry for hijacking the thread into a nursing 101. lol

    Cinderelly please feel free to ask me questions or anything else. Hope I didn’t scare you.

    Cinderelly Reply:

    Thais, thanks for sharing your opinion. I realize how stressful nursing is. I have plans to get my Master’s in nursing midwifery eventually but due to finances, have to do it step by step. I realize to that I am most likely to find a job in a nursing home at first, which is pretty much what’s available in my neck of the woods. I worked as a CNA about ten years ago and I remember how the nurses would complain how burned out they were, seniority issues, how they couldn’t find a job in a hospital, etc… I know I have to pay my dues and I have often told my husband how the hardest part of this process will probably be finding a job in L&D, which I’ll have to do while getting my Master’s.

    Thanks for giving me a heads up on the realities of nursing. I knew about the darker side before I chose this path. I realize that to get where I want to be, I’ll have to pay my dues. I am glad you are at the point in your career where you have found satisfaction.

    Thanks again.

  23. I never comment because i am always busy doing things with Mia. U know that. Jenna, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder just what the heck is going on in your brain. You are so privileged and you have a gorgeous son an you get to stay home with him, what most other mothers would love to do-but some can’t. And I watch (read this blog) how you rarely go out with him and your days are not spent trying to make him happy. You are on twitter constantly. You blog. You edit photos. I did not understand this about you because it is the exact opposite of me. I am divorced and on a very limited budget. Sure, I could get a job and have more money an have time outside of the house with adults. It would be simple for me to get a high paying job due to my skills. But I choose to stay with Mia and be somewhat poor. I cannot think of a better way to spend my day than with her. And when I see how opposite we are/were, it makes me wonder what is really the problem out there in your beautiful high rise in chicago. Now I understand. I think you are lonely. I think you don’t have as many friends who think like you. You are trying to fit into a mold of who you think you’re supposed to be and it makes you resent what you are doing day to day. That is completely understandable. It takes guys to write what you wrote today, especially knowing there are a good 10-15 snark monsters just waiting for you to fail at something- anything. You are going to be sO much happier Once you do something for you, regardless of what “the people” tell you or urge you how to live your life.

    I am excited to see what happens if T1 goes to a daycare part time. I think you will be happier and then your time together will be better.

    Love you. I am your friend. Even though we are just on two different pages- different books, even.

    Rebecca Reply:

    Very well said. So many great points here.

    Danielle Reply:

    What an excellent comment. Jenna, you have a good friend.

    ashley Reply:

    how do you support yourself if you are single sahm? seems like that would be a good reason to work.

    Marissa C Reply:

    Mandy, I pop by your blog every so often…you are doing an awesome job of dealing with your divorce via the internet in a way your daughter will be proud of some day. I’m really really impressed.

    Erin Reply:

    Am I the only one who thinks this is a SMUG comment? Even the first line is smug. Mandy – you have admitted on your blog that Mia wants to go to school NOW (and I know you conceded and are sending her in EIGHT months) – but you said yourself that it would probably be best for Mia to go to school but that YOU want her to stay home for YOU. So it is ridiculously smug for you to get on here and say you are a SAHM, sacrificing luxuries, FOR MIA when you’ve made it very clear it is your own psychological issues, making Mia your entire world, (oh the pressure on THAT poor child) that keeps you at home. YOU stay at home for YOU – not for MIA. Your own words and it makes your comment here all the more smug. And now that you’ve made it clear that it would be “simple to get a high paying job” – your “I can’t afford school” schtick is seeming quite moot.

  24. I love, love, love that quote by Elder Oaks. He’s such a great mind and I always enjoy what he has to say on different subjects (it always sounds so logical and I can tell his legal background plays into the way he thinks and speaks:) We need to work so hard to remember this as church members so we refrain from hastily judging each other. Also, this reminds us to try to use our own minds AND stay close to God so we know that we are living our life the best we can wherever we live or what circumstances we are in.

    I appreciate your thoughts on sustaining – I still very much believe in modern revelation (that’s what sets us apart from other Christian religions) and believe that they are inspired leaders, but that doesn’t mean I need to turn off my brain. It doesn’t mean that every syllable out of their mouths is perfect at all times and should be taken with unquestioned, unrelenting exactness. We have a right to God-given revelation on our own as well and should seek to use it in our lives through prayer and study.

    As for mothering…I’m learning that while I am very much a BABY mom, I’m having a hard time being a TODDLER mom. And I have these two kids that are the same developmentally (more or less) so I often feel like I have TWO TODDLERS and that sometimes drives me batty. I’ve always known that, for me, I have to be at home for the first year/infant stage, but now that Kyle is 2 1/2 it’s “Yes, please! Someone else can engage him and play with him..feel free!!!”:) But then again, I always knew this about myself. I taught elementary school but the youngest age I was willing to teach was 2nd grade (and that’s what I did). Even before kids I knew that the preschool age/kindergarten wasn’t my absolute favorite…and as I have two kids both in that realm, now I KNOW it! :) I’ve been meaning to get the 2 1/2 year old in preschool, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but at three he will most definately be started somewhere….for his beneift and mine. :)

    Rachel Reply:

    I really liked this comment. I sustain our church leaders but I still think about what they say and how best to apply to my life.

    Also, my son will be 3 in a couple of months and my daughter just turned 18 months and I am so not a toddler mom. It is rough these days.

  25. Jenna, I think you’ve done a very good job writing in a manner to express yourself honestly!

    Keep in mind, most women will have this same conflict of what they feel they “should” do as told, versus what they want to do when it comes to child rearing b/c society is soooo opinionated about it! So I think that while many of your readers do not share your Mormon beliefs, we can all share in this topic.

    (PS – way to go for being honest and open enough to express that you are not a baby mom! )

  26. Great post. I always assumed I would be a working mom. Always. Now that I am pregnant, and this has coincided with a move for my husbands job, I am going to be a SAHM mom, until/unless I can find a job that will make the cost of daycare worth it. To be honest I am excited/terrified about this new phase in my life.

    Katy Reply:

    You bring up a neccessary point: I think for ALL moms, one of the most important lessons on mothering and life in general is that sometimes you have to be flexible and willing to change decisions based on current circumstances. It works both ways: if you are set on being a stay-home-mom no matter what, well, life sometimes hands you things that make that not possible for a bit of time and you have to be willing to change. Also, if you are set on being a working mom, you never know what’s around the corner that may change that plan.

    I wasn’t planning to work after my first son was born, and it coincided nicely with the fact that after he was born we found out he had(has) Down syndrome. If I had planned to work and was rigidly opposed to staying home, those first few months/years would have been very difficult as the level of appointments and therapies he required would have made life too stressful as a working mother or I would have resented the situation too much if his diagnosis “made” me stay home.

    My point is that no matter what the plan, being a working mom or SAHM, it’s always good to be flexible and mature enough to realize that life doesn’t always go “as planned”. I hope you are able to find employment you like, but if not and you decide to stay home, I hope you find the benefits for that as well – and it’s totally normal to be excited and terrifed….that’s pretty much how you sum up parenthood!

  27. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate it when you — and other “mommy bloggers” — write posts like this. I took a semester off of graduate school when my twins were born and I found it be incredibly difficult. The six months were I was at home without any childcare (and thousands of miles from family) made me feel alienated from my network and alone. I was struggling with two babies and pumping. It was exhausting, plus my body was really destroyed by my pregnancy/birth and it took months and months to recover.

    I felt like everything that I read about motherhood was either relentlessly optimistic in a “isn’t every single moment of motherhood fantastic” sort of way or (on the other extreme) took perverse pleasure extolling the “bad mommy” stereotype. Where are the people who feel like the baby stage isn’t going to be their favorite, I wondered.

    I feel like I’m seeing more of it lately, so I don’t feel so alone. (And now that I’m working on my dissertation again part-time, I feel better. It also helps that the babies are a little older. I think I’m a much better toddler mom than I was a baby mom.) But I think, setting aside the religious aspects of this post, which don’t really speak to me as a non-LSD person, I think the realities of parenthood that you are writing about are really powerful. Thank you for that.

  28. I’m typing from iPhone. As usual. 

    I jut wanted to sum up my comment and thoughts by saying I like you 100 times more as a result of your blog post today. I often talk about my “friend Jenna in Chicago” like we know each other because I think we do. I know I would be your fried in real life if we lived closer, even though we are different. I’m so happy for you that you are getting to be more self aware and I envy your ability to put it out there online. Truth be told, I am really embarrassed about my divorce and my life sometimes and it’s hard to write about it without sounding like an angry bitch. I am jealous of people like you with loving husbands, doting on them and encouraging their dreams. I never ever had that. Ever. I wish I did. The only thing good that came out of my marriage was Mia. 

    I stay home with her and live off of her dad and make do without any leftovers. I realize not everyone wants that. Some people want money. Some people want hobbies. Some people want me time. I do not want any of those things. I am probably going to go insane one day. True. I also hope I am not screwing up my kid by making her center of the universe. I probably am. Oops. 

    Anyways. Just wanted to clarify what I meant.  I really hope that you are happy. It seems like you are finding your way there. ;)

  29. I have a legit question: If you could talk to yourself from two or three years ago, what would you say? How would you approach it? I’m really interested in how everyone is phrasing these changes as “maturing,” “growing,” or even you as “awakening” – literally as if you were asleep before. All of these phrases imply a deficit, and that your new ways of thinking are better/improved over the old. And I agree, but how does that not sound condescending to people who haven’t gone through these changes yet? Basically, how can we have productive, fruitful conversations without being/sounding condescending – or is it impossible? I guess this is kind of an abstract question, but something I’m chewing on.

    Meg Reply:

    This is a really good question! I’m also curious about how you’ll answer, Jenna.

    I have a lot of friends that are 5-10 years older than me, and a few friends who are 5-10 years younger. My older friends, when I was 18 – 23, rolled their eyes at me a lot, laughed at some of my “outrageous” statements and poked fun at me, telling me that I’d grow up someday and realize it wasn’t so black and white.

    Now I find myself doing the same things to my younger friends, who are saying the same sorts of things I said 5, 8, 10 years ago. It’s hard to remember not to react with a “oh, well, sweetie, you’ll see…” but I remember how much it frustrated me to be condescended to.

    Katy Reply:

    I think this is a valid point – especially for people that agreed with her previous points of view, but now find that some ideas have shifted. They may be feeling if they don’t agree 100% they aren’t as ‘enlightened’ and I wouldn’t like hearing someone tell me that as well.

    I think you have to look at it like this: she’s willing to give previously held ideas a second thought and THAT’S a sign of maturing – not that *changing* those ideas is maturing or a necessary part of that, but the critical thinking and willing to re-examine is.

    There are things in my own life that I’ve held to, even after thought and analysis, and there are other things that I’ve changed my perspective on in some ways (big or small). But the willingness to critically examine one’s thoughts, even if they don’t change, is a sign of growth.

    And these ways of thinking may be better for her – an improvement for her. But I think she’s thus far been careful not to apply her opinion and findings on a topic as a blanket reccommendation for everyone else. If she chooses to watch the occasional R-rated film or work outside the home (both things previously opposed to), she’s not saying that everyone else that avoids those things is not ‘mature’ like her or needs to change their thinking as well. If she was, she would still be looking at everything as an Absolutist (just in the other direction) and that is something that she stated earlier she wants to control and/or avoid.

    phruphru Reply:

    well said, Katy.

    Rachel Reply:

    Love Katy’s comment.

  30. I haven’t been a long time reader and I think it’s great that you are finally searching/coming to your own conclusions, rather than blinding following. But there are so many things in your post that made me think “really?”

    I just love that you assume you would serve as Relief Society President and your husband as Bishop in Poland. It is so holy-than-thou attitude to assume that you would be called to those callings just because you moved to Poland. It boggles my mind that anyone would desire those callings anyway.

    And that you would be an example of “what a happy little Mormon family is like” – who are you to assume that they don’t know what a happy family is, regardless of religion! The people there are examples to each other – they don’t need you, or me, or anyone else coming in to show them what a happy little Mormon family is. Your version of a happy Mormon family might be different from someone elses – but it doesn’t make their version wrong and it doesn’t make your version wrong either. It just makes them different.

    I’m sure you’re a sweet girl, and I’m glad for your “awakening” – I hope the best for your continued journey.

    phruphru Reply:

    I read the bit about being bishop and relief society president as Jenna kind of daydreaming a so-called perfect world as opposed to a realistic expectation. (I mean, she fully admits she doesn’t speak Polish, so I imagine it would be difficult to spread the gospel to non-English speakers over there.)

    Ellie Reply:

    I think we all engage in some kind of fantasy about what kind of life we would lead if we led a different life. I don’t think it’s fair to call a person holier-than-thou or arrogant just because when they dwell in possibility, they do not choose to imagine themselves as mediocre.

  31. Your quest reminds me of my own. Growing up, I wanted to be nothing but a “good Mormon girl” and follow all the wisdom of the church. Then one day, I realized there was doctrine on how to do EVERYTHING right…even the most mundane choices. I realized that I could shut down my free will, not think, and blindly obey and follow everything I heard and understood through the church. In the end, I stepped away and chose to follow my own heart and make my own decisions. I’m glad that I did.

  32. Jenna I was one of those ppl that were MAD when you wrote that post. In fact I stopped following you for months until another blogger linked back to your page and I decided to follow you again. I’ve liked you since Weddingbee! Thank you for this post. It was refreshing and while your other post made me feel like I was less of a child of God THIS post was amazing.

    Good Luck
    P.S You look amazing keep up the hard work

  33. I have so much admiration for you, Jenna. Questioning the things you’ve been taught and being willing to wrestle around with them a bit takes guts. I know this from experience. And since I’m a bit older and on the other side of that questioning, I can promise you this: knowing you can trust yourself and your experiences is one of the best feelings in the world. Knowing that God talks not just to the men in charge but to all of us, in a hundred little whispers throughout the day, is pretty freaking empowering.

  34. Interesting post, Jenna, and I’m glad you revisited the issue. I remember your original post and I don’t think I commented on it because my eyes were rolling too far back in my head to see the computer screen :) We definitely come from different places. Also, I am not a mom and not a Mormon and at the time, I didn’t have anything new to add to the already boiling-over discussion in the comment section.

    I bring up that old post because I remember reading your post and thinking OF COURSE she thinks this way — because this works for her and her family. Her husband has a well-paying job, she has no desire to finish her undergrad degree and so the idea of being a stay-at-home mom fits in with her lifestyle.

    Now, your circumstances have changed. You’re in a new city, your tiny baby has grown into a toddler and you want to finish your college degree. You are older and more aware of your strengths and weaknesses — and what’s best for you and your family.

    And I think that’s the most important thing. Moms should just do what they think is best for their families. If that means a mom chooses to work because she loves her career and makes a difference in the hospital or lab or office, then that’s fine. If that means a mom has no choice but to work because she is single or her husband doesn’t make a lot of money or because the couple has too many medical bills, that’s fine, too. The point is, no one can or should make blanket statements about whether it’s better to stay at home or work out of the home. There is clearly no right decision except the one that the individual mother makes for her and her family.

    Thanks again for revisiting the issue and I look forward to more posts on things you’ve changed your mind about.

  35. Your post reassured me in a slightly different way. I’m still quite young (20 next week!) for this to be a pressing concern for me at the moment; and my upbringing and cultural background do not emphasise being a SAHM.
    However I do sometimes worry about not being a baby-person. I feel awkward and lost around babies and young children but hope that when/if I have a child of my own then instinct will kick in. The fact that you acknowledged that some people are more naturally inclined to it than others reassured me that it’ll all work out in the end, and for that I thank you (:

  36. Well, first of all, kudos on being brave enough and secure enough in your faith to step back and examine some issues as you’ve been doing. That being said, I have a few things I’d like to respond to:

    1. Kind of nitpicky, but your “science today” link in paragraph 6 (if you don’t count your note and block quotes) points to another blog, which also doesn’t provide links to any real science. It’s great if you share in the general opinion that families are different and need different things, but that’s a wonky and frankly dubious way to back it up with “science”.

    2. The discussion of “being a martyr” in the first paragraph under the pictures.. aside from what Alison already pointed out about the assumption that you and TH would automatically have the chief positions in a ward in Poland (it seems that from a missions standpoint it would be better to have Poles in those positions, not an Americanized Pole and his American wife? The goal of missions work in evangelical Protestant circles is not to plant churches that reflect the culture of the missionary but rather the indigenous culture. Maybe you’re thinking of a specific town where you have specific reasons to believe that that would happen.), I am wary of what seems to be your underlying assumption in this paragraph that you build the rest of your post on: if I don’t like it or am not succeeding, it must not be God’s will for me. Or even as you blatantly put, “the only way to please God was to suffer a little bit”.

    I’m certainly not saying that God is pleased or must be pleased by our suffering, but He is pleased (though not salvifically – only Christ’s sacrifice turns away His wrath) by our obedience. If obedience doesn’t feel good, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that you’re “being a martyr” by suffering in obedience. Actually, I think it’s sad that martyrs, the people who paid the ultimate price for obedience to their faith in God, have had their name appropriated for such a negative connotation.

    That being said, I don’t think your conclusions are necessarily wrong. I am one of the moms who is “living the dream”, so to speak. Being a mom was always my life’s goal and while I’m not running out twice a day for activities (I agree, how exhausting would that be…) I definitely love it. If you or somebody else would love motherhood better if there were other people sharing in your kids’ care, then good for you, do it! But I have a lot of sympathy with your church’s recommendations having been the daughter of a former childcare worker and hearing stories of babies who at 6 weeks started attending daycare from opening till closing time, and went home to a nanny while mom and dad were at opposite ends of the country on business trips.

    That’s an extreme example, yes, but I just don’t want to see people thinking that parenting requires no sacrifice, no suffering, no inconvenience. I don’t think you’re advocating that on purpose, but I fear someone could walk away from your post (especially that paragraph) with that idea.

    Grace Reply:

    She linked to my blog actually, but the post was an intro post. The other two (which include links to various studies) are here ( and here (

    Or you can just visit for a reader-friendly summary of the most comprehensive study on the subject. (Results: children cared for only by their mothers, don’t develop any differently from those cared for by others.).

    This is a complicated (and complex) issue, and thus somewhat hard to study, but the overall research agrees with Jenna.

    Carrie Reply:

    Thanks Grace for those links! They are very interesting and it’s so nice to have some answers about actual differences between stay-at-home parenting and daycare.

    This choice is a big deal for everyone, and these studies do provide some comfort that we’re unlikely to harm our children either way.

    AmyLynne Reply:

    Having studied this in college, I just want to point out something to remember and consider. “Quality of Childcare” (page 8 of the nichd study) is perhaps the most important part. MOST children are in childcare that does NOT match up to these parameters, mainly because the parents cannot afford it. I agree, that when those parameters are met, the results are valid, but parents need to make sure to research out the cost and logistics of actual QUALITY childcare in order for it to “not make a difference” in their development. And like I mentioned before, most parents cannot afford this option, especially if the second job is out of need.

  37. I agree with most of this post; however, I want to point out that being the “exception” should actually be an exception. If you think you are an exception to the rule, you should think and pray long and hard about if this is true or if it is just more convenient for you. Many people get started on the wrong paths by thinking they are the exception one too many times.

    Second, there was a lot of “I” and “me” in here. What’s best for you, makes you feel more fulfilled, etc. When you decide to be a mother, you are deciding to not think of yourself, but to think of what’s best for the child.

    I think it’s an individual choice if a woman works, but the greatest daycare is no replacement for being home with a mother. I work part time – out of necessity right now, hopefully our position will improve and then I can choose whether to do it or not – I do think I’m more engaged at home after I have had a few hours break, but that doesn’t mean that quality time is better than quantity. I don’t think my child thrives more/learns better/etc. because I am gone. However, she deals with it.

    Megan Reply:

    I really liked this thought, the first paragraph especially.

    Rachel Reply:

    That thought crossed my mind too. I think it’s important to think about what our leaders say and how we apply those things but I also think it is a fine line. You can’t just take what you want and claim personal revelations on everything else. I’m not saying Jenna is doing that… I just know it’s something I struggle with.

    Gwendolyn Reply:

    I also really like CEM’s thought, it’s something I struggle with all the time. Critical thinking has to be guided by the Spirit and study of the scriptures to make sure I don’t cross the line.

  38. This was just a great post. It’s so much more interesting to read about someone’s journey than just “this is the way it is” posts – I have doubts and shifting positions about stuff all the time, so it’s wonderful when others are able to articulate changing ideas. For what it’s worth, my wonderful sister wasn’t a natural “baby” person – she took a year off work after each of her three births (4 kids total), and started to go stir crazy towards the end of the last one, calling me in tears sometimes with boredom and frustration. When she went back to work part-time, it got better immediately. Now the kids are school-aged, she’s in heaven. The oldest has a love of cooking, and my sister helps her plan and prepare meals on the weekends. I’ve rarely seen her (or them!) so happy as when she’s in the kitchen with all the kids, or talking about faith and ethics with them. I bring this up, just because,like you, she’s an intensely goal-focused person. I’d add that it’s good to sort this out before you have more kids – with multiple children, it becomes extremely difficult to run the household and make sure all kids have all needs met, nevermind achieve some interaction with other adults as well.

  39. Yay for you — hope this leads to positive changes in your life. Obviously, I can’t speak to your religion. But on a practical level, I believe some women are truly fulfilled by staying at home with their children and others are not. NEITHER IS BETTER OR WORSE. It’s like how some people love arts and others sciences, or whatever — just a range of different human personalities. Personally I am *not* cut out to stay at home but am forced to anyway because of poor health — I know firsthand how trapped and miserable a woman can feel when she longs for adult pursuits but is stuck at home. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my child. In fact, much of the misery comes from putting her needs before my own all day, every day because of that love. Sacrifice is what moms do. But love doesn’t change the fact that I am miserable, and I think our kids deserve happy, well-fulfilled parents. As family members and as life examples.

    Sorry, this is a little rambling, but long story short I know where you’re coming from and I think it’s a positive thing for both mama and child. And I’m not a toddler parent either. For all our daily delights, I’m desperate for the times when we can play more sophisticated games, talk about her higher-level thoughts and feelings, read books and share imagination. The things that amuse a 2-year-old, not to mention the repetition, can be so desperately boring for a grown-up. Again, we do it out of sacrifice and love, but it doesn’t make it any less agonizing when it’s ALL you’ve got going on each day.

    And p.s., have you at least tried going out on excursions with T1? I find it’s actually more fun and more exciting, for both of us. It’s when we stay home too much that we both start to go crazy. So you eat takeout or the house doesn’t get vacuumed for an extra day — your mental health (and T1′s broader experience) may be worth it!

  40. My mother was the martyrs of all martyrs and I find myself having to be very aware of this behavior because I think as women, not all of course, we have a naturally tendency to go to the martyr role. I think it’s cultural, that role is all over the media. My MIL, will say things to my husband like I would give my life for you. Well, great no one asked you to do that.

    I think you would be a great high school teacher.

  41. You know…I have a friend who tried to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons but her body would.not.have it. She was sick every other week, she looked unwell, she FELT unwell. I can go weeks without eating meat and not even notice (…and I’m not vegetarian). As different bodies need different nourishment, so different souls need different nourishment to perform in the optimum way. Each person has individual strengths- or, as some may call them, gifts or callings- and weren’t we given those strengths to use them? That’s what I want: to bring out the best of myself so I can give that self to others.

    Anyway, I can’t even tell you how wonderful I think it is– that you’re exploring what it is that is right for you as an individual, partner, mother and Mormon…and how those roles are related. It can be scary, and the fact that you’re talking about it in a public forum, where people will be quick to criticize, is commendable. I know you’ll inspire/support other women to think critically about their own lives, and I think that’s one of the best things anyone can do with the internet. Thanks, Jenna.

  42. Thanks for the shout-out, Jenna. I’ve read along for awhile, and it’s so heartening to see this post. I know I’m a better mother if I remember that being a little selfish *makes* me a better mother. People can call that self-serving if they like, but it makes for a happier household in my corner of the world.

    It really is too easy to be the martyr, as PP said, but all that does is build resentment. I’ve felt that creeping in when the bulk of child care has been on me, and that is the most toxic thing in the world for a marriage and a child.

  43. I feel compelled to comment on your post but my brain is going so many directions, I’m not even sure where to begin.

    My husband and I were talking the other day about how we believe there is a “sweet spot” of when to have children. The discussion was brought on by one of my older (40s) mom friends who felt increasingly overwhelmed at how much of herself she had to give to her son and being pregnant again, she felt like so much of her identity was gone and there was no time left in life for the things she enjoyed and wanted to pursue. It was so foreign to me (especially since she had a husband that worked just 40 hours a week from home, had relatives and baby-sitters and help with cleaning, etc). But my husband brought up the point that she spent the majority of her life in a career, only having to focus on herself and it was a huge change, one she might not be able to fully make at this point in her life. I have several friends who had children when they were younger and feel like there were so many things they wanted to do, things to explore, experiences they wanted/needed to have, they aren’t quite ready to settle down and often feel trapped in the day to day role of a stay at home mother.

    I say all of this because maybe my feelings about this are because I had my first child in that sweet spot. I went to college, lived alone, got married, had a career that I felt accomplished in, and then had my son. I hate that Carpe Diem article (and I feel like I am the only one who does). My life isn’t all puppies and rainbows (my husband works 70-90 hours weeks at two jobs because it is important to us that I stay home, I am drained and tired a lot) but, there is never a moment I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing, that I don’t soak up and enjoy these moments, even the ones that are total chaos, where my son just off his diaper and pooped on the floor and is crying and throwing his poop because he’s upset that he has pooped on the floor. Every night when I rock him before bed, I kiss his sweet head and think, this goes by too fast.

    There are many reasons for mothers to work and we don’t live in a perfect world that allows us all to stay home with our children. I echo a lot of CEM’s reply though. There is no replacement for having a mother at home. It is through sacrifice and love that we become the mothers we are meant to be and give our children the best of ourselves and the world. What I hear a lot at Sacrament is that we as parents are our children’s best teacher and it is our responsibility to be such. One of the hardest parts of becoming a mother for me was giving up all that time and emotional energy that used to be all mine. But when I did finally give in and give it up, realize that it wasn’t all about me anymore (not that I didn’t matter but I wasn’t #1, #2, or even #3 anymore) and let those expectations go, I was able to find my groove, carpe diem the hell out of my life, and find contentment in this new balance.

    Tabitha (From Single to Married) Reply:

    just had to respond to your comment because I can empathize so much with your friend. I got married later in life, had my son two years into our marriage, and now, my son is two and I’m 40 and we’re trying for baby number two. It definitely changes things, I think, having a family later in life. If I had the choice, I would have gotten married years ago (especially growing up in the church – talk about feeling left out sometimes!) but it wasn’t to be. It certainly changes the dynamic, though, being older and “established” and having young kids. And I like what you said about letting go your expectations – that’s what I struggle with the most I think. If it weren’t for that, I would love every moment of being home with our little boy. As it is, I still love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  44. I find these posts so interesting Jenna, I’ve been coming back several times just to check in and see others’ comments because I find them fascinating.

    Good for you for trying to figure out what works best for you. I, too, struggled with this whole question. I got married when I was 36 and had my son when I was 38. That means that I already had my career, had finished my advanced education, and really didn’t want to “throw it all away.” It was still a difficult decision especially given that I, too, grew up with the idea that staying home was best for the family. But after trying to work part-time, I finally decided to stay home full time with my son.

    Most days it’s great. I love the freedom it allows us to do whatever we want with our day. I love the time I get to spend with my favorite little boy. I love so many aspects of it. But… (there’s always a but) I still struggle. Today, as a matter of fact, I had a frustrating afternoon with my son who has reached his terrible twos and it caused me to question my decision. I’m also not one of those moms who instinctively creates all kinds of activities and educational experiences for their child so I’ve had to push myself to make these a part of our routine. It’s hard work and it’s not always fun.

    All that said, for now, my choice works for us. And I think it’s just that – a choice. Bottom line – I understand where you’re coming from and am glad you’re making the choice that fits you and your family.

  45. “To become a mother, I had to learn how to care about someone more than I did about myself, and that was terrible…”

    Tabitha (From Single to Married) Reply:

    LOVED that article, thanks for sharing! Especially loved this quote:

    “You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone. For what? Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left.”

    AmyLynne Reply:

    I also really loved those quotes mentioned above. That’s exactly how I feel about being a mom. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Gwendolyn Reply:

    I’m turning that quote into artwork to hang on my bedroom wall!

  46. I can’t talk about LDS, or even religion. But I can talk about growing up. And at the end of the day you have to test a lot of frameworks before you can settle into yourself.

  47. When I was younger, I didn’t think I was going to get married or have kids because I was going to be a career woman (it was one or the other in my mind you see). And now I’m a mum of a 4 day old who has potentially put her present job in jeopardy in order to take an extended leave of absence because I really want to be at home with my son. In other words, I’m having a bit of the opposite awakening, and I think this is a healthy process. What we think we know is really just based on our individual contexts, and as our situations change, so do our perceptions. I’m trying to use this opportunity to be more humble and understand the goodness in other options and choices other people have made…and I hope it will make me a less judgemental person which is really the spiritual endeavour I should aspire to – not the decision to stay at home or not. So I love that we are on similiar paths but finding different answers based on our talents and situations.

  48. It’s nice to read the growth that you are going through. And some of the reasons that you took such a hard line before. I have a 10 month old and I am a serious baby mom. I think about babies constantly, I want tons of them, I swear I could be a surrogate mom even. But I also love my job and building a successful career. I am lucky that I my DH supports me in being both a mom and a career woman. I am also lucky to be successful enough to hire out cleaning and have a part-time at-home nanny/assistant to help me fulfill my rolls as wife, mom, and entrepreneur. No suffering required.

  49. One thing I am enjoying about your Awakening series, Jenna, is the way you are treating God as a Father, not a dictator :) I don’t mean dictator is an evil way, I just can’t think of a better word at the moment ;) It is very easy to fall into the habit of blind obedience–my Church* says it is so so I must do it, no matter what. In some churches, it seems as though there are rules for everything, most of them presented as ways to “protect” us.

    But as a parent, I can’t protect my kids from everything. I can teach them, I can guide them, when they are young, I can physically move them to safer spots. But I cannot control what they think or feel or choose to do. As they mature and get older, I have to step back and watch them do their own thing and just hope the lessons I have taught them stick. If God is our Father and he gave us free will to make our own choices, then I believe his job is very similar to mine–to guide and teach but in the end to step back and let us make our own choices. There will be mistakes along the way–but I will learn from them, just as my children wil learn from theirs. God gave us the tools to make our way in this world and I just have a hard time believing he would say “here’s some free will, now do whatever the church tells you to and don’t use the free will I just handed you!”

    *I mean Church in the general sense, not any one in particular. I don’t actually belong to a specific church–I attend and my kids go to Sunday School when there is no sickness to keep us home but I am not an actual member since I have yet to find a church that aligns with all of my own personal beliefs.

    Danielle Reply:

    What a beautiful comment.

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