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.

  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.

  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!

  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?

  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.

  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. 🙂

  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.

  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.

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