LDS Women and Post Secondary Education

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Should LDS women be encouraged to seek a post secondary education if they’ve expressed an interest in having a large observant family?

Let us assume that a large family could be classified as a family with five or more kids. These children, if all births are not multiples, can be born in a period not less than five 40 week intervals plus four 4 week periods to become impregnated again. This works out to 216 weeks or 4 years, 2 months. That’s a pretty tight schedule to keep, but possible I guess if one were motivated enough. The time from the birth of the first child until the exit from the home of the last child would be a period not less than approximately 22 and one half years (assuming a good synchronization with a school schedule or a home schooled family).

The world we live in now changes at an ever-increasing rate. There is evidence of exponential rates of change in industries and technologies used by employees and researchers the world over. The education you receive today may, depending on the field of study, not be useful or meaningful in 5 years time. Especially if you plan to work in a technical industry or in a research position. How much out of touch would you be if you were to cease your studies for 5 years? 10 years? Just imagine how hard it would be to initiate a job search in your field after leaving it for more than 20 years.

The description of a women’s role in the ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ is that “women are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” while men “are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” This is familiar territory for many families with Dad being the breadwinner and Mom working in the home with the children. Most devout LDS women who work in the home go so far as to be available through the day for their children even when they are in secondary school or choose to home school their children themselves. Both of these behaviours offer little to no availability (or motivation) for additional work outside the home.

Given that raising a large family can span over two decades and that education now has an ever-decreasing shelf life, does it make sense for a young LDS women to attend a post secondary institution at all?

Let us, for a moment, consider other reasons one might wish one’s LDS daughters to attend a college, trade school or university if their education is not of a primary concern.

One argument is that being out on one’s own is a character building experience. True enough but one does not necessarily need to pay tuition to live outside one’s parent’s home.

Perhaps the argument is that all their friends are going off to school and they don’t want to be left behind or miss out on the shared experiences of their peers. Arguments that ‘everyone else is doing’ lead invariably in my mind to an exercise in bridge-jumping and at their core hold very little weight in regard to the best activities for youth in life experience and development of coping skills. In fact, leaving the pack can often be the child’s first experience of making their own decisions and developing coping strategies of their own.

Another argument is that attendance at one of the private LDS post secondary institutions is the best way for a young LDS lady to meet and be courted by a returned missionary and in time evaluate to what extent he takes his career studies seriously; not to mention the safety of being surrounded by members of one’s own faith during that courtship. This does have some sense to it, but the question remains; would it not be more cost efficient and time saving for the young lady to simply live in Provo or Rexburg until they’ve met the man they feel is ‘the one’? Many a parent may want to keep their daughters busy while they are in search of a life partner and simply enroll them so they have something to do during the search. But is this really an efficient and effective way of facilitating such a search? And what happens when she is wed and wishes to immediately start a family? Does the education she’s started simply be thrown away? Would this not lead to issues with her self esteem and self worth?

Would it not be more fair and effective if LDS parents were to instruct their daughters who have expressed interest in leading life as an observant LDS Mother of a large family, to not bother with post secondary education altogether?

30 thoughts on “LDS Women and Post Secondary Education

  1. Of course. If they did go on to have a large family, having an education can come in handy if the husband dies or become incapacitated. Research positions aren’t really an issue; I know several women who still publish research as stay at home mums (albeit at a less frequent pace than their full-time colleagues).

    My experience has shown that your hypothetical experience is the minority one. FWIW

  2. From personal experience, a lot of couples meet at BYU. College could be a place for a woman to meet a guy. Also, a college education could prove vital in helping children with their homework.

    In reality, why LDS woman want a such large family. What motivates these woman to have more than three kids? With the costs to raise a kids going through the roof these days, the cost of having large family far exceeds the benefits unless you are wealthy

  3. Most LDS women I know have post secondary education and certainly should (myself included and now working on a BA). Large family or not an education is vitally important.

  4. Re# 2

    You have obviously never had a spirit bugging you to be born into your family, or counting your children and knowing that one is missing but logically knowing there isn’t another at this point in time. It doesn’t have to be expensive to raise children if you cut out all the non essentials (like excess baby gear and fancy toys, brand name clothing and electronic gadgets. Beds aren’t expensive, make or raise a lot of your own food and practice frugality).

    Nothing exceeds the benefits of having children, most especially not money.

  5. I suppose if you think that an education is just a means to a job – then perhaps you’re right. Why waste valuable space in schools and valuable dollars on girls.

    But if you believe that an education is more than a means to a job – then yes, girls should get an education.

    I believe secondary schooling does much more than set one up as a nice predictable and dependable employee. It gives you exposure and experience to a way of thinking that you don’t get anywhere else. I believe it strengthens you in every aspect – and if I daresay, especially so with women.

    I think children are much better off if reared in a home where the mother has an education. Personally, I don’t think girls should get married at all until they’re much older than the “traditional” marriage age anyway….I always did have a hard time teaching those YW lessons on marriage.

  6. “Get all the education you can. Don’t short circuit your future.”

    –Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, addressing women at a youth fireside.

    Give this video a watch, too.

  7. Oh, it’s real Kim. BELIEVE IT!

    I was just getting a hankerin’ for some Taber corn, and figured this was the closest I’d come.

  8. another reason… to let those girls grow up a little. Eighteen, or in many cases, 16, when girls graduate from secondary school, is WAY too young to be getting married. But jobs for girls that age are limited. The thrill of discovery and learning is valuable on its own terms, and should not be missed. The tools of analysis, critical thinking, and reasoning are vital for family raising, when that time comes.

    (Says the mom of 4 who got her undergrad before the kids came, and then got the JD decades later. Life is a long time.)

  9. I think there are lots of ways a woman can keep her education alive even while having children. I have a Master’s degree and feel that even as a SAHM, I have been able to keep my toe in the puddle, as I say. I think women should consider fields that have some flexibility, but should definitely not think of it as an all-or-nothing thing. There are many ways to keep a résumé active than just by working for pay, and there are many reasons to get an education than just to have a job.

  10. Re: expense of having children
    You’re so right Mary! One thing I learnred is that you don’t need a lot of that stuff that people think you need to have….swings, exersaucers, jolly jumpers, etc. They’re all nice, but not necessary. Frankly, a lot of what people do isn’t necessary and with a little thought expenses could be cut down dramatically. Frankly, I love the game of frugality.

  11. Dawn

    I have found the same thing too. We have never had a baby swing (and actually never used a crib either), nor an excersaucer, baby tub, jolly jumper or fancy toys. My sling, carseat and baby backpack, running stroller are the biggest and only items we have ever needed. Make our own baby food (they hate commercially prepared food anyway, for the most part) we use cloth (I know not everyone would do that) and as they get older, well they don’t need everything do they? It’s easy to find baby clothes without shelling out a lot of cash, and even older children’s clothes. It’s not the children that cost money, it’s all that we or society think we ‘should’ have but really don’t need to raise our children to be happy and healthy. And sometimes, sure, we forgo some of the perks of having excess money (have to be careful about taking vacations, can’t go out to eat every week, don’t have the biggest, priciest TV on the block) but who needs all that when you have the joy of your children?

    I think that much of the baby paraphernalia is a marketing ploy to get parents into the habit of spending a fortune on their children right from the start, the guilt feeling of ‘you will buy this for your child if you really love him’. For example, these bumbo chairs that are so popular right now. Well sure, they are kind of cute and could be handy, I don’t know. But with my three children I have never had or used one and they learned to sit up fine!

  12. I’d have to disagree that children are not expensive….we only have two. Ages 15 and 13, and they certainly don’t have everything that “society says that they should have”.

    We just spent $12,000 one orthodontics alone this year. Um, sports team fees, school fees, band fees and trips, clothing, medications, glasses, orthopedics, dental work, Food. and there is so much more. Not to mention putting money into an RESP every month.

    I would have LOVED to have more children, but honestly we couldn’t have afforded it. And we don’t take glamorous trips or anything extravagant. It is basics, with a few rewards here and there.

    Soon there will be insurance, and we have a son….YIKES.

  13. While only a portion of total cost, one could argue that band and sport fees are not necessary, as per Dawn’s last comment. I also wouldn’t see orthodontics or medications as an expected cost for most families.

    I did like that you capitalized “Food”. It’s the second largest expense in our budget.

  14. It’s interesting what the definition of a “large family” is now–5 or more. How many years does it take a mother of a large family to get all the kids raised and gone? My wife had our first child at 20; the last was married and “gone” when she was 58; now there are 23 grandchildren for her to dote over. Four of our children live in the same city we do, another within an hour’s drive. The others live in Scottsdale, Arizona; near Spokane, Washington; and, in Pittsburgh, and Leola, Pennsylvania (one of which will soon be moving to Qatar for three years!). So there is travel involved to see all of them each year.

    We live within 10 minutes of BYU, and only one son has a degree from there. Our oldest daughter went to Ricks, where she met her husband; our second daughter then went to Moscow, Idaho, to live with her sister, where she met her husband; the rest didn’t have to leave for that purpose.

    For 20 of their growing-up years I sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (1976-1996), which limited my time so I couldn’t reasonably get more employment. I worked for the State, and used most of my vacation for choir trips, so we didn’t get to do much for vacations–some years the choir used up more vacation time than I accrued. Had my wife had a full-time job, it would have made our lives much better off financially–but at what cost to the kids?

    I guess the big question is, which, or how many, of our kids would we have rather not had so that we could have done better financially, and have had more of the essential things that everyone else had.

    Was it expensive? We moved into our house 38 years ago, and now have our mortgage down to under four times what we paid for it. Our kids never had allowances, but began working jobs anywhere from ages 7 to 12, so they could have spending money; all of them could hardly wait to reach 16, so they could get real jobs–the last couple of them sneaked out at 15. Our four sons have a Master’s degree, BA, and two Physical Therapy doctorates–all done on their own. The daughters are all married to good men who work.

    There are great sacrifices made whichever way is chosen–large family, with less income when Mom takes primary care of the kids; or, more income with Mom working full time, and someone else taking over most of the care of the kids, which usually number less (there are exceptions on both sides). It’s all up to what is most important in the long run, and at the final encounter. The value of a good mother is grossly underestimated.

  15. Oops, I forgot (how male chauvinistic of me!): Our third daughter also graduated from BYU; fourth has an Associate Business degree; fifth is a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant); the eldest is working on a degree; second has five kids and has no time for a part-time job. They were encouraged to get education after high school, if nothing else, so they’d know something worthwhile. (How am I supposed to remember all this stuff? I’m just the drone in the hive and “the world has no use for the drone.”)

  16. The latest The July Ensign biography of Henry B. Eyering may relate very well to this topic. Can’t quite remember but Dad was in the sciences and Mom got her PhD… I think.

  17. “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

    — Brigham Young

  18. I wanted to have a “large observant family.”

    I stopped going to school, a little more than half-way through my BA because I married a nice observant LDS boy.

    Within 3 years he became anti-mormon. I have since left him. He can be as anti as he wants – on his own.

    My only regret about the whole thing, is that I didn’t continue with my education.

    A man is not a financial plan!! If anything, men are the ones who cheat, the ones who go anti, the ones who go to war and get killed.

    It is stupid for women to not get educations.

  19. If anything, men are the ones who cheat, the ones who go anti, the ones who go to war and get killed.

    Well, that’s sexist.

    That’s like saying women make men cheat, make men go anti, and make men go off to war.

  20. Eva

    Yes, a man is not a financial plan, but it’s certainly generalising to say ‘men are the ones who cheat and go anti’. I am very sorry for your situation, but not all men are like your ex husband. Women and men have the same opportunities to make good or poor choices, and gender really has little to do with it.

  21. Overall, however, the stats are in the favor of my opinion. And you can’t deny that fact that there is a war going on and that divorce stats are on the rise.

    It’s just not smart for women to pretend that they’re going to have this idealic little existence. To be honest, most of the women I know with that little existence are the ones who had careers and degrees prior to getting married.

    That will be me next time.

    And more than that, an education is not just about having worldly honors and money, it’s more than anything about providing an example for children, and providing the best thing a mother can provide for her children other than love, testimony, and the basic needs of life: an intelligent, educated, knowledgeable mother who is more than an incubator.

  22. “Get all the education you can. Don’t short circuit your future.” (never mind your intellect)

    –Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, addressing women at a youth fireside.

  23. I don’t mean to offend the men that post on here… I’m not accusing you, what I’m asking you is are you willing to fully trust the guys your daughters are going to marry? How do you know he won’t get hit by a car 5 years and three children into the marriage?? A man is not a financial plan.

  24. I’m confused. In the quote from Pres Hinckley, is the “never mind your intellect” part something you added?

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