What the family proclamation doesn’t say about stay-at-home mothers

You’ve probably seen that The Family: A Proclamation to the World has received a lot of air time in the nearly 20 years it’s been around. In fact, many throughout the church consider it scripture.

I was reading it for the umpteenth time the other day, and I noticed two things:

  • It doesn’t say that mothers should stay at home
  • It doesn’t say that women should do all the housework

There are some parts where one could extrapolate the assumptions that women should stay home. For example:

“. . . fathers . . . are responsible to provide the necessities of life . . . for their families.”

One could assume that because fathers are singled out here that mothers must not have that responsibility. It’s just that, however: an assumption. Here’s another example of an extrapolation point:

“Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

One could assume here that this implies a mother must stay home, especially when combined with the previous sentence. Again, however, this is only implicit and not explicit. Nowhere in the proclamation does it actually say that women must stay at home. Even the responsibility of nurturing the children doesn’t require the parent to be at home 24 hours a day.

Consider the next sentence in the proclamation:

“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

So, if fathers have an obligation to help mothers as equal partners in nurturing children, and they decide (as cultural tradition dictates) to work out of the home, how can they nurture their children? If fathers can nurture their children without having to be home 24 hours per day, certainly mothers can, too.

On my second point, there is just nothing anywhere that can be reasonably extrapolated to support the idea that women must do all the housework. There isn’t much else to say about that.

Gratitude and Patience

A day late, I know. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. But today I am reflecting on what I am thankful for, and trying to remember this (actually currently on a minute by minute basis). Recently my prayers have included asking for help in being patient with my children. Oh it is SO easy to be patient with babies, and toddlers. Not quite as much with growing children with strong personalities and minds of their own (can we say a 7 year old boy with an abundance of energy and 2 sisters he delights in teasing??).

I remember though, that I am so grateful for these beautiful wonderful children and one day, yes, one day, this overly energetic son and my budding pre-teen daughter (cringe), independent 3 year old and baby coming and any more who will come to us, will be all grown up and I won’t have my babies to cuddle and children to protect and nurture. That will be their job with their children. So learning to enjoy and revel in this time is vitally important. So yes, I am learning patience. At least I hope so.

LDS Women and Post Secondary Education

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?

The Other Side of the Coin

Disenfranchised members of the church, ex-members, non members who have family in the church often relate feelings of anger or rejection?Ǭ† from family members who can’t seem to accept their choice. Often what happens is those family who reacted so strongly, come around, and attempt to repair relationships, and often after much time ( years, commonly) things are back to a kind of truce, as love can overcome so much.

What often isn’t addressed is when family members who leave the church reject those family and friends who stay; cutting off contact and having such a hatred for the church that it transfers to family members who are unwilling to deny their testimonies, and who have to endure the ridicule and condemnation of family who they love who can’t seem to separate their parent, sibling or other extended family from the church. It is all lumped into one big pool of hatred and anger.

There is nothing you can do to fix it except to leave the church and denounce your testimony. That would bring back your loved one. But you can’t do that, because to do so would be to deny who you are, and so you would lose yourself.

I know this doesn’t always happen, but it does sometimes and it is possibly the most painful experience someone can have. It really hurts and you can’t do a thing about it except the most offensive thing to the family member, and that is pray.

Choices and Consequences

My mind has been somewhat taken up with the news of the deaths of these poor baby girls in Saskatchewan, left to freeze and die in the cold snow, in -50 degree weather, this week. My heart breaks for them, for their loved ones, including the young father who left them (and again we don’t know all the details) because in spite of the mistakes he made, in taking them out without proper clothes, and leaving them, because he wasn’t aware of all he was doing, he is suffering for the choices he made. It looks as though something precipitated this, which caused a string of ill advised choices, fueled by alcohol and stress. I am not judging either, but just feeling pain for this family and these poor babies.The comfort is that I know Heavenly Father sent his angels to hold these innocents, to bring them home and maybe maybe to take away the suffering from the cold. Maybe the cold didn’t cause them too much physical anguish? I don’t know much of what freezing to death is like, and I don’t want to find out that they suffered excruciating pain, so young as they are. Children, especially the smallest ones need and are to be protected. So many children for many different reasons are not, and I know this hurts the Lord, I don’t question why He doesn’t always interfere, because He is wiser than I am.

What I feel, as a mother (and even just as a human being) is this urgency, to protect and save the suffering babies. Right now, this is the current one in my mind, these little girls who had little protection from the elements.

I am not thinking (as I know some are) that it is just more evidence of problems on the reserves. No, it is a human problem. The choices made by the father he will regret for the rest of his life. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and sorrow he is experiencing, and their mother as well, that because of a fight, she was not there to watch over and keep her girls safe. The tragedy just transcends all blame at that end.

I do think there is some responsibility for a government that does not regulate the sale of alcohol better. Yes, this father (and so many other alcoholics) made his own choice to purchase and consume alcohol, but evidence shows that First Nations people are genetically more prevalent to substance addiction. The government makes too much money, though to not control the purchase of alcohol or the accessibility of it, better. Do they think of the victims of alcoholism? The innocents, who because of this freedom to drink yourself into a stupor, suffer, and sometimes pay, as in this case, with their lives.

See, children have a right to be protected, to be cared for. They cannot care for themselves. If a puppy or a kitten had been left out there, that animal may have had a better chance of survival. But if an adult is at risk, then how much more are a 3 year old and a baby barely over the age of a year unable to look after themselves? Especially in the debilitating cold.

But the government does not want to lose the revenue they gain through the suffering of others. Our governments (provincial and federal) who are supposed to do their best for the citizens make poor decisions that affect the lives and well being of those who do not choose to even participate in that. These little girls were not a part of the decision their father made to drink, nor a part of the decision to sell the alcohol, to create easy access to it’s sale, to make it in the first place. Adults, people who are supposed to have the intelligence to make responsible choices designed to promote the well being and safety of those they have stewardship over, were the ones who made the decision that resulted in the suffering and death of two little girls.

All I know is that a loving Saviour held them in His arms, this I know, brought them home and ended their suffering and kept them safe and I am sure, wept tears because of His great love, not only for them, but for all involved.