As we close the topic of working mothers today, you may feel as though you’re on a playground seesaw. We seem to alternate from one extreme to the other, which tells you what a sensitive topic this has been. This is a great opportunity to explore the issue of working mothers from both ends of the spectrum. Read and learn:
It is interesting to me to find so many so sure that it is a commandment for moms to stay at home with your children. I can’t find anything so black and white from any recent words from our prophets. This is the most recent I could find, from President Hinckley:
Sisters, guard your children. They live in a world of evil. The forces are all about them. I am proud of so many of your sons and daughters who are living good lives. But I am deeply concerned about many others who are gradually taking on the ways of the world. Nothing is more precious to you as mothers, absolutely nothing. Your children are the most valuable thing you will have in time or all eternity. You will be fortunate indeed if, as you grow old and look at those you brought into the world, you find in them uprightness of life, virtue in living, and integrity in their behavior.
I think the nurture and upbringing of children is more than a part-time responsibility. I recognize that some women must work, but I fear that there are far too many who do so only to get the means for a little more luxury and a few fancier toys.
If you must work, you have an increased load to bear. You cannot afford to neglect your children. They need your supervision in studying, in working inside and outside the home, in the nurturing that only you can adequately give – the love, the blessing, the encouragement, and the closeness of a mother.
I know as a mother how divine and how important motherhood is. I also know there are women in the Church who can choose to work out of the home, and perhaps they “must” work out of the home for noble and choice reasons (not for “a little more luxury or fancier toys,” which is what is cautioned by our prophets).
I myself am a teacher. I taught 8 years before having children. I am now a mother of four. Right now they are all under the age of 7, and I do feel responsibility for them in our home. To make ends meet I have had a dayhome, and done some resident managing. I do not enjoy either of these jobs so much as my previous career, but I sacrifice to be home with my kids.
Unfortunately I realize that working at home is still work that takes me away from my family. I am not as happy, not because of any fault of my own, but difficult circumstances and pregnancy have slid me into the realms of postpartum depression. When I take care of myself, this is when my family can be the best taken care of too.
When the kids are all in school, I will probably choose to work as a teacher again. It’s a job I love and perhaps I’d be in school with them. It is an opportunity to nurture and love my children as well as many other children. Yes it will be a big job, and yes it will be more difficult, but I know how fulfilling and enjoyable that job was for me. I know I wouldn’t let it stand in my way to show my children what is right, and to be there for them.
I, for one, may one day feel like I had not done all the good I could do in the world If I chose to use “Stay at home with your children because that’s what women in the Church think I should do” as my excuse. I can still covenant to give all the love encouragement, blessings and closeness of a mother to my children and teach them the gospel. I already know I must work one day, not just because I want to let them have a comfortable home, or be able to send them to university or on missions, but because I need to show them who I am, and that fulfilling who I am as a person, giving to others in our community, and loving others is more than me just being their mom at home sometimes. I also know that this is me, and my calling here on earth, and I also know that many others have different callings and missions here, even within the realm of motherhood.
A righteous and noble thing may be for a mother to stay home. Their choice may be for their family to live on very little for them to do so. If they are happy, and they know they are doing what is right, that is wonderful. But because that choice makes them happy and complete it doesn’t mean every woman in the Church is happy and complete to follow the same choice. Modern prophets have directed a mother stay in the home with their children unless they “must” work, but they have also stated that there are trials and circumstances where that isn’t what has to happen. They also gave guidelines for all mothers in all circumstances, to know what to do to raise their children in righteousness.
I guess each of us need to consider not only what is “needed” financially, but also what it means when a mother “must” work. Sometimes, might a mother work to help herself (mentally and physically) so she can nurture her family to the best of her potential? These needs for the mother can of course be met through various service opportunities.
I guess I have been blessed with a career that allows me to get paid for such an enjoyable service opportunity… with summers and holidays off to be with my family.
Lori (from Edmonton, Alberta)
Thanks for a great perspective, Lori. Your letter is the only one we’ve received thus far that explores the idea that a woman might have a destiny to serve the community as well as to be a parent. Thanks for bringing that up.
One option that doesn’t seem to have been covered in letters so far is that of co-parenting.
My wife and I were fortunate enough when our children were younger to be able to both work part-time in order to share the parenting of our children as they arrived. We would each work three-day weeks and generally have the child in an excellent local child care facility on the day we both worked. This gave both of us an opportunity to be full-time parents and to still have the money and stimulation from working as well. The child care day allowed the child to socialise with other children. Of course because our children were spaced out (not by choice – it just worked out that way) by the time the next one came along the previous one was already in school and that simplified matters. For the past nine years I have been a single parent with our two youngest children and I am grateful for all the experience I had gained in the previous years.
Full-Time Dad from Australia
Thanks for pointing out, full-time, that dads can benefit from staying home with their children too. The solution you found seems like an excellent one. Thanks for sharing it.
If this whole topic has opened a can of worms, you might say that this next topic is opening a can of rattlesnakes. Read on to see what one brave reader has to say:
“Follow the prophet, follow the prophet
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet
Follow the prophet, He knows the way.”
Is that clear enough for everyone?
There is a woman at work that bemoans the fact that she “has” to work and is almost in tears over the fact that she can’t spend more time with her family. But at the same time she volunteers for each and every holiday for the extra pay. After several years I discovered that her husband is a high-paid lawyer. She does not have to work. She’s a hypocrite. She does not realize that everyone at work realizes she’s a hypocrite and that her tearful act over being away from her family has turned others away from the Church because of the hypocrisy of her act.
And LDS men who make their wife work outside the home – now, that’s a topic that really gets me mad!
Latter-day Saint women with children in the home who voluntarily (meaning, they have a husband who supports the family) work outside the home are hpyocrites to the Faith and to their God. When President David O. McKay said that “no success in life compensates for failure in the home,” he was talking to the women as loudly as he was talking to the men.
And I’m reasonably sure this reply to your question is going to make me a lot of enemies.
Bruce T. Forbes
Enemies? Bruce, I’m afraid you’re going to have to get out the lead underwear to shield you after people read that letter! In fact, I daresay that the next writer may have a wooden plank with your name on it:
I’m having to bite down on a 2×4 to hold back the outrage on this one. Grrrrr!
Obviously, how much or how little a mother works outside the home is another one of those decisions that are between man, wife and the Lord, like how many children to have. This is a no-brainer.
Leah in Washington
As I said earlier, today’s letters seesaw from one extreme to the other. Let me get out of your way, Leah, while you chase Bruce with that 2×4.
I’ve been a working mom most of the time. There were a few years after the birth of my third child that I was able to stay home, but then we saw the writing on the wall as my husband’s job was being terminated. I called a friend to see how marketable I was and walked into a good paying job. So he became Mr. Mom and took on side jobs for a while.
Through my working career, I know that I have been guided to change jobs, not accept job offers, and do other things. A few years ago, my husband went back to school, and I had three kids at three different schools. I wasn’t sure how we would be able to do it. The day before school started, I was laid off. I saw the tender mercies of the Lord.
I believe one thing that brings me balance is that I would love to be at home, cooking and cleaning for my children. Instead, my kids practice these skills, which I hope will help them in the future. This was evidenced by my high school senior, who, after talking with a friend at college, realized that cooking simple meals or fixing lunch was no big deal for her. This friend had a stay-at-home mom, and except for a couple weeks doing a YW project, really didn’t have much experience doing it continually because her mom usually did it.
I have felt shunned by my stay-at-home ward friends. It’s especially hard as they schedule events during the day that I rarely can attend. I even had a visiting teacher who asked not to be my partner when I went back to work because she wanted to visit during the day. Compound this with working in the Primary for years, I feel like I don’t know the sisters in my ward as well as I would like to. And, to me, that’s one of the hardest things about being a working mom. Not enough hours in a day to reach out and serve the way I was able to when I was at home. But then again, isn’t it where your heart is (or would like to be) that is most important?
Working Mom, your letter reminded me of my own mother, who worked outside the home back in the days when few mothers did so. She did so out of necessity, but her three daughters learned cooking skills that few other kids our age had. By the time I left for college, I was able to make spending money by cooking for apartments of boys who had not been taught to cook by their stay-at-home mothers.
Stay-at-home moms, don’t forget to teach your daughters and your sons how to cook and clean and do the laundry. Eventually they are going to leave home, whether to go to school, get married, or go on a mission. The lessons you teach them now will serve them for the rest of their lives.
I completed my associate’s degree in nursing, and on graduation day our daughters were 13, 12, and 11; our sons 7 and 4.
Though I passed my national boards on the first try, I felt underprepared to safely care for the lives of others. I immediately returned and spent another three years finishing a bachelor’s in nursing. Meanwhile, I was working part-time evenings and was serving as the ward Relief Society president. My husband was earning his MBA.
These educational efforts were designed to increase our income to meet the needs of our growing family. Like other parents our age, we always planned to put away money for our children’s college educations and missions, but at that point, we were only able to pay tuition for ourselves, while saving toward emergencies, one mission and our retirement.
Then it happened: home teachers brought a pamphlet written by Ezra Taft Benson encouraging mothers to remain at home and raise their children full-time. Blessings were promised for the family and the community. I held a private pity party. I got angry. I struggled on, and then I went to work – midnights. The children almost didn’t realize I was working, or so I justified myself.
Now it is decades later. That 4-year-old son is 33. Though he served no mission, he married in the temple, but they drifted out of activity in the Church. The other children blame me, pointing to my working outside the home his entire growing up years. I still struggle. Yes, everyone was given the opportunity of an education and missions, but at what price? If you lose even one, it destroys all confidence you did the right thing.
My Kids’ Mom
Mom, please stop beating up on yourself. There are plenty of stay-at-home mothers who have children who are not active in the Church. In fact, you could say that a third of God’s children are inactive today, and that certainly isn’t because of any failure on His part.
It may be that you would have been better off staying at home. Or then again, it may not. You did the best you knew how to do. You can’t change the past. All you can do is go forward from here.
While each family’s needs are different and private, the Church has very clearly stated that having mothers work outside the home should be avoided if possible. Given that, I think we need to be very careful to distinguish between needs and wants. I see working mothers in my ward with nice, well-furnished homes, driving new cars, and I wonder if they couldn’t get by with a little less and avoid the daycare.
However, I also think a woman who does have to help out can be careful how she does that. Her job should as much as possible, be limited in hours so as not to affect her kids any more than necessary. To that end, my daughter is in college, and she is studying archaeology and art history. She is fascinated by the Romans and Greeks. I am amazed at people who ask what she is going to do with that and are shocked when I say hopefully she will not need to use it to get a job; she hopes to marry and stay home with her kids.
I myself am shocked at active LDS girls who are in college pursuing medical school or law school, and I wonder why they are planning on such a high-demand, high-stress career before they even know if they will need to work.
Personally, I make some decisions based on my feelings that a mom should be home. I would not go to a female doctor or lawyer that I knew was in a marriage and had young kids. Her place is at home. I would not vote for a woman who had young kids running for a high profile position such as governor or U.S. Congress. Surely they can make a living in a less demanding, in-state position. Although it is not my place to judge, I do not have to support wrong action with my vote.
Voting with My Feet
Voting, you brought up a perspective that nobody else mentioned. I’m always amazed at the variety of thoughts among Meridian readers. Thanks for writing.
It is nobody’s business whether or not a woman chooses to work outside the home. There are many, many reasons that a woman might make that decision. I don’t pretend to know everyone so well that I know all of their motives, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume they have discussed it with their husband and children and made it a matter of prayer and made the best decision for them and their family. I have no right to criticize.
I was a member of a ward several years ago where the divide between the “stay-at-home moms” and the “working moms” was great and often contentious, with the “stay-at-home” crowd particularly critical of those who worked. One Sunday the stake president showed up at our Relief Society meeting. He gave the following speech:
“There are sisters in this ward who are able to stay at home with their children. Bless them.” (At this point the “stay-at-home” camp nodded and smiled at each other.) Then he said, “There are sisters in this ward who work outside their homes. Bless them.” Then he sat down. The room was silent.
I would like to say the contentious atmosphere immediately vanished, but it did not. However, there was a significant reduction in the tension between the two groups, and we all learned a valuable lesson that day.
We should not be judging each other. We should be helping and supporting each other without regard to our circumstances.
Sister in South Texas
Amen, Sister! Thanks for reporting the words of your wise stake president.
My wife Wendy and I made a determination early on in our marriage in 1984 that she would be a full-time mom, that I would provide the financial support as counseled.
When President Ezra Taft Benson gave his classic talk, “<a target="_blank" href="https://fc.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />byu.edu/jpages/ee/w_etb87.htm”>To the Mothers in Zion“ , a church-wide fireside for parents on Sunday 22 Feb 1987, our stake president in southern California was quick to discount his comments as, “not applicable to members of the Church living the state of California due to high costs of living.” We took exception to that,
Wendy continued to stay home to raise the two sons we had at that time. We bought a house and prospered for the five years we lived in southern California. Much of President Benson’s comments about the danger and evils of working mothers were the teachings of his predecessor, Spencer W. Kimball.
Since my college graduation in 1985, we have moved from southern California to western Washington to eastern Washington. Each time we moved, we sold our old home at a tidy profit and bought a bigger home that met the needs of our growing family. Each time we bought and sold, things went very well. These are blessings. I have never been without a job in my field. (This is another blessing.)
On several occasions during his tenure, President Gordon B. Hinckley talked about women working outside of the home only in cases of employment of or divorce/abandonment of the husband, or under absolute sheer economic need to provide the “basic necessities.” He also commented that many LDS working moms work these days to provide things like vacations, sweaters, toys, cabins, boats, orthodontics, music lessons, sports camps – not anything we would consider basic necessities.
I don’t recall that President Monson has ever made any changes or departures from President Hinckley’s or other previous church presidents’ counsel.
Personally, we have reaped rich blessings from our obedience to the prophets’ teachings in this area. Our five sons, ages 25-17, have been willing and worthy to serve missions, and three (thus far) have returned honorably. (One is out now and one to go.) We haven’t had the common issues of pornography, criminal behavior, drug use, failing grades at school, teenage rebellion, car accidents, steady girlfriends, refusal-failure to serve missions, or the host of other evils that can accompany raising a house full of boys these days, especially with no mother in the home.
I have earned a little bit extra a few years farming a few evenings and Saturdays with my dad. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both him and me. As he recently sold the farm, and our house is paid off now, we don’t have that need anymore.
Between our sons’ effort and ours, the older ones have gone to college and done well, and not incurred any student debt. The younger ones know that is the expectation for them.
With my four-year engineering degree, I don’t make a six-figure salary (yet). We live in a large, comfortable, paid-for home on a small acreage in a very good neighborhood. It is not brand new (built in the mid 70’s), but we are very comfortable in it. We save 10% as counseled. We have consistently paid a full tithing, a fast offering, and paid for our sons’ missions. The two periods when we had two sons out at the same time, we got some help in missionary support from my parents, for which we are grateful and for which they were happy to help. We haven’t had to “go without” as far as travel, vacations, and other things.
Wendy has taken the occasional babysitting job to help a neighbor or friend in need. She has volunteered many hours at the school and as a 4-H leader, none of which could have been possible if she had worked. This is not to mention, all the ways she has served in the Church.
We would not consider trading the blessings we have received through the years by her staying home to raise the family for the relatively little amount of extra money she would have earned by working outside the home, which in our experience would have been spent on gas for the extra miles she would drive, more dinner out and prepared food for the nights she would be (rightfully) too tired to cook.
We don’t see why more church members, especially those with small children, don’t see it that same way. They are missing out on a lot of blessings.
Snake River Ward
Pasco Washington Stake
You have been blessed, Michael. It’s neat to see that you recognize that. Alas, I have friends who have chosen to follow the counsel just as you have, who have not received those blessings. It goes to show how our blessings and our trials are customized for each of us, which is one of the truly wonderful things about God.
All I have to say is that each of us needs to pray about that question, as to pertaining to ourselves and our own situations, then feel the promptings that come us, and follow them. We might talk to our husbands, friends, home teacher, bishops, and other to get some ideas. Then we must think it over, make a decision, and then pray about it. And remember, what is right for me may not be right for you, so no opinionated judging of others.
Jenny from Canada
Well said, Jenny. Thanks.
There is no need to hide under a rock. President David O Mackay said “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” I have personally taken that to mean I need to make sure my husband and children are taken care of. They are my first priority. And we are my husband’s first priority, also.
I have always been self-employed (I’ve had a dance business for 30+ years), and it has given me a great deal of satisfaction to use my creativity in a job I love. Working has made me very happy, and it has helped me keep my skills up to date. With the type of business I had, I was able to stay home during the day and teach my classes in the afternoon and evenings. I always arranged my schedule around my children’s school programs, helping in their classes, going to their games, and doing other “mom” activities. Because I was happy in my work and able to express myself and use my talents, I was happier with my family.
My husband contributed in raising our children, also.
He would take charge once I was off to work, and they had fun with him. He made their dinner, helped with homework, played with them and watched some favorite TV programs with them. It gave him the opportunity to grow close to them and learn as much from them as they did from him. I am grateful he loves our children as much as I do.
When couples work, it can be a balancing act especially making sure that family scripture study, prayers, keeping the Sabbath Day holy and Family Home Evening (we had our FHE on Sunday afternoons) are accomplished. I would have to say that if those important things are neglected, then a family would need to take a close look at their situation and remedy it. I have such a testimony that reading scriptures, praying and having FHE are so important that I would be afraid not to do it.
I admire women who stay at home with their children and make sacrifices by doing so. I know many who have been able to use their talents to teach their children to play the piano, sew and cook. That is so wonderful. We just all need to appreciate each other as women, mothers and daughters of God, trying to do the best we can in our lives.
That’s so true, Robyn. We need to have faith that others are doing the best they can, just as we hope they trust that we are doing the best we can. Thanks for pointing that out.
I have been both. But I felt I did them in the right order. I was home for the first twenty years and then taught school the second twenty. I was able to have it all – just not all at once.
Mormon women do face a dilemma – get an education and then stay home with your children, or go to work. I may be a bit old fashioned, but I see education as preparation for the future – a working future that may be twenty years away when the kids are grown or at least along in school or what you do until you have children.
Many young women are ill advised because they are told to go to expensive schools that will require them to immediately to go work for many years to pay off their college loans. I am not sure they thought about what that would mean to the objective of raising kids.
I do believe a woman can have it all in the proper order, but it takes willingness to make big sacrifices and do some careful planning. Working women with young children have my sympathy because most miss the best part of their life and their children miss the best part of their mother. The sad part is that the world says that is just fine – life is 9 to 5.
Being a stay-at-home mom may mean casseroles, hand-me-downs, and a smaller house, but raising your own kids is a price worth paying. The bonus is that when an emergency strikes like the financial meltdown, you still have an ace to play in your family because Mom can go to work to save the family bacon. The sad thing in this country, most families have already played their ace.
I am most grateful the women in my family have chosen and sacrificed to stay home to raise our grandchildren. I consider myself a very lucky woman.
I loved what you said, Grandma, about using Mom as the ace to play if necessary, and how sad it is that many families have played that ace so it isn’t available when they need to play it. That is certainly food for thought!
The glaring issue that needs to be considered in this discussion is the increasingly common trend of wives making much more than their husbands. For many of us, it’s not a little extra cash each month, as some have put it, but rather the bulk of the household income, if we were to cease working.
As a result of women becoming more educated and waiting longer to get married (often, not by choice), salaries for those women have grown significantly. As we’re making decisions about staying home or working outside the home, this complexity adds extra pressure while also adding another logical choice – for the man to stay home instead. Although I would love to stay home with my upcoming baby and it is my first choice to do so, figuring out a way to live on a quarter or third of normal income is more complex than some like to make it and, at times, seems wholly irresponsible.
I wish people could open their minds a little and realize that there are many, many different circumstances out there, some much different than their own. The judgment we pass on others is sad. For the most part, we are all trying to do what’s best for our families, not make money for a designer purse or luxury vacation.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of working outside the home, Necessity. Thanks for pointing that out.
This has been a great discussion. I have been on both sides of the debate and sadly have had my own judgmental moments.
I was a stay-at-home mother until my husband died and I was forced, kicking and screaming, back into the workforce. I loved being a stay-at-home mother. I wish I could still be a housewife. (Insert sigh here). Work is also wonderful. I make money. I see adults. I travel. I go out to eat with people who don’t expect me to clean up after them. However, I will never wish that I worked more and spent less time with my children. (I will also never wish I had judged people more!)
The Proclamation on the Family is a great guide. It is clear and non-judgmental. It states that, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”
In any situation there are hundreds of different variables that we are not aware of because it is not our lives.
The wife that has to work because a husband suffers from depression or an addiction. A young mother who didn’t make a connection to her children and struggles to care for them. A household income that has gone down and needs to be supplemented for a time. A woman who is divorced for whatever reason and now has to support herself. And on, and on, and on.
“Mothers are primarily responsible for her children’s nurture and care.” Fathers and mothers are supposed to work together and “help one another as equal partners.” The purpose of marriage is that we have our other half, who makes up for us where we fall short and who we love enough to help when they fall short. The proclamation also allows that “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” We never know what is going on in another family. Even if we think we do, we probably don’t. People will hide things or choose not to disclose things because of shame or embarrassment or simply because it is none of our business.
I was widowed at 34. My husband has been gone now for 9 years and I have not remarried. My youngest child is rapidly approaching adulthood. Most people who are just meeting me assume that I am divorced. I have heard a few backhanded comments made about working outside the home, where I was clearly the target. Yet the judgment disappeared when they found out I was widowed instead of divorced.
It doesn’t matter why the father is not in the home. The fact is, he’s not, and the parent has got to do what has to be done to keep the family going regardless of how the situation happened.
We tend to judge others to justify our own shortcomings. If we feel inadequate, there is always someone who we can point to as less adequate. Satan would love nothing more than to make mothers feel like what they do, inside or outside of the home, is unimportant or unacceptable to God. He doesn’t even have to do it himself. We often do his work to make each other feel inadequate and sinful.
If he can pull us down and get us to feel bad about ourselves and our efforts he controls us. If he can cheapen motherhood he can pull apart the basic unit of society. I don’t need anyone else to help me feel bad about what I don’t do for my children. My own thoughts convict me almost daily. I doubt anyone else needs help in that department, either. Mothers who still have the opportunity to be home with their children are not helpful when they judge working mothers as less caring or money-hungry, and working mothers are not helpful when they consider stay-at-home mothers as less smart or less motivated. We all could use a little more love from each other.
Our default reaction should always be to remember that we are not responsible for others, and they are accountable to God, not to us. There really should not be a debate on either side. The only thing we can do is to assume that everyone is working as hard as they can to follow the commandments and assume that they are adults who, because of their agency, are making the best choices for their families.
We need to give each other, and ourselves, a break! I love you, sisters. Where ever you are, Keep up the good work!
Sherri, I hope all of us remember what you wrote about our doing Satan’s work when we make each other feel inadequate and sinful. I’d be tempted to tattoo that on my forehead, but that might not conform with President Hinckley’s counsel not to get tattoos. What a great way to close this topic!
Okay, people we have a new topic for next week. I’m not even giving any hints. You’ll have to tune in next Monday to see what’s in store for our next discussion.
Until next time – Kathy
“There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of other of these destinations.”
Whether you want to create your own personal history or would like Kathy Kidd to do it for you, Kathy’s blog has what you’re looking for. Go to www.planetkathy.com and click on “Writing a Personal History” to get more information.