Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Thursday, December 22, 2005

respecting parenting alternatives

Over at FMH, there's a thread about judging others' personal decisions. Of course the example of moms choosing to work came up as a prime example of a choice families make that are often condemned or judged by fellow ward members. As I was thinking about this phenomenon, I couldn't help but wish that there was more respect for diverse parenting practices. In my opinion, there are numerous ways to raise a great, healthy family which do indeed follow the principle of leaders' advice, but perhaps not the prescription.

Many male leaders have told women to not work outside the home. That is their prescription for a healthy family. But what is principle behind this? They want children to have a stable environment with a loving adult around. If I work but my husband has a job where he can work from home and nurture our children, isn’t that following the principle of the authorities’ counsel? If my in-laws live in my home and love to nurture and care for my kids while I work, aren’t the kids receiving the love and stability that is the principle behind the directive?

I think decisions about who will be the main caregiver should be based on aptitude and interest, rather than sex. If a man loves kids and wants to stay home, and the woman loves working, why wouldn’t that be a perfectly wonderful way to raise a family? If parents have the opportunity to co-parent while they both have part time jobs, why isn’t that acceptable? (By the way, that’s what my intentions are when my baby is born in eight months.)

It just seems to me like Church members/leaders are falling into a very Victorian, very Western idea of what it means to be a family if they insist on the one right pattern being mom doing the nurturing, while dad brings home money in a nuclear family setting. All over the rest of the world, women are working small businesses as they have kids because if they don’t help their husbands provide, their families will starve. In Asian countries, often families live with multiple generations in one home. Therefore grandparents do a lot of the nurturing while the parents work. In some families here in the US, there are attempts to co-parent. These seem like very acceptable alternatives to me, which provide kids with stable, loving families. Alternatives which absolutely follow the very worthy principle of raising children in strong, loving environments.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Calling: Part Deux

The plot thickens. As I said before, I emailed the bish and told him I'd take the library calling, but also wrote a nice paragragh about how in the future, I hoped I would get a calling in which I could use some of my skills and really help people.

Not 24 hours later, I got a cryptic call from a certain RS person telling me that the bish wanted my help on a "special project." I asked if this had to do with working in the library, and she quickly assured me that it had nothing to do with that. She was calling to tell me that she hoped I would really consider helping with this project. Of course, she didn't tell me what this project is.

So now I'm awaiting further contact from the bish. Hmmmm. Interesting. Clearly my email has affected something. It's actually kind of nice to know that they are trying so hard to make me feel needed.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good News!

I think I'm actually pregnant. Well, at least according to two pregnancy tests I took a couple of days ago. I'm excited, but a little freaked out. Life will never be the same - if the little creature doesn't decide to eject itself in the next couple of months.

One of the things I worry most about is not having quality time with Mike. For the past 5 and a half years we've been married, we've had plenty of time to go out to eat, go to movies, hang out every evening with each other. Will all that change with a baby? Will we be just be tossing the baby off to each other so that we each can get things done? I've heard that the first year of having a baby is the roughest on a couple. I do hope a baby won't bring about the breakdown of our marriage - not only because we won't have as much time together, but also because I'm sure we're going to have totally different parenting styles and ideals. I imagine some huge fights are looming in the future over how to raise and what to teach our kids.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

turning down a calling?

Recently, I was called in by a member of the bishopric. He apparently wanted to give me a new calling, though he manfully tried to chit chat a little beforehand. He also wanted to (in a very smooth and, to my ears, condescending tone) assure me that my issue with my name - the ward listing had me under my husband's name, not my own - would be rectified. I had sent him an email a month or so before since the ward clerk had definitively told me that it was impossible for me to be listed under my own name. I was puzzled by this bishopric member's questionable tone (perhaps he thought he was being soothing?), but I'm glad I will once again be found on the ward phone list under my own name.

I had hoped that he would call me to something semi-meaninful. Perhaps a RS teacher, or maybe something to do with community service. Something that would utilize my skills in some minor way. But instead I was called to a position which requires basically no talent or thinking whatsoever. To work in the library.

I can see why he made the choice - maybe he even thought I'd be pleased, since I am in grad school getting a masters in library science. But let's face it. These are leagues apart. I'm interested in library science because I want to be a literacy advocate, a community servant who works to open up information in order to empower every member of society. But working in the ward library? Ugh. I'd spend my time policing chalk. How uninspiring in every way is that?

Anyway, I clearly communicated that this was not a calling I was excited about, telling him that I would like the freedom to attend RS and SS - if the teachers were good. One of the reasons he probably gave me the calling also is because I've recently been skipping out on SS and RS due to the less than average teaching, and going instead to another church to attend their service. Maybe he thought this calling would be a good way out of attending these classes that I generally don't get much out of. But aside from the pettiness of the calling, I also don't know if I want my freedom restricted. I'd like to be able to go to my other church whenever I want, and I'd like to be able to go to SS, particularly if Mike is subbing.

So I told him I'd get back to him. I don't know what I'll say yet, but I'm very tempted to turn it down. If I'm going to spend time and energy on a calling, I'd at least like it to meaningful in some way.

Monday, December 05, 2005

gettin' all spiritual

In the most recent issue of Dialogue, there was a great article called "My Belief" by Gail Turley Houston. She was an English professor at BYU who was fired for being a feminist in the 90's. In this essay, she talks about how her beliefs have evolved, particularly in light of her harsh treatment by the administration at BYU.

She is a profoundly spiritual person, and I loved reading about the way she is often spiritually affected by certain everyday aspects of her life.

She says, "As I seek the exquisite knowledge of God in my daily encounters with other persons, the natural world, or even the very unnatural institutions of the modern society in which I live, it is as though God reveals the Saviour to me in these encounters and I am quite literally succored throught these seemingly "customary" meetings to enter the field of the transcendent. I am struck more and more by the daily awareness that every minute of my life is a site of the holy..."

She goes on to describe some everyday encounters that expanded her vision and her understanding of the world:
  • talking to a young environmental activist who told her a story of a harrowing moment during a WTO protest, in which, with one accord and with no prior planning, just as the police were about to shoot tear gas at them, all knelt peacefully and chanted a prayer, a peaceful action which stopped the police from firing at them.
  • listening to NPR and hearing one of the first environmentalists, a former forest ranger, who in 1912 shot a family of wolves as he had been instructed, and as he gazed into "the flames of the dying wolf's eyes, understood for the first time that she and her pups had been a part of the living garment of God." In the eyes of that dying wolf, he saw the eternality of God.
  • talking to a professor from the Canary Islands who opted to not have her baby blessed in the Catholic church, but instead went to the seashore and "each person in the circle of blessing, made up of men and women, spoke his or her love and blessing to the child." Houston goes on to say that as they walked back to campus together she knew she was "hearing about a retailored form of spirituality that was trying to get back to the original glorious garment of was almost as though I could touch that retailored garment -- and it was touching me, for my own spirit felt electrified, elated, and pure."
The fact that I am so compelled by her stories hints to me that perhaps, somewhere inside of me, I have possibilities for spirituality too. I have begun to come to the conclusion that in order for me to accept myself as a spiritual being, I simply have to redefine what the spirit is. I'm beginning to accept that I'll probably never feel it in a testimony meeting, but I sure felt Something when I read Houston's wonderful essay.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

changing expectations...and desires

Over at FMH, someone posted saying that English was a "worthless" degree because you couldn't earn any money with it. He went on to say that he was actively steering his daughter away from the humanities and was hoping that she would become a CEO someday.

His comments really bothered me. And the fact that they bothered me shows just how much I've changed in the last few years. In my younger years, I too would have wanted my children, male and female, to go into lucrative, prestigious professions. This was what I expected from myself. This is what I expected from my husband. This is certainly what I wanted for my kids.

But life has turned out a little different than I expected. Instead of marrying a doctor or a lawyer, I married an academic who will never bring home the big bucks. After earning two masters degrees myself, I went into teaching, a profession which earns little prestige or respect. And perhaps because my life has turned out to be different financially than I thought, (and perhaps because I want to justify and legitimate the choices I've made - cognitive dissonance and all) I've pretty much done a 180 on this topic and have really begun to question my former mindframe.

I asked myself, is the high powered, high stress, huge money corporate life what I want for my children? And I've come to the conclusion that this is no longer what I want for my kids. Of course, I want them to do whatever makes them happy, but I've come to believe they might just have a better chance at happiness if they don't have that lifestyle as a major goal. What I do want for them now seems a bit more soulful and substantial to me.

Now I want them to feel like they are making meaningful contributions to the community, stretching themselves, constantly challenged, with their visions and perspectives on life continually enhanced. And, of course, I would like them to have time to spend with their families. This has come to mean a lot to me as I reflect on some of the perks of Mike being an academic. It means everything to me that he will have an incredibly flexible schedule and be able to equal parent with me.

To me, these things - contributing meaningfully, continually being challenged, and time with family - will have a good chance at leading to a meaningful and fulfilling life, despite the fact that this may not lead to a six figure salary.

And so, my future children, I hope you will keep yourself open to the humanities. Painters, librarians, teachers, social workers - any of these professions would make me proud. But if you are passionate about and intrigued by law or medicine, I'd be ok with that too. Just don't do it for the money.