Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Position of the Church on Prioritizing Womanhood: Education and/or Motherhood?

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I wrote this paper for a Religion Class (REL 333) at BYU with Br. Newell during my undergrad in 2007 and just stumbled upon it while organizing some files. I was extremely, extremely conflicted about pursuing a graduate degree and when to start our family and chose to make that the topic of this paper and researched some church guidelines.

Hope this might help some other women who are having the same wonderings.

The Position of the Church on Prioritizing Womanhood: Education and/or Motherhood?

The church’s position regarding the decision to continue an education or begin parenthood is between the couple and the Lord as stated in the attached research. It is not directly stated that one should always come before the other or whether motherhood and education should occur tangentially. However, a main responsibility and privilege of couples is to bring children into this world as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:
The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children…. [and] God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S., 2005)
The commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” was the first commandment given to Adam and Eve anteceding the Fall (See Genesis 1:28 & Moses 2:28). This first commandment is still as much of a commandment as it was in the beginning. It should remain on all couples’ minds as they prayerfully ponder when to begin bringing children into this world. It is also important to note that the spirit doesn’t always move us with a voice of thunder and lightening.
True to the Faith, a book which describes positions of the church on various gospel principles, elaborates on the church’s position regarding when and how many children a couple should have.
If you are married, you and your spouse should discuss your sacred responsibility to bring children into the world and nurture them in righteousness. As you do so consider the sanctity and meaning of life. Ponder the joy that comes when children are in the home. Consider the eternal blessings that come from having a good posterity. With a testimony of these principles, you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord. (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S., 2004; Emphasis added)
There is no specific time frame that a couple must have children. Some couples may not have children for many years while others become pregnant quickly after marriage. We are not to judge each other in this matter. We may look to the brethren that guide our church as examples; some of the apostles have as many as ten children while others have two, some began their families almost immediately while others did not. These are very private and sacred matters that should be left between the couple and the Lord.
            All of God’s children are different and may be directed down different paths. God will not lead us astray. It is best that we heed the promptings of the spirit as directed and counsel with the Lord and our spouse regarding when to have children. In 1987, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled couples at a fireside:
Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with Father in Heaven. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, ‘We’ll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we’ve obtained a few of the material conveniences’ and on and on. Mothers who enjoy good health, have you children and have them early. (Benson, E.T., 1987)
While this counsel was stated over 20 years ago, it has not been refuted by any of the following prophets. Couples are not to put materialistic wants above the commandments of God. This is not to say that couples should not prepare wisely financially, emotionally, and physically for children. However, couples should remain cautious and prayerful as they consider their priorities- what is truly needed and what is simply regarded as a “material convenience”?
Years before this statement by President Benson, President Kimball counseled:
After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined. (Kimball, S.W., 1976)
Couples should not delay beginning their family for selfish reasons. Through faith and works couples may come to realize and obtain their educational goals (See James 2:24). It may not be immediately and it may not even be in this life, but the education gained from having an eternal family is endless. President James E. Faust has also counseled that “[We] need not try to sing all of the verses of [our] song at the same time” (Faust, J.E., 1986). There is order to all that needs to be done.
            President Gordon B. Hinckley has counseled members of the church to obtain as much education and knowledge as possible. “It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities. It will provide her with marketable skills in case she needs them” (Hinckley, G.B., 2006). President Hinckley is constantly reminding us to be prepared for our future. Notice that he states “in case she needs them”. President Hinckley in no way is instructing women to work hard with education and a full-time career as the goal- although there are situations that merit this circumstance. It is important to realize that education does not only mean knowledge gained in a university, college or classroom setting- knowledge may be gained through an assortment of ways.
President Howard W. Hunter also stated that “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind” The purpose of our existence on this earth is to become exalted as gods and goddesses in the next life. Should we not strive here and now to become as near to divinity as possible? Many factors affect a couples’ life as they contemplate when to begin bearing and raising children, but the most important component of the decision is being led prayerfully by the Holy Ghost.

Personal Insights
            As a child, I was always blessed to have a full-time mother while my father worked outside the home. My mother was always home upon my arrival from school and work. My father often traveled, but was home occasionally and always helped fulfill household responsibilities. About four years ago, my father was in a car accident which left him permanently disabled. He has since been unable to do many things that he enjoyed previously including sports and more importantly has not been able to maintain a career.
            My mother and father had been married about 23 years at the time of his accident and the youngest child, my sister, was only 8 years old. As stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “disability… may necessitate individual adaptation” which is precisely what occurred in my family (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B. & Monson, T.S 1995). We hoped for a few months that my father would recover quickly and be able to return to at least part-time work and continue providing for our family. However, even to this day he is still not able to work. My mother had obtained a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in French and had also worked as a teacher during the first few years of my parents’ married life. My mom began looking for a job as soon as we realized that their retirement money and life savings were dwindling quite rapidly.
            Due in large part to my mom’s degree and past experience she was able to attain a job that she enjoys- working as an office assistant for LDS Facilities Management. It has been a huge blessing to us that my mom was able to get a job that she enjoys and that provides the necessary income for the family to survive. My mother’s job probably barely brings in a fourth as much as my father’s job did in the past and they can only make ends meet because my father has private disability insurance which only lasts a few more years. They hope to pay off debt that was incurred in a business fraud just before his accident. After the disability income runs out, hopefully my father will have Social Security disability approved. However, for the time being, my family is able to live well and be self-sufficient and even still have time for the occasional vacation
            With the constant rise of education and knowledge available I realize that my mother was probably lucky to obtain the job she currently possesses- especially as a woman who hadn’t worked in 20 years with only a bachelor’s degree. I realize that opportunities like this are not very common, but I also realize the importance of faith that must be exhibited and maybe that’s where I struggle the most. Occasionally I find myself thinking that I am now obligated to get as much education as possible as quickly as possible just to be “safe”. Sometimes I think to myself that “something bad will happen. I just don’t know what.”
            I will graduate next year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at the age of 20. By the time of my graduation, my husband and I will have been married for almost two years. My husband will still have at least 2 years left of his undergraduate degree and then he plans to obtain both an MBA/JD. I had always planned to obtain a Master’s Degree as a child and teenager, but I never really expected to be married this young or even at all during my undergraduate education.
            While discussing with my husband President Hinckley’s counsel to obtain all the education we can he pointed out that education doesn’t necessarily mean attending a university or college. Education includes the knowledge we gain from reading and participating in various activities and learning new skills. We have been told, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth (D&C 93:36).” Many, if not all things, are learned through the spirit and it is this knowledge that we take with us into the next life.
            Children are to be raised in an atmosphere of peace, love and joy- an atmosphere of the gospel- surrounded by those that love and care for them. In order for children to be raised in this kind of atmosphere it is essential that both parents agree and set standards for their home. Families must participate regularly in family home evening, prayer and scripture study starting from the first day of marriage to establish good habits. I strongly believe that a couples’ relationship must be firm (but obviously not perfect) before bringing children into the home. I have witnessed the sorrow and grief that occurs when couples believe that a child will make things better and easier. It is upon a firm foundation as a husband and wife that children are to be raised.
            While I have not necessarily reached a conclusion for myself as to what I will do about graduate school next year, I will continue to trust the Lord and rely upon him for guidance. He knows my situation better than anyone- including myself.

Benson, E.T. (1987, February). To the Mothers in Zion. Retrieved May 18, 2007, from Brigham Young University: Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning: http://fc.byu.edu/jpages/ee/w_etb87.htm.
Clark, J.R. (1965-75). Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 6:178. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=bacd3ff73058b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Faust, J.E. (1986). A Message to My Granddaughters: Becoming Great Women. Ensign, 16. Retrieved May 12, 2007 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3e23ef960417b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1.
            ““[We] need not try to sing all of the verses of [our] song at the same time” (Faust, J.E., 1986).”
 Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S. (2004). Birth Control. In True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference. (pp. 26) Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S. (2005, September). The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,105-1-11-1,00.html.
Hinckley, G.B. (2006, November). In the Arms of His Love. Ensign, 115-118. Retrieved on May 28, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=05eb88f17feae010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1.
Kimball, S.W. (1976, February). Marriage- The Proper Way. New Era, 4. Retrieved on May 28, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=024644f8f206c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=58fc5930f289b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

Sunday, January 27, 2013

As an LDS Mother Who Works

I've been trying to get myself to write at least one post on my honest experience thus far working full-time. I've had a million thoughts and things that I thought I should say. Many thoughts were followed by what will they think when they read that? Is that being too honest? Well, that's not true all the time. Maybe I shouldn't say that after all...

I'm going to just try and let it flow out of me. So, you might be offended by my unedited thoughts. So here goes.

Being an LDS working mom sucks. And it is good. I feel so conflicted. I feel like no matter what I will do, I will feel like I'm missing out somewhere. If I were a full-time SAHM, I would feel guilty not using the education I've earned. Plus, I'll be honest here and say I don't think I could ever stay home full-time. My patience is not high enough. I enjoy the fulfillment that comes from working. Working full-time, I feel the guilt of I should be the main nurterer (read: I should be at home). I feel guilty for enjoying a good day at work. I feel like crap for coming home emotionally worn out some days and not being completely present for Aidan and Aaron. Aaron has pointed out this emotional exhaustion on multiple occasions and I have owned up to it. The other day he clearly pointed out "You'd rather spend time cleaning than with your son." And he was right in that moment. It was one of those days. In my mind, I needed to tidy our house before I could even enjoy playing with Aidan. I hate it, but it's true. More guilt. Also, I hate that my house isn't as clean as most moms around here. Dumb, I know. But I honestly worry about it and don't often invite people over because I'm so embarrassed.

So, why did I put "LDS" in there. Within the LDS Culture (different from the doctrine), I feel like I am the "working mom". That's it. I have no depth. I am known because I work full-time. Many of the cultural fun things don't really naturally allow room for women that work. Callings are typically scheduled with meetings during the day (Luckily, the presidency I'm in is awesome. But I do feel some guilt that I'm not available during the day to meet when I know they would prefer to be meeting.) Ward play group and mom's group are during working hours. I go to the Girls Night Outs and feel like the odd duck. All of these moms get to know each other and I have a shot once a month to get to know people. Especially since I'm in Primary on Sundays. Over the summer there were a bunch of women involved in a workout competition. I heard about it from a friend a few weeks in and asked why I didn't hear about it and she just responded, "Because you work. You can't come workout with us." I feel so socially awkward at gatherings. I used to be the one to host play group and mother's group in our old ward. I don't know how accurate my perception of this is and realize that I'm pretty sensitive to it. I don't want to be "the working mom". I am a lot more than that... I think.

I love that I'm using my education. I love the experience I'm getting. I love the patients I work with and seeing them progress. I love that I work at a place where it is 95% female and my boss is a working mom with 2 kids herself so she's very understanding of life. At the same time, there are maybe 3 of us therapists (including my boss) out of the 20ish married with kid(s). It makes it a bit difficult to reach out and connect at work when I don't feel like I can add much to the conversation of who's dating who etc. Plus, if I'm really being honest, I try to get work done as fast as possible to rush home. What's up with that anyway? I go to work, I enjoy it. But in the back of my mind I'm always thinking and trying to get it done as fast as possible to get back home to Aidan and Aaron. It's like I'm never fully present there. Is any mother? Just curious. Then again, is any working father?

I never thought my husband would be a full-time stay at home dad before me. But here we are. I remember as a little girl saying "I want to be a mommy" and admiring my mom for everything that she did. Aaron started full-time SAHDness around November when Police Academy wrapped up. Before that, he was doing school or academy in the evenings. He hasn't quite figured out what the plan is going forward. He still needs to pass a 1.5mile run in the required time and then he can start the second Police block (either this March or next January). He also has about 30 credits of his undergrad left. I wonder if I would feel more or less guilt if he were in a place he was graduated and could be in a career? Would/Will I still work when he's at that point when it's not vital that I provide this income? Is him not being able to work giving me an excuse or an opportunity to work? I can't tell sometimes. Also, I do realize he could provide for us if we really wanted. He'd let me quit in in an instant and go find jobs. I know he's worn out on being home full-time. We both made this decision together... Another story. But very complexly tied into this rant I guess...

I feel like my ability to mother drastically declined as I entered the work-force. My patience has dwindled, my ability to be creative and come up with activities disappeared. I'm totally serious. On evenings and weekends, I think "ummmmmm.... what could we do.....?" And I usually get complete brain farts. Which further solidifies my thought, I suck as a mom. This thought also leads me to think I should never be home full-time. My poor kids would be so bored.... I shouldn't want to explode at them this fast. This thought is also solidified whenever Aidan clearly chooses to be with Aaron over me. Aaron is waaaay more fun and creative. I realize. When Aidan's with me, we tend to do things like wash the dishes together, mop the floors, learning to cook as well as playing with cars and hiding from monsters. Also, I don't think I ever yelled at Aidan or got the kind of reactions I do from him now before I was working. Yup, low patience. I yelled at him- like full-out yelled- about two weeks ago. I can't even remember what it was over, but I feel like poop about it. All that did was give him more attention. The only reason I yelled was because of me being overwhelmed  It didn't help anything in the situation. Dumb. Today, as I carried him out of sacrament meeting to go home and take the nap he clearly needed he pulled my hair and swatted my face and body yelling and crying at me. We got home and he started finding things to throw at me and throw all over the ground. I'm sure some kids do this at some point, but Aidan doing it to me makes me feel like crap. And sometimes during these tantrums, it is only Aaron that can get him to calm down. Isn't it me as the mom that should be able to calm my toddler during his meltdown? I want to be able to calm my son. I miss the days when I could calm him over anything. Yup, those days when I could just take him in my arms and he'd be quiet and still and I secretly thought in my head muah ha ha! Yesss!. And again, I don't know if it's because I work and am not around as much that I can't comfort him like I used to, but I blame that at least in part. It's good that Aaron can experience being the comforter, but I'm jealous and disappointed in myself- probably how Aaron felt the first 18 months of his life.

I'm terrified for the birth of this second child. I want to be thrilled and excited, but it seems like working is just this huge barrier. I don't want to get too attached even though I do. I don't even know if that makes sense. Like I said, the "original" plan was that Aaron would be done with all Police Academy Training in May just in time for me to have our baby. It would have allowed me to take Maternity and then just go back very part-time (my dream). But, I'm now looking at going back full-time after Maternity Leave because we need the benefits and Aaron most likely won't be done and able to get a good full-time job with benefits at that point. 1) I don't like when things don't go as planned. 2) I'm so sick of us being in school 3) I totally realize that Aaron probably feels more anxiety and worry than me in regard to his schooling and career. With Aidan, I was in school full-time, but I think I was only gone about 15-20 hours a week maximum for the first 18 months of his life. With this baby, I will be home full-time for 3 months (which is pretty dang cool. I didn't even have that with Aidan), but then I'll be back to work 32 hours/week. And work is now 15 minutes away instead of 3 like it was with Aidan. I want to breastfeed. I want to be there for her first time lifting her head and her first time rolling and her first time crawling and all of her other firsts. This is going to be my baby girl. My first daughter. And I won't get to be there for all of it. And here goes the waterworks...

In writing all of this, I realize I may sound very entitled and snobbish. I know I have been blessed immensely, but I also have some honest struggles within myself. This is where I guess the true pessimist comes out? I got to go to a great school and I had a supportive husband all the way through. I received a great education. I have had great peers and mentors. I wanted to move out of Provo and student-life and I was blessed with a job that allowed us to move. I have a job I love with good benefits. I have great coworkers. I can do fun things with my kids. I can choose my work hours so I'm usually home by 3 in the afternoon instead of 5 or 5:30 or later like most. I have a husband willing to stay home with 1 (and soon 2) kids. I don't have to pay for daycare. My house may not (ever) be clean, but it's a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I still have people at church and in my neighborhood that I can get to know. I know that someday I will have the option of how much and where to work. I'm just being impatient and struggling at times right now and I just have to admit it is hard. I'm grateful for the friends I have that I can be honest with. It's also been nice to be able to talk to my mom who has been working full-time since my dad was disabled so I don't feel so alone and messed up. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for our family.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BMI for a Two-Year Old?

Today I went in for an appointment and met with a dietitian as part of it. They weighed me and weighed Aidan and got our heights etc. She told me Aidan is in the 40th %tile for height and the 80th %tile for weight. She then proceeded to tell me that this put him in the 90th percentile for his BMI. I was thinking it was a bit odd they were using BMI, but continued to listen. I guess the AAP and CDC has endorsed this starting at age 2, but let's remember that they also say that doctors should use further assessments to see if excess fat is actually a problem (per here).

She then continued to tell me that I should watch out for Aidan because he could be on track to become obese. I was very polite in the moment, but in my head I was thinking, Heck no, woman! My child is only two and he looks and seems very healthy. And I can see this kid's ribs! I'm always worried that he doesn't have enough meat on his bones. Plus, I believe in intuitive eating and that kids are expert intuitive eaters. Plus, he runs around allllll the time. Plus, his primary doctor thinks he's doing well so I'll take his word over yours. Yeah, I totally over-reacted in my head, but even now it's still sticking with me. I think it's wise that we make sure our kids develop healthy habits while they're young and we do have an obesity epidemic in the US.

It was a very interesting experience for me. It totally caught me off guard. Completely. I never think of him as an overweight or hefty toddler at all. I think we're going to switch him to skim or 1% milk now and try to be a bit more mindful and make sure we offer him a wide variety of foods, regular meal times etc.

Has anybody else had an experience like this?

WANTED: Positive VBAC & Doula Stories

I'm planning on a vbac with this baby. I have yet to hear some positive stories. Most people just say "ooooh, I know so-and-so that tried that she ended up having another c-section" Sooooo, send me your positive stories! How did it go?

I labored for about an hour with Aidan after my water broke, but I think I was only around 4-5cm when I got the epidural/spinal to undergo surgery for the c-section. I remember being in pain, not wanting to move and shaking like crazy and then after the spinal, feeling like I was on the verge of blacking out (death in my mind) and not even being able to talk really. It's all kind of a blur. I think I was fine until they started telling me that I'd likely need a c-section and all of the prep happened for that. So, I don't have much memory of the labor I did endure. I'm planning on getting an epidural and I have a friend that has offered to be my doula if we decide on that. So, also, positive experiences with a doula?

And go!