Growing up to be a mom

DH and I like to talk about where it is we would like to end up. We won't be in the D.C. area forever, unfortunately, so where is the ideal place to live? We both have lots of family in Utah, so the conversation inevitably comes back to living in Utah. And since DH's dream is to be an academic, the question then goes to living in Salt Lake and teaching at the U, or living in Provo, and teaching at the Y. We've discussed both possibilities at length. So I was a talking to a my sister-in-law, who spent some time living in Orem, and what her perceptions of living there were. Now, my sister-in-law is the type of gal who has tons of energy, is a huge go-getter, and her house is the one that all the neighbor kids are at all the time. She's an immensely positive, upbeat lady, pretty much all the time. She had some good experiences living in Utah valley, but there were some aspects of living there that she admitted were not her favorite. But one thing that she said really struck me. She mentioned that when she talked to the small girls in the neighborhood, and asked them the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the answer was often, "Oh, I just want to be a mom." Somehow, that answer makes me feel uncomfortable, and I'm not sure why. I tend to immediately think, "That's your main aspiration--motherhood?" But here I sit, in th throes of motherhood, where my main aspiration today is to get to the zoo before 1:00. I'm a mom, and I like it. But I certainly didn't go to college to be a mom, and in some ways, I think that made the transition to motherhood harder for me than some other women who, for example, studied family science at BYU. I felt like I had to learn a lot of things from scratch. On the other hand, I liked having a job, and I like knowing that I can go back to a job if the opportunity is right. So how do we balance the messages that we send our daughters? We want them to be mothers, to raise up a righteous generation under the Lord, to prepare for temple marriage and their divine role as mothers, right? But I would be happy if when I asked my daughter (if I ever get one!) what she wants to be when she grows up if she says, "I want to be a doctor!" And I would want to do everything I could to help her accomplish that goal, even though I think it would be a tough one to do as a stay-at-home mom. I'd love to hear other thoughts about how we educate children on life goals and aspirations. For now, though, the panda bears and lions await!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't take much to become a Mother. A football player and a car suffice. (Given our situation, my wife and I sometimes wonder in amazement at 14-yr old girls who conceive on the first "try," as it were.)

On the other hand, it takes a LOT to be a good mother (and that's where most 14-yr olds with children can't help but drop the ball.)

I think some education and real-world experience go a long way in helping someone to be a *good* mother. (That's not to say I've known a few without those attributes who are absolutely wonderfull. I'm generalizing here.)

Ben S.

4/11/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I wish someone would educate me right now! I'm a single junior in college, and I feel this constant tug between things I might like to do (like grad school) and the realities of well, Mormon womanhood/expectations. It's hard when one is conveyed as the end all, be all and the other is the alternative "if you never meet anybody."

4/11/2005 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Oh, Ben, the times I've thought those thoughts! Sometimes it seemed like it would have been easier to go with my original career ambition (fairy princess ballerina) than endure the processes and pains involved with infertility and adoption. Maybe it would be -- too late for me now, though! Really, hang in there. You'll arrive. People who really, really want it almost always do.

I was dismayed when, approaching the end of my senior year of college, I still didn't have a baby. I'd been married for almost three years by then. I entered a four-month major depression when I realized I was going to have to get a job! (Well, and I didn't get the internship I wanted, so I was wondering if I could get a job.) Things looked bleak. But I ended up with a great little career in magazine editing, then public relations. We adopted our first three years after that. For the next five I had a satisfying freelance writing business. Now I'm at work again.

I encourage the Young Women in my ward to plan for careers. Facts are, most of us will need to bring home some bacon at one time or another. Our husbands lose jobs, want Ph.D.s (like mine), get sick, and on and on. Our kids go on missions, go to college, or need major medical assistance. There are lots of very good "emergency" reasons for women to be educated and prepared for fulfilling careers.

But that's not all. It's helpful for my self-image to know I'm just as capable of earning income as my husband. If I choose not to do it, that's my business (and how I wish I were home today instead of here) but I'll always know I can.

4/11/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought was Don't say JUST a mom! My next thought was You always need a back-up plan, sister! What if you never get married? What if you aren't able to have children? etc. etc.

I think we should teach our daughters (and sons!)of the importance of education and going to college. If college is not for them, then trade school, apprenticeships, etc. If they have a joy of learning, things will fall into place. As Melanie said, college is often thought of as an alternative to motherhood, but it shouldn't be.

There's so much to learn! And it doesn't have to be college. Park and rec courses, book clubs, study groups. Every scrap of knowledge makes better mothers and fathers.

4/11/2005 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

I read this earlier, but refrained from commenting until I'd thought it through a little more. I'm one of those girls who only ever wanted to be a Mom. (I wouldn't have said "just" a mom.) I'm also one of those girls who didn't maximize my talents and opportunties before I became a mother. I do regret not taking more advantage of my educational opportunitites. At the time I told myself that I just wasn't motivated because I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom. Now I realize that the reason I didn't finish a college was because, among other things, I lacked direction and discipline.

On the other hand, I truly always did want to be a stay-at-home Mom and am grateful to my Mom who taught me of it's signicance and rewards. I have watched other women really struggle trying to align their ideals and their desires. While I regret not graduating from college, I am grateful that I didn't have the enormous struggle with what to do when I did become a mother.

Perhaps the way to approach this with our daughters is to teach them that they can do anything they desire, but if they have the opportunity to be a Mother in this life -- that will be the most important work they do.

4/11/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

In first grade, it is a big deal "what you want to be when you grow up." Of course, all the kids say "vet." LOL. I asked my daughter how she could be a vet if she didn't like big dogs. She told me she'd only take care of puppies. I told her she wouldn't get to choose. Vets help ALL animals that need help. That stumped her. She doesn't actually want to be a vet. But 50% of her class can't be wrong!
Anyway, no one says "mom." Not even my daughter. Although she does want to be a mom.
I've explained how some moms have jobs so their kids go to daycare (because my kids want to know what is daycare and how come they don't get to go). And that I stay home because I like taking care of our kids.
I also tell them that I used to work. I tell them that I loved my job and I was good at it.
I have told my daughter that she'll have a job after college and before she has kids. I don't want her to feel she can't do both, and I don't want her to face the working mom vs. SAHM dilemna yet. There is probably time to work and be a SAHM.
Recently, she has switched to "scientist."
She will make a great accountant, but it is really hard to explain to kids what an accountant does.
I will definitely advise her about how many women with kids end up working and that it is better to choose a career that is more kid friendly. Something that you can leave for a while and come back. Or that you can do part-time, etc. I'm going to have no problem telling my daughters, at a certain point, about the practicalities of choosing some careers, the military for example, if they are also going to be a mom.
Also, I'm going to tell them that any mother needs to be prepared to take care of herself and her kids if her husband walks out and doesn't come back. My parents did.
I want my kids to be happy and successful.

4/11/2005 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I never wanted a career. But my parents told me that everyone needed an education and I followed my mother's example of going to college. I liked a lot of things and was good at a lot of things but had trouble picking one thing that I liked best.
I really did want to be a mom.
I finally found the best career, after I started working and it dropped in my lap.
While picking a major was a problem, I wasn't just there to get a man.
I did notice some women dropping out when they got married. Some didn't though. It seemed the ones that dropped out just didn't really care about school.
My husband once asked me what I would have done if we couldn't have afforded for both of us to continue school when we got married. I told him we wouldn't have gotten married.
If getting married meant my education wasn't as important as his, it just wouldn't have happened.
My parents really emphasized the education aspect, not the career. And the being prepared, etc. They are thrilled that I'm a SAHM, but they have 2 daughters in their 30s that have never married and don't have kids. One has an MBA and works in marketing. One can't support herself as an actress but is following her "dream."
I think my parents did a good job.

4/11/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

My mom always told me I could do anything I wanted (and secretly I think she always wanted one of her kids to go to med school). Being a girl would not stop me, and nothing ever should.

But when I was doing something I wanted to do and loved doing, and was pregnant with my first, her tune changed to "Babies need their Mommies."

She's right, both times. And how is that the two are not mutually exclusive? She sums it up with another one of her favorite sayings "It's a long life."

To every thing there is a season...and now is the time for me to be home with my kids. With the world today, they need all the help they can get. But, barring any sudden millenial events, one day they will leave the nest and I will have time to do whatever I want. (I probably will have to work then, to help pay for insane college costs).

But if I raise them well, when they leave they will stay gone, because they will be strong, independent people. And then..who knows? It's a long life.

4/11/2005 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I realized a while back while talking to a friend, something that I wish had been told me before I became a mom: being a mom is a learned skill. Just like any learning any new thing, being a mom is something you learn to do. At least it has been for me. And once I realized that (okay, so I'm slow to the game), then I've been much happier in my role as a mom.

We do talk about wanting our girls (and I am concerned about this, having three) to have careers, to be educated, to be fulfilled. But I'm not sure how well that fits in with the Proclamation to the World. It is, after all, a mother is "primarily responsible for the nutre of their children." Is it any wonder, then, that girls in the church are being brought up to believe that their ultimate goal in life is to be a mom? (Conversely, how many girls in the church are feeling marginalized because, like me when I was younger, they are put off by little kids and don't want anything to do with them?)

4/11/2005 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Zayeh's Mommy said...

It's interesting that I read this blog tonight. I am a working mom. After school today, one of my fellow teachers was telling some story about being a TA at university. He said there were some giggly, peppy mormon girls in his class. One of the other teachers added "Who were probably only there to get married." (I don't live in Utah.)
I didn't say anything to her about her comment (it wasn't the time or place) but I was a little offended. I think it's really sad that that is the perception she has of mormon girls. I wanted to say "Well I went to school to get a degree, just like you, which I am using, just like you."

4/11/2005 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Why do we always have to think about career aspirations for girls and women only in terms of contingency plans? Used only in the "worst case scenarios" where she doesn't get married, gets married but then is divorced or widowed, or whose husband loses a job? Not that it is wrong to think this way, but because it is a narrow view of what careers and career aspirations can mean for girls.

I think parents should actively encourage girls as well as boys to develop intellectual and career interests and help them pursue them. And not just because they might need them someday, but because it makes for people with broad interests who can take an active part in the world around them, in a career or otherwise.

I wish my parents would have done this with me. Education was always valued for its own sake, but I never felt them express the value of education as a means to start a career. I think they have changed somewhat with my younger sisters (I am the oldest). But I think practical advice and support about career would have gone a long way to help me.

4/12/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I think you hit the nail on the head. The messages that young women often get about careers are usually couched in terms of "What if...then you need to have a marketable skill" as a back-up plan. At least that's what my parents said to me. I doubt that they encouraged my brothers to have a "back-up" plan, or that they considered their choices of career as "marketable skills".

And I think some career skills definitely make us more rounded, and more experienced, all of which makes us better people and thus, I believe, better mothers.

4/12/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Tess said...

I think Melissa raises a good point, too. What if you don't really enjoy being around babies and little kids?

The emphasis on only being a mother can be dangerous, because then women will feel that they are forced into doing something they don't really want to do.

Granted, many women who don't like other people's children find that they love their own children very much. Still, I think motherhood should be taught as a choice, not a requirement.

4/12/2005 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the emphasis on careers built into school curriculum from ridiculously young ages is morbid and damaging--for boys AND girls! No child at seven years old needs to be encouraged to decide on a career.

We should emphasize the importance of education and aptitudes/talents, for boys and girls, until they're old enough to begin weighing the costs and benefits of particular careers.


4/12/2005 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"if you never meet anybody"...and what if you do and it doesn't work out, or you can't have children, or he dies, please don't plan your life around an imaginary guy. When you meet someone and decide to marry, then of course you make important decisions about family, each of your careers, where to live, buying a house etc. together, but do not make decisions now about an imaginary life...make them in the present with regard to your current situation.
I was married young and am now the mother of a toddler and soon a newborn. I finished my undergraduate degree before having my first child, and worked for a few years before getting pregnant. I went back to work when my first daughter was 5 weeks old. Fortunately I am in an industry where I do not work typical hours, so I am at home a lot and I bring my daughter with me to castings and auditions. I am lucky in this way. We also depend on my husband's income, so if I need to take a break from working (eg. to have a baby soon, illness, needs of the children), our financial needs/budget do not suffer.
I have been criticized by family members on my decision to work. I am so surprised at the "quick-to-judgers" for a few reasons:

1. I make decisions based on prayer, personal revelation, and my patriarchal blessing. Very personal and private things in my life. I assume that my criticizing family members make decisions in their life the same way...isn't this how we have been taught? Isn't the gift of the Holy Ghost and the gift of Revelation what truly set us apart as a religion? It surprises me that they think they would know what is best for me compared to God.

2. Aren't we also taught, "judge not that ye be not judged?" I have never been more grateful for this than recently when some members of my family have been so outspoken about my decisions. Thank goodness I don't have to face them on that judgment day.

3. To be in the world but not of the world. I enjoy that I have an opportunity to be in the world. This creates an incredible opportunity for me to be a symbol of our faith (as Prez. Hinckley wrote about in the First Presidency Message in April's Ensign.) People are surprised when they find out I am a Mormon, not sure why...but that must mean that they feel they have a lot more in common with me (a Mormon) then they expected. Upon meeting me, people are usually the most weirded out by the fact that I am 26 with (almost) 2 kids....but if we can find common ground in any way (career, fashion, makeup), even if it seems trivial or insubstantial, we can grow from there, and someday talk about spiritual matters. If you are always at home...I think that worldly experiences are more limited.

That being written, if I had to, I would give up ALL of my amazing career opportunities and experiences (and there have been many), for my family. It would be hard for me. I would struggle with being limited to ONLY motherhood. And I would turn again to prayer, presonal revelation and my patriarchal blessing for guidance.

I think living the gospel is about having a healthy life balance. For me that means I am not just a mom. I am a wife, mother, friend, daughter, singer, Primary Music leader, Visiting Teacher, model, Actor, website designer, reader, exerciser, cleaner, vacuumer, teacher, control freak, worrier, eater, cook, encourager, yeller, writer, the list goes on and now includes blogger.

Melanie, have a full and happy and productive life. Keep me posted.

4/12/2005 09:24:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

My post may not have emphasized this enough.
I can simply point to everyone around me and say
"Look, daughters, most women work. You can either prepare yourself and find a career you like and get well paid for, or you can work at a boring job that you'll hate."
As much as I'll raise her to be a happy SAHM, I will aslo raise her to be practical. No, I'm not going to recommend med school. What if you have $150K of debt and then decide you want to have a baby and stay home? I'll definitely try to help her pick a career that she'll like and could actually get a job in at any point in her life if she chooses.
The proclamation does NOT tell girls not to get education and not to prepare for working.
As for backup plans and worse case scenarios, look at how many SAHMs there are. I've been out of the workforce for 6 years now. Do you know how hard it would be to get a great job now? And it gets harder each year. And don't get me started on daycare for 3 kids. Its not a choice to be a SAHM now. Daycare would cost $2000/month.
I have no professional contacts anymore.....they were in a different state anyway.
But I am a mother and I have a responsibility to my children. What would I do if my husband "left?" What would I do if he died? What would I do if he was incapacitated? Was fired?
If I can't answer those questions with some kind of plan, I don't think I am doing my job as an adult or as a mother.
So the backup plan isn't an either you are happily married to a provider OR you have a backup plan. You should have a plan even as a happily married SAHM.

4/13/2005 02:51:00 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Rosalynde, I fully agree with you--I was not referring to helping small children determine or refine career goals, but instead to helping them develop broad interests, and not socializing little girl to think only in terms of being a princess, ballerina, or mommy.

On the other hand, as little girls turn into young women, I think that we should encourage them to think more specifically about careers. In one ward I was in, there was an activity night each month set aside for the priests to listen to professionals talk about their jobs as accountants, lawyers, etc, but it was not important enough to either join forces or to replicate a similar program on behalf of the Laurels.

4/13/2005 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I think Mimi's right -- we should make sure our girls know about career choices. But DSG also brings up an interesting aspect, too: is it important that our girls choose careers that can be flexible enough so they can also be mothers? Being a lawyer or doctor or climbing the corporate ladder is not nearly as flexible as being an actor, writer or musician.

I know the church teaches that we should not postpone having children once we are married, but I seem to think that the most fulfilled mothers are those women who have had a career for a while before becoming a SAHM. And JKS is right -- as SAHMs, we have no legal status and we would be hard pressed to find financial support from the government if something happened to our marriage. Conversely, it is possible to use your experience as a SAHM to get a decent job; my mother did it after being home for 23 years. It would have helped, though, had she had a college education.

A side note: this discussion relates strongly to the one we had last month on mediocrity.

4/13/2005 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I guess the two discussions are awfully similar-sorry about that. But I was more concerned this time about what we are teaching our daughters in terms on what options are available to them, and what we should encourage them to do. It is related to the discussion of how much women can contribute outside the home, but I really think it's important to figure out how to balance the different messages out there when it comes to bringing up our children.

4/13/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

I've learned a lot about this issue by all these comments and am still sorting out my feelings, but for now, here's where I'm at:
I guess I just don't see what is wrong with encouraging our daughters to want to be Moms and not emphasizing carreer. Based on what we believe, having and raising children is a huge part of why we're here. I hope my daughters get an education and pursue something (career or volunteer work, etc) that they enjoy and learn from, before they have the opportunity to have children. I also hope they will willingly sacrifice it (at least temporarily) to raise and nurture their children. I don't see the harm in little girls excited about growing up to be Moms.

4/13/2005 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Heather -- NO apologies necessary. I was just struck that they were similar. Especially since I think it's important that they are connected. If we can teach our girls not to expect to be "just a mom" and look for education, fulfillment elsewhere, then we wouldn't be having discussions like the one we had in March.

4/13/2005 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Andrea -- there isn't any harm in encouraging girls to be Moms. But what if -- like me -- being a stay at home mom isn't something that comes naturally? Should those girls feel marginalized because they really don't want to be moms (at least before they have kids)?

Not to threadjack, but what about teaching our boys to grow up to be "just a dad"?

4/13/2005 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


There is nothing wrong with making girls excited to grow up to be moms. What is worrisome to me is that it seems the message that you shouldn't even think about doing anything else, because you are just going to have to give it up to be a mom anyway.

If you have children, nothing is more important than being a good mother. But that doesn't mean "and nothing else matters." And even if they have to give up the job, give up the research, whatever, at least they had those experiences that they did before becoming a mother, and those experiences will always be with them, and hopefully help them be better people, better mothers.

I remember when my high school boyfriend got engaged. He was telling me about his fiance, and I asked him what she was doing--going to school, working, what. He said she was working a temp job. Well, temporary until what? He said, "Well, she just really wants to be a mom. That's been her focus her whole life, and she's just waiting for that to happen."

Well, this woman was 20 when she got married, and she was just working at a temp job, waiting to be a mom? She could have been doing lots of other things that could have enriched her life and taught her exciting things that she could have later shared with her children. She could have been learning things, discovering things, enriching her soul, but here she was, filing insurance claims, waiting for her prince.

Luckily her prince showed up, and last I heard they have at least 2 kids. But I think it's a shame that she sat around waiting to be a mom instead of discovering other things in the meantime. And that's what makes me uncomfortable about the message of "I just want to be a mom." I think it shortchanges women into thinking that they are not allowed to explore things for themselves about themselves until the opportunity for motherhood arrives.

4/13/2005 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

And of course, there is the same argument about what happens when your family plans don't work out exactly as you had hoped. Mine have certainly not turned out the way I had imagined.

4/13/2005 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Melissa and Heather, I know that no one is saying that we shouldn't encourage our daughters to be mothers -- I didn't phrase my last comment well. I don't want girls who don't naturally long for the days of motherhood to be marginalized, nor do I want the little girls who say "I want to be a mom when I grow up" to be. I think we often assume they have been brainwashed and told they should not pursue anything else. As parents I think we should encourage our children to educate themselves as much as they can, and to tell them the sky's the limit. However, there will be some, like me, whose only ambition is to be a mom. I did cop out on my formal education which I really regret (not because I was brainwashed -- my parents encouraged me to finish), but am committed to finishing it. I did have a great job before having children and was always learning things and strive to do so now.

I've often felt like some feminists (I'm not talking about you two) act like SAHM's are copping out by choosing that over a career. The point of feminism is for women to have choices. There are also those women within the church who do choose to be SAHM's but make darn sure everyone knows they had and will have a career again. Can't a woman make a career out of being a SAHM without the stigma of "oh she must not be very sophisticated and educated"? My mom has raised all of her children and still doesn't have a job, but is anxiously engaged in service, church callings, attending the temple once a week, taking classes, and being a mom and grandma. Sounds great to me.

4/14/2005 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


"The point of feminism for women to have choices."

Amen, sister!

Great comment. I think the part about not marginalizing women, no matter what they choose, is key. And really, that's what this post is about, or at least that's what I wanted it to be about--women understanding that they have choices, and that there are different roads to growing up to be a mom that can take women lots of different places.

As for the marginalization of women, I think we as Mormon women are partcularly good at that, whether it's marginalizing SAHMs, working mothers, women who don't have children, new converts, women who went to college, women who didn't...the list goes on. That topic deserves it's own post! (Want to write it?:))

Thanks for your comments, Andrea, and I really hope that you don't feel marginalized here. You are a wonderful addition to the blog, and I love hearing what you have to say. Keep commenting :)!

4/14/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Heather, thanks -- I didn't feel marginalized by your post or any of the comments. I hope I didn't sound (read?) defensive. It's a tough issue and one that evokes some strong emotions all the way around. It was a great post and one that has helped me sort through my feelings which is good since I have two daughters. :)

I agree we are pretty great at marginalizing, which is why blogging is so great -- I've learned that though many have a different approach their ultimate goals and level of commitment are the same as mine.

4/14/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

So I'm the only one who went to a liberal elementary school in the 70's that would show movies like "Free To Be You and Me," with classic songs like this?

Parents Are People

Mommies are people, people with children
When mommies were little, they used to be girls
Like some of you, but then they grew
And now mommies are women, women with children
Busy with children, and things that they do
There are a lot of things a lot of mommies can do

Some mommies are ranchers, or poetry makers
Or doctors or teachers, or cleaners or bakers
Some mommies drive taxis, or sing on TV
Yeah, mommies can be almost anything they want to be

Well, they can't be grandfathers, or daddies

Daddies are people, people with children
When daddies were little, they used to be boys
Like some of you, but then they grew
And now daddies are men, men with children
Busy with children, and things that they do
There are a lot of things a lot of daddies can do

Some daddies are writers, or grocery sellers
Or painters or welders, or funny-joke tellers
Some daddies play cello, or sail on the sea
Yeah, daddies can be almost anything they want to be

They can't be grandmas or mommies

Parents are people - Parents are people
People with children - People with children
When parents little, they used to be kids
Like all of you, but then they grew
And now parents are grown-ups - Parents are grown-ups
Grown-ups with children - Grown-ups with children
Busy with children, and things that they do
There are a lot of things a lot of mommies
And a lot of daddies, and a lot of parents can do

4/16/2005 12:05:00 AM  

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