My two cents on the Ensign Article

Apparantly there is a big dust up about the cover of this month's Ensign, and the lead story about mothers. T&S is having a huge discussion, and seeing as the comments have reached over 250 (last time I checked) I feel no guilt whatsoever about putting in my two cents over here, because if I made a comment over there, nobody would pay attention anyway. My objections with the article are similar to Julie's--the content was fairly predictable, but well presented. But I have to say that the pictures that went along with the article bothered me. All but one picture focused on the domestic arts. As somebody who has come to learn the domestic arts late in life , and struggles with that particular part of motherhood, I felt inadequate as a mother even before I started reading the article. The inadequacy caused feelings of irritation, and frustration, and that's the spirit in which I started reading this article that was meant to uplife and inspire. Like I said, the article itself wasn't bad, but the pictures did not reflect the full message of the article, and frankly, I was bugged. I get bothered by the stereotype that the only women who are good mothers are the ones who can quilt and sew and make good meatloaf (although, I have to say, I go make a pretty darned good meatloaf.) My own mother doesn't do any of these things well, and she raised 6 kids who turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. Her focus with her children was on developing our talents, keeping us busy with enriching activities, reading good books, and playing lots of games. She gave us the confidence and freedom of exploring things we liked to do, and supported us 100% in all of our activities, which ranged from soccer to dance to performing Shakespeare. The argument has been made that with the growing membership in the Church, and the globalization of the Church, publications like the Ensign have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I can understand and appreciate that. However, I think they missed the boat on this one. Somehow I don't think everybody equates sewing on a button with motherly bliss.


Blogger Melissa said...

I put this up at the T&S discussion, and I think it got lost in the fray. Maybe it was because it was #259?? (They're up to 285 now, and my DH has decided it's gotten interesting again and is helping it along...)

I don’t believe that Sister Tanner, the Ensign editor, or the graphics director believes that housekeeping is the most important aspect of motherhood. What I do believe is that they believe that these things are an important part of mothehood. Why else the photos? What this leads me to believe is that being a good mother is separate from being a good member of the church. Why else all these articles (and there have been quite a few lately) about how to be a “good” mother?

Why is it that when we talk about men being “good” fathers it is couched in terms that could be applicable to all members of the church – church attendance, honoring the priesthood, faith, prayer, etc – but when we talk about women being good mothers it has to include something separate and “above” being a good member of the church? Is it really necessary? If it is necessary, then why isn’t it also necessary for men to be told about all the “extra” things beyond being a good member which are necessary to being a good father–like exulting in changing the oil in the car, budgeting, or getting up in the middle of the night with the sick child?

I get put off by articles – and discussions – like this (and I admit this is a personality flaw of mine) because I feel like they are demeaning to my personal way of being a mother. Yes, we all have the same “job". Yes, we all want the same outcome – a believing, faithful, child – but there are so many ways of doing this that I think it becomes frustrating and counter-productive to talk about them. Admittedly, I have this same problem with magazines like Parenting and Child. I really don’t want to be told that because I’m not doing XYZ, my child won’t turn out the way they are “supposed” to.

I would appreciate it if the Ensign stopped running articles on how women “must” do certain things, whatever they are, and “must not” do others in order to be good mothers, as if that were something separate from being a good member of the church. I would rather they focused on how we can all be better Christians, Latter-day Saints, and human beings. Then, perhaps we’d all be better mothers and fathers without all the argument and frustration.

6/06/2005 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I haven't read the article or seen the pictures. But when has that stopped me from commenting on anything?

I mentioned over at T&S that my husband makes a better mom than I do, and it's true. I'm horrible at providing any kind of structure to my day on my own. He's a better housekeeper than I am. And while I can cook, I hate to.

Most of my childhood memories aren't of my parents or even my siblings. They're of my friends I used to play with. Most of the childhood memories I have of my mom are her doing household chores--laundry, vacuuming, cooking. And her not being happy. Maybe because she hated housework, but I'm guessing it was more because her oldest kids were marrying drug addicts and ex-convicts and selling drugs and going crazy and getting girls pregnant and going to jail, etc. Oh, did I say ex-convicts? I meant escaped convicts.

I had a stressful childhood.

I don't put any guilt trips on myself about my mothering. I figure if I'm doing better than what I had growing up, then I'm doing good. But I know where and what my shortcomings are. I think it's important as a parent to know where you fall short. Somehow my kids are turning out amazing. Of course, they're just now entering their teen years...I keep waiting for them to realize what lame parents we are, but it hasn't happened yet.

6/06/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Erin said...

I haven't read the article yet (and I haven't been at T&S), but I was delighted when I saw the subject on the cover. I did laugh at the front and back cover pictures, wondering what was so great about sewing on a button, though. And did you notice that the girl on the back cover is wearing the shirt that the mom is wearing on the front cover?

Who is ever prepared for motherhood? It's like, who is ever prepared to go on a mission? I don't think anyone is because until you get into it, you don't quite know what you've gotten into.

I do think that the more you know about REAL mother stuff, the better off you'll be. When I say REAL mother stuff, I mean that you'll be so exhausted sometimes that you won't be able to function normally. And your emotions may be out of control, such that you feel like clobbering your child. BUT, there will be sweet moments that feel like falling in love, only better because you don't have to wonder if he loves you back.

Is there a big difference in a teen preparing to be a parent and preparing to be an adult? Everyone needs to know how to sew on a button, cook, manage finances, take care of a car, etc. What do you all think?

Now I'm going to find that magazine and read the article!

6/06/2005 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


You make an interesting point. Rarely have I seen something that says that being a good member of the church and striving to be Christ-like gives you the qualities necessary to be a good mother, or at least gets you on the right track. You are right--there seems to be a message that there are character traits that go beyond just being a faithful member of the church that are needed to be a good mother.

And I have never seen an article about preparing fathers-just preparing for the priesthood and a mission. And although I personally do think that being a good priesthood holder and a good missionary are good things, I think the implied message is that good men do these things, and being a good man is enough to be a good father. Interesting that there isn't such an implied statement about mothering.


Sounds indeed like a stressful childhood! I'm impressed that you've come through it and seem to be a better mother for it. Undoubtedly you have a perspective that not everybody has. Thanks for sharing it with us here.

6/06/2005 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


You make a good point, too. Why is preparing for a mother so different than preparing to be an adult? I would have to do lots of things I do, even if I didn't have a child. We lost lots of buttons even before we had a child who could yank them off!

6/06/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

"I do think that the more you know about REAL mother stuff, the better off you'll be. When I say REAL mother stuff, I mean that you'll be so exhausted sometimes that you won't be able to function normally. And your emotions may be out of control, such that you feel like clobbering your child. BUT, there will be sweet moments that feel like falling in love, only better because you don't have to wonder if he loves you back."

Erin, I'm so glad you brought that up. I think it's important for kids to learn love, empathy and self-control at home, both by example, and by parents talking to their kids about their emotions. I try to let my daughters know that I don't always feel like doing things that need to be done, but I do it anyway, and that their toddler brother drives me crazy at times, the same way they did as toddlers, but we love him anyway and try to be patient and flexible. These are all skills that can be learned, and I certainly use those skills more than I use my sewing skills these days.

6/06/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

Oh man, the picture on the front of the Ensign just kills me! I know how to sew on a button, my husband also knows how to sew on a button. But to save us both the time, he has the drycleaner sew on lost buttons (which they do for us at no charge--probably because we give them so much other business).

There just had to be a better picture for the front cover.

6/06/2005 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

The article wasn't as bad as the pictures, but there were a few things that made me cringe. Sister Tanner starts the article with an experience she had with her 16 year old daughter where her daughter felt like she never heard anything affirming motherhood at church anymore. That and other experiences with the YW churchwide make her concerned that the YW of the church today don't feel like motherhood is a worthwhile goal. Then she goes onto state five things that leaders and parents can do to help the YW feel that motherhood is a valid, worthwhile choice. While the points are fine, I think that if we are really going to inspire YW to have motherhood as a goal, we need to do what Allison and erin have stated in their previous comments -- BE REAL with them. I have been in the YW in our ward for a while and I have always told the other women that I serve with that we need to be real with the girls. We need to share our hardships, our frustrations, the things we hate about motherhood right along with the joys, triumphs and loves. All of these things are different for every mother so the more the girls hear from a wide variety of sources, the more likely they are to find someone they identify with. I want them to realize that if they feel like they could never "exult over the clean smell in a freshly scrubbed bathroom" that they can still be a great, happy and fulfilled mother.
The sooner the YW learn that all different kinds of great women make all different kinds of great mothers the more likely they are to feel that they might want to join the forces one day too.

6/06/2005 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

If I had been told as a YW, that mohterhood involoved severe sleep deprivation, and that suddenly finding time to get a haircut was difficult, I don't think I would have listened. I would have been like "Yeah, whatever. People manage."

I mostly cared about my immediate needs: my friends, boys, grades, etc. and how to live a Christlike life and be a normal highschooler at the same time. Teenagers are very NOW oriented - with extra stress placed on college applications.

6/06/2005 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

You know, if we focus on the things that are most important to teenagers, like the Wiz said, we'll probably be surprised at how well they are prepared for being mothers. If they care and serve their friends, if they care about living Christlike lives, they'll probably do pretty well at being a loving, caring mother. Even if they can't sew a button or cook. (Maybe they can get their husbands to do that.)

Perhaps the real concern of Sister Tanner is the lack -- percieved or otherwise -- of young women who want to be mothers before. What was it, only a few out of twenty that expressed a desire to be mothers? What is considered progress -- young women realizing that there is more to life than bearing and raising children -- is most likely worrisome to the Church.

6/07/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

I didn't even pay attention to the article, although I'd read it (think about that one) until Julie posted. I took a position in favor of housekeeping.

Which I am in favor of it, just not being the one to do it. I'm all in favor of cleanliness, oh, yeah, and all that.

I woke up this morning, thought about the mess that is my house, and how tired I am, and how my daughter is getting married, and I just want to give up.

A blogger named Janey posted something at MS about how her bishop told her to take a year off and contemplate Christ. I wish they'd tell us that.

I found myself the most annoyed at the men on T&S who were telling us we needed to clean house. My sister or you could tell me that, if my husband does, he will pick himself up off the floor in Vegas somewhere.

I've told my spoiled "Princes Buttgold" daughter that the adult in the house is the one who cleans the food out of the bottom of the sink. She looks at me sleepily and doesn't say a word. She'll know soon enough, I guess.

You guys, let me just warn you now, it's going to get worse, I honestly didn't know that. I thought when my kids were grown, it would be easier.

But now, women in their 50's (like me) are dealing with aging, sick parents, dysfunctional adult children, the joy of grandchildren, and our own ill health and aging issues. We are taking care of the world and I see my friends buckling under the pressure.

Brace yourselves. I'm going with Janey.

6/07/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

I've been following the T&S discussion from a distance, because everytime I try to comment I find myself all over the place. I really relate to a lot of what people are saying who happen to be arguing completely opposite points. What a mess, huh? So, after much deliberation, I think I've finally landed at this conclusion: when it comes down to it, I guess I'm just not sure what good comes from getting worked up about some pictures. Or reading to much into what was meant by them.
I have this hypersensitive alarm that is triggered by anything I perceive is too negative. It's a fine line to walk to be thoughtful and evaluate things for the purpose of improving them (which I believe is good, but rare), but I think many of us blow right over that line and not only is that counter-productive, I think it's very destructive.

Also, I think it was Erin who talked about being real. I agree for the most part, but again there's a fine line. I totally agree that we shouldn't misrepresent motherhood by saying it's always fabulous and be meaningful etc. We also should be honest that it is extremely difficult. However, I think it's important to remember that until someone is a mother they cannot understand the depth of a mother's love and that for the most part, the drudgery is a small price to pay for those moments (however fleeting they may be)of the purest and sweeteset motherly joy.

If we were truly balanced in our approach that would be fine. I've observed that when a group of us gets together we tend air our grievances, and the drudgery becomes front and center. Often there is a non-mother there and I can only wonder what impression she goes away with. My sister-in-law was scared to death by hearing many of those type of conversations.

6/07/2005 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Is there really any way you can prepare a teenager for motherhood? I mean, I babysat a ton, but I had never in my life held a newborn until my son was born. I worked a nursing shift at nights, literally getting up every 3 hours, and tiring and exhausting as it was, it still did not prepare me for nursing my baby in the middle of the night. Besides, in my job, I got 2 days off every week, and I didn't have to go in when I was sick.

Maybe the best way really is to teach a young woman how to be a Christlike person, and just emphasize how important becoming a mother is, and try to balance out the messages they get from the world. Other than that, I'm not sure that a practical approach would really be all that practical.

And Andrea, about your sister-in-law--she SHOULD be scared. Motherhood is scary! But I do agree with you that sometimes we should be rejoicing just as much as we complain.

6/07/2005 10:42:00 PM  

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