7/20/2006

"Be prepared"--not just for Scouts.

I recently met up with an old friend. I love this woman. She's fantastic. She's the type of woman who has planned her entire life around being a wife and mother, and it's awe inspiring. She has entire file folders full of decorating ideas for her house, things she has been collecting for literally years and years. She bought all the Disney shows when they came out as "Limited Editions", just so her kids could know and appreciate all the classics. She has boxes of recipes, ready at a moment to be used for her family. She is, in all aspects, the perfect wife and mother. There's only one problem. She isn't a wife, or a mother. She is nearing 40, and is single. And she's not pleased about this. As you can imagine. It's been interesting to watch what this woman has done with her life. She studied something in college that would come in extremely handy as a mother, but has virtually no economic value at all. When she graduated, husbandless and childless, well, she was a little stuck, I think. She sort of bounced from menial job to menial job, trying to figure out what to do. She eventually pulled it together and got a decent job with good pay, benefits, etc, but again, it wasn't something on a career track. It was definitely something where she could pull out at any moment, should that family opportunity suddenly arrive. 7 years later, she is finally starting a career. And doing extremely well, I might add. But part of me sort of feels like muttering, "What took you so long?" I also know several women who took similar paths, but they did get the husband and the children. They felt prepared for motherhood (or as prepared as you could be--I mean, can anybody possibly prepare enough for the poop?)but feel ill prepared for anything else. Sometimes they express discontent, and I have asked them, "Well, what did you want to do before you had kids?" The answer, of course, is, "I wanted to have kids." I have also asked women this question, "What DID you do before you had kids?" The answer: "Prepared for a family". Well, they got the kids--now what? I am in no way suggesting that women shouldn't prepare for motherhood and family. I wish I had prepared better in so many ways, and had to learn the hard way some of the lessons that could have been learned easier and under better circumstances. But I think so many women could be better served, especially in the church, if there is a message somewhere that says, "You may not get the family that you want and expect. Then what?", or "You may get the family that you want, but when you need time for youself, what skill will you fall back on that can fulfill you as an individual, separate from your mothering duties?" I'm not even only talking about something specific to earning potential. There are plenty of things that can be fulfilling to a mother beyond her family that may or may not be economically viable. But in my friend's case, economic stability was a crucial factor for her as she struggled to support herself financially. So money, or lack thereof, can definitely be a part of the equation. So I would love to see the motto "Be Prepared" be taught not only to the Scouts, but to the Young Women too. Be prepared, little ladies, for an awesome, exciting, tiring, joyful ride called motherhood. Be prepared, young maidens, for a time when you wonder what there is beyond this wonderful ride, when you want to remember what you liked to do before you entered the land of diapers, car seats, car pools, and ballet lessons. Be prepared, little mommies to be, for a time when you want to follow the Lord's commandments to be sealed to a worthy priesthod holder, but that priesthood holder just isn't showing up, and you are on your own for the forseeable future. And above all, be prepared, O ye daughters of God, to follow His will and stay on your knees when all you have prepared for gets completely shot to hell, and you have no idea what is coming next. Those are the times that will try you the most. And always bring a dry pair of socks.

9 Comments:

Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I'm curious about your comment that you wish you had been better prepared, because for the life of me, I cannot figure out what would prepare a woman for motherhood. Sleep deprivation? Midgets throwing up on her?

7/20/2006 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger a. nonny spouse said...

Honestly, I think YW programs in many wards try to do just this--prepare the young women for all sorts of contingencies. It's problematic, though, for a number of reasons. Here're two:

1. The lessons (like everything else in the church) focus on families. Clearly the girls can apply the lessons to their current situations as daughters and sisters, but when the temple marriage lesson comes around, they aren't thinking at the end, "I should really encourage my friends to get married in the temple." They're thinking (ideally), "I want to get married in the temple."

2. Clearly not every girl is like this, but many are. And by "like this" I mean "boy crazy." We can tell them all we want that some of them will not get married or that they'll have to look a long, long time before their prince arrives, but I think every girl in our YW program right now thinks that she isn't the one this will happen to.

I think one of the best things we can do to "prepare" the young women is simply to show them strong examples of women in lots of different situations--older single adults, divorcees, remarrieds, and all. If they can respect and love leaders with myriad backgrounds, they might be more accepting of themselves if their dream life sequence doesn't play out perfectly.

7/20/2006 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Interesting post, especially so now that I have a daughter...

There are a myriad of women in the church who are not in conventional roles, both visible (Sherry Dew, most obviously) and in my own (and every other) ward as well. I think calling these women to YW might be a good start. You don't have to be a wife and mother to have something valuable to teach to our youth.

It would also give the girls a more complex picture of what it looks like to be a woman...

7/21/2006 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Julie-

I actually worked nights for a long time, which I did feel helped me with the sleep deprivation part :). But I wish that I had more experience with, for example, cooking. I really didn't have a clue when I started my family, and we suffered through some pretty miserable meals because of it. I wish that I had a better sense of the 24/7 part of motherhood, although I'm not sure how you could prepare better for that. I wish I knew how to be better organized, something that I am also slowly learning. But in a sense you are right--midgets throwing up on you may be the ohly way to be really prepared :)!

7/21/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

One thing I love about my ward is that no one is afraid of the mistakes they've made, just more determined to become better. Just in our YW program (of which I am a part) our president is the only active member of her family, there is a divorced/remarried teacher, another teacher had her first child six months after she was married, and I personally wasn't married in the temple, but sealed to my DH a year later. One of the presidency councilors lost a son to cancer. I think that our YW leaders are uniquely prepared to deal with the YW in our ward and we have more empathy and less desire to judge their mistakes. We currently have one YW planning on marrying a non-member as soon as she turns 18. Although I personally would like to see her make some different choices, I know that sometimes it's hard to see the other choices there are and you have to make your own mistakes, and you may end up being a better person because of them. The important thing is that we all love every one of these YW like they are our own. I also think the YW get a unique perspective and see the very many different paths their futures could take because the variety of life stories in their leaders.

7/21/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous dangermom said...

I think a lot of people in YW do try to prepare girls for an uncertain future; certainly there is much more emphasis these days on getting an education and preparing for contigencies. But I agree with a. nonny spouse that (most) girls never think that they won't get married.

I have always tried, when I have been in YW, to say "you might not get married, you might not be able or willing to stay home, you might wind up divorced or a widow, and you need to prepare for that." I don't know how much they hear, but the girls in my ward are amazing people who mostly do have ambitions and goals, and are planning ahead.

I think I was as well prepared for motherhood as I could be, but I could have used some more education in running a home. Not that my mom didn't try--it's my own fault that I had to learn to feed myself through trial and error.

7/21/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

A philosophy I adopted early on in college --beacause of the feeling that I had received in YW like a. nonny spouse was talking about --was that I was going to live my life for me.

Sounds selfish, right? Well, the philosophy went as follows: Work hard in college, take chances, sign up for things, and plan for a life of service. Mr. Right might not come along --maybe never --or maybe I'll meet him next week. But I'll be damned if I'm going to sit around waiting for him to show up.

I was going to study for a semester in Nauvoo, and I was really excited about a mission.

Mr. Right came along and we got married the semester I was supposed to go to Nauvoo.

I don't regret getting married and havin' kids when the time was right. But I think I might have if I hadn't been living a full and fun life when marriage did come along.

So, I pass this advice onto every female in my family, and it really works. Some may see it as a cop-out for not preparing for marriage --I see it as the BEST WAY to prepare for marriage. I learned to deal with people, had experiences teaching children, and was genuinely excited about life.

Okay, maybe I should have learned to cook better. And sew. And can. And grow a garden...okay...so DH didn't marry me for my domestic prowess....:)

7/21/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Starfoxy said...

When I was in young womens there was a high profile death in our stake. A prior stake president and his young handsome business partner died in a horrible accident when their private plane crashed. The young handsome business partner was well known in stake and his beautiful wife of a few years had given birth to a baby just a few months before the accident. Before the accident they were the poster couple for what the young women wanted. The sudden tragic death was a rude, yet valuable awakening to many of the young women that they might find themselves in desperate need of good job even if their lives seemed to be going as planned.

7/22/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Strollerblader said...

Unless I am the only freak out there, then there are definitely YW out there who worry A LOT about never getting married. You know how they are constantly throwing out that "You marry who you date" saying. Well, so if you never date, then that's a good indicator of a scary, unwanted future. That, along with the fear of never being able to have kids, were my two biggest fears as a late-teen and early twenty-something.

I am always torn when I teach the YW the marriage lessons, because I know darn well and good (and tell them so, as well) that statistically it's unlikely that they will all end up finding Prince Charming and marrying him in the temple. But we focus on what they CAN do to try to best prepare for that outcome (get an education, continue strong in the Church, date only guys with your standards in high school, and only date good Mormon guys after high school, prepare to be a good homemaker, etc.)

7/25/2006 09:52:00 PM  

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