Growing up I was a very good Mormon girl. I kept what I thought was every little rule: I was home before curfew, I never even held a boy’s hand until college, planned to only kiss the man I would marry, and most of all, and my entire life plan was to be a stay-at-home-mom. I believed that was the only obedient choice for me. I am proud of that noble aspiration, and I continue to hold family as my most important and most rewarding life venture, but something happened a few years into college that jolted the contented vision of my future. Simply, it was this: I found a major I enjoyed. But with it I found a passion, a dream, and a vision. Surveying the world, peoples, ideas, and perspectives they offer, I started to see things from a different angle and ask questions. I began to wonder why I could not turn this passion for different ideas and sharing truth into a means to better humanity. The fire that was then kindled in me could not be quenched with any appeal to a sense of duty as a Mormon woman, a misunderstood duty which up until this point sufficed very easily. And the more I tried to suppress that fire, the more it seared at my insides. I wanted so badly to do what God wanted but that seemed to conflict with what I began to feel I was meant for.
The weight became larger and larger and it hurt more and more. Something didn’t feel right. I cried myself to sleep for weeks on end. Every little thing that might have related back to the expectation that I should do no more than be a mother stabbed at my side like a spear. Seemingly insignificant things became huge and scary. I was terrified of a caged and empty future, for I longed to travel the world, to learn about people and find the gifts they have to offer. I longed to bring hope to those who had little. I wanted to build little girls’ schools in Pakistan and teach mothers in Africa simple hygiene principles that would save their children’s lives. I wanted to help families in India and China see that their daughters are precious gifts, not burdens to be exterminated en masse. I wanted to speak to nations and make a change for good in the world.
But my first education was teaching me that was not my lot if I wanted to be a woman of God. Duty called and I would have to leave changing the world to men. But the more I examined my heart, the more that didn’t feel right. My mind couldn’t find the justice in the double standard that would allow a man to have both a dream and a family, and said that I, simply because I was a woman, could not have both. Adding to this, the sense of independence, leadership, courage, fierceness, and duty I felt in myself, which I also see in so many women, made me question what we were being told. How could we believe that God could be telling women that we were not made to lead, to be independent, to be courageous, and to be fierce in the face of the evil in the world? A mother benefits the world very powerfully through raising her children, but how can it be right that a women is given only one venue from which to influence the world, while a man is given a multitude of choices in addition to fatherhood? And what about the woman who simply enjoys business, photography, science, or teaching? The woman who has a passion and a talent to develop and wants to rise to the measure of her creation? Are we to tell these women that these desires and passions in themselves are illusions of evil, for their real desire should be simply (yet nobly, don’t misunderstand me) to be a mother and nothing else?
No, I believe not, for I believe that God planted that passion in our hearts and those talents in our hands, and he intends for us to use them to their fullest, as he expects the same of men. It is not right in the sight of God that we should limit a woman’s options and open the doors of opportunity only to men. But how do we reconcile this with the prophetic counsel of the past century? This is the question that burdened my soul for so long and wet my pillow at night.
Further, through my studies I have seen how the powerlessness and voicelessness of women in governments and other organizations is a very real and very practical source of their suffering and the suffering of their nations. There are a multitude of sources of suffering in the world that affect both men and women, but there is a special category of suffering that comes to women solely because of their gender. I was shocked when I first learned about the details. I was shocked at the prevalence, the intensity, the universality of the suffering. I never knew about the thirty-nine thousand baby Chinese girls that die each year because they are not given the same medical attention as boys, the four-thousand brides burned alive by in-laws in India because of an insufficient dowry, the five-thousand women and girls in two Pakistani cities burned by kerosene or acid in the last decade because of perceived disobedience, or the hundreds and thousands of young girls trafficked into brothels as sex slaves each year in an illicit trade that is larger than every other illegal trade except that of arms (Kristof, 2009, xiv.). I learned that to much of the world, women are a commodity and not human, and because women are something less than “human” more women have been killed in the last fifty years than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century—including both world wars (Kristof, 2009, xvii.). I delved into the depths of wickedness and horror in my studies of this. It consumed my thoughts. But the moments of deepest depression came from realizing that previously I was completely unaware of it all and that like me, most people in my own culture were at best minimally informed on the subject. But I also learned how, in a very real and practical way, giving women an equal voice in governments is a necessary solution to these problems, and I felt very deeply that this was God’s will. I knew that until women are given their right to equal counsel and equal consent in human society, nations will continue to suffer and will fail to realize our divine and glorious potential as human beings.
Once I recognized this intense need for women to be co-leaders of human society I had to find some way to reconcile it with the counsel for women to stay home with their children. How to find this reconciliation is the subject of this essay.
How to Give Women a Voice without Sacrificing Faith or Family
Women’s invisibility is at the root of all their problems, and this invisibility comes from women’s profound lack of representation in the major decision making councils of the world and their lack of influence and power. To have their voices heard and better the lives of all women, men, and children, they must find their way into governments, academia, international affairs, and business administration. In that way, those making the decisions will have women’s needs and interests (and by extension, those of the family) in mind. However, this presents a major dilemma for those who are Latter-day Saints and who believe that motherhood and family cohesion are preeminent.
It is broadly accepted that Mormons traditionally believe in stay-at-home moms. For many years the counsel to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the church leaders has been for mom to stay in the home while the children are still being raised. They were strongly counseled against taking any kind of career when it wasn’t necessary. Many Latter-day Saint boys are raised to look for a girl to marry who is committed to staying home with her kids, and girls are raised with marriage and homemaking as their ultimate ambition. How is a Latter-day Saint to reconcile the need for women to take positions of political influence, when those positions require work outside of the home and a lifelong investment in a career in order to reach any type of authoritative level of influence? Considering that a woman cannot be simultaneously in her home with her children and in the workplace making a change in the world, and boards of directors and politicians cannot and will not hire someone without experience, major societal changes are in order to reconcile this dilemma. These changes must take place in the workplace, in societal values, and in societal expectations, particularly for men.
The family is preeminent according to LDS doctrine, and this must be where we begin. Setting priorities is the first step, and to Latter-day Saints it is clear that everything done in society should be for the benefit of the family. Indeed, the quest for women’s equal voice is also a quest for magnifying the importance of the family in society. “The Family: a Proclamation to the World” is the central doctrinal document on the family for the LDS church, and it states that “the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (The First Presidency, Para. 1). It states that “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children” (The First Presidency, Para. 6).It is clear from this paragraph that an equally shared duty of both the man and the woman is the welfare and proper upbringing of their children. All duties outlined in the proclamation are to uphold the central principle that family is first and that children need protection, nurturing, and provision. With this in mind, we can look to see what needs to be done to fulfill these needs and at the same time give women social influence.
It is my belief that these two needs are not mutually exclusive, but, in fact, are both necessary and both part of divine principle. Elder M. Russell Ballard illustrated this compatibility when he said, ““Is a woman’s value dependent exclusively upon her role as a wife and mother? The answer is simple and obvious: No . . . Every righteous man and woman has a significant role to play in the onward march of the kingdom of God” (Ballard, 2001). According to Elder Ballard, women have value outside of and work to do in addition to bearing children. President Gordon B. Hinckley himself said “The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it… women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. . . You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part” (Hinckley, 2007). If one digs deeper into the basic societal structures and assumptions, it becomes clear that giving women a voice in government and other positions of influence in society is not a threat to family strength and cohesion, but measures that allow women this opportunity will also strengthen the family.
Rethinking the Workplace with Mothers in Mind
The first change that needs to take place is a restructuring of the workforce to make it compatible with caregiving. The western model of the workplace is constructed around the unencumbered male, who is so because he has a wife at home committed full time to doing all his domestic work and raising the children. During the hours of the day and week when he is at the office or elsewhere, he is free from the distraction of the needs of his children, the needs of the disabled and the needs of the elderly. But, times have changed. Many women have moved into the workforce and this presents a problem because men have not taken an equal stride into the home. Because the workplace has not changed to reflect the new reality, many parents commit the care of their children and other needy loved ones to someone else. This is not compatible with LDS doctrine which strongly emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in their children’s lives as far as is possible.
However, the real problem is not that women have moved into the workplace, but that the workplace is still constructed around an unencumbered male worker—a worker who no longer is the norm. This anachronistic model means that women are forced to face great difficulties in meeting the needs of her children while working in a place that requires her to be away from them. An example of a workplace that creates such a difficulty is in the field of academia, where a female scholar is required to do her most intensive work (to attain tenure) at the beginning of her career, from about age 25 to 35, which is also the optimal childbearing and rearing age. Consequently, she is faced with many obstacles trying to meet both the intense demands of that season of her career with the needs of her family. This systemic characteristic makes it extremely difficult for women who want to place family preeminent as is proscribed in LDS doctrine and make a contribution outside the home. And because women were historically in positions of little social influence, the main designers of the modern workplace have been men. Without the female perspective and with repressive societal expectations, the male leaders of the past constructed the workplace without any thought to accommodate the needs of women.
Fortunately leaders of businesses have become aware of women’s needs to an extent and have responded. Since the mass movement of women into the workforce, some efforts are being made to make the workplace more compatible with someone who is also a caregiver. For example, as breastfeeding has been traditionally difficult for mothers at work, some companies provide as a special room for breastfeeding and breast pumping, allow it to be done at the work desk, and even set up as system to have a few coworkers designated as stand-by babysitters (Belluck 2000). Social changes are being made to make breastfeeding socially acceptable in public and in the workplace, as it has been formerly offensive given our society’s unnecessary hyper-sexualization of the breast (Harmon, 2005). Other career-specific systemic changes can be made, and one example can be illustrated by extending the example of academia outlined above. Altering the system so that the career requires less front-heavy work or allowing flexibility during the childbearing years is the most imperative adjustment. This will make it easier for those who are interested in motherhood and in a career in academia to become co-creators of the knowledge our society depends on for change and growth. If we want to make women’s contribution visible and their needs important to society, we need women in academia. They can bring women’s issues, formerly ignored or minimized, to light, and policy-makers can act. And in order to do this, we need to make the field more compatible with caregiving.
Further changes need to be made to the traditional workplace. Some general changes to the workplace include greater flexibility in location and time for completing tasks. One useful reimaging includes the movement for a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), a human resource management strategy advocated by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler. In a ROWE employees are not mandated to be in the office for a given block of time daily, but they are given a project and a deadline which they complete on their own time and in their place of choice. This strategy has already been implemented at companies such as Best Buy and Gap (ROWE, 2010). The flexibility provided for by ROWE is ideal for working around the hours needed for caregiving.
Another very important and necessary change would be giving proportional benefits and equal per hour pay to part-time workers. Many mothers choose part time work so that they can be with their children after school, but sadly most part time workers do not receive equal per hour pay with full-time workers, nor do they receive any type of work benefits. Our part-time employment norms thus seem design to exploit the vulnerability of mothers. This makes the decision to work part time a difficult one for mothers, especially if one is counting on the part time job to give them social security credit for the future.
Paid maternity leave is also a necessity for a society that puts family first, and I would suggest a system modeled after that of that of Sweden, which provides a paid parental leave, encouraging either parent to take time off. Presently, the United States is one of the only countries in the world that fails to offer paid maternity leave, and this makes it difficult for a parent with financial needs to take the time needed to attend to his or her newborn child (United Nations 2010). This is indicative that the United States has its values scrambled: if the US put families first, our nation would have paid parental leave. What I especially like about the Swedish model is that when the work-life balance including maternity/paternity leave becomes a parental decision more than just a maternal decision, it begins to dismantle the notion that female workers are a burden to their employers because of their double duty. Caregiving would begin to be perceived by employers and workers alike as a natural part of the lives of workers of both sexes. The need would also be more visible if it were to become a need of every worker and companies would then be more willing to make the accommodations.
Other specifics will not be outlined here, as the purpose of this paper is to argue for the necessity of change and the real possibility of change. Such specifics need to be left up to individual employers and families, as it will be a complex shift and such decisions are best left up to individuals. Our first purpose is to help these business owners and other employers see the need for change as well as some possibilities—and we hope that LDS business owners will lead out in this regard. In fact, in the April 2011 LDS General Conference, Apostle Quentin L. Cook urged Latter-day Saints to “be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.”
As we have seen in years gone by, when society is presented with a great need marvelous ingenuity and creativity is fostered. Individuals can share ideas with one another as they start to look for solutions together. New technology including the internet is creating greater abilities to alter rigid workplace models. The government should also provide incentives through subsidizing or providing tax cuts to companies that make accommodations for caregivers. As we put in the effort to find a way for women to have a voice and keep the family healthy, the societal benefits will clearly pay off. A major report issued by UNICEF said that investing in gender equality yields a “double dividend,” because it not only raises women but also their families and communities. The United National Development Program also said that “Women’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality. It contributes to improved health and nutrition. It increases the chances of education for the next generation.” A 2008 research report by Goldman Sachs reported that “gender inequality hurts economic growth” (Kristof 2009, xx-xxi). But in order to really make these changes a priority in our economy, several societal and cultural changes are in order.
Rethinking Society’s Priorities and Values
In order for the workplace to be flexible for mothers, a change must be made in our most basic societal priorities and values, and this is a more difficult and deeper change. Two values specifically must be examined, the first being the value our society places on money and the value we place as a society on the centrality of the family. Our American culture especially places a very high value on monetary efficiency and maximizing profits. The cut-throat environment of the highest levels of business administration is an example of this, where morality is often subverted in by the opportunity to increase profits. Many families are forced to choose to have two working parents. They are forced to neglect their social and spiritual needs of their children because they feel they need to make more money in a work environment that completely overlooks the needs of their children. In fact, our society devalues most things you cannot put a price tag on, and because you cannot earn revenue by staying at home and raising your own children, it has lost its value in our society. And the family itself has lost value. Of course there will be concerns that many of the changes to the workplace I have been proposing would cost companies and undermine profit maximization. Indeed they would. But I propose a change in the value system here that would put family as a priority for all members of society, including these companies.
How do we help companies see an intrinsic if not entirely tangible benefit to society as a whole in sacrificing a few dollars while encouraging all employees to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of their children? This requires real moral leadership from our policymakers. If society could adjust its moral lens, it would see in the asset column of the balance sheet the formerly invisible benefits that derive from nurturing the family and letting women contribute in the workplace. Society would see a true profit maximization, for those formerly invisible assets greatly outweigh any monetary cost. Not only would the family be getting proper attention, but women would finally have an equal voice. And when women have an equal voice, those things that are most prominently part of their experience, such as the needs of children, a maternal perspective of security, and the social needs of the state rather than the abstract power struggles of political leaders, would be given proper attention on the political agenda.
In fact, some governments have already started to recognize the importance of women’s contribution. After seeing the strong economic benefits of including women several European nations have already passed legislation requiring a specific level of women’s participation in the highest management levels of businesses, (Buzek 2011). Further, societies, and especially those in the developing world, would see that women are fully able contribute something more than their biology to society. Their strength, courage, and full capabilities of women as human beings could be realized and recognized. In this way, societies would become less dysfunctional as the perspective and knowledge of women complement that of men.
If money gave up its place as the ultimate value of our society and the family took its place as a top priority, several changes in the workplace and divisions of labor would occur. First of all, the resume of a housewife would no longer be perceived as having “nothing” on it. Because mothering and nurturing and maintaining a home does not reap financial rewards (unless you do it as a profession and get paid to do this same work for someone else’s children) currently we deprive it of the label of “work.” A stay-at-home mom is not considered working, for a working mother is one who has a career and children. Of course, we can all see that this is not true and that parenting requires a plethora of skills that are refined and developed over time and can be applied in the workplace.
Once we detach the requirement of a paycheck or a schooling certificate as the only signifier of work and experience, we can see that mothers, or more truly, parents, develop many qualifying skills. Ann Crittenden’s Book, If You’ve Raised Kids You Can Manage Anything (2005), describes how specific skills from parenting transfer directly and valuably to the workplace, and shares the experiences of over a hundred interviewees who felt that being a parent made them more effective managers and workers. If the value we place on things in our society is detached from its monetary worth, full-time parenthood can then become a very salient item to put on a resume.
Furthermore, if the government is supposed to be serving citizens and families, then in order to be qualified for their positions, leaders need to know from experience what the family needs. In other words, any candidate who cannot say they have engaged in hands-on caregiving of any kind should be considered less-qualified to hold office, in my opinion. Perhaps even more importantly, once caregiving is valued and seen as a worthy item for a resume, then fathers will be more likely to take an equal share in housework and balance the responsibility of staying home and taking care of children with their wives. Both can make sacrifices to their career while lightening the load of the sacrifice on the other. In this way, women would not be disadvantaged by being the only parent with a double duty, and caretaking then becomes a universal qualification for the resumes of both men and women. This universal responsibility of both sexes provides a clue for the next level of change as will be addressed in this paper.
As part of changing this value system, another change must be made in how we construct the stereotype a man is expected to fill, including the values they are expected to hold and their definition of success. Society has prescribed specific behaviors and expectations for each sex, which we call gender. Anyone can come up with several examples illustrating what society has constructed out of sex, such as the need for a man to appear tough, dominant, athletic, and ambitious or for a woman to appear nurturing, sensitive, delicate and emotion-oriented. Since the women’s movement of the middle of the last century, the stereotypes women are expected to fill have become more flexible. This has liberated women from their anachronistic stereotypes that they were less intelligent and less capable than men, and this change made it socially acceptable for them to enter the realm of men (for the most part). No one scoffs much anymore at the idea of a woman in the workplace, a woman wearing blue jeans, or a woman who is outspoken, or the woman with the rough and tough personality who works in the mechanics shop.
But men have not been equally liberated from their own dysfunctional stereotype. A man who wants to learn ballet or pursue a career in fashion design, who is aware of and shows his emotions, or especially who may want to stay home with the children, is still given a very hard time by society. Many men reject their own interest because of the stereotype. Stepping outside the stereotypes is not as accepted, even by the individual men themselves. Additionally, men experience much more pressure to obtain prestige and financial affluence to gain respect in society, and because of this, they may wrongly feel subverted when women try to share in this chance and provide them with twice as much competition.
But more importantly, if we are going to make family the first priority for the society, it needs to be the priority for both men and women in the society, and putting family first must be stereotypically acceptable for men. The double duty of caretaking and social influence must be shared by both men and women. In the last century, we finally allowed women to share in traditional “male” values of leadership and workplace competence, but now to complete the liberation we need to bring traditional “female” values to the forefront as well to balance the ticket--values of caring for family and creating the hope of the future in our children. As Hilary M. Lips notes in her book Sex and Gender, since the time when women seriously entered the workforce, men have not taken an equal step into the realm of domestic care of children and housework (Lips 2005, pg. 445). We need to make this a central societal value, one that is socially acceptable for men to hold as a top priority for themselves as well as women. Instead of caring mainly about power and authority, men need to also care as much about the welfare of society and the family that is at the center of welfare.
The Proclamation on the Family provides just such counsel: men need to be fathers, and not in the traditional way of just “breadwinning,” but in the divine way of nurturing and domestic work (The First Presidency). Paragraph six of The Proclamation says that rearing children, “providing for their physical and spiritual needs, teaching them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens” is the responsibility of both parents, and that “husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (emphasis added).
Elder Boyd K. Packer also said, “There is no task, however menial, connected with the care of babies, the nurturing of children, or with the maintenance of the home that is not the husband’s equal obligation. The tasks which come with parenthood, which many consider to be below other tasks, are simply above them” (Packer, 1989). Elder Dallin H. Oaks said “homemaking is not just baking bread or cleaning a house. Homemaking is to make the environment necessary to nurture our children toward eternal life, which is our responsibility as parents. And that homemaking is as much for fathers as it is for mothers.” Men are to take an equal share in the nurturing of the children, according to the leaders of our church. And yes, men can nurture just as well as women, psychological studies testing the assumption that women are better nurturers yields ambiguous findings due to cultural influences, so the argument that women are naturally better equipped for the work in the home is weak with little scientific backing. (Lips 2005, pg. 161-162). God expects both fathers and mothers to be nurturing their children. Only when domestic care is an equally shared priority by both men and women, as is urged by the Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can opportunities to contribute talents in the workplace and an opportunity to have influence in the world be given equally to men and women.
Although there is a practical need and moral imperative for women to have equal representation in government and business, there is not a moral imperative for all mothers to work outside the home. Some women do not wish to have a career other than being a mother. If being a stay-at-home mother did not leave them voiceless, women would no longer have to sacrifice family in order to pursue a dream or to contribute their essential perspective to society. Not all women need to be leaders, but those who can and want to fill those seats that are due them will have the freedom to do so without feeling as if they are somehow disobeying God’s counsel.
Psychological and sociological studies that break down gender stereotypes and show the wide variety of personalities among women and men suggest that we can expect that even though some women may still want to stay home, there will be enough women who have the desire and ability to fill the seats of societal leadership when given that freedom and opportunity (Lips 2005). Consequently, we cannot assume that women as a group wouldn’t want to be a part of government simply because they are mothers. Those mothers who choose to make the noble career of caretaking of home and family their sole pursuit will still have the freedom do so. Additionally, when family becomes a preeminent societal value, those stay-at-home moms would no longer have to face the criticism they do in society today, for society would then see their pursuit as noble as it truly is. Men will also have the freedom to express their talents, whether or not they are presently stereotypically appropriate for their sex. Fore example, men who choose to stay at home with their children for a time will no longer face accusation that they are irresponsible or lazy. Both women and men will have equal freedom in this society to develop their God-given talents without arbitrary societal constraints.
For too many centuries and across too many nations have women suffered severe consequences from their voicelessness and subjugation, and this is not the way of God. The daughters of our Father and Mother in Heaven can feel the divine endowment of strength, leadership, intelligence, courage, and capability in themselves. It is their calling and duty to live up to these. Indeed, only by doing so can they truly rectify the injustices done them by the ever-present and all-pervasive fallen patriarchal societies of the world.
Unfortunately, in order to do this, major changes are in order. Our fallen patriarchal societies have unnecessarily constructed a value system and a workplace incompatible with the family. I have come to the conclusion that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knew this, and knowing the preeminence of the family in God’s eternal plan, there was a time when they advised mothers to stay home because this was the only way to make sure children got what they need given the societal circumstances. In and before that time period, women didn’t have the same career opportunities as men nor did they have the same access to resources, and so men were asked to provide and women were asked to stay home. I believed it grieved our Heavenly Parents to be forced by a fallen world to limit the opportunities of their daughters disproportionately.
But given a changing workplace that is starting to respond to the needs of women since their large-scale entrance into the workforce after the women’s rights movement, the counsel for mothers to stay home is no longer explicitly heard from the pulpit. What we hear now is that no one—neither fathers nor mothers—should allow the needs of their children to become secondary, but that how fathers and mothers arrange their lives in order to make sure their children come first is left up to individual families (Hales 2010). Apostle Quinton L. Cook’s words, cited in preceding sections, that plead with us to make accommodations in the workplace for both women and men to help them fulfill their family responsibilities do not identify this as a gendered issue. In fact, nowhere in the Proclamation on the Family does it state that the mother should stay home, but in fact it asks Latter-day Saints to take a place in influencing governments to support the family. It is time for women to be given a chance and an opportunity to fulfill this call.
As we make the strength of the family the preeminent value in our society for both men and women, encourage men to take their divinely appointed share in the care of the family, bring the importance of money down to its proper place, and alter the structure of the workplace to reflect these changing values, women can take their rightful seat at the side of men as the co-leaders, co-creators of knowledge, and co-architects of the future for the betterment of mankind, for this is God’s (both Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father’s) will and plan.
So what do we do now at this moment? How does one individual woman with a dream make it work for her now, while society still erects barriers? First of all, these changes won’t ever happen if individuals don’t act in such a way as to make these changes necessary. As we search for flexible careers ourselves, let us have the courage to make our needs known to employers. Many careers offer some flexibility for parents, so look for a job that will accommodate caregiving to the extent you can, and employers will start to see that they must make these accommodations if they want to attract employees. Follow Elder James E. Faust’s principle of “sequential living,” where you can take a time at home to raise your kids and pursue a career before or afterwards (Faust, 1985). Women, if you have a talent and training, keep up some work of your career during the caregiving years.
But it is also important for both fathers and mothers to apply the other societal changes to your perspective. Recognize that money is not the ultimate good and it can be sacrificed to some extent in the pursuit of your dream or for your family. Reject societal criticism and let husbands take a turn staying home to equally share the sacrifice so it is lightened for the wife. If you can manage to find a part-time job with enough benefits, consider both parents working part time and sharing childcare shifts. And let the husband take his share of housework and childcare as advised by the Church leadership. It is important to be flexible and to set your priorities in order so you can see what needs to be sacrificed when the need arises. You may have to sacrifice some of your career goals or other desires, but keep an open mind and explore options before you consider the cause lost.
All adaptations will be very individual and will depend on what the wife feels God has called her to do, what the husband feels God has called him to do, and the needs of the family. The most important principle is mutual support. If a husband and wife are committed to letting each other’s’ dreams come true and supporting a family, they can find a way to do both in a way that is pleasing in the eyes of God. Since greater flexibility and new technology are already revolutionizing the workplace, you can feel confident your family can find a way to do everything the Lord calls the members of your family to do, in a way that builds up, rather than tears down, your family.
With this broadened vision and a better acquaintance with God’s nature and will, I no longer cry myself to sleep at night. I no longer feel funneled into a pre-designed box where I cannot thrive and grow as I was meant to. I look forward to an exciting and difficult future in which I can build schools for little girls and little boys, where I can help the underprivileged find their voice, where I can work with governments and businesses to bring these same opportunities to others. And I will do this with a man who shares my vision, who sees our potential and the possibilities that await us if we think creatively and refuse to simply take what society hands us. I am sure it will not be easy, but “easy” is not what I signed up for. I want to meet the harshness of the world and fight for a better one, refining my character and using the talents born in me. I now look forward with peace and power knowing I have God’s approval and encouragement as I set out to do a work I know is divine.
Ballard, M. Russell. 2001. “Here I Am, Send Me.” Devotional address given at Brigham Young University, 13 March 2001
Belluck, Pam. 2000. A bit of burping is allowed, if it keeps parents on the job. New York Times, 4 December, A1. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/04/us/a-bit-of-burping-is-allowed-if-it-keeps-parents-on-the-job.html?scp=1&sq=belluck%20a%20bit%20of%20burping&st=cse (accessed December 9, 2010)
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Full Citation for This Article: Clark, Kaylie (2011) "Giving Women a Voice Without Sacrificing Faith or Family: The Changes Needed to Create an Egalitarian Society," SquareTwo, Vol. 4 No. 1 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleClarkFaithandFamily.html, accessed [give access date].
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