Sunday, February 15, 2009

Motherhood Part II--Mother At Home

The Lord clearly defined the roles of mothers and fathers in providing for and rearing a righteous posterity. In the beginning, Adam--not Eve--was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother's calling is in the home, not in the market place. ~Ezra Taft Benson

Today is Part II, if you missed Part I (about why we should not delay childbearing) click on over and read it. Parts III and IV are coming.
Part II focuses on why mother should be in the home rather than working outside of it.
I listed a number of links in part I--the quotes here continue to come from those sources. All italicized/indented portions of the post are quotes.
Go ahead and get comfortable--I think this one is even longer than part I. ☺
Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security, her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world. ~David O. McKay

The hand that rocks the cradle
is the hand that rules the world.
~ William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)

We know these things--that a mother has great influence on her children and that she, probably more than any other, carries the responsibility for setting them on the paths they will follow as adults. With this serious responsibility before us, it is a wonder to me that so many women hand their children off to others and leave the home to join the workforce.
Since the beginning, a woman’s first and most important role has been ushering into mortality spirit sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. Since the beginning, her role has been to teach her children eternal gospel principles. She is to provide for her children a haven of security and love—regardless of how modest her circumstances might be.
In the beginning, Adam was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow—not Eve. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s place is in the home!
I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations. Beguiling voices in the world cry out for “alternative life-styles” for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood. These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the “Mormon woman stereotype” of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment.
~ETBenson [link]
Did you notice that bit? The "propaganda" of there being acceptable womens roles other than homemaking? I have no doubt that that was an intentional word choice--and all the negativity that goes along with it is something we should pay attention to. Yes, those voices are many and they are growing louder, but they are wrong!
[Women] are to become a career woman in the greatest career on earth--that of homemaker, wife, and mother. It was never intended by the Lord that married women should compete with men in employment. They have a far greater and more important service to render.
The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a haven of delight.
Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment. Two incomes raise the standard of living beyond its norm. Two spouses working prevent the complete and proper home life, break into the family prayers, create an independence which is not cooperative, causes distortion, limits the family, and frustrates the children already born. ~Spencer W. Kimball [link]
In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect their wives to go out of the home and work even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job be is able secure may not be ideal and family budgeting will have to be tighter. ~ETBenson [link]
Let me tell you my own experiences with this. Before I was married, I earned a degree as a school teacher. I graduated mid-year and spent the next few months substituting full-time. I really enjoyed teaching--it was challenging and stimulating and fun. I planned to continue down that path, but then I got married. As most of my readers probably know, Wolf was 3 when Hubby and I married, so I never had those childless days of early marriage. Since there was a child in the home, I came home too. Hubby was finishing his last few college classes, and money was very tight. I was able to find a job with a local theatre company sewing costumes (from home). It was erratic work though, and after a year or so I had to quit. Hubby was taking classes three days a week, and we decided that on the days he was not in school, one of us should be working. I had my teaching certificate and he did not have his yet, so we figured I could earn more money and he should stay home with Wolf on those days. I signed up to be a substitute teacher with the local school district. This was right before Christmas break, and within a few days I was scheduled for every available day until break.
On my first day of subbing I spent most of the day fretting that I really needed to get home and do the laundry and wash dishes and other housewifely things. Meanwhile, hanging out at home with a four-year-old and no car for six hours, Hubby got stir-crazy. He ordered pizza for lunch because he couldn't figure out what to cook (in spite of the pantry full of food), and the minute I got home he said he just needed to get out of the house for a little while and he went for a drive. Now I do not tell this story to make fun of my Hubby, or to suggest that he can't handle the house (because he really can); I tell the story to illustrate that there is something hard-wired into men and women. Men need to be out and doing things; and while a single woman can find great enjoyment in being out, a mother will be more fulfilled if she is where she belongs: at home. I enjoyed teaching when I was single; I never imagined it would be so different after only a year, but it was. (For the record, after Christmas break Hubby got signed up and he started subbing on the days he was not in school. My out-of-state license meant that I got the same wage as an unlicensed teacher, so I wasn't earning any more than Hubby anyway, and I hated being gone and he hated being home while I was gone, so it was a very simple decision.)

I can understand that the decision feels much harder in cases where the wife is earning more than her husband can, but some things are more important than money, and so I strongly encourage any mother who works outside the home to prayerfully evaluate her options, and to try to come home.
It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters.
We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence.
Too often the pressure for popularity, on children and teens, places an economic burden on the income of the father, so mother feels she must go to work to satisfy her children’s needs. That decision can be most shortsighted. It is mother’s influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child’s basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother’s loving example to choose righteousness. How vital are mother’s influence and teaching in the home—and how apparent when neglected! I do not wish to wound any feelings, but all of us are aware of instances of active Latter-day Saint families who are experiencing difficulties with their children because mother is not where she ought to be—in the home. A recent national magazine gave these alarming figures: “More than 14 million children ages 6 to 13 now have working mothers, and it is estimated that a third of them are unsupervised for lengthy periods each day.” (U.S. News and World Report, 14 Sept. 1981, p. 42.) The seeds of divorce are often sown and the problems of children begin when mother works outside the home. You mothers should carefully count the cost before you decide to share breadwinning responsibilities with your husbands. It is a truism that children need more of mother than of money. ~ETBenson [link]
Children are meant to be with their mothers, it's that simple.
I find it interesting that back in 1972 President Kimball said that having two incomes "raises the standard of living above the norm." While two incomes may now be considered 'normal,' I would venture to say that having two incomes still creates an inflated standard of living. President Hinckley referred to "extravagances." If you have read this post (or this one or this one) you will realize that I classify a great many 'normal' things as 'extravagances.'
Incidentally, I have seen studies indicating that when a woman goes to work, most if not all of her income is eaten up by the expenses of her job (additional taxes, her work wardrobe, vehicle, gas money, childcare, etc), so I would venture to say that a second income may not be so much income as hassle.

It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.
~Gordon B Hinckley

If mother will come home, not only will she find that there is plenty to keep her busy and stimulated, but being a mother and homemaker is also very fulfilling. I was raised by a stay at home mother who taught me domestic skills, and for this I am eternally grateful (you've heard me say before that my mother is one in a hundred million). Those who were not raised in homes where they saw these things may have a harder time adjusting to the lifestyle, but that does not make it any less ideal. Sure, the work of keeping a home can get tiring, monotonous, and dull, but the children never do. And while I suspect that every mother has those days where she goes a little crazy, well, I'm pretty sure that working women get them too, and I'm positive that working mothers get them twice as much as anybody else (because they are trying to do two things at once, and that just never works very well).
For those mothers who are inclined to stay home so long as their children are small, but are considering going to work as soon as the youngest enters school, please pay special attention to the end of this next quote.
To you young women with small children, yours is a tremendous challenge. So often there is not enough money. You must scrimp and save. You must be wise and careful in your expenditures. You must be strong and bold and brave and march forward with gladness in your eye and love in your heart. How blessed you are, my dear young mothers. You have children who will be yours forever... Nothing else you will ever own, no worldly thing you will ever acquire will be worth so much as the love of your children. God bless you, my dear, dear young mothers.
Then we have you older women who are neither young nor old. You are in the most wonderful season of your lives. Your children are in their teens. Possibly one or two are married. Some are on missions, and you are sacrificing to keep them in the field. You are hoping and praying for their success and happiness. To you dear women I offer some special counsel. Count your blessings; name them one by one. You don’t need a great big mansion of a house with an all-consuming mortgage that goes on forever. You do need a comfortable and pleasant home where love abides. Someone has said that there is no more beautiful picture than that of a good woman cooking a meal for those she loves. Weigh carefully that which you do. You do not need some of the extravagances that working outside the home might bring. Weigh carefully the importance of your being in the home when your children come from school. ~GBHinckley [link]
The act of deserting home in order to shape society is like thoughtlessly removing crucial fingers from an imperiled dike in order to teach people to swim.
~Neal A Maxwell

(I'm going to wait just a moment while you go back and re-read that last quote there. It hits like a ton of bricks, doesn't it?)

Of course there are occasional exceptions, and our prophets have spoken to this as well:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. [link]

I am aware that many of you often find yourselves in circumstances that are not always ideal... I recognize that some sisters are widowed or divorced....I also recognize that not all women in the Church will have an opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality. But if you in this situation are worthy and endure faithfully, you can be assured of all blessings from a kind and loving Heavenly Father—and I emphasize all blessings.
Solutions for you who are in a minority are not the same as for the majority of women in the Church who can and should be fulfilling their roles as wives and mothers. It is a misguided idea that a woman should leave the home, where there is a husband and children, to prepare educationally and financially for an unforeseen eventuality. Too often, I fear, even women in the Church use the world as their standard for success and basis for self-worth. ~ETBenson [link]

It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee. I know how some of you struggle with decisions concerning this matter. I repeat, do the very best you can. You know your circumstances, and I know that you are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children. Each of you has a bishop who will counsel with you and assist you. If you feel you need to speak with an understanding woman, do not hesitate to get in touch with your Relief Society president. ~GBHinckley [link]
President Hinckley was always especially understanding of those few who are exceptions to the rule...however, I strongly urge you to never assume that you are the exception. Do everything within your power to avoid working outside the home--even in cases where the mother needs to contribute to the family finances, I would propose that it's preferable to find work that can be done from home, or to at least stagger work schedules with your husband so that you do not have to send your children off to babysitters or daycare. This is one reason why I have chosen the career options that I have (teaching, sewing at home and selling online, and childbirth education): these things will allow me the maximum amount of time with my children if I ever have to rely on them to support my family. I do not by any means suggest that other career paths are inferior, I just want to clarify that one of my criteria in choosing my career options was something that would allow me to still be with my children.
Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power. ~JBBeck [link]
I conclude with a link back to President Benson's list of ten ways a mother can spend effective time with her children (because the list is so good it warranted it's own post!)


Becky N. said...

Great post, Jenni!

The thing that really jumped out at me most was this part:
"We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence."

There are SO MANY people in my ward, and even in my family, who put their children in preschool, even if it's very part-time preschool. And then I feel like a complete oddball and societal abnormality when (it feels) like I'm the only one who doesn't. And sometimes, I just want to cave and join the crowd, because it becomes so difficult to find regular playmates for my children when at least 95% of my peers don't have their children at home during the day!

But even if I didn't lean slightly toward the idea of homeschooling, I protest the idea of preschool based solely on the fact that I'm home... why on EARTH would I pay hard-earned, much-needed money for someone else to take my kids for a few hours and teach them things I could manage on my own?

I can understand the draw. The school readiness, the social experiences (which are so lacking when you're one of the few not in preschool), the free time for mommy to run errands (oh, my, how errands with 3 young children can become overwhelming!)... but I truly wish more people, *especially* in the church, would skip preschool. I was happy to see a quote directly related to my current thoughts.

Kelly said...

This is a fantastic post! I needed to read this right now, thanks for sharing it!

Carrie said...

Great quotes! I didn't get to read through all of it, but I will come back and finish it. I just think you are wonderful for sharing your testimony about these very important aspects of motherhood.

At a fireside tonight, I was talking to a woman who said two things that stood out to me: 1) She should have had more children and, 2) She should have stayed home with them instead of working. I was amazed by her comment that she wouldn't have gone inactive in the Church IF she had done those two things! Obedience brings such great blessings!

lynnette said...

Ah to live in a world of absolutes...

Katrina said...

Thanks for collecting all these quotes and putting them together in your "series." I appreciate reading them and being reminded of what our prophets have taught us. Even though I follow their counsel, it is easy to feel like the odd one out and forget why I'm doing things this way.
On the preschool thing: It was interesting to read that, and I agree with it and what Becky said. However, in our case, after much prayer and contemplation, I felt that preschool was something our four year-old needed. And then an opportunity fell into our laps for her to attend a great preschool for free! So, even in this there are sometimes exceptions. Of course we all just need to follow the spirit in our decisions...

nicole said...

Love it. Thank you. I think one of my favorite quotes of all time is that last one about Mothers who do less... probably because that's difficult for me. I find it really difficult to balance everything in this modern world. But the number one priority in life needs to be the home and family. I love the quote by Sheri Dew... "We no longer have the luxury of spending our time on anything that doesn't lead us and our families closer to Christ." I think we constantly need to evaluate how we're spending our time, and make corrections where needed. Thanks again for the reminder! xoxo

Jessica said...

Thank you for this post. I have felt the tempting pull of the workplace and it can be hard sometimes to remember why I chose to stay home.
Last year while my husband was out of work I took a temporary job that started out as a three week assignment and turned in to a six month job. Although I was often gone for ten to twelve hours per day, I have to admit that I loved my job! I was a "Patient Services Coordinator" for a medical office, which meant I was constantly helping the patients without all the stress of nursing. It was great to constantly be praised for doing an efficient job, cheerfully assisting patients, and learning new things quickly. I kept pictures of my kids on my desk and many people would stop and ask about them. It was surprising how many people thought I had it made - one boy, one girl, and a good job; life is perfect, right? Then I would inform them that I intended to go back home as soon as my husband returned to work and their faces would change. They'd say, "Oh, good for you," as if being "just a mom" somehow couldn't be enough for anyone.
I can't say it was easy to come back home, especially since I was pregnant and sick and hubby still didn't have a job, but I know it was the right thing to do, and our family was much happier with me in the home. Sometimes I wonder why I am here when I feel like I was so much better at the "other" job, but I'm still learning and working at it. I know that being "just a mom" can be just as fulfilling as working outside the home, you just need to have the right mindset. I also remember that my full-time job is to make our one income stretch to cover all our expenses. It's not always easy, but we've learned from experience that this is the right way.

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