guest post by Maddisen Tingey
It’s no secret that we Mormons have a culture of our own.
That culture is extremely prevalent in my home state of Utah. One of the key elements of the LDS lifestyle is the family structure. This structure consists of a hard-working father with a desk job, brief case, and conventional car with exceptional gas mileage. It also consists of a nurturing, soft-spoken homemaking mother, and upwards of 4 offspring. This structure is neatly outlined in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Perhaps this is the ideal family situation, given that each family member is fulfilled with his/her role. However, there are individuals out there who don’t fit this destined mold.
I am one of those misfits.
At 19 years old, I am in my “golden years” — the time of my life where I should be pretty darn close, if not already, betrothed to a young man, preparing to reproduce, and perfecting my mad home-making skills that will inevitably preoccupy the remainder of my life. After not even two decades of existing in mortal form, 30% of my graduating class is engaged, married, or married with kiddo #1 on the way.
I have never been able to see myself choosing this path.
I have ambitious academic and professional goals. Rather than having baby showers and saving up for a minivan with built-in car seats, I see myself attending study-abroad programs and getting multiple diplomas. However, when people ask me about my plans for the future, the question always arises: “Well, where does having a family fit in?”
If a young man of my similar situation shared his ambitions, he would rarely, if ever, be questioned about when he plans on starting a family. Because men get to do both. Men HAVE to do both. This whole early marriage and baby-making thing is actually rather convenient for men, I’d say. Men can, and must, according to the church, be the providers for their families. They are free to get a degree and have a powerful career, and after their 8-5 shift they can come home and play catch with Junior while Mom slaves away in the kitchen. Best of both worlds.
Rarely is that the case for a woman. Every situation is different, and a lot of women have to work in order to support their families. I feel that the Church tries to make everything one-size-fits-all instead of recognizing its members as individuals – that there is no blanket-solution to the right way to set up your family.
What if the 8-5 gig is exactly what I, an LDS female, desire?
But Maddie, your role is to be a nurturing mother, chauffeur, and diaper-changer.
I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that my gender has THAT much determination of what I can and cannot do with my life. I personally believe that God wants all his children to be happy, and that He won’t love me any less for prioritizing a career at the top of my life’s to-do list. My ambitions are just as important as my future husband’s.
However, my church doesn’t seem to agree with me.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, ““No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother—cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children… “… I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the café.”
It’s frustrating to hear all this talk of how women are the stronger gender because we can give birth (and have a nurturing intuition and all that jazz), but we’re expected to devote our lives to pursuing that route of mother and homemaker regardless of our differing interests. What if working outside the home makes me happy? What if a career gives me a sense of empowerment and fulfillment that I simply cannot feel any way else? I know of multiple instances in which the father is the primary caretaker of the children, and the mother plays the role of the breadwinner. Guess what? These families are just as functional as the ones in which the roles are reversed.
All I want is to be given the same career opportunities as my male peers, without the expectation to drop my aspirations and dreams in exchange for the ability to have a family. I should be able to have both, just as any husband is able. I want to be reassured that my own ambitions are important, and I want to be encouraged to pursue these ambitions.
Enough of this “gender role” nonsense.
Let’s start recognizing individuals as individuals and come to terms with the fact that not every woman is meant to work strictly within the home. Quite frankly, I believe that I would go absolutely crazy.
Maddisen Tingey is currently a sophomore studying English and Women’s Studies. She is working towards a PhD in English with the desire to become an author or editor. She loves to travel and hopes to see the entire world someday. Maddisen is currently the author of her own personal feminist blog, DownWithTheNorm.com, in which she discusses more of her feminist philosophies and experiences in daily life.