Zelophehad’s Daughters

Why I Am Not A Mother (Yet)

Posted by Petra

I’ve been married for a little over two years now and I don’t have any children yet. I realize that isn’t unusual, even in Mormonism, and no one around me has put any pressure on me to start, with the possible exception of my mother, who I am pretty sure is joking. Mostly.

I’m sure we’ll have children eventually, though I’m a little less sure I can articulate the reasons why: we’d be good parents, at least to an emotionally tough child; people who have children seem to enjoy them; they’re the future, my genes are fantastic and deserve to be passed on, etc etc. This has been in my mind a lot lately, though: why aren’t we having them (or even thinking about having them) now? We’re in our late twenties, healthy, in a good marriage, and financially stable. In some ways, timing really couldn’t get better.

So why not now? To tell you the truth, it’s in part because I’m terrified. Not just of having a living creature depending on me all the time–scary though that is for a girl who once killed a cactus, I think I could probably rise to the occasion and not overwater a baby. Likewise with my fears of pregnancy and childbirth-they’re big, they’re real, but I could overcome. (This isn’t my decision alone, of course, but this post is about my feelings, not my husband’s.)

The real fear for me stems from the Church’s promotion of motherhood as a woman’s ultimate identity and role. Though I know countless women who put the lie to this idea, somehow I absorbed along the way the notion that once a woman is a mother, that’s it, she’s over as an individual; now that she is a mother, she sacrifices everything—her own pursuits, skills, hobbies, personality, and especially career—for her family.

I know this isn’t (always) what the Church teaches literally, but it’s there in the constant pushing of children over career (for women), of motherhood over priesthood (for women), of motherhood even over some Church service (for women). It’s there in statements that the most important thing for a woman is to become a mother, and it’s there in the women we celebrate: in Mary, in Eve, in nearly all of the women in scripture; in Jane Clayson Johnson’s proud book-length declaration I Am A Mother; it’s even, in a twisted way, there in Sheri Dew’s famous formulation that we are all mothers. (She wouldn’t have to pretend that all women are mothers if there were other things women are valued for.) It’s there in the Young Women manuals, which state that “if a sister does not marry [and then, it’s assumed, have children], she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts”—the implication being that a woman who marries does not have that right. The message I get, both spoken and unspoken, is that while I’m childless I can also be a career woman, a reader, a stake public affairs rep, a barefoot runner, a traveller, an anything-I-want-to-be, once I give birth that’s all over. And while I may be ready to take responsibility for a child I’m not yet ready to give up myself.

I know this isn’t rational, and I know it’s selfish, and yes, I know that the early baby years can be all-consuming, and that it’s biology’s fault, not the Church’s, that the burden of very young children falls disproportionately on women. Furthermore, as I said, I have counterexamples all around me in the women I know and love. This is a problem more of rhetoric than of real life.

But rhetoric matters, and this rhetorical burden also falls almost entirely on women. We still have the constant equation of womanhood and motherhood in Mormon discourse, as if there is no identity for a woman outside her children, and, alongside it, the constant, constant pressure for a woman to have those children and therefore define herself, while men do not face the same pressure. When I listen to Church discourse I hear a subtext that women are important because they’re mothers, not because they’re individuals, and women’s lives are valuable only because of the lives that depend on them. I think some of these messages come from a good place—mothering really is undervalued in our society, and the Church is trying to counteract that—but they can still backfire, leaving people like me reluctant to ever have children. Maybe some worldly views of women’s roles are false because they are too self-centered (as the YW manual also claims), but it’s also possible for a view of women’s roles to be too other-centered. For me, this rhetorical pendulum has swung too far: in trying to tell me and the young women of my generation that motherhood is valued, we’ve ended up hearing that motherhood is our only value.

48 Responses to “Why I Am Not A Mother (Yet)”

  1. 1.

    Perfect.

    I have no snark to jauntily contribute because I’m bowled over by how true this is– for me, for everyone I think.

  2. 2.

    This is the best articulation of my motherhood hangups that I could ever envision. Thank you for putting it together so much better than I ever could.

  3. 3.

    This. Thank you. This also pretty well covers why I don’t mind still being single, too. ‘Make me [humble], but not just yet,’ I suppose.

  4. 4.

    Although I agree that the rhetoric has swung too far in the way you describe, I don’t think it’s affecting my feelings or my choices. I’m not afraid of losing myself, mostly because my mom has always remained very much her own person, as have most of the women I grew up around in the Greatest Ward on Earth. Although if I’m truthful, it probably also has something to do with the fact that I’m just not very ambitious, so I don’t worry that much about my (at the moment nonexistent anyway) career.

  5. 5.

    All I can say is “Amen,” but I think you were expecting that.

  6. 6.

    You’ll never find yourself — completely, that is — if you don’t engage all your basic hardware. You’ve got to meet the measure of your design — not in haste, though.

    Caveat: The spirit knoweth all things.

  7. 7.

    I love your last two sentences.

    For me I had no hesitation in having kids. In retrospect I wish I had. But it was the right thing to do. My husband wanted them. I wanted them. I never thought of it as a sacrifice of my self.

    It wasn’t until I had my children that I realized I had no self to sacrifice. And how I’ve desperately wanted that self to sacrifice so that I can at times not sacrifice it in order to differentiate (opposition in all things) and give me strength (fill my cup). When another defines what your self is and ought to be, then it’s never really *your* self.

    Now not only am I suffering through the consequences of such and attempting to find and define myself at this late stage. My children are affected too, even as I was affected by a mother who had had another “self” forced upon her.

  8. 8.

    So Jack, even though I’ve had the Spirit tell me again and again that I am not supposed to marry and have children and that I have a different path; I’ll never fully find myself? (By the why, this is witnessed by bishops, blessings from home teachers and family members, etc, so it’s not just my own interpretation.) What about Jesus? Or the Nazarenes like Samuel or John the Baptist who were not supposed to marry? Or Anna who as a prophetess witnessed of Christ’s birth? She wouldn’t have been serving in the temple to do so if she had children. Did Eliza Snow never find herself or her true calling? Or Sheri Dew, Barbara Thompson, Ardeth Kapp Perry (she and her husband were actually instructed by the Lord not to adopt or try fertility treatments when they realized they couldn’t have children by traditional means)?

  9. 9.

    Great post, Petra! You articulate this so well! Even though as a guy I often miss such messages, I think you’ve given me a sense of what it feels like to be right in the crosshairs of the woman-is-mother-only rhetoric.

  10. 10.

    Brava.

  11. 11.

    BTW, I’m sure you’ll figure out a balance for yourself and family when you do have children.

  12. 12.

    Beautiful. I can completely relate. I especially like when you say, “we’ve ended up hearing that motherhood is our only value”. I certainly heard that message growing up and it is very problematic on so many levels. And the back-pedaling is sometimes even worse . . . “oh, well . . . I guess if you HAVE to work outside the home . . . oh, you can’t have kids? Well, um . . . you do can do mother-ish things still, too!” I’m exaggerating, of course, but it bothers me that strict gender roles leave little room for individual needs, desires, abilities or personal revelation.

    Thanks again for you post.

  13. 13.

    Your concerns are accurate even tho I’m guessing you’re probably thirty yerars younger than me. I had nine children and two miscarriages over the span of thirty four years, I married young and began having babies eleven months later. At the time I thought I was doing what I was “supposed” to do but now that My children are grown and gone (all but one) some of them have told me they felt neglected, think I had too many kids, etc. It hurts to hear them say that but it’s true. I was a very good Mormon mother but the sheer number of children was overwhelming. Factor in an abusive husband and I felt bewildered. At this stage of my life, I wish I would have had an identity to hold on to. other than Mormon mother and wife. I did do some community volunteer work but always felt guilty about it. I’ve wondered if I would have felt differently if my now X was not abusive. He took so much of my energy. Bottom line – you are who you are – a daughter of Mother and Father – with unique gifts and talents. Becoming a mother forges a connection with our divine Mother, true, but we all weave our individual tapestries – we each play numerous roles and at different times in our lives. Enjoy the life you have now.

  14. 14.

    de Pizan,

    That’s why I put that little caveat in there. God knows how to make up the difference.

  15. 15.

    Ditto to everything you said. It is so hard to explain that to people but it’s exactly how I feel. I am so afraid that I will have to give up my identify when I have children.

    I’ve been married for over 5 years so the pressure is there (on one side of the family at least). I got married when I was 20, so I’m not in my mid 20’s. In the LDS world it feels old. All I have to do though is look around at work, and I realize that I am very young. Most of my co-workers with young children are in their early 30’s.

  16. 16.

    This post raises issues I’ve struggled to articulate even to myself, especially since I became a mother (and, sorry to say, got completely swallowed up by motherhood/postpartum depression for a year, and then just motherhood itself for quite a while after that, through another pregnancy and then life with two kids. Now that my youngest is 18 months old, I’m starting to feel as if my head is above water just a little, as if I can see out over the tide constantly threatening to engulf me).

    Partly because I have no time or energy to think, I can’t figure out how to think about, much less live, a life that meets the unending needs of small children but also permits me some pursuits of my own so that I’m not lost and drowned and cast up on the shore of Diaperland, like a female Jonah of the Pampers. I’ve had a lot of angst over my unending Ph.D. since my first child was born, and more often than not I feel it’s killing me off and fantasize desperately about it just being done so that I can lie on the couch after twelve straight hours confined with small children and drool and watch the most mindless TV I can find. But at the same time it’s occurred to me that my Ph.D. is _saving_ me. It’s something I desperately need to do to do _something_ that isn’t about wiping people’s bums, that has nothing whatsoever to do with bums and non-stop whining. Even when I can’t stand the stress of school, which is completely different from the stress of small kids, which means that the stresses exponentially increase each other, I dimly recognize that I’m going to feel strangely bereft when this whole ridiculous undertaking is over. When both undertakings are over, for that matter–which is one reason to keep having undertakings outside of motherhood.

    If I can add anything to the conversation, it’s the suggestion that there ought to be a rhetorical distinction between motherhood and postpartum depression. I initially experienced motherhood as an almost complete annihilation of myself. It wasn’t pretty. Motherhood is likely always going to be a threat to the self, which is all the more reason to carve out some pursuits that stand outside it. I was delighted when Elder Ballard urged such pursuits in his 2008 General Conference talk, partly because it gives me an authoritative quotation for women who continue to feel as if they have to sacrifice themselves completely for their children and their husbands.

  17. 17.

    Petra–this is terrific, of course.

    One quibble–I actually don’t think it’s even true that “the world” doesn’t value motherhood. That’s a caricature of a few extreme variants of 1970s feminism. The reality is that most women who work also have children and are devoted to them and think of being mothers as a primary component of their identity.

    Mormon birthrates have always been approximately the national average +1. Age at first marriage is similarly correlated to the national average, regardless of how often we assert that “the world” has completely different values than we do. The notion that we have to teach girls how important motherhood is strange to me–biology provides a pretty strong impulse towards reproduction, as does everything in our popular culture. Women who choose not to have children are almost universally regarded as somehow deficient or perverse. I strongly, strongly suspect that we could dispense with almost all of the explicit rhetoric about the value of motherhood without any appreciable effect on marriage or birthrates.

  18. 18.

    Yeah. I don’t know if it’s my insecurities or what, but I almost always tell people I’m a knitwear designer so they know I have a life outside my kids.

    And there is truth that you kind of disappear. Small talk is mostly questions about my kids and not so much about the books I’m reading or movies I’m seeing or news I’m worked up about.

    Also, ZD Eve- I ‘m right there with you in getting a handle on things. My youngest is 19 months. I have an almost 4 year old as well.

  19. 19.

    Kristine, thanks for your quibble because it gives me a chance to clarify: I agree with you completely, and I was definitely not trying to make the argument you’re responding to. Almost all of the non-Mormon women I know (and most of the men) look forward to parenting and understand that it important and satisfying.

    When I said “society undervalues mothering,” I’m talking less about attitudes or rates of childbearing and more about the widespread lack of societal support for the practicalities of mothering–no mandatory paid maternity/paternity leave; women getting fired for breastfeeding; little or no opportunities for meaningful part-time work or even flexible hours; health care, among other things, depending on having a full-time worker in the household. I see all these things as society undervaluing mothering in practical terms, no matter what homage it pays in abstract terms.

    To be extra clear, though, I don’t agree with the Church’s approach to counteract this. (Since it’s not an attitudinal problem, it shouldn’t have an attitudinal fix.) I was just trying to be charitable towards the Church’s motives for pushing motherhood so hard.

  20. 20.

    ZD Eve, I love your comment! I think it’s especially interesting because it highlights what I touched on briefly–some of the biological realities of motherhood (including post-partum depression) really are all-consuming, and make it that much easier to lose yourself entirely.

  21. 21.

    Maureen, Sherry, thank you for your comments! It’s really interesting to hear from someone on the other side of this equation, as it’s reassuring to hear that I’m not crazy for feeling like this. On the other hand, hearing your experiences make me wish even more desperately that I were crazy here, since the process you describe sounds painful. Best of luck to both of you.

  22. 22.

    Sara Bay, that’s a really interesting point about your ambition (or lack thereof) playing into this. If I’m honest, I should admit that the whole issue is exacerbated for me by the fact that I’m very ambitious and I love my career, and my career isn’t one (right now) that’s going to be very flexible when children come along.

    I don’t want this to be all about career vs. children, though, as I think it’s more than that; it’s also about personality! It’s about the presentation of mothers at church as perfect beings spreading sweetness and love everywhere they go. To that end, though, I love your point that your mother was always her own person. Knowing her, I don’t doubt it!

  23. 23.

    Though I see your concern I must say I do not agree with your view that motherhood is pushed as women’s only value. I am a convert to this church and one of the aspects which I found so amazing was the high regard and respect of womanhood. Yes motherhood is continually taught and praised but , I have always felt the leaders, manuals, scriptures and conference talks have taught that my value comes FIRST and foremost as a daughter of God.You reference the YW manuals but if you were to look at the Young Women theme ,which they recite EVERY Sunday, you would see that no where does it even mention motherhood. Instead it teaches about their individual purpose as women. Why do you think it is recited every Sunday? So that these girls never forget how valued they are as an amazing Daughter to a Heavenly King, a woman who has a divine purpose and destiny. I am sad to hear so many women have forgotten this simple and beautiful truth which is taught every Sunday in Young Women’s. The relief society declaration is similar. It is somewhat lengthy but only once mentions motherhood stating we “find nobility in motherhood and joy in woomanhood” Notice it says we find nobility in motherhood, it does not say we are defined by it. Also the second paragraph in the Family Proclamation we are taught that we are all created in the image of God and everyone is a beloved spirit son or daughter and that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.” As you stated “biology is at fault” but right there is why we are taught so much about motherhood because yes biologically we are created to have the capability to be mothers and I am not just talking about having a uterus, it goes deeper than our physical makeup. We have a gender because it is a part of our premortal and eternal identity and purpose. Women have a natural compassionate and nurturing side and this is not because church leaders say we do. It is a part of who we were before we came here. I am so sorry you have felt your value would be defined by motherhood but I encourage you to search the teachings of leaders again, especially recent general conference addresses and works by the prophet and apostles. Really look at what they are saying, if you only listen to the words you will end up thinking all you heard about was “motherhood” but if you listen with the Spirit you will hear the message as it is intended, and come away feeling uplifted and edified in knowing you are a beautiful and amazing daughter of God and that He loves you whether you are a mother or not. You are valued because you are you, never forget that!

    I have included the Young Women theme below for a quick reference :0)

    WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

    Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue

    WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

  24. 24.

    Nice post, Petra. I remember the first time I met someone who seemed to truly *want* to have children, who made a conscious choice to have children, and who wasn’t simply following the expectation that once you were married, you had to have children. I was in college in Utah, and she was one of my non-LDS professors who was happily pregnant and had a young daughter. Up until that time, I didn’t realize it was actually a choice to have children – and not some heavy moral obligation women were required to bear.

  25. 25.

    Great post! I definitely see how the whole culture does this to women who are also mothers; its not specific to religion. Watch the news. When something happens to a woman who has children, even if it has nothing to do with her children or her role as their mother, she is often referred to as a mother, while when something happens to a man who has children, he’ll still be referred to as a man. You wouldn’t do that in almost any other situation that refers to a person’s biological history. Would the news report on a car accident involving some teenagers and say, “3 virgins were injured today …”? Um, no. But they would (and do) say something like, “a Dallas mother was killed in a tragic accident today …”

  26. 26.

    I’m Petra’s husband. My wife can gussy it up however she’d like, but the truth is that she hasn’t yet earned the privilege of bearing my children.

  27. 27.

    Well. I don’t think there’s much more I can say after that…at least not until Pedros gives me permission.

  28. 28.

    Hear, hear.

    I used to wonder if perhaps I was overreacting to rhetoric that wasn’t really there. Then I started teaching YW, and looking through the manuals and the Personal Progress book, it hit me how strongly teenage girls particularly are told over and over and over again that what matters is that they become mothers. The lesson Finding Joy in Your Divine Potential from a few weeks ago explicitly has the teacher invite mothers (or a recently married woman who is implicitly going to be a mother soon) to express their joy in womanhood (read motherhood). The PP goals state over and over again that they are in preparation for homemaking and childrearing. Sometimes I think the Church’s rhetoric is softening, but then it does things like add the bit about “strengthening home and family” to the YW theme.

    In other words: I worry about having children for the same reasons you do, and I think a lot of that anxiety comes from rhetoric outside but particularly within the Church.

  29. 29.

    The thing I see in my ward is what combat veterans call the “thousand yard stare”. She’s taking care of four little kids and he’s off doing his calling or work or whatever. You can see on her face that somebody should throw her a lifeline but that doesn’t happen.

    There’s the church’s ideal model, then there’s reality. What would happen if you befriended one of these struggling women (surely every ward has one) and helped them out? You would be a mother without bearing children. Moreso than just pushing a baby out of a uteris.

  30. 30.

    The thing I see in my ward is what combat veterans call the “thousand yard stare”. She’s taking care of four little kids and he’s off doing his calling or work or whatever.

    This brings up a different issue regarding motherhood and the types of sacrifices women are expected to make vs. the ones expected of men. In addition to working outside the home, men are more often expected to leave their families to attend calling-related meetings and to sit apart from their families at church or to travel to other wards entirely. While I don’t wish to say that such callings are easy or enviable, I do wonder what effect it would have on church culture if more men were asked to wrangle young children to church on their own. (And note that having a high profile calling gives men yet another important identity, while the wives of men with such callings are yet again defined in terms of their relationship to someone else—e.g., as the bishop’s wife.)

  31. 31.

    In response to Zillah I do not see how saying “strengthening home and family” means anything other than what it states. It does not mean get married and have children. That is reading into a message that is not there. The Prophet and Apostles and church leaders who formulate these themes and manuals and standards do not play the game of smoke and mirrors, the Lord would not allow it. If they wanted the YW theme to say ‘grow up and be a mother’ then they would have said it. When I read home and family I do not see marriage and children and no where in church doctrine does it say ‘BTW when we say home and family we mean marriage and children’. Home and family is a very general and broad term because aren’t we all from a family, regardless of our ability, or desire to obtain or create one in the future. I just gave a lesson to the young women about strengthening Home and family and it was all about being a good daughter, sister and friend and using their God given talents to promote love and service no matter what their stage of life was or would be. Yes there are many lessons in the manual that reference or focus on motherhood but there are so many others that DON’T as well. And because we have the potential to have children we should be teaching about it often so that YW are prepared for it if they so choose. We also teach a lot about Faith, repentance and chastity, good works and the list goes on and on to help prepare them for occasions that may or may not arise concerning those values. Motherhood is taught because like it or not it is a huge part or life, everyone has a mother, and aren’t people grateful when their mother was instructed on how to find joy and fulfillment as a mother? I think it makes for a happier home and that will go on to effect that child regardless of their future choice to be a parent. So in regards to what is taught in the manuals I believe ” If one goes looking to be offended then they will find nothing but offense.” applies . I do agree that the “pendulum has swung too far” but I believe it is in terms to women thinking we are oppressed and we are told our value remains in being a mother. Women have been waging a war (and rightfully so) against unfair treatment and expectations for so long that I think many times (not all) women are crying wolf when there is no wolf to be found or reading into things with the intent of crying foul when there is no foul present. Yes there is still progress to be made when it comes to the way women are viewed and the way we view ourselves but as far as the church goes when we criticize the church appointed and approved manuals and teachings then we are criticizing the Prophet and apostles who approved those teachings and that is thin ice. If the Prophet or apostle or someone they appointed approves a manual for use in Sunday School or Relief Society or Young women then this means those subjects in the manual are what need to be taught. We as teachers are then instructed that we must teach with the spirit. This is where I am afraid things have gotten hazy and local leaders may have been pushing or portraying a skewed message. This needs to be corrected. I know after reading this article and the comments I will take extra caution to make sure when I teach my YW I am not pushing some agenda that is not there but if we read the church appointed themes, manuals and listen to the general conference addresses we will see that everything is balanced and harmonious in their teachings.

  32. 32.

    Another perspective from someone in the thick of the childbearing years…for almost 4 years I was either pregnant or nursing. I stopped nursing my baby at 12 months for a lot of reasons that aren’t important here, but it was sooner than what I had planned. At that point, for the first time in years, I was not experiencing the hormones of pregnancy or lactation. It felt like waking up, it felt like an old friend came back. Me! I was funny again, my *interest* in my husband went back to pre-baby levels, I felt like it was easier to talk to people, to be involved in other things. I returned to my interest in music with more enthusiasm than I’d had in several years. These are just some examples but the changes were noticeable to the people closest to me. It was wonderful. But I decided that I wanted to get all our babies here before I got too used to it…we we’re having the next one soon. My goal is now to get the children here so I can move on to a new phase of life, wherein I will not have to be carrying a child or nursing one, and I can (generally speaking) have my hormones back in balance and be myself. I was so pleasantly surprised to find that the self I felt I had lost with childbearing returned with ease. That is my experience, I’m certain others have different experiences in this regard.

    One other note, related to your idea that motherhood is the woman’s ultimate and perhaps only value. A few weeks ago I attended one of those Saturday morning leadership trainings. Elder Packer gave a talk and, for some reason, in the beginning of his talk, he addressed the idea that some people feel the Church treats women unkindly. He said that he wished women knew how much men in the Church value them because, in essence, they enable their husbands to be exalted. He said that this is their greatest value: getting their husbands into heaven, and the mean of the church love and appreciate them for it. It was deeply troubling to me and I’ve been wrestling with it for weeks. It feels similar to your feelings about how the church talks about motherhood.

  33. 33.

    I’ve heard all the rhetoric about women and motherhood. I get annoyed by how we conflate motherhood with the priesthood. I don’t regret waiting to have a child until I finished law school—people in my class made it work with in one case as many as four young children, but I had no interest in being one of them.

    Despite all these things, how you live out your role is entirely dependent on how you choose to make your life in your marriage. I know many women who both work and have children. I knew for me that being a stay at home mom was a temporary thing. You make your own reality.

  34. 34.

    Petra, yes, and yes. This is exactly why it took me eight years of marriage to decide to have a child. I was terrified. I felt it would ruin my life. I had a somewhat unhappy childhood and teen years, but I loved my twenties, I loved being married, going to grad school, having a career. I don’t even think of it as selfish. I think it was the first time I was able to live in an environment where I wasn’t being abused, where I wasn’t totally crazy, where I had a clear path and was happy. And yes, I tremendously feared the rhetoric about mothers.

    I was telling my husband the other day that having a child did, in a way, ruin the life we had together previously. I still work full time–although it’s far from my dream job–and he’s ling-term unemployed and has gone back to school. It’s very difficult sometimes, but my life feels blessed and rich too. It’s fine now, but I have left the church for the most part–I can’t stand the rhetoric any more now that I’m a mother than I could for almost a decade of childess married life. There is just too much that is imortant than focusing of fixed gender roles, and I need a church that supports women who provide for families all on their own and gives them value for whatever their situation is.

  35. 35.

    I agree–kids do “ruin” whatever life you had before you have them.

    If you look at happiness/life satisfaction surveys, you’ll see that there’s a sizable dip when people have kids. Parenthood doesn’t make people happier . . .

  36. 36.

    Motherhood is a challenging adventure. To me it is like marriage. It is worth the effort. Sure, there are people who lose themselves, but there are also people who find themselves. I think it is a wonderful experience…..even though I didn’t love the baby stage and post partum depression sucks.
    I think I have developed so many talents, many new talents. I have found strengths that I didn’t know I had. I have become a better, stronger person in the years I have been a mother. I would not switch places with my earlier self.

  37. 37.

    The thing I love about motherhood is that it’s allowed me to develop weaknesses I didn’t know I had.

  38. 38.

    He said that he wished women knew how much men in the Church value them because, in essence, they enable their husbands to be exalted.

    This is so classic. They think they’re telling you how important women are, but what they’re really telling you is how important men are.

  39. 39.

    “…somehow I absorbed along the way the notion that once a woman is a mother, that’s it, she’s over as an individual; now that she is a mother, she sacrifices everything—her own pursuits, skills, hobbies, personality, and especially career—for her family.”

    If this from the original posting is true, then it is also true that once a man becomes a father, that’s it — he sacrifices everything for his family.

    The scriptures speak of us being and becoming sons and daughters of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ — this should be our focus.

    Regarding Elder Packer’s words, I have a more charitable understanding of what he said and the message he intended to share than I have read here.

  40. 40.

    If this from the original posting is true, then it is also true that once a man becomes a father, that’s it — he sacrifices everything for his family.

    I don’t think this logically follows.

  41. 41.

    ji – honestly and truly I would love to hear your interpretation of Elder Packer’s words. And I really don’t mean that in a confrontational way. There aren’t many people in my current circle who share my concerns on this issue, but neither are they able to articulate why they don’t feel the same way. And I genuinely want someone to play devil’s advocate with me and give me a different perspective. i’m trying to get to a happier place about it on my own, but every time I think of it, it hurts a little. Certainly I must have some value that is more than just being a stepping stone along my husband’s eternal journey.

  42. 42.

    Here’s what I wish the message had been when I embarked onto the motherhood roller coaster:

    Yes, this will require the sacrifice of all your time, resources and energy, and you will be swallowed up by it wholesale. But only for a finite time. Pregnancy is but the blink of an eye, and the babies who need you 24/7 will grow so quickly and need you less and less, and inevitably you will have a growing amount of discretionary time, energy, and resources to spend on other things.

    Choose those other things very carefully, because they will largely determine the quality of your life after the kids are launched, they will have a profound impact on your relationship with your spouse, and in fact they can have a positive effect (or negative effect) on the children while they are growing. You should continue to carefully and thoughtfully pursue your own growth and development as an individual, as time allows, with particular attention to your career, during their growing up years. Your spouse and your children should help you juggle and manage the other things in your life, as they are able. This is good for their own growth and development, as much as it is good for yours. It isn’t healthy for them to look upon you as nothing but the household anchor throughout eternity, to ease their lives in perpetuity, but rather they should see that part of their life is to serve your needs when it makes sense to do so.

    And when they go off to pursue their own lives, you will be in a position to have a much richer life, and be able to make a much bigger contribution to your community, and to bless their lives with your example.

    So go ahead and dive in, when you’re as ready as you can manage. Don’t fear motherhood so very much, but do chart your own course.

  43. 43.

    #42 was lovely. It should be required reading for all women facing motherhood.

    I don’t think that we are ever the SAME after motherhood. This does not mean that we lose ourselves, but become a different self.

    I think that outside the church, the physical demands of pregnancy are minimized. Else we would not have no maternity leave, and expect mothers to be employed fulltime just like dads are!!!!!:) I literally hate pregnancy, and it is NOT over in a blink. And breastfeeding takes a physical toll. So for me, it is two years out of my life to produce each child.

    I think it was Elder Ballard who gave a talk in General Conference about how moms should take part of their time to do something other than mothering, just to be themselves. This is healthy.

    I think the church’s emphasis seems very balanced to those of us living in places where motherhood is pretty much dismissed. I can understand that if it was all you heard, it might be oppressive. But I was at a party where a young dental student was saying that she was considering oral surgery, but had decided she didn’t think it was compatible with motherhood (for her). People jumped all over her and told her that of course it was, she shouldn’t be such a wimp, and what a bad example she was to other women.

  44. 44.

    In my experience, the church’s emphasis has not been balanced at all. Everything in #42 I figured out for myself after many years of sacrificing too much, and after being exposed to some eye-opening posts at Mormon feminist blogs. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to put my ideas into place for myself, but perhaps they can help some younger women navigate the minefield the church still has in place for women.

    And perhaps I was overstating that pregnancy is a blink of an eye, but compared to the years of massive need that children present to their parents, the pregnancy and lactation period is rather short.

  45. 45.

    Petra,

    Beautifully written.
    I had the EXACT same fears you have, I thought about my identity vs motherhood A LOT. I prayed about it, read about it, thought about it. And then, I had a world-changing epiphany.

    I KNOW what motherhood is. I know what womanhood is. I know what the divine roles of all women are. And it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, and it’s powerful.

    I know Satan has seen how beautiful and powerful women are and is trying his hardest to make sure women themselves do not understand it. And he is doing an overwhelming job.

    I urge you, and all women, to pray about it. Pray to understand womanhood. Pray to understand what you as a woman mean to God. Pray to understand who you are and what your divine identity is. I promise you, God loves you for who you are. He loves you as an individual. He loves you as a Women. Just ask him, he will tell you.

    Again, i’m not explaining it very well at all.

  46. 46.

    I’m 25, married for 5 years, with one 2 1/2 year old daughter. Active Mormon.

    Okay, here’s my best shot at explaining it:
    Think of a superhero: Spiderman, Elastagirl, whoever (I’m partial to X-men, myself). This superhero has (Insert Awesome gift here). But, most superheros were not born with that gift. They may have always been destined for it, but they couldn’t always use it or master it.

    Was their identity just as valid as before they had their gift? YES! Does Spiderman somehow degrade the identity of Peter Parker every time he uses his spider scenes? No! Using his gift will change Peter Parker, but only to make him more awesome! Not by erasing who he is.

    Every superhero struggles with his identity. But in the end, no superhero decides that they are better off without their gift. No superhero decides to turn away from their gift. It’s their destiny! It’s still them, just with added superpowers!

    In my view, it’s the same with women. Motherhood is am AWESOME Superpower. You can create life! You can produce amazing cancer-killing, life-giving, miracle milk! You can sense when your children are in danger! You can read minds! But, like any superpower, that’s not WHO you are, it’s just a gift that you have. Yes it will change you, but to make you more awesome!!

    The only difference it what the world is telling the superhero. The world tells Peter Parker that spider senses and wall climbing are incredible, unique, and cool. The world tells women that their superpowers are lame, ordinary, and even low-class. THAT IS A LIE!

    Really, I have studied pregnancy, labor, breast milk, and nurturing. They are incredible, unique, and cool. They cannot be duplicated by anything else. They can’t even be explained by scientists.

    Now, does that mean that the greatest thing a women can accomplished is giving birth and lactating? Heck no! That’s like saying the most Spiderman accomplished was climbing a wall. It’s a gift! It’s a tool! It’s given to a person, an individual with an identity, and that person needs to take it and use it accomplish great things.

    Motherhood IS NOT your greatest a value, It’s not even a value; it’s a superpower. You have to take that superpower and use it to accomplish great things. And if you do, it’s not because of the superpower, it’s because of YOU!

  47. 47.

    Wait, what about women who choose to not have kids or can’t have kids? How can they fulfill their measure of creation? Maybe by doing their best at whatever they do, maybe by helping others? Take my most menial job as an example–I cleaned a law firm. Taking pride in organizing chaos (scrubbing toilets) and serving others (providing a clean toilet) was a way to fulfill a measure of my creation, IMHO.

    I wish the church would emphasize that idea AND the idea of being a good mom.

  48. 48.

    Petra, suck it up. Petros, don’t be a jerk! ;) Petros has enough identity for the both of you, apparently, so if you lose yours, I’m sure he would allow you to have some of his… you know, the whole “becoming one” in marriage. :)
    Interesting thoughts, though!

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