Monday, February 25, 2008

Mothers Who Know

My Relief Society lesson yesterday was the talk "Mothers Who Know" by Julie Beck, Relief Society General President, given at General Conference in October 2007. I admit, as I sat in the Conference Center and listened to her speak, I struggled a bit. I'm not sure what it was, maybe mostly that it seemed to put all mothers into one mold, when in reality we are all so different. I think as women we also judge ourselves harshly against the ideal and feel inadequate if we aren't doing everything perfectly.

Preparing for the lesson was good for me, and I learned a lot more from the talk than I did when I first heard it. Another source of enlightenment for me was the Worldwide Leadership Training (on February 9th) where Elder Oaks, Elder Holland, Sister Beck, Sister Lant (Primary General President), and Sister Tanner (YW General President) had a round table discussion that touched on so many of the same topics. I must confess that this meeting was a small source of contention in our house--one of us didn't want to pay a sitter for a Saturday morning church meeting, the other of us was just glad to get dressed up and go somewhere without the kids for a couple of hours. All of that aside, it was worth going to, at least for me. The topic of the meeting--"Building Up A Righteous Posterity"--covered so many great things, although we had to chuckle as we spent two hours on a Saturday at a meeting where they spoke at length about cutting out extra church things in favor of more family time... but I guess it's something we'll apply in the future, right?

The one thing that stuck out to me more than anything was a discussion on the term "homemaker". I don't think I'm alone in having negative feelings about that title... I picture someone who never gets ready for the day and all she does is cook and clean and has no other talents or interests. This talk and the round table discussion broadened my view a bit... homemaking is nurturing and much more than that.... it is making a home (duh!) which has many aspects, like making sure our family members' needs are met (ugh, I guess that includes housework and cooking), making our homes a safe haven, and making it a learning environment for our children. In that light, I can feel better about being a "homemaker". I still reserve the right to use other titles--domestic goddess, CEO of my home/family, human resources director, etc.... but it's all really just semantics. It comes down to something that Elder Oaks said: "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." Don't you love that thought? Homemaking is for every parent--not just "stay-at-home moms", but for every person that is a parent. I might add too, that some people who don't have their own children still have the opportunity to make a home where other people can learn and grow and be nurtured.

Our discussion during the lesson could have turned ugly--several women made comments that could have been misconstrued (judgments against working moms or families that put off having children and even comments about how two children is just too few or more than four is just too many)--it was challenging as the teacher to use those comments to make the most important point, that we cannot and should not judge one another. For example, I have believed for a long time that many "stay-at-home moms" have so many outside commitments (community organizations, personal interests, even church callings) that not one of us can really say that we dedicate 100% of our time and efforts to parenting. I loved something else that Elder Oaks said--he quoted Pearl Buck (a favorite author of mine) who said "I love my children with all my heart, but I can't love them will all my time." I also have experienced the sorrow at not being able to have more children--and I hope that people don't look at me and wonder why I am "limiting" my family size in favor of material pursuits.

When it comes down to it, we don't know circumstances or desires or heartaches or efforts. Having a family (when, where, how, how many, etc.) is such a personal thing, between husband and wife and the Lord. Many times circumstances are beyond our control, and we all just try to do the best we can with what we have.

I hope that I can do better to believe firmly that every parent is really just putting their best foot forward and doing the best they know how. I hope that I can support and love and assist people in being the best homemaker they can, and that in the process I can be a good homemaker too.

**Do you have negative feelings about the term "homemaker"?
**What other terms do you use for yourself (or your spouse)?
**Have you ever been in Relief Society (or another church meeting) where things got ugly?


HarperHappenings said...

I have to say...I love your courage to share your feelings. This is such an interesting topic for me for several reasons. 1)I was raised by a working mother and was put in daycare at 6 weeks old and stayed in daycare until I was old enough to care for myself, and 2)my sister works and I tend her little girl. You might wonder why I'm talking about mothers who work?? Well I find myself feeling like I have to DEFEND homemakers. That staying home is VERY important, and is a JOB!!! And I too, never know what to refer to myself as... I usually say "I stay home full-time". I feel like I walk this fine line between not wanting to offend others who choose to work (and I realize that working is not always a choice) and wanting to express the importance and significance of staying home with my children. I think it is ironic, that in a Gospel where we are taught to love one another and not judge, that we sometimes are the first to judge others and their choices, whether it be to work, be a homemaker or to stay home and do nothing productive in their home. I remember a lesson we had in Relief Society a few months back about working on Sunday. The teacher actually made a list on the board of "acceptable" professions for Sunday. I know I wasn't the only one in the class with their jaw on the floor! (What was I just saying about judging???) One sister spoke up and said "We just have to remember that each and every family makes the BEST choice for their family. Hopefully they make their decisions between Husband and Wife and the Lord and that it is our responsibility to reach out and love others regardless of their choice." Amen!

gurrbonzo said...

WHOA. Will you move into our ward please?? Lisa, you are the perfect person to give such a tricky lesson.

Yes, I dislike the word "homemaker"...I don't know why, exactly. Maybe a bit too 1950s? Maybe a bit too Betty Crocker? Maybe it brings up images of awful wreaths or makes me feel guilty for not knowing how to quilt or cook (and not having an interest). Maybe growing up I just saw too many friends treat their SAHMs like hired help. I also cringe when people talk about "working moms" bc I figure, come on, all moms work. Language with that stuff is so hard...maybe "work for pay"? "Full-time moms" makes me sad too, because it implies mom who are employed outside the home are part-time moms. Whew! Lots of word-baggage with this topic.

I appreciate the quote you included from Elder Oaks about homemaking being a job for both parents, and I think that was the main difficulty I had with Sister Beck's talk initially...that so much of it, directed just at women, applies to both parents equally. I wonder if we actually do our husbands a disservice in trying to be superwives and moms, excluding them from the bonding that comes from grunt work?

Also, I just have one sibling and two was the perfect size for our family :).

Cheri said...

I LOVED this talk by Sister Beck, not because I'm a great mom and felt like patting myself on the back, but because we can all use those reminders. I also loved the roundtable discussion, mixing men and women's opinions and viewpoints. I got such a feeling of "They want us to succeed and do our best" and not the idea they wanted us to feel guilty. And yes, she originally addressed this to women because even in the Proclamation on the Family, it says women are primarily responsible for the nurture and care of the children. Of course there are exceptions but there is no perfect mold, ever.

I will never call myself a "homemaker" - I just don't like it and how it sounds. But sometimes I feel like I need to defend my choice to stay home...and add "But I work part-time from home as an editor." In reality, who cares? I wish I could have sat in on your lesson instead of being in Primary. No doubt it's an important topic that will get much more discussion.

Cheri said...

Oh, and I've never seen things get "ugly" in a meeting, but I'd definitely be up for it!

Victoria said...

I also feel like I have to defend my title. I typically say, "I'm a stay at home mom".

If I'm feeling talkative I might say "I'm a keeper of my home" whick typically spurs many questions and helps debunk the myth of what I do with my day, along with having huge spiritual implications I can share.(I got the term from Titus 2)

I don't really have any ambivalent feelings toward the term "homemaker" because to me its a bit self-gratifying. I want to make our house a well worn home, full of memories, lessons, and servanthood.
It's just not the term of choice in the moment I guess.

Janene said...

First of all, I have to say that I would have said extra prayers if I had been assigned that talk to teach a lesson on. I thought it was one of the best talks of the past conference, but being so direct and straight-forward also made it a touchy issue for some.

I actually like the word homemaker, especially when I think of it in terms of 'yes, I make a home.' It feels good and natural to me to have that as my calling and important work for this time in my life.

Sally said...

Lisa, I agree that you would be the best RS teacher. You would be so thoughtful and careful in the information you dispensed, and knowing you were teaching would be enough to make me go back to RS! As it is, Primary is a safe haven for me from ours. Anyway, I don't mind the term homemaker, but I don't see it as a word that describes me, either. Even though I do the things on its job description, I don't ever think of myself as one. I usually just say that I'm a mother. When I fill out forms at the dentist or something that ask for my employer, I fill it in with "my children". It always gets a laugh. Regarding size of families, I completely don't care how many others have. I hate more than anything feeling judged or scrutinized regarding how we're choosing to do it, and that makes me quite accepting of others and their choices, too. I hope. I really don't think about it for others. I have too much else to think about in my own life. I think people tend to judge others (particularly in this area) because they're insecure with how they're doing at it. They don't feel confident, or sure in their choices, or maybe their motivation for their choices, so they try to find others who see it the same way and are thereby validated. In the meantime, they find people who differ in their thoughts, and then the judging starts. I also think people don't understand the nature of God. Not saying that I do, but I think people put words in His mouth and ascribe thoughts to Him that aren't correct. Expectations are a big part of that. What He expects of us has gotten misconstrued with what we think He expects of us. People think they've gotten it figured out, and then start spreading that abroad, and in the meantime we all get the wrong idea, but it's all based on error. I sound like I'm on quite a soapbox here. I climb down now. Thanks for giving me something real to think about today. :)

Ashley & Matt Cole said...

Lisa, this was very good to read. The quotes by Elder Oaks were so good. I am going to have to go print out that talk right now.
I haven't exactly adopted any specific term as of yet. Homemaker has never been a word in my regular vocab I prefer S.A.H. mom :) (stay at home)
It has been an interesting time for me in the last few months to switch gears and realize being an S.A.H. mom is so much more than just cooking, cleaning etc. It is constantly being loving, compassionate, playful, forgiving, understanding, responsible, and everything you want your children to become. It is being the constant example. I feel I can no longer "have a bad day" or "be grumpy" and get a way with it. Now there is someone who needs me to be my best self all the time. Even if it means all night long I need to be who I want my kids to be one day.

Traci said...

Great read, Lisa, and also all of the other comments that came later. Sorry for the silent treatment for a while--I'm catching up on blog reading after a couple of weeks off. :) I'm sure you were excellent in your class, and it's nice to think about something besides my 2-year-olds in nursery from time to time (being nursery leader again and all). Love the message. I had once read an article about what a woman had called herself, and oh I wish I could remember what she said (it was like a 15-word description of her job duties at home). Anyway, she pointed out that we are underpaid by a few hundred thousand a year, but I love being a mom more than anything! Thanks for the post!