Despite Russell’s recent paean to “slackerdom,” I have the sense that many of you who post and comment here care a great deal about your work, and that you enjoy it. If President Hinckley stood up at the next Priesthood Session and told you that you should all quit your jobs to stay home with your children, what would you do? How would you feel about it? (For the sake of simplifying the discussion, leave out for the moment the financial implications of such a course–I just want to know how you would feel about giving up your career to be a stay-at-home parent).
Here’s why I ask. Lately I’ve been trying really hard to pinpoint what it is about conservative and Mormon rhetoric about motherhood that makes me crazy–I want to know at exactly what point it is that I start to want to run out of the room screaming. I’ve narrowed it down to two major objections (though there are other minor annoyances):
1) I hate it when “a mother’s love” is described as a slightly diluted kind of romantic love. My feelings for my children are fierce; they bear little resemblance to the treacly Hallmark-card sort of kiss-on-the-skinned-knee picture that gets painted all the time. There’s nothing soft-focus about how I feel about my children. Mother’s love is intense and gritty and hardworking. It’s utterly other than the come-home-from-work-kiss-the-little-darlings-and-read-them-a-bedtime-story sentimentality that seems to cloak descriptions of parental relations offered in the Ensign and in General Conference.
2) I’m troubled by descriptions of parental roles that focus overmuch on the differences between the sexes, describing women as “naturally” more nurturing. It may be that women are biologically programmed to be more intensely involved with their babies than men (breastfeeding would be the obvious reason for this), but it’s virtually impossible to tease out the social conditioning girls and women receive in our society to teach them that they should care for others from whatever effects biology has. I think it’s therefore unwarranted to make generalizations which suggest that all women are so constituted that they will innately gravitate towards childcare as a profession. By insisting so strongly that God made women in such a way that they *want* to sacrifice for their children, we discount the value of that sacrifice. It is true that there are occasional, intensely satisfying rewards in mothering. But it is equally true, and nowhere near as often acknowledged, that there are hours and days and sometimes weeks of drudgery and mind-numbing boredom between those Kodak moments. And, as near as I can tell, women don’t really *like* being bored and exhausted any more than men do, no matter how much they love their children.