The Economics of the Mommy Wars

April 12, 2006 | 84 comments
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Jane Galt argues that if mothers are “rational” (in the economic sense) they’ll fight in the Mommy Wars.

Most neighbourhoods used to be communities full of women who zipped around between houses, filling each other’s days. Now they are often lonely prisons.

Perhaps even more importantly, the economic effect of women entering the labor force is to drive down the wages of male earners, who are now competing with 70% more workers for each job. (It also increases the economic pie, but since many things like homes in good school districts are relatively fixed, that benefit doesn’t necessarily accrue to the family man). Part of the reason that a man with a family often can’t support it on one wage is that he’s competing with all those family women. And two income families are using much of that income to bid up the cost of things consumed by families with children, most notably the aforementioned homes.

There are also political and cultural externalities: the more women stay home, the more political support there will be for things that benefit [them].

The more working women there are, the more pressure there will be, both informally and through the legislative/legal process, to accomodate workplaces to their needs. The more cultural pressure there will be on her husband to take charge of housework. The more the economy will presumably be transformed into one where men and women take a more equal role. The more acceptable it will be to fall asleep in a meeting because your toddler was up vomiting half the night.

There’s also the fact of competition for spouses. Many men, especially high-earning men, want women who will stay at home and take the burden of childcare and housework off of them. The more that working women manage to establish working as a social equilibrium, the less competition they will have for those men.

When it comes to Mormons, I’ve observed that if a homemaking mother thinks she’s sacrificing to fulfill her divine role, she can accept other women’s choices to work without surrendering her own self-conception, but she can’t celebrate them. Working mothers often don’t like other women thinking they’ve made a lesser choice.

But are there any specifically Mormon variants to Jane Galt’s explanation for the Mommy Wars? Is mothering at home easier or more fulfilling if most women in the church do it? Is working and mothering (or working without mothering) easier or more fulfilling if most women in the church do it?

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84 Responses to The Economics of the Mommy Wars

  1. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2006 at 12:06 am

    We all have the duty and ultimately the pleasure of learning to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters, so suggesting that certain kinds of conflicts are inevitable does not imply that they are desirable.

  2. Jonathan Green on April 12, 2006 at 6:54 am

    Holy cow, I sure hope that by staying home with our kids, my wife isn’t actually trying to compete for a high-earning spouse, ’cause I would like totally lose that competition.

  3. danithew on April 12, 2006 at 7:57 am

    When it comes to Mormons, I’ve observed that if a homemaking mother thinks she’s sacrificing to fulfill her divine role, she can accept other women’s choices to work without surrendering her own self-conception, but she can’t celebrate them. Working mothers often don’t like other women thinking they’ve made a lesser choice.

    Adam, I was interested in what you wrote here, because I think you are touching on something that is important. I think a wall of quiet unspoken assumptions sometimes builds up between LDS stay-at-home moms and LDS (married) professional women because each group has invested heavily in making their decisions.

  4. Frank McIntyre on April 12, 2006 at 8:00 am

    I am not sure about a couple of her claims:

    1. It is not really a relevant counterfactual to have 70% fewer people in the labor force. Women have always been in the labor force to a greater or lesser extent. THe relevant difference would probably be about 20-30%.

    2. As a side note, those 20-30% more women working (since the 60-70′s) are actually coming from the higher end of the skill distribution.

    3. Homes are not nearly as fixed as many commenters like to pretend. Especially if the criterion is homes with good schools. One can, with extra economic resources, transforms schools from mediocre to good or bad to good. This requires changing parental inputs and the peer groups, but school quality os hardly fixed. And homes are not fixed either. As there is plenty of land where people would be willing to live, it is not as if we are all competing for ten blocks in the middle of town (which is comparatively fixed). So the arguments based on a fixed housing stock do not seem to make much sense to me. And she seems to want to hang a lot of weight on them.

    Is there a Mormon angle? Probably, but I’ll stop here.

  5. Matt Evans on April 12, 2006 at 8:25 am

    Frank,

    School quality can be improved or created; the factor that analyses like this are actually tracking is student quality. Student quality is hard to improve, so families flock to involved, stable and above-average families, school quality being the key indicator. Above-average students (and above-average peers) are of necessity a scarce resource. Except in Lake Wobegon.

  6. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2006 at 8:37 am

    Good post, Adam. Here are a few examples of how the mommy wars might take a uniquely LDS spin:

    (1) Evening enrichment night (i.e., homemaking). Most at-home women I know do not like commitments in the evening and would prefer a daytime meeting with childcare. But enrichment is (in every ward I’ve actually been in, anyway) held on an evening.

    (2) Presidency meetings and visiting teaching. My experience is that there is usually one of the 3-4 women involved who works, which means that the other women have to accomodate themselves to her schedule, even if they would prefer daytime.

    (3) Informal (but with the new Enrichment guidelines these are often *formal*) ward activities such as park day, preschools, FHE swaps, etc., are less effective or nonexistent with more working mothers.

    Now, (1) and (2) are inconvenience/scheduling issues that aren’t a big deal. But I can tell you that my personal experience is that (3) can be a big deal. I had a horrible first year of motherhood (PPD, poor, lonely, hard adjustment, etc.) in a ward where there were virtually no at-home mothers. When we moved a year later to a university ward with park day and lots and lots of moms home with little kids, my life changed dramatically. It is interesting that in the first ward when I mentioned some of my frustrations to the (very orthodox, older) bishop’s wife, she suggested that I get a part-time job! The ward did not have critical mass of mothers at home and so it had no resources to support the mothers who were at home.

    Even larger than these practical issues, however, is that as politically INcorrect as it is to say this, every mother out of the house all day is broadcasting that her children will be just fine in her absence which implies that I am, in my home with them all day, adding precisely nothing crucial to their lives. Similarly, my presence at home broadcasts that I think I *am* adding something significant to their lives, which signals that working mothers’ children are missing that ‘something’. We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.

    (And let me say that a lot of this very long comment is oversimplified, since part-time, flex-time, etc., work muddies the waters in, I think, a good way.)

  7. danithew on April 12, 2006 at 8:48 am

    We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.

    Julie, that’s an important sentence. I sometimes wish there was a way that this weren’t true. Or perhaps I should say that I like to believe that it does not have to be true. But I think what you are saying shows how we can become invested in our own personal decisions to such a degree that we end up looking cross-eyed at those who made different or opposite choices.

  8. Nate Oman on April 12, 2006 at 9:15 am

    Frank: I am not so optimistic about housing. I generally have about 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to and from my office each day. We live where we do because we wanted a particular sort of enviroment for our son — low traffic, lots of kids, playgrounds, woods, etc. — and because we could not afford to live any closer in without getting into a condominium or a neighborhood with higher crime rates. One may be able to expand housing without end into the plains around Dallas, but there is a limited about of real estate that is a reasonable commute from downtown DC.

  9. Frank McIntyre on April 12, 2006 at 9:20 am

    Matt,

    Thanks for the response. I think there is more to talk about there but we can take this up again on a school thread since I don’t want to be the cause of derailing the discussion into schooling on comment 4!

    Julie,

    Our university-connected ward was certainly very friendly to stay at home moms (of whom there were many on-campus). There were lots of people to associate with and activities to go to and kids to play with.

  10. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Oh, and I forgot one: Time-consuming callings and assignments (whether that be being the RS president or taking Sister Johnson to her weekly dialysis appointment) tend to fall disproportionatly on the at-home moms either because of logistics or the sense (right or wrong) that the working mother doesn’t have enough time.

  11. Frank McIntyre on April 12, 2006 at 9:31 am

    Nate,

    You’re, umm, moving right? So I guess that housing decision wasn’t so fixed after all.

    If one’s city (on the coast) and one’s job are considered unchangeable, then yes, housing becomes more fixed. But jobs and cities are determined just like homes– as a set of tradeoffs. Galt presents it as if one must have two incomes to make it in this crazy world, because everybody else has two incomes. But this is very much related to one’s unwillingness to move to a less glamorous place than DC or New York, or one’s unwillingness to take a less glamorous/high paying job that is available outside the metropolis.

    To put it another way, there are lots of cheap places to live that have the amenities you desire for your son (low traffic, lots of kids, playgrounds, woods, etc.). The sticking point is probably not so much his preferences alone, as the intersection of his desires and your career plans and the amenities that you and your wife like in an area. I think it is a lilttle too common in Galt’s sort of commentary to treat career plans as fixed and then complain about the lack of affordable housing because of what one desires “for the children”.

  12. Elisabeth on April 12, 2006 at 9:37 am

    I think Galt sets up a false dichotomy between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers (or maybe this is just the way it’s presented here). Many formerly stay-at-home mothers find themselves in the workplace at some point, and vice versa. We should find ways to welcome and support both the working mothers and stay-at-home mothers in our church and political communities.

    As for church responsibilities, most of the women in my ward stay at home with their children, and we typically schedule meetings later at night after their children are in bed (or hold them on Sundays between classes and Sharing Time). There are ways to rearrange schedules and reach out to people who are in different circumstances – run errands or chat with SAHMs on a lunch break, host a dinner/game night, go play at the park together one Saturday morning. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I reject this notion that homes (or offices) are prisons – there is too much common ground women share together to isolate themselves according to current circumstances.

    And in response to Julie’s comment # 10, in my ward, the women who don’t have children have typically been the Relief Society and Primary presidents, etc.

  13. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2006 at 9:37 am

    “(And let me say that a lot of this very long comment is oversimplified, since part-time, flex-time, etc., work muddies the waters in, I think, a good way.)”

    Agreed.

    “We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.”

    Very true. This problem would not exist if we made our choices about mothering based solely on personal factors, but we don’t (and probably ought not to). To some extent we think syllogistically–we try to decide whether children generally need a mother at home and then reason from our general conclusion to our personal situation. Or, if we pray about it, we’re praying about principles and not just about our own particular situation. This is exacerbated by prophetic pronouncements, by their nature, having to be general. And, even if we confine ourselves to particulars, its hard to avoid generalizing them–unless there is something obviously unique about me or my spouse or my children, which usually there isn’t, its difficult to see why the particular conclusions I’ve come to shouldn’t also apply to most people. There is a respectable place in Mormonism for doing something solely because it is commanded by God, and finding satisfaction in so doing–think Abraham’s sacrifice, for instance. But in most areas of life we need to feel not only that we’re obeying but that we’re doing good. Its very difficult to treat mothering choices as inscrutable and particularized obedience alone.

    This suggests that some degree of tension is inevitable, though I doubt that it is an insuperable obstacle to harmony. It also suggests that the only stable solutions are (1) a general privileging of stay-at-home motherhood, both formally and in culturally, which I am afraid would have the unfortunate side effect of causing anguish for mothers who work, no matter how legitimate their reasons (2) a general privileging of working motherhood, at least culturally, though stay-at-home motherhood would probably recieve some degree of continued formal approval, with unfortunate side effects for children and stay-at-home mothers, or (3) re-enacting in the church the classical liberal compromise –as politics was tamed by walling off some questions of meaning and ultimate value from government, so doctrinal problems could be resolved by walling off some of the meaning and value of family life from church involvement. People’s private opinions would be fine but they would have to remain private. This last solution is dangerous and undesirable but, in a fallen world, not necessarily to be rejected on that account alone (indeed, I bet you can identify at least some areas of life or principle in which this sort of separation of church and meaning already occurs)

  14. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Elisabeth, I hope it was obvious that I wasn’t suggesting that *all* time consuming positions go to at-home mothers. But I have been in too many decision-making situations where the vibe was, “No, we can’t ask Sister X to do that, she’s too busy” to think that this dynamic doesn’t come into play in the church. As for your previous paragraph about squishing in meetings late at night or during sharing time, I think you kinda proved my point for me: it is far from ideal to squish things in late at night and I don’t think the Primary Presidency should be ducking out during sharing time (I assume this is what you were talking about), but the presence of working women means that such compromises seem like the best possible solution.

  15. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2006 at 9:43 am

    By the way, you should probably read Galt’s entire post, not just my excerpts from it. She addresses or acknowledges some of the points that are made here. Some of her commenters raise some interesting criticisms too.

    Frank M., I think you are missing the boat on the housing argument. It’s very true, as you point out, that housing is not an insuperable obstacle to having a one income family. But that’s not the argument–the argument is that the prevalence of two-income families tends to make one-income families worse off in the housing market than they would otherwise be. If having just one income is a barrier to participating in certain occupations or working in certain parts of the country, as you seem to acknowledge, then the argument is valid, right?

  16. danithew on April 12, 2006 at 9:46 am

    Julie, not to disagree with Elisabeth. I think different wards certainly can have different approaches to things. But I have observed the same thing that you are talking about.

    If a guy is a medical student or law student (or perhaps we should take the next step and say “a doctor” or “a lawyer) he is considered to be a person with leadership potential and is often given “a time-consuming calling” (as you put it). This happens in spite of the fact that he has major career demands on his time. I’m sure when the call is extended, the topic comes up a bit — but vocation or time constraints done come up quite as immediately as an issue.

    On the other hand I have observed that women who are in demanding graduate programs or jobs are often considered to be “off limits” because it is important to “respect their time.” Maybe the desire to respect time is sincere. I believe it often is. But I think there is sometimes a barrier in place as well. There is also the possibility that some fear that having a woman professional in x (prominent calling) sends out the wrong message to the women in the ward or the young women in the ward.

  17. Elisabeth on April 12, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Sure, Julie. There is enough of an accord between the words “disproportionately” and “typically” for us to be in agreement. I was sharing my personal experience of working women being given the more time-consuming callings in my ward – not disagreeing with you.

  18. Elisabeth on April 12, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Julie, the reality is that people have different schedules and responsibilities – whether they work outside the home or not! I guess it would be ideal if everyone was on the same schedule, but that is impossible. So squishing meetings in between doctor’s appointments, work, school activities, etc., is the norm, and it’s essential to be as flexible and understanding of other people’s responsibilities as possible.

    And, for the record, we’re not ducking out during Sharing Time. Scarce resources in our Ward Primary require a member of the presidency to conduct Sharing Time every week. We try to meet as a Presidency for a few minutes during the time the children are in their individual classes and when Sharing Time begins.

  19. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2006 at 10:01 am

    Danithew, on the “importance of respecting their time”

    You may be right when it comes to childless women. But the tendency to give demanding callings to fathers who work but not to mothers who work is less about sending the wrong message and more about a feeling (or a recognition) that more of a working mothers spare time is or ought to be taken up with childcare.

  20. BBELL on April 12, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Hi guys,

    My only comment here is on the housing price issue.

    In the Northern Chicago Suburbs the two income professional families bid the price of housing up way way up in a few select school districts in the Ward I was living in the late 1990′s. This made it hard for single income traditional families to purchase a home. 600K for a 2200 SQFT home for a DR and a Lawyer was not that bad. But for a family with one income this was really unreasonable. So we along with all the other young families in our ward all ended up migrating out either to the Chicago Exurbs where there were more SAHM or out of state entirely. (We ended up in the Dallas Exurbs)

  21. Susan M on April 12, 2006 at 10:07 am

    I work fulltime and commute 2 hours a day. If I were to be offered a time-consuming calling, I’d probably have to turn it down (but of course I’d pray about it first). And I bet a lot of other women in my position would also. If you encounter that a lot as a Bishop, aren’t you going to be more likely not to extend time-consuming calls to women who work fulltime?

  22. Coffinberry on April 12, 2006 at 10:12 am

    I think I know what you mean about that ‘vibe.’ I was responsible for starting it about myself… I mean, in the first year of law school, who has time to be in a stake auxilliary presidency anymore? I knew my schedule would no longer mesh with the other members of the presidency, and that my sabbath time with my family would be precious, so I requested (and received) a release, and was called to do something else more suitable to my time constraints (a music calling – still needed daily practice and weekly participation, but didn’t involve any counseling, decision-making or fire-extinguishing). Then when I landed in a new ward thanks to a boundary shift, the first thing I hear is “Oh, and we have you on our do-not-call list.” (Meaning, don’t give her any callings, because she hasn’t got time.) So, on the one hand, it’s nice to not have to worry about a calling, but on the other, I wonder if I’ve shut the door to vital blessings by being so (reputedly) unavailable.

    It’s a strange position to find oneself in, to be caught in mid-stride straddling the fence. To my church peers, I’m a working woman now. To my school peers (especially since my family takes priority – and I’m commuting 30 minutes each way- I’m not a huge participant in study groups or social events) I’m a stay-at-home-mom who happens to be in their class, a woman with 17 years of lost history (big empty hole in the resume filled only by Church assignments and Scouting). I live in both camps. The mommy-wars go on inside my own head, and of course with its own LDS spin.

    I find myself often asking (like last night, right before my Appellate Advocacy Oral Argument) questions like “What am I doing?!!! What makes me think I could possibly be a lawyer? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay home, keep doing what you were doing? Remember, home is where you’re supposed to be, you know….”

    When those questions arise, I remind myself (and in my more wigged-out moments, my husband reminds me) that this is exactly and precisely what revelation has told us that I should be doing, and doing right now. Even if it is stressful, and even if it is a lot of fun (even if I am – even when wigged out – loving every minute of it) I thrill in the daily miracles that happen to make it possible for me to be both mom and law student– like today, as Property class was cancelled, giving me an unexpected a day off to get things ready for my daughter’s birthday party tomorrow and her baptism Saturday!).

    But I feel a need to be more circumspect in answering “How’s school going?” from folks at church. Most people think it’s ‘cool’ that I’ve gone back to school — and law school at that. But I also know that more than one sister (and more than one brother) finds my choice uncomfortable, perhaps threatening. With the change to the more informal enrichment activities, I tend to not be available to participate, so I’m missing out a little on getting to know my new ward. And I admit it is much harder to do visiting teaching than it used to be (day is full of classes and study, night is full of my family… where to put these sisters???). Traditionally, stay-at-home-moms get day routes, working mom get night routes (which is silly since they need to be home with their families sometime, right?). I don’t want either kind of route. And I don’t really want to be visit taught either, just now.

    So, yeah, in my own head at least, the Mommy-wars continue. Can’t speak for anyone else, though.

  23. danithew on April 12, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Adam, good point. That didn’t occur to me though because the instances I’ve observed or heard about have been with women who didn’t have children. They aren’t that many instances either … so I can’t pretend it’s a representative sample.

  24. Veritas on April 12, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Coffinberry – I TOTALLY know what you mean! I dont have kids yet, and I work full time. Furthermore, my husband is just getting started in a very demanding career and we require both our salaries just to make rent. We’re excited for kids – but its totally impossible right now (unless I kept working which truthfully I don’t want to do if I can avoid it). The relief society has no idea what to do with us. Enrichment in our ward is at 4 in the afternoon (two hours before I get off work, and three hours before I actually get home), they aren’t giving me a VT assignment, which is great cause truthfully I don’t really want one. With my work and commute, even without kids I struggle just to get the dishes done. I have VT but they dont want to come at night, and truthfully, again, Im dont really want them to. Cant they just send me an email and check me off? I don’t get home until around 7, then if I want to eat dinner thats gets me close to 8 with prep and eating, then dishes from dinner 8:30, then any errands I need to run 9:30-10, and trying to get in a work out (which sorry is really vitally important to me)….I mean I just don’t have time.
    Honestly with our long days, sharing a car, being broke besides both working full time (thank you student loans), and the stress of trying to get a career/business of the ground, I have very little time for the ward. Theres a season for everything right? And they the women in the RS are totally lost on where i “fit’ (I am the ONLY non-mother, working woman in the ward). Instead of just leaving me be they pester me and discuss my ‘issue’ in bishopric meetings like I need to be fixed. Totally driving me crazy! I mean, I hate working. I would LOVE to quit my job and have lots of kids right now. But I cant. Hopefully soon, thats what we’re planning/saving/praying for, but my ward, RS, not to mention Inlaws, just can’t seem to accept that we are in a weird phase of life right now, and the I feel a tremendous amount of judging and inpatience from all the mothers in RS.

  25. Coffinberry on April 12, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Just wanted to say ha ha on me… immediately after clicking send, my new (never met her before) visiting teacher called…. can I come over and visit teach right now? I mean, the one and only day all month that I really could be visit taught, Heavenly Father zapped her mind with the idea to call. And so, I’ve been visit taught, just when I actually had a minute. Go figure. And a lesson on the divine potential of women, no less. So I guess the take-away message is, following the Spirit trumps the Mommy Wars….

  26. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Veritas, when you say, “I would LOVE to quit my job and have lots of kids right now” I wonder why you don’t move to a place where it doesn’t require the full-time income of two college graduates to pay for rent and one car. This isn’t meant to be condemning or judgmental; I am just genuinely curious.

  27. John Mansfield on April 12, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    An alternative in the hot markets to the two-income household is for the husband to spend a couple of hours or more each day travelling to the job and back. In a sense he takes a second part-time job as his own chauffeur. This has a similar detrimental effect for the body of the saints; people become more grudging in devoting their time beyond the needs and wants of their own families.

  28. BBELL on April 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Hey,

    Julie,

    This is exactly what is occurring in my area of Dallas and why we moved here from Chicago. One LDS SAHM family moves here. Pays 165K for 2500 SQFT and all the relatives from CA, Washington ETC take notice and gradually move here as well over the years. So the Church grows and grows here. Our ward has split 2 times since 2001 and rumors are that we will have a stake soon. In an area where 15 years ago there was 1 ward.

  29. Veritas on April 12, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    I live in Houston, it doesn’t get any cheaper. My husbands line of work is mostly ONLY in California and we were actually tremendously blessed to get a job here at the one and only place this type of work exists in Houston (though there were some opportunities in Austin and Dallas, as well as in Raleigh NC). We each make less than 30k a year, and with the mound of debts over the past four years as students, combined with our car, student loans, tithing and a move here four months ago that we are still paying for…well, its still pretty dang tight. Once we pay off a few things, we’ll be able to start saving. But if I quit we’d be living off of less than 30k a year, if we had a baby we’d have to move into a bigger apartment…just don’t see how its possible. Not to mention my insurance is through my company, and in order to switch to my husbands I would actually have to GET pregnant, in which case Im not sure it would actually be covered by his insurance (otherwise its wait until enrollment day next february). Not to mention on my husbands insurance my premium would be increasing from $60 a month to $300, then to $600 a month with a baby. Out of 2000 take home a month, if 600 is going to insurance and 900 to rent and 200 to tithing…well, theres just not enough to cover it all. Not even close.
    And this is one of the most annoying parts of all of this, people just cannot comprehend how a couple college grads could still be broke. And LDS (women especially) tend to follow the logic ‘well if I did it why cant you’ or ‘if I was prompted by the spirt that this was the best way than it must be the best way for EVERYONE’.
    Didn’t mean to sound so complainy, its just this week inparticualar I’ve really had RS women on my case and its greatly adding to my stress level and really making me want to avoid them at all costs.

  30. Frank McIntyre on April 12, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    “If having just one income is a barrier to participating in certain occupations or working in certain parts of the country, as you seem to acknowledge, then the argument is valid, right?”

    Adam, there is certainly an argument to be made, but I think it is weaker than the one that typically is claimed. The argument often seems to be that one-income families are being made worse off than they used to be, because of the presence of two-income families. It is is not at all clear that this is the case in any material sense, since many goods are way cheaper now than they used to be, even if certain kinds of housing is not. On the other hand, it certainly is true (that they are worse off) if one is basing one’s happiness on how much other people have.

  31. no one on April 12, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    People want more now than they used to. Like cell phones, high speed internet, two or more cars, bigger houses. My mother grew up in a house with one bath room and 4 children and two parents. That would be rare today. If people are willing to live in that really small house, no cell phone, no internet, no cable, maybe not enough money for all the kids to play sports and take piano lessons. There is a reason old houses have small closets. They had less clothes back then. People demand a higher standard of living than they did in the 50′s then more people (but still not all) would have the opportunity to have a parent stay home. And I can realte to Veritas becasue I am in similar situation. I can;t have a baby right now because I literlly can’t afford one when everyone thinks I should. I just wish people would not be so judgmental.

  32. BBELL on April 12, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    Hey Veritas.

    At least when you are on your feet financially you will be living in an area that is actually affordable. I would bet money that in a couple of years that your Husband will be earning more and be more able to support y’all.

    One other quick comment on young families getting started NOT DIRECTED AT ANYBODY IN PARTICULAR…..

    Student Loans are great while you are in college cause it seems like free money. The problems start when you actually have to pay them off. Then they stand in the way of the wife staying home cause the debt load is double if both H and W have loan debt.

    It should be a factor from both genders when choosing a mate.

  33. S. P. Bailey on April 12, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    It’s not you, darling. It’s me. By “me” I mean your student loans.

  34. Veritas on April 12, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    Bbell-
    That is the idea. I wish the members of our ward were so understanding! We have enough pressure from ourselves, we, and people like us, really don’t need the pressure from what is supposed to a support system and blessing in our life (our ward).

    Unfortunatly regarding Student loans, its not that it seems like free money, its just the only option to pay tuition. We were married, both in school full time, and grants didnt cover tuition, and $6 and hour part time didnt cover rent – hence student loans to pay for college. For the last 2 years we didn’t receive any excess back, and in my husbands last semester even with loans we had to pay almost a grand. You have to understant that student loans are the deciding factor for most who use them on whether they get a degree or not. No student loans, no degree.

  35. BBELL on April 12, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Hey Veritas.

    I have a billing relationship with Nelnet so I completely understand what you are saying.

    It seems that over time grants have gone away and been replaced with Student Loans. The loans then come due right as young LDS families are trying to have babies and buy houses further complicating the already complicated process of being in your twenties and having babies.

  36. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    LOL, Veritas, you are right–can’t get any cheaper than Houston!

  37. Nicole on April 12, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Veritas- I agree with you about the student loans! Both me Dear Husband have student loans from undergrad. It was just as you said- no loans, no degree. Mine is almost paid for (7 years later). Now we’re paying for DH’s EXPENSIVE grad school loans- close to 60k. Yikes. But he got a great promotion and raise because of his MBA.

    When DH first graduated we were sent to So. CA- SUPER expensive. He was making 80k and we were barely scraping by renting a dump of a house because we couldn’t afford 600k for 1400 sq. ft. Most of the women in our ward worked just to live in a decent place. I had very few women friends because most of them had to work. I did go to a gym but I was still terribly lonely and had a very difficult time there. We did have 2 cars, cheap dial-up internet, no cell phone. So while it is true that people feel they need more it’s also true that many people scrape by without those things. Plus I think it is virtually impossible to have one car in a country with such poor public transportation and such long commutes. We managed to get by with 1 car for about 6 years but that was VERY hard.

    We’re now living quite comfortably on the east coast thanks to a job transfer. I have so many more friends now because it’s a cheaper place and more women are able to stay at home if they want to. The point of this rather long and rambling story is that things may seem bad when you start out and I know it’s frustrating to see your friends buy houses and have more than you, etc. But be patient and you will be blessed. Things work out. Our 1st kid was a surprise and I didn’t know how we were going to afford it but we scraped by and after DH got several raises I was able to stay at home.

    To answer one of the original questions in the post- from my personal experience mothering is more fulfilling (I don’t know if I would say it’s easier) when more women do it. I understand that it’s not possible for many women to stay at home and I also know a few who want to work and go crazy at home. Personally I think it’s so fabulous to get toegther for a park day or to scrapbook or just chat while the kids play. It gets me out of the house and not only do I get to socialize but so do the kids. When I’m happier DH is happier and as a result our family is happier.

  38. Nicole on April 12, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    To clarify my previous post- the first line should be: Both me AND DH have loans.

    The last paragraph- I’m referring to the idea that it’s more fulfilling to mother when more women stay at home.

    Sorry about the mistakes, the kids are needing attention and I was typing in a hurry.

  39. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 12, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    #10
    I wonder if this is really true. Maybe in subjective sense it may seem like this, but if a study were done, and/or if bishops were polled, I’m hard-pressed to think that women who work are deliberately passed over for callings like RS pres or YW pres. I tend to be a little more simple in my thinking that callings are done by revelation (unless, of course, a called working woman were to turn down the calling). In our own ward the YW pres is a full-time working mother — and there is certainly no dearth of SAHMs. Our RS pres. has a part-time job (got it a week before her calling).

  40. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 12, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    #25 awesome story…thanks for sharing.

    Julie…I probably should have read all the comments before commenting on your comment #10. Sorry.

  41. Nathan on April 12, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    M&M,

    When we do callings in our ward, we defenitly study it out before we ask the Lord if it be right. The Lord directs it, but he does expect his agents to do some of the thinking before we ask. There is no doubt that inspiration is relied on as we don’t know all the circumstances of everybody in the ward, but as we contemplate one person or another for a calling we consider the strains it would put on their life.

  42. no one on April 12, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    Student loans are somtimes a nessisary evil. Taking out student loans to get a degree, even though it makes getting established alittle harder, will result in making much more money over they lifetime. If no LDS person took out student loans to pay for school then LDS people would be a much uneducated poor people that never will have time to serve in the church. Maybe working hard in your twenties and not having time for big callings is okay, there is a stage of life for everything. With an educated person it shouldn’t last forever and then they can help in the ward later in ways that they would be able to if they hadn’t student loans. There is a time for everything I think it is too much to ask people to do everything all the time.

  43. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 12, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    #41: Of course. I was responding to the feeling that I got from the first post that the process stopped at the “studying”…with no allowance or recognition of “inspiration” (which could (and sometimes does) change what has been decided upon in the process of thinking through options). Because of the “inspiration” part of the process, I don’t think it’s accurate to make generalizations about specific reasons why callings are or are not extended (e.g., because of schedules, work loads, whatever)…only to be able to make assertions about what factors are considered in the “studying it out in the mind” part of the process. (Did that make any sense? My thoughts seem to be coming out sort of choppy on this one….) Of course, there may be units that just make decisions and go, without much deliberation in prayer, but I would hope that is the exception, not the rule. I would hate to find out that I was not considered for a calling simply because of external factors in my life, or to find out that I was extended a calling because no one else’s schedule would “allow for it.” I want to know there is that element of inspiration, and believe that, in most cases, there is.

    None of this means that I think leaders should ignore specific family situations and challenges, because, of course those are important factors to consider, esp. in light of all that is said about “family first” by our general leaders.

  44. Veritas on April 12, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Nicole and No one – PRECISLY ;)
    Right now in our life we just don’t have time for callings and being super involved in the ward, because we are working our tails off to get to a place where we can afford the kids we want, and me staying home, and all of that. Sometimes I wish ward members and family would be a little patient with us! We’re trying!

    The reason I brought it all up, in relation to the original post, is because Im camp director in my ward and have SERIOUSLY slacked in my duties because my life is so busy and distracted from church and Im always out of town or working during meetings or you name it. And, I cannot get off work to go to camp, and had to break that news to the stake leaders this week, to which I was sternly chastised. Looking back on it, Im not sure i should have accepted the calling. But, I didn’t think you could do that. On top of it, I found out through the grapevine that we were a topic of discussion in PEC, and one of the things brought up was that the RS had an appt with me and I wasn’t there and we seem to be avoiding the ward. Well, I have no recollection of a meeting with RS and no one ever called me to say ‘hey, where were you’ if said meeting just slipped my mind (which is likely). So, now because of nosy inlaws Im getting phone calls from everyone thinking we are inactive, the YW are mad at me because Im not going to camp and I keep missing meetings…and church has suddenly turned into a nightmare for me in which I feel like the mormon mommies greatly dislike and disrespect me. And I feel like it all stems from the RS and YW leaders judging me because I don’t have kids and work full time. Maybe Im just paranoid?

    Furthermore, I really dont feel the calling was ‘inspired’ because when they asked what calling I liked when we moved in I said camp, and thats what I got :) (Not very smart of me, considering my schedule)

  45. queuno on April 12, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I’ll apologize in advance for my harshness, but regarding callings …

    I’m sensitive to this general topic, but sorry, I’m not sensitive to the “too busy to hold a calling” bit. Simultaneously, my wife and I have had the following for the last several years:

    - Me in grad school, part-time (1-2 classes a semester, plus research)
    - Me with full-time job that includes monthly travel
    - Wife has a business run out of the house (so that she can be a SAHM) that takes up a lot of evenings and weekends
    - Wife has numerous volunteer school and community service activities (usually one a week)
    - 2 children who have the litany of soccer, achievement days, special school activities, etc. every night during the week.
    - Oh, and a newborn in addition to the other 2 kids

    We also have student loans, other debt, etc., and live in a fairly inexpensive area (by choice) so that we could afford to do things. I turned down offers on the east coast and California and Utah because I couldn’t afford to have a life and live there (plus Utah = icky).

    During that time we both have had callings — including stake callings that required lots of hours per week. We’ve never turned down a calling. There was one case where after 4 years of a stake calling, I had to make a decision between taking my last required class or changing the night on which we had meetings. I presented that option and the SP decided that after 4 years, I had served enough already and decided to release me. I didn’t ask for it — I simply presented the time conflict and let the leadership decide.

    Now, it did mean that I had to be flexible with my graduate program and do it part-time. That’s OK — a lot of PhD programs in computer science are flexible. At the same time that I was doing this, we’ve had several full-time working dads and moms in the ward do MBA programs — and hold important callings (GD teacher, primary president, etc.).

    Yes, sometimes the ward has to adjust callings to match your workload, but that comes from (a) a willingness to serve in the first place, (b) a willingness to be flexible, and (c) a willingness to be open and honest about your current load with the leadership. I’ve never met a bishop or SP who wouldn’t work with someone who genuinely wanted to serve.

    The thing with Church callings is that you have to start by setting aside time in your schedule for HT/VT, temple attendance, scripture study/prayer, FHE, and callings, and then add in everything else. It’s like tithing — you have to start with the tithing and fast offerings and then budget the rest of the expenses. If you say, “I’m too busy for callings”, then you’ll never make time for them. And, after a while, leaders get tired of hearing you turn them down (inspiration aside, you have to remember that a lot of inspiration comes in the form of confirmation of what has been taken already to the Lord).

    If you say you’re too busy to hold a calling, then you’re either (a) not able to allocate time effectively or (b) don’t really want to serve, period. I just don’t see a middle ground where you’re being truthful.

    Again, sorry if I come off as being harsh, but I’m willing to put time and money constraints up against anyone and dare them to turn down a calling because of being “too busy”.

  46. queuno on April 12, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    [I'll add to my own entry, #45, that we have no family nearby and do not rely on the ward for babysitting, unless we pay for it.]

  47. BrianJ on April 12, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    Veritas, no one, et al: Do you think that most LDS who are putting off kids “until they can afford them” are being honest with themselves and their finances? I have only spoken to two couples who have said this (very close friends, and they brought it up because they were asking my advice). My judgment (again, they asked me to) was that they could absolutely afford kids but that they might have to give up some of the standard of living that “no one” refers to in post #31: cell phones, restaurants, frequently buying new clothes, etc.

    Julie: I am very interested in your comment in post #6, “…our own decision signifies something judgmental…” Couldn’t someone take that too far? (Though I don’t think you are.) For example, my wife and I have decided to space our children a certain time apart, but I don’t intend that to be an indictment of those who have their children closer together or futher apart. It is, however, judgmental of those who give no consideration to the timing of their pregnancies.

    Adam: “Working mothers often don’t like other women thinking they’ve made a lesser choice.” Combining this with what Julie said about decisions being judgmental, I have a question. Do you think that the homemaking moms are saying that the working moms made a lesser choice, or that the working moms are in less fortunate circumstances?

  48. Eve on April 12, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    Queno, I’m glad to hear that you’ve never turned down a calling or asked to be released from one. It really is great that you and your wife can do so much for the church and for your community. But I’m not sure that someone contemplating a calling or church assignment or any other responsibility needs to “put [their] time and money constraints up against [yours]” in deciding what course of action to take.

  49. Eve on April 12, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    In the first comment on this thread, Adam notes that “suggesting that certain kinds of conflicts are inevitable does not imply that they are desirable.” I’m guessing that most, if not all, of us can agree that the Mommy Wars aren’t desirable. I wonder what we can do to lay down our weapons, given Galt’s point, well illustrated by Julie’s, Veritas’s, and Coffinberry’s personal experiences, that working women and mothers benefit from other working women and mothers, and stay-at-home mothers benefit from other stay-at-home mothers.

    Julie’s comment (#6) cuts right to the heart of the matter:

    “We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.”

    I’ve seen this happen over and over, and what I wonder is–does it have to? Where do the judgments reside–in the decisions themselves? In the insecurities about those decisions? In our inevitably incomplete knowledge of others’ circumstances?

    In practical terms, how do we go about bridging this divide among our sisters in Christ?

  50. Veritas on April 12, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    Wow do you want a cookie queuno?

    Like I said in a previous post, one of the most annoying things about the whole situation I (and others) find myself in is the common attitude in the church of “I do it so why can’t you”. It is NOT requisite that a man run faster than he has strength. And what you described above, well, I can’t do, not while working full time. I’m just not capapble of handling that kind of load. My priorities in my life right now, are not VT/calling first, sorry. They just aren’t. There is not time for EVERYTHING, something has to give, and it can’t be my job so, that leaves callings.

    Your attitude is precisly the type of thing I’ve been getting from my ward members/RS leaders and I think it proves a point made in the original post. Everyone thinks “this is what I do, so this is what you SHOULD do” and is being inherently (or in your case overtly) judgemental.

    I also said in my post that I didn’t turn down my calling. I didn’t think you were ‘supposed to’ but I can tell you right now Im failiing miserably at it and the leaders sure wished I just wouldn’t have accepted it, knowing that I would have work conflicts and all.

  51. S. on April 12, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    >Adam, there is certainly an argument to be made, but I think it is weaker than the one that typically is claimed. The >argument often seems to be that one-income families are being made worse off than they used to be, because of the >presence of two-income families. It is is not at all clear that this is the case in any material sense, since many goods are >way cheaper now than they used to be, even if certain kinds of housing is not. On the other hand, it certainly is true (that >they are worse off) if one is basing one’s happiness on how much other people have.

    Church membership is declining in many of the nicest places in California, such as the Bay Area, as sky high housing prices make it impossible for one-income families to stick around.

    If well being “in the material sense” means having lots of big screen TVs and cars and lots of things made of plastic, then Frank’s argument makes sense. If it means having a nice home in a nice school distict close to major employment centers (and located in the parts of the United States that virtually all your Ivy League classmates want to live in) then Adam is one hundred percent correct.

    There are many people on the coasts who would rather give up all kinds of purchasing power (and possibly their right arms) than move to Provo. Perhaps Frank (like me) has trouble appreciating these preferences, but can he really argue—as an honest economist—that those who are forced to leave their 800 square foot, two-bedroom coastal California homes and move into 5000 square foot Utah mansions are “materially better off” than they would have been if marginally lower California housing prices had allowed them to live where then wanted to live?

  52. Annie Edwards on April 12, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I have a hard time believing the “mommy wars” actually exist outside of BYU in its temorary induced religious nuttiness. Clearly women have better things to do than to sit around judging or being offended by women with greater or lesser involvement in paid careers at the present time than they themselves. Give me a break. We all recognize these decisions are tough and carry an extremely intricate matrix of tradeoffs. Most of us waffle. All of us have a great deal of respect for women who make vastly different decisions in this regard (or who go back and forth, etc). Who has time to foster such inane insecurity as would be necessary to see value in the “mommy wars”? I have a hard time believing this of anyone I know outside of BYU.

  53. Annie Edwards on April 12, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    I really believe all most women want is some small degree of respect for the decision they make with regard to paid work. No one really wants everyone else in the universe to do exactly as they do. That is simply not necessary for validation of one’s personal choice. All any sane woman (paid or nonpaid) wants is respect. Understandably so.

  54. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    “The argument often seems to be that one-income families are being made worse off than they used to be, because of the presence of two-income families. It is is not at all clear that this is the case in any material sense, since many goods are way cheaper now than they used to be, even if certain kinds of housing is not. On the other hand, it certainly is true (that they are worse off) if one is basing one’s happiness on how much other people have.”

    This is the case only if the decline in the cost of goods is due to the larger (two-income family) workforce. So the real question is, does the larger economy and increased supply of goods that results from a larger workforce increase the average one-income worker’s purchasing power enough to compensate for the increased demand for goods, land, and housing? I don’t have the economic know-how to know if there’s an obvious answer to that or not.

  55. Ann on April 12, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    I have a lot of opinions about this topic, but I will leave just one: this is a young person’s conundrum. I was wracked with guilt over working full-time, even when I was a single parent of two children. I’m now 46, and I’m much more laid back about the whole thing. Want to stay home? Go for it! Want to go back to school? You go, sistah! Want to start a business? Write a book? Blog? Get a day job? Have at it! I trust you!

    My life is much better assuming that people have prayerfully made the best decisions for themselves and their families – and by giving myself the same choice and responsibility. This is not a “one size fits all” world.

  56. Eve on April 12, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Annie Edwards (#51), I completely agree that women “have better things to do than to sit around judging or being offended by women with greater or lesser involvement in paid careers at the present time than they themselves.” But I don’t think we’re there yet. I’ve encountered the Mommy Wars, in some form or another, everywhere I’ve ever lived, and not just at BYU.

  57. BrianJ on April 12, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Veritas, post 50: “Everyone thinks “this is what I do, so this is what you SHOULD doâ€? and is being inherently (or in your case overtly) judgemental. How do you distinguish between that statement and this one: “This is what you should do, and I know it’s possible because I do it.”? Please explain if you think it is a distinction without a difference. Along those lines, when (if ever) do you think it is right to give unsolicited advice, i.e. to admonish, call to repentance, etc.?

  58. BrianJ on April 12, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Veritas, post 50: “Everyone thinks “this is what I do, so this is what you SHOULD doâ€? and is being inherently (or in your case overtly) judgemental. How do you distinguish between that statement and this one: “This is what you should do, and I know it’s possible because I do it.”? Please explain if you think it is a distinction without a difference. Along those lines, when (if ever) do you think it is right to give unsolicited advice, i.e. to admonish, call to repentance, etc.?

  59. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 12, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    In practical terms, how do we go about bridging this divide among our sisters in Christ?

    I think one of the greatest keys to this is highly personal…that each woman learn how to look to God and live…not to look to her sides to see how well she is doing. Until we each can truly study things out in our minds, call upon God for guidance, and follow what we feel to be good and right and true — and then “not care” about what anyone else is doing (at least not in the comparison sense), then we will always be in this war mode. I think the only reason Julie’s comment might be true is because we all spend too much time looking to our sides, instead of looking to God (directly through prayer and also through His leaders) for guidance. I know that is the case for me, anyway. Comparison gives a tangible something that the natural man uses for validation and self-congratulation.

    In theory, we should be secure enough in our decisions (because we have pondered and prayed) and then perhaps trust others enough that they are doing their best with that whole process, too. It’s all too easy, though, with how hard life can be on either side of the fence, to resort to comparisons to find ways to feel validated, and perhaps not so alone. We take the natural-man way out, and start categorizing and separating and comparing and either “winning” the battle and feeling good or “losing” the battle and becoming stifled by guilt or depression. Looking upward, however, we would know that the only war is with our own selves and our own weaknesses, and that can only be done between a person and God.

    Lest you think I have this figured out, I will simply say that this issue of comparing is something I have struggled with my whole life. I have been thinking about this whole concept a lot for months…about how I need to figure out how to look upward more and to the sides less.

    I think this “mommy” issue is particularly volatile in the Church because of how forthright the prophets have been about women staying home. And yet, we are also reminded very clearly to not judge each other, because there is no way to know how decisions have been made in someone else’s life. We had a point in time where my husband felt I should work a little because I was struggling with depression. It was minimal, but how hurtful it would have been if i had felt someone judging me for what I was doing!

    I love this by Sister Parkin. I think this sums up what we can do to eliminate the war.

    The story of Mary and Martha…illustrates how the gift of charity can be diminished. Within Martha’s request for assistance was an unspoken but clear judgment: “I am right; she is wrong.â€? [And, incidentally, this is why she got the rebuke from the Savior!]

    Do we judge one another? Do we criticize each other for individual choices, thinking we know better, when in fact we rarely understand another’s unique circumstance or individual inspiration? Have we ever said, “She works outside the home.� Or, “Her son didn’t serve a mission.� Or, “She’s too old for a calling.� Or, “She can’t—she’s single.� Such judgments, and so many others like them, rob us of the good part, that pure love of Christ.

    We also lose sight of that good part when we compare ourselves to others. Her hair is cuter, my legs are fatter, her children are more talented, or her garden’s more productive—sisters, you know the drill. We just can’t do that. We cannot allow ourselves to feel inadequate by focusing on who we aren’t instead of on who we are! We are all sisters in Relief Society. We simply cannot criticize, gossip, or judge and keep the pure love of Christ. Can’t you hear the Lord’s sweet injunction: “Martha, Martha … ?�

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.�

  60. Robert C. on April 12, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    Adam (#54), I don’t think there’s an obvious answer. In the simplest conceivable model (in the spirit of Robert Lucas), assume 1 more worker implies 2 more apples produced.

    1. If that extra worker gets paid 2 apples and that worker simply eats the 2 apples, the rest of the economy is unaffected.

    2. If the extra worker only gets paid 1 apple (assume the owners of capital get the other apple), and that worker simply eats his apple, the rest of the economy is better off on the whole. However, it could be that the capital owners are better off at the expense of workers (that is, if the extra worker causes a decrease in the marginal product of labor, this could cause wages to decrease on average).

    3. If the extra worker gets paid 2 apples and eats one apple and uses the other apple to buy more capital, the analysis gets really complicated and depends on several assumptions. For example, if the extra worker simply plants another tree and consumes all the fruit of that tree himself then, assuming the tree and the nutrients for that tree are not scarce, then the rest of the economy is unaffected by this extra worker (if the economy trades with this extra worker, the rest of the economy will be better off in aggregate, although there may be some winners and some losers by the new entrant to the economy). On the other hand, if fertile ground is scarce and no more trees can be planted, then the extra worker’s investment apple will bid up the prices of the existing trees. This will make the existing tree owners better off but the other tree investors worse off.

    It might be helpul to think about more women in the workforce in terms of relaxing free trade barriers (in terms of eroding barriers to women working). And I would say that economists tend to believe that opening borders is generally a good thing (e.g. the immigration issue). But that’s not to say that some people won’t be hurt by free trade type policies (as my Texan colleague would point out, white laborers in Texas who tend not to work as hard as their Mexican counterparts will probably be worse off…), just that total output increases with free trade (e.g. the number of Mexicans wanting to cross the border suggests that their labor will be put to more productive use in the U.S. than in Mexico…). In terms of women in the work place, this means that total productivity (not including “goods” produced in the home which has been a hot topic amongst economists over the last 5-10 years) will probably increase with more women working, although this means some people may be in danger of losing their jobs. But, again, whether this will help or hurt single-income families is far from obvious (at least to me!)….

  61. Annie Edwards on April 13, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Eve,
    You know, I’ve been talking to my husband about this for a while also. He said more or less the same thing as you, and I regret making such a broad statement dismissing other people’s legitimate encounters with antagonism. I guess I see categorical hostility between paid and unpaid women with children as just incredibly unnecessary and often not present, and so my tendency is to want to think it just isn’t worth focusing on. It’s not that I’m totally cool with women in the church and the deal with working vs not working. I would really like church leaders to stop making semi-categorical statements about gender roles because I do think they’re wrong, and it’s annoying. But on an individual level, I’d rather believe most people just aren’t that universalistic, or–maybe more importantly–interested enough in other people’s lives to feel actual hostility about different choices on out-of-home work.

  62. Annie Edwards on April 13, 2006 at 12:20 am

    “Even larger than these practical issues, however, is that as politically INcorrect as it is to say this, every mother out of the house all day is broadcasting that her children will be just fine in her absence which implies that I am, in my home with them all day, adding precisely nothing crucial to their lives. Similarly, my presence at home broadcasts that I think I *am* adding something significant to their lives, which signals that working mothers’ children are missing that ’something’. We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.”

    Julie M. Smith,

    No she’s not. Look, you work all day when you don’t have to, you get to send your kid to Spence from preschool onward, you name it. You don’t work at a paid out-of-home position all day, you get to educate your kid one on one. Either way you sacrifice something. Either way you add something. Don’t give me this baloney that someone who makes a different decision than you can’t possibly see the value in choices you’ve made. If I have my child play violin instead of piano, does that signify that you’ve added nothing unique to your child’s life in all those years of piano lessons and piano fights? Good grief.

  63. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 13, 2006 at 2:02 am

    Annie,
    Maybe because you disagree with the prophets on these issues, you may not understand those who take their words to heart; I think this is what makes the whole issue so volatile in the Church. Those who accept the prophets’ position but also either need to or really want to work may struggle with guilt. On the other hand, those who choose to stay home may feel like they are missing something “out there” or may feel that those who work and don’t have a problem with it are minimizing 1) their choice to sacrifice what other women still have (a career, adult interaction, whatever) and 2) their efforts to follow the prophets. The tricky thing about this is that every situation is different and, although I strongly feel we should not dismiss what the prophets say just because there are exceptions, we can’t judge each other on this.

    All of that said, I think it could still be hard without the prophets’ counsel on this topic as a factor, because “the grass is often greener on the other side.” Working moms may envy SAHMs and the time they have with the kids. SAHMs might envy the adult interaction and recognition working moms get. Add insecurities to the mix, and what has been described here really happens more often than you think.

  64. BrianJ on April 13, 2006 at 7:20 am

    Annie, posts 61-62: I know that Julie can speak for herself, but I find a good amount of hostility in your response to her. Is that necessary?

    I am also intrigued by the different terms being used by the commenters here to refer to the different “types” of women. Is a person’s bias reflected by their choice of terms? Consider some of the combinations used by posters above:

    1) SAHM vs Working mom
    2) Homemaking mom vs Working mom
    3) Paid mom vs Unpaid mom
    4) Stay-at-home mom vs Professional women

  65. Annie Edwards on April 13, 2006 at 11:08 am

    Brian J,
    I’m glad that came across. Yeah, it’s totally necessary. Her attitude sucks. You can’t go around in life feeling put-upon and pooh-poohed by everyone who makes different decisions than you. I don’t care if you are making your decision based on what the prophet told you to do, or God directly told you to do….our decisions are our own, and it is *our responsibility* to feel confident enough in those decisions that we do not need to be surrounded by total conformity on the part of everyone else in the universe in order to feel respected. None of us are the center of the universe, or deserve such bending-over-backward sensitivity to our possibly hurt feelings. And it is just plain wrong that someone who doesn’t make the same sacrifices as oneself must necessarily view the sacrificing person in a manner that minimizes the validity and potential pain of those sacrifices. We can empathise without choosing likewise. That is part of what it means to be an adult.

    I also think you’re right, though, that the wording people use reflects biases in how they perceive one another. Paid vs unpaid is the dichotomy I prefer because clearly SAHM’s *are* working moms, and are also clearly 100% professional, if they take themselves as seriously as I hope they do.

    Mulling and Musing,
    You know, I guess I am less concerned with the idea of people who take the prophet’s counsel (as a universal) to heart judging women who don’t, than I am with the idea of these same women feeling demeaned by the simple existence of someone who chooses differently. The former I can understand; to judge is human. But the latter really bothers me. I wish no women would feel so insecure.

  66. BrianJ on April 13, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Annie, Thanks for the response. Forgive me if I’m being borish, but do you see a distinction between the terms “SAHM” and “Homemaker”? I can tell you that my wife certainly does; she refers to herself as a “homemaker” and does not like the term “SAHM.” Her feeling is that “stay-at-home” describes what she is doing in sedentary terms, cf. “I teach,” “I run a store,” “I make a home,” and “I stay at home.” I will have to ask her what she thinks of your terms “paid vs unpaid.” I should stress that what others call her is not really important to her, but she does see it as a sign of respect or disrespect and as an indication of how they view her contributions to our family.

    I am also curious how you would answer the question I posed to Veritas in post 57: “When (if ever) do you think it is right to give unsolicited advice, i.e. to admonish, call to repentance, show a better way, etc.?”

  67. Veritas on April 13, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    In regards to the topic at hand, our choices regarding our family and use of time regarding family and church – unsolicited advice is never warranted. There are certain people I wouldn’t be offended if the offered such unsolicited advice, though I may be annoyed, and thats parents or siblings. As long as it is given AS ADVICE not ‘call to repentence’. People, including leaders in our wards, should remember that these are personal, individual decisions and it is solely between ind. and the Lord what is the correct way. So, no one is authorized to call to repentance. Sorry.

  68. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Re #47: Julie: I am very interested in your comment in post #6, “…our own decision signifies something judgmental…� Couldn’t someone take that too far? (Though I don’t think you are.) For example, my wife and I have decided to space our children a certain time apart, but I don’t intend that to be an indictment of those who have their children closer together or futher apart. It is, however, judgmental of those who give no consideration to the timing of their pregnancies.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to any spacing pattern of children. Hence, when I see someone with kids really close together (mine are rather far apart), I recognize that she has chosen a different path from mine and that in some ways her life is easier and in other harder. Furthermore, we are specifically counseled by the brethren that these decisions are between husband, wife, and Lord and not to judge. So I don’t. When it comes to working mothers of young children, however, the prophets have been clear that it is advantageous if the mother is at home. So the ads and disads have been weighed for us.

    But let me make clear: this is when we are talking about the issue in the abstract. If and when I encounter a woman in my ward with young kids who work, my operating assumption is that her decision is pleasing to the Lord because she specifically sought out and received His blessing on her choice. (I realize I may be wrong, but if I am, that’s _her_ problem, not mine. I am going to treat her as if her decision is right.)

    Annie Edwards–I don’t want you to think that I am ignoring you, so I’ll acknowledge your comments and say that based on a few things that you have said, I think that you are I are coming from assumptions that are radically different from mine and that, combined with your hostility towards me, leaves me unconvinced that a productive discussion is possible. Suffice it to say that my silence towards you does not imply consent, but rather implies that I don’t think anything good will come from engaging you.

    Re BrianJ on terms: very interesting. I have been using at-home and working mother, but I don’t like those terms (because I am rarely at home and I do work!) but I haven’t found anything I like better. I suppose paid and unpaid is technically most accurate, but I don’t like to be defined in terms of what I am not (unpaid) especially since the word that usually follows ‘unpaid’ is ‘maid.’ :) I can respect your wife’s preference for homemaker, but I’m not thrilled with that choice myself because I think in some circles it connotes an overemphasis on the _house_ instead of the people in it. We need a neologism.

    Veritas writes, “So, no one is authorized to call to repentance.”

    Veritas, I don’t think that is true. A bishop is a judge in Israel and part of his (and, one could argue, the home teachers’) responsibility is to call people to repentence.

  69. Veritas on April 13, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Well, sure they can call to repentance on some issues. I was speaking in regards to our specific decisions regarding family. They have no authority over our personal life decisions . If a family feels the mother needs to have a job, well, thats between them and the Lord. It has no bearing on their worthiness in the church. That is YOUR decision. Its like saying the Bishop can call you to repentance for your choice in marriage partner, the neighborhood you choose to live in, or whether you choose to breastfeed or not. Its completly rediculous to think that they have any authority over those types of decisions.

  70. BrianJ on April 13, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Julie–Just a quick note and I’ll some questions later. The term “homemaker” does not, as I see it, focus on the house. As the saying goes, “A house doesn’t make a home.” Well, what does then? It is absolutely the people and the atmosphere within the house that makes it a home. So part of what my wife does to make our house in to a home is the physical (cleaning, cooking, shopping) and part is the personal attention given to each of us.

  71. Annie Edwards on April 13, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Julie,
    Okey-dokey, thanks. Acknowledgment acknowledged. As you wish.

    BrianJ,
    I don’t think it’s a boorish question. I don’t know. Outside of a discussion trying to draw lines between women who work outside of the home and women who for the most part don’t, I think “full-time mom” makes the most sense as a descriptive, respectful title for women who are exactly that. I feel more normal asking someone “Are you a full-time mom?” than I do asking “Are you a homemaker?”, I guess because I feel like the latter question can come across as sarcastic to women in their twenties, whereas the former is more likely to be taken as a genuine expression of interest in someone’s full-time occupation. But I don’t know, and I’m happy to switch to something else if I’m being inadvertently disrespectful.

    For instance, I really didn’t mean to imply something about being “maids” when I referred to full-time moms/homemakers as unpaid. I thought it was a good distinction because I thought it gave more a connotation of service (“unpaid volunteer work”, “unpaid Pro Bono”, etc….) that acknowledged a central aspect of motherhood that many full-time moms I thought feel should be appreciated. I understand and regret, however, that I inadvertently used a label that might be demeaning to some people on this thread. And I apologize.

    I want someone to understand that my heart is good here. I feel respect for women who make very different choices in this regard (and I don’t have any kids yet), and want to express this respect. I feel animosity toward the idea that such respect is impossible because respect for adults who make an array of difficult choices is something I intensely value and believe in. I both regret and do not regret being passionate here. But my heart is in the right place, and I hope it can be taken thus.

    I also think it’s very hard to say uniformly that it is never ok to give unsolicited advice or calls to repentence. I think many times people understand where unsolicited advice is given with the best of intentions (for instance, I am really, really paranoid about trampolines, and I have a really hard time not expressing concern to people who have them…. but I don’t think anyone’s ever really been offended by this, and I think similarly I can be understanding if someone expresses a concern about a decision I am making even if I am not necessarily going to wholeheartedly share their concern even after hearing them out). I think we need to be sympathetic to the impact of different beliefs when compounded with care, and appreciate the care while overlooking the judgment.

  72. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    BrianJ,

    I agree with you to a point, but I also think that, as I said before, there are some sectors where the word has been, if you will, corrupted to mean ‘someone who takes care of a house.’ Maybe we need a new word, maybe we should redeem that word, I don’t know. I tend to identify first as a homeschooler, which makes it clear that I’m home with kids (although it really shouldn’t, since a significant number of homeschooling mothers work part-time, but most people don’t realize that).

  73. BBELL on April 13, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I personally think a Bishop or Sp can when prompted by the Spirit call anybody to repentance as the spirit directs.

    Our pride may make us reject such a call and it often does. I feel bad for Bishops…..

  74. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Annie, I’m offended that you are attacking my trampoline. :)

    But I completely agree with you about 20somethings and the word homemaker.

  75. Veritas on April 13, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Ok, do those of you who have made comments saying a bishop can call to repentence mean “IN GENERAL” or specifically regarding personal decisions as I outlined above in post 69? I want to be clear that Bishops have authority, yes, but a limited authority. THere are certain things that WE and ONLY WE personally are eligible to recieve revelation regarding, and without revelation, I cannot see how one could call to repentence with any authority.

  76. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I think a bishop should say what he feels inspired to say. i imagine that might involve a mother working or a not-temple-worthy marriage partner. i suppose in theory it could happen for the other things you mention, but i doubt it would.

  77. Matt Evans on April 13, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments, but while I like the positive feel of “full-time mother,” wouldn’t working (paid) women object to the implication that they’re “part-time mothers”? (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, given that social pressure should strongly favor kids getting oodles of time with their parents.)

  78. BBELL on April 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    The only reason not to listen and seek to understand a Bishops advice is Pride and or hardheadedness.

    I do think a Bishop if prompted by the spirit can call and probably has called people to repentance on the SAHM issues.

    I have a sister in my ward who was called to repentance in this manner in my ward now as a young single many years ago in another ward. She had been publicly broadcasting her anti SAHM views in SS. Her Bishop called her in and gently rebuked her as prompted by the Spirit and warned her if she did not change her attitudes he could see her childless at 40. The bishop was right on the money. My source for this story? The sister in my ward who is now wishing she had listened.

  79. Frank McIntyre on April 13, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    S,

    This is why I used weasel words. All I said was that it was “not at all clear”. Not that I knew families to be better or worse off. Undoubtedly, some family is worse off under the current price list than they would be under a price list generated in a world with no two income homes. But are most single income families worse off? It is not at all clear! Two income homes, for one thing, change what it means to be a major population center, as they change the amenities offered by towns.

  80. BrianJ on April 13, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    Julie, Annie: Thanks again for entertaining my discussion of terms. I agree with the sometimes negative connotation of “homemaker.” Like I said before, my wife doesn’t really care that much. BUT I found the discussion to be enlightening. Just by reading your thinking-through-terms, I was able to get a good idea of how you view mothers who make either decision (not that there are really only two options). I don’t think there is any single term that must become the official term, but there are some terms that show a positive view and others that are less favorable.

    As for when to give advice: Once I had a friend tell me that I lacked faith. He said it in front of his and my wife and another couple that I we were all just getting to know. I knew he said it because he loved me, because he believed it, because he wanted to warn me, and–most importantly–because it was true. His wife was very upset with him and made several apologies to me over the next few days, but I always told her that I was glad for what he said. I know that I could have been offended, but then, I would have been wrong. Even if he had been incorrect, I still wouldn’t want to dwell on taking offense. So, I’m less interested in what to do when someone gives inappropriate advice and more interested in how to know whether your advice is appropriate, even if it isn’t welcomed.

  81. Ann on April 15, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    BrianJ #66 – I am also curious how you would answer the question I posed to Veritas in post 57: “When (if ever) do you think it is right to give unsolicited advice, i.e. to admonish, call to repentance, show a better way, etc.?

    When you are her bishop. Period.

  82. Adam Greenwood on April 16, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Am I my brother’s keeper?

  83. Annie Edwards on April 16, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    BrianJ,
    I have no idea when it’s really appropriate to give unsolicited advice to someone. Maybe when they really may not be aware of some additional information you possess? In the case of parenting advice, then, your advice given this rule should most likely take the form of recommending sources for further investigation into a topic. Let’s say, for instance, I were concerned because a friend of mine had decided to give up a career she passionately loved because of the conviction that children placed in even high quality daycare / nanny situations are scarred for life. I can think of a wide range of studies and books I might recommend (unsolicited) that she at least *consider* reading so as to make sure her assumption is as warranted as she sees it.

    The problem is, in a religious setting, it’s a little more difficult to meet this criteria if your reason for chastising a mother is because of your perception that she is not really following the guidance of the prophet / brethren. Chances are, if she can name more than 3 of the 12 apostles, she’s probably aware as well that the brethren have been speaking out for some time against mothers voluntarily choosing to pursue careers. Your chastisement, if that is the only real basis of it, will probably not be particularly useful in an informational sense. But then again, it is probably considerably less dangerous than any chastisement her own bishop might give (since the latter is, in her eyes, really in a position to know what’s best for her potentially, where as you aren’t). So my answer to the question of when it is ***OK*** (not necessarily “right” in a “righteous” sense, but at the very least not exceptionally harmful) to call a “wayward mother” to repentence ends up the reverse of what Ann has suggested: SO LONG AS YOU ARE NOT HER BISHOP, have at it, baby. Take your swing.

    Matt Evans,

    I don’t know if you are still reading this thread, since you brought up your question a couple of days ago or so. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I don’t really think working mothers would be offended by the term “full-time mother” being applied to women with children who don’t work outside the home. They have their own labels “such&such worker, wife, friend and mother…”. Why be offended by someone else’s? I mean really.

  84. Joni on May 9, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    “Even larger than these practical issues, however, is that as politically INcorrect as it is to say this, every mother out of the house all day is broadcasting that her children will be just fine in her absence which implies that I am, in my home with them all day, adding precisely nothing crucial to their lives. Similarly, my presence at home broadcasts that I think I *am* adding something significant to their lives, which signals that working mothers’ children are missing that ’something’. We may want to act like everyone else’s choices are all OK, but the reality is that our own decision signifies something judgmental to those in the other situation, whether we want to or not.”

    I absolutely agree with this. Well said, Julie.

    My own theory is that working women (by choice, who do not want to be home full-time with their children), as a group, should not be supportive of at-home mothers since we enable men to be more fully devoted to their careers. My husband has a lot more flexibility and energy to give to his job than a co-worker who is juggling child care responsibilities with his wife. So it is simplistic to say “whatever you choose is fine” because my choice, to be a full-time mom, “subsidizes” my husband and his career. He has an advantage over the working family woman. I wonder when the public dialog will shift and say that my “choice” (“choices” being the highest value to many) is actually a wrong choice. I think it is inevitable.

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