Liveblogging Symposium – Stay-at-home Moms: On the Record

August 15, 2009 | 5 comments
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EDIT: Emily Jensen has a great article on this at Mormon Times, and offers a much better (and more readable) synopsis. See it at http://bit.ly/GOEdq

Approximately 30 people in attendance, an engaging and personable panel:

Moderator/ CAMILLE AAGARD, former account executive at a public relations agency; cleaned out her desk two days before giving birth to her first child in 1998 and began a new career at home rearing five children, ages one to 11

Panelists

COURTNEY KENDRICK, mother of one son and wife of one man; blogs at CJANERUN.COM and housewifes simultaneously
LINDA WILKINS, technical writer before going home full time to parent eight children, four of whom are stepchildren. Seven of the eight children (ages 4 to 24) currently live at home
REBECCA BUCHERT, MA, philosophy; mother of four children, ages 2 to 10; has worked part-time off and on; currently not employed and pursuing writing and quilting as time permits
ERIKA MUNSON, Harvard graduate who jumped into the mothering business after graduation and never looked back; mother of five, ages 10 to 25

Camille

Attended a session last year that got me into this situation. I was sitting in the back and felt like there was a lack of voice from the Stay-at-Home mom contingent. I expressed my concerns and I appreciate Sunstone for listening and inviting me.

What motivated me: Raised as only child, two older brothers but I was young enough to be alone. Moved to Salt Lake, befriended by Bishop’s family. Loved them, decided at an early age I wanted this type of home.

Parent’s decision on where to send me to college was influenced by finances and by where they thought I would end up. Accepted to some prestigious schools, but due to economy I accepted a scholarship to University of Utah. I was committed to getting educated, and loved getting “liberalized”. Studied abroad in London before my senior year.

My bishop presented me with mission papers, I was floored. I prayed, and decided to accept the call. I learned a lot about myself.

After returning, in choosing a spouse I wanted someone that would afford me the opportunity to stay at home. I was working, but cleaned out my desk 2 days before my first child.

Breastfeeding a disaster, around the clock. Couldn’t believe how difficult it was to be a mother. At 1 year, discovered my daughter is profoundly developmentally disabled. She is 11, and wears both a bra and a diaper. Began wearing an apron to keep cleaning supplies and rapid response kid tools.

I broke down – mothering this child has forced me to squarely face my shortcomings. For 10 years I felt like life was not fair, that everyone else was a stepford wife, I hated them for it. The church was wrong for suggesting I should be nurturing – it was narrow, confining. I was rough and rude to all five of my children. I blamed my husband. I blamed everyone. I was thoroughly and completely miserable, through no fault of mine. It was the fault of my retro church, my sexist culture, my husband, my God.

It was pointed out that with this attitude there was an enormous cost to me, just so that I could be right. Finally, I decided that these costs were too high. I started to look at what possiblities I could create for my life. What truly touched and inspired me, was the possibility of creating love and life, but to create this possibility I would have to lay on the alter this grip that I had of always being right, and being a victim.

Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

The family I had always dreamed of is sitting before me. What has changed is my possibilities.

This apron could be seen as an emblem of servitude. But now I see it as an emblem of my possibility as a teacher. I see it as an emblem of sacrifice, which I believe is synonymous with personal progression. An emblem of influence, influence that is not elevating self, but elevating others.

What I create, what I declare, is that I am a mother. A shaper of human souls. A partner with my husband. Teaching them to be hard working, loving, self-sacrificing individuals.

There is a very old paradox that says that only by losing oneself, can one find oneself. I am privileged and honored to be part of a chain of service, sacrifice, and love.

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Linda

I am so glad that there is a place at Sunstone for stay-at-home moms.

I am an unlikely homemaker.

When I got married, had been working as a technical writer for three years, no intentions of quitting. Husband had 4 children from previous marriage.

Had my first child, and spent 2 glorious weeks with her. Never put her down. After I went back to work, I longed to be back with her. I romanticized the stay-at-home life.

My company reorganized, and my husband received a significant raise, so I decided to be at home. I had no idea what I was in for.

My daughter began complaining that she was missing daycare!

We had three more kids, for a total of 8. 6 currently at home.

I stink at being a stay at home mom. My friends achieve so much, keep a tight ship, and I am simply not cut out for it. Disorganized, indecisive, I spend hours doing things that should take minutes. My strategy is to go on outings so that we don’t have to clean.

I love this experience. Parenting for me is nothing short of magical. I am blessed and fortunate to rear these wonderful people.

It also has its ugly side. Sometimes I just want somebody to high-five me for folding that sixth load of laundry. But what kind of accomplishment is that?

In the working world, simple recognition is validation. But at home, I wonder if my tree is falling in the woods, without making a sound.

Many of us feel demoralized, and I feel that often.

But it is a moral imperative to ensure that our children’s needs are met. How we do that is a very personal, but very public decision.

There is tension between women who stay at home, and those who choose to work.

There is a tragedy in the emphasis of the difference in the roles between fathers and mothers in the church. I feel that oftentimes men in the church are denied the wonderful relationships and experiences that I get to experience.

I volunteer for the Guardian ad litem, and I see firsthand the pain in those children who are neglected by parents. As parents, it is not beneath us to cater to our children, and it is not appropriate to put our social needs above their needs.

I have a very short time with my children.

But I want my working sisters, my single sisters, and my childless sisters to know that I respect them and their choices. In a perfect world, things would be easier, but in this world we all must make the best decisions we can.

I look at all of the resources and books, trying to make us feel better about ourselves. But they are like the instruction to paint a smile on with lipstick, and eventually you will feel happy.

I think we need to own our choices, and support each other. To have each others backs – stay-at-home-moms, working moms, we need to support one another.

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Courtney

I’m the beginner. I’ve only been a mother for a short time, but I left my job to be a stay-at-home wife.

When I was going to college, everything I did was tainted by the fact that I wanted to stay at home.

Finally, I wondered whether my husband and I would ever have children. It led to introspection, prayer, meditation. I finally decided I wanted to stay home – that is what I always wanted. So I told my husband I wanted to be a stay-at-home wife, and I quit my job.

My husband was a professional actor – my paycheck was the stable one. The month I quit, we were incredibly blessed. He got more jobs, and we felt like it was the right decision.

When I stayed at home, I stayed busy. But I was able to manage things and establish routines, so when our child came along we had time to establish what we were going to be like as a family.

We decided laundry was a separate entity – I do mine and the house, he does his. I’m lucky :)

My stay-at-home wife gave us time to experiment and learn. We were already a 1 income family. When we had the baby, there was no shock. I had established a lifestyle, so I didn’t experience the shock of both a baby and leaving a career. This worked out really well.

Now I am very supportive of women who want to do that.

My husband is one that would also rather stay at home. I find that I am full of thoughts of gratitude to be there, but I also realize the other side.

When do you go out and run errands? get things done? And then it hit me, in talking to a friend, stay-at-home means stay-at-home! I feel more whole when I am closer to home. Just putting kids in car seats are a chore, so if we want to go somewhere, we walk. And if it is too far, we wait for dad to get home.

I find the quiet life, where there isn’t a lot of interaction, allows me to think a lot. It is a luxury, and I am always able to think. I am grateful for that. I am completely in control in that way, and I find that knowing the choices are mine is very beautiful.

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Rebecca

I think it is important to consider working when we consider staying at home. I usually see working as one of two things – the promised land, or indentured servitude.

After my second child, I went through a period of depression and resentment. I sometimes felt anger at my husband for his opportunity to go to work. Considered education.

Epiphany, that when you finish education, it leads to job. And that revealed where I was at the time – that going to school was equated as doing what I wanted, but it was for self-development, not a job. I realized that it was ok for me to decide to work.

Most of the time working didn’t mean that I got to do what I want. I began to see time as staying at home as a luxury.

I like to think of myself as irreplaceable on the job, but I’m not. I am irreplaceable at home.

Though I am happy to be home, there are struggles. Crisis of identity. Sacrifice of ambition.

As a stay at home mom it is difficult to pinpoint or emphasize achievements. What measurements can you apply? Can you take credit for your children’s accomplishments?

It was a difficult transition for me, and I landed in an identity crisis. The grades in school, the rewards of work, they don’t happen at home. Often we introduce ourselves by what we do, and that is hard to define for stay-at-home moms.

One assumption that I made that I think is wrong is that it is all or nothing. Seasons change, needs change, and I expect that I will return to work. It won’t stay this way forever.

What are some of the stereotypes I have confronted? I am a soccer mom, I drive a van. It’s comfortable! Vans aren’t that bad.

I have become happier after my assumptions shifted. I don’t have to stay at home, I choose to.

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Erika

If Courtney is the beginner, I am the grizzled veteran. Grew up in 70′s Cambridge, and I was liberated. We didn’t wear makeup, and we felt sorry for the girls with big breasts. My own mother was reading Gloria Steinem, and was one of the women behind Exponent II.

But there was something in the movement that bothered me. Despite the talk of women’s right to choosing anything, some choices were more right than others. If the answer to the question what do you do is “housewife”, you might be subject to a lecture. While my mother was exploring new ways for women to lay claim and be influential in the church, she was also raising me.

I met my husband, and was one of the shocking 19 year old students at Harvard that was married. In 1980, only a Mormon at Harvard would be married that early.

I chose to stay at home, and pushed right through the 80s. I am lucky to stay at home. Something in my personality lends itself to this path. I can find meaning in things where no meaning exists!

Sometimes I see myself as Stay-at-Home Mom, Extreme Edition.

The assumption that if you do not have a career outside of home, that somehow you lack an identity, still persists. I have no quarrel with those that make other choices.

But who can speak for mothers at home? When a mother goes on the talk show circuit to talk about being a stay at home mom, they’ve exited the home and become a primary breadwinner.

As mothers we should give ourselves the room and the dignity to find the meaning in our lives. The practice of mothering contains within it the threads of profound happiness.

The 25 years I have spent in this endeavor has not been a sacrifice. It has transformed me in a way that other experiences could not have. In a crazy way, I did this not for my children, but for me.

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First question for panel:

As a stay-at-home dad, why are there not any stay-at-home dads on your panel? next year, maybe Sunstone can make room for us.

5 Responses to Liveblogging Symposium – Stay-at-home Moms: On the Record

  1. Keri Brooks on August 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Wow, what a small world. Camille Aagard was my Mia Maid advisor in San Jose, CA (before she had kids). I lost touch with her when she moved to Utah.

  2. Rory Swensen on August 16, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I posted this quickly, and in re-reading the only question I was able to capture looks snarky. It wasn’t, it was good natured, and Camille actually said that she had a last-minute thought about adding a stay-at-home dad, and regretted not finding one. This session was a very positive and interesting experience, and I’d encourage you to listen to the mp3 when it becomes available. My transcribing skills are seriously lacking.

  3. floridagirl on August 16, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Loved this post, and you’ve led me to find the other links. I love when women support each other and band together. As a current stay-at-home mom always trying to find my own voice, I appreciated these views.

  4. Alison Moore Smith on August 17, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Finally got a chance to read through this. What a great post. Thanks for taking the time to write this all down.

  5. queuno on August 25, 2009 at 1:31 am

    If in the future you’re looking for a stay-at-home-dad for something like this, I know of one (it’s not me, but someone I’m related to, sort of). queueno -at- gmail

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