Sunday, May 8, 2011

Episode 5: More Than Mothers

Right click here to download the mp3.



Relief Block Print by Stephen Alcorn

This is a special edition for Mother's Day. I wanted to address the unrealistic expectations we place on mothers, which can make Mother's Day a very lonely and sad day for many women. Also, I wanted to acknowledge our Divine Mothers: Mother Earth, Mother Eve, and our Mother in Heaven. Most of all, I hope that all mothers can remember than they are individuals, not only mothers.

I reference Dance of the Dissent Daughter as well as the blog With Your Mutual Approbation.

28 comments:

  1. I love, love, love how you talk about our Divine Mothers! This is the talk I wanted to hear today.

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  2. Ignore my self-promotion on episode 3. I hadn't gotten to this one yet and didn't know you had given me a beautiful shout-out. Thank you! I'll make sure to send people this way as well. :)

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  3. Emmaline, thank you for your comment! I'm so glad this podcast resonated with you.

    TopHat, I had to smile when I saw your comment. Thanks again, for sharing your beautiful project.

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  4. Sybil,
    this was the talk I would have liked to hear in church!
    I wasn't aware the the hymn "Oh my Father" used to be an invocation and prayer to both our Heavenly Parents. This insight changes things for me, and how I feel about praying to my Heavenly Parents instead of just my Heavenly Father. I guess, I'm not as much of a rebel as I thought, and praying to my Heavenly Mother might not be such an apostate practice as many conservative members might suggest.

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  5. You're right, Juliane, you're not as much of a rebel as you thought! And isn't it relieving to know? I'm planning a podcast soon about Heavenly Mother to talk about how to incorporate Her into our lives. Prayer is one of the things we'll talk about.

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  6. I was thinking a lot about the idea of the many-breasted mother, and how this might relate to men in the church. I believe that women who don't develop their own talents and identity in the larger world (because of expectations and social pressure) can suffer, but men who don't have time for their families because of demanding jobs and callings may suffer as well. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about how the expectations on men may impact them and how that could be different from the expectations placed on women.

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  7. I'm excited to get Sybil's thoughts on your question, Katie, but I just wanted to share my own thoughts: I know a young man who's getting married next month (he and his fiancee are both Mormon), and he is getting A LOT of pressure from his soon-to-be in-laws to make a decision on his career path and, furthermore, to make sure that decision is very lucrative. They already have a son-in-law who is, in their opinion, not making enough money in his career, and it really stresses them out. They don't want their daughters to "have to work outside the home" in order to contribute to the family's welfare. It seems like, at least in my experience, the expectations placed on men come from the expectations placed on women, and according to one common Mormon view, the contribution a dad makes is important only insofar as it allows the mom to make the more emphasized, frequently-praised contribution of being a stay-at-home mom. If he doesn't have a job that allows the mom to stay at home, he's seen as a failure in some sense. How interesting (and sad).

    Anyway, this situation is part of a pattern I've seen where young men in the church feel an insane amount of pressure to enter professions that, above all else, will be financially sound. I imagine this comes at the cost of actual interests or passions in some cases, just as it would for women who feel like their assigned contribution is to be a mother and nothing else in addition to that. How tragic for men who feel like their contribution to family life will only come in the form of a paycheck!

    Sexist policies/attitudes really do hurt everyone.

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  8. "thoughts about how the expectations on men may impact them and how that could be different from the expectations placed on women"

    Katie, this is a very poignant topic. Like Sara says, sexism hurts everyone. It cuts both ways.

    I know that my brother-in-law who is single and nearing forty has a hard time with the expectations that are handed out to him at every opportunity. While he has a job, he isn't married, which the church says is his fault. He needs to go find the right person, marry her, and then provide for her and their children, as well as fulfill what are often over-demanding callings. Instead, he lives the life of a bachelor and participates in church in lesser capacities, since the church generally calls married men to the higher positions.

    As a consequence, he often feels that he isn't good enough or is unworthy. *Because* men are in the cultural position of power/authority, they are expected to control their sphere and make things happen according to the plan the church has laid out. When a man doesn't do this, he can feel very trapped and isolated. And when a man *does* accomplish this, well, he is probably so busy he can't even take the time to think about how his relationship with his wife is going.

    Those are a few of my thoughts. What do you think, Katie? Is there a specific experience that has prompted this thought from you?

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  9. i really liked how you said 'our divine mothers.' i want to hear so much more about them. please do more on this.

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  10. During the podcast you mentioned that women are asked to give their whole lives to the service of others. I think that in some ways this is asked of men in the church too, although the rhetoric about men is somewhat different. As a psychologist, I was just wondering if these different expectations on men and women (and the rhetoric surrounding them) are likely to have different consequences. Both men and women might feel overextended, but maybe women are more likely to feel social isolation and depression while men are more likely to feel a lot of anxiety? Without research we can only make conjectures about what these different consequences might be, but I was just thinking about those possible differences.

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  11. Katie, it would definitely be interesting to do real research on this topic and see what the actual effects on women and men in the church are concerning how they are asked to serve.

    From a rhetorical standpoint, women are given lots of praise in a way that emphasizes their lesser position of power (women serve and work in the world set up by the male leaders). Men are given lots of "do better" type messages in a way that emphasizes their position of greater power (men are the leaders and each of them could "potentially" be in the position to change the world set up by the leaders). The women are praised, the men are often criticized. The women generally "serve" and the men "lead." Neither approach validates the person for who she or he is, but rather perpetuates the system, if that makes sense.

    It really would be fascinating to see a study on the consequences of over-service for women and men, and how they differ.

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  12. Anonymous, thank you for your comment! We will definitely be doing more on our Divine Mothers. If there is anything specific you want to hear about, let me know.

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  13. Sybil, I am so glad that you are doing this and I'm really looking forward to the episode about connecting with Heavenly Mother. I am in quite the need of some guidance on that topic.

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  14. I wish to the heavens that I could have heard a talk like this on Mother's Day. How beautifully connected we are to our divine mothers and yet we don't see it until it is masterfully spelled out like this. Thank you.

    And we are even more alike than I thought. I too am the oldest in my family and was frequently termed "the second mother" to my siblings, especially as my mother went into the work force. But my own mother has always been a strong example to me of nurturing ones self before one can properly nurture others. I think perhaps that she is the indirect reason that I was able to come to my own awakening of these issues at a younger age.

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  15. Corktree, so nice to meet another "second mother." Sounds like your mother gave you a different way to look at life and your position as a female in the church and society by nurturing yourself first. What a wonderful gift from your mother. And thank you so much for really tuning in to what I was trying to say about our Divine Mothers.

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  16. Thank you, Descent. I'm hoping to do a panel on Heavenly Mother soon.

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  17. Gail KnickerbockerMay 20, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I love the hymn O My Father. I did not know it was initially a prayer to Both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I was converted to the church on the assurance that there was a father and a mother in heaven. I never found the reality of it in my life and as I played the role of 'mother' and still do, I concluded that I really was NEVER cut out to be a mother, so my interest in whether there is or isn't one there is mute these days for me. I like the idea that my daughters may learn and know and pray to their Mother in Heaven. They have faith in the gospel and claim to have had many answers to prayers. Now that one is a mother herself this idea of praying to Mother in Heaven may be of use to her. I don't think I have said much to them about this possibility. AND I had an Institute teacher who had one of my friends do just that over 30 yrs ago. Her own mother had died when she was really young and she really needed a mother in her early adulthood. Thanks for your views.

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  18. Gail, I've heard from converts before that this idea of a father AND mother God is what drew them to the church in the first place. But then, as you say, She is pretty absent. This feeling you put forth of never being cut out to be a mother is one that I think many women in the church feel, but we just don't dare say so. It's not acceptable. This is a topic we'll definitely be discussing in a future podcast.

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  19. This podcast touched on so many different trigger points for me. I very much appreciated your views on the heels of an awful mother's day. I won't get into the reasons here but being an adoptive/divorced mother in the church puts a whole new perspective on feeling "cut out" to be a mom and actually feeling like a "real" mother. Thank you truly from the bottom of my heart for your words.

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  20. I'm sorry your Mother's Day was so bad, Michelliebean. Being a divorced mother of adopted children definitely puts you in a category that the church doesn't speak to or recognize. I'm so glad this podcast was able to soothe your heart some.

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  21. I have felt like a many-breasted mother before, and I am glad I came through that experience. I can now appreciate what that is like. I can now decide who I really am besides a milk-source or a shoulder to cry on or a sexual receptacle. I am so much more than my functions.

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  22. Well put, k. We are so much more than our functions.

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  23. I really love what you said about Mother Eve. I've been taught in church that Eve's action in eating the fruit was necessary for mortal life to occur for all, yet in the temple it still indicates that Eve (and all women) were placed in a secondary position below their husbands 'BECAUSE Eve was the first to partake'. It's sad.

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  24. Chosha, thank you for your comment. I find it frustrating and disturbing that the church gives such a mixed message about Eve. The "stance" is that she is honored for her choice, but the temple and the underlying culture point to her in blame.

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  25. Sybil, I've just listened to your podcast on Eve. That is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard concerning Eve and her role, and it makes such total sense.

    I've never really been a person who valued the feminine divine, even in myself. Your podcast is slowly changing my perspective on this. :)

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  26. Thank you so much for this comment, Chosha. I used to feel like what you are expressing here, about the divine feminine and the divinity in myself. It is beautiful for me to be part of that opening for you.

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  27. My wonderful mother wryly commented on the flower that the bishopric had handed out to all the Mothers on Mothers Day, Great one more thing to take care of. This was many years ago and I have left the church a dozen years ago, so I don't know what they do now.

    I remember my step-father (who was the bishop at the time) commenting what a great book Fascinating Womanhood was and the priesthood was actually teaching from it. This was pre-correlation but it is a sad commentary on the view of women held by the male members i.e. priesthood.

    Mom died fifteen years ago and she and my step-father had divorced ten years earlier (Dad had died when Mom was in her late thirties). She had told me how disappointed she was in the relationship she had with the step father. All he was looking for was basically a mother to take care of him.

    Mormon men have a strong tendency to be real weenies. I suppose it is only natural because that is where most of their thinking starts from.

    I really am a lesbian, and I believe in Feminism and equality.

    I am reminded of the sister who was counseling with her bishop and said "I feel like a second class citizen", to which he replied, "but sister, you are". Shameful and reprehensible.

    I believe that Mormonism is the oldest and most successful MLM organization and to claw your way to the top of the "Celestial" ladder you are rewarded with churning out children: forever, in a top down male dominated organization. And this is supposed to be a reward for giving your all? Taking orders from above, don't ask, just do. Then report back.

    Sounds like a bunch of S**T to me.

    "Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies dangerous" H.S. Commager b.10/25/1902 "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over", if you have no reasoning skills.

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  28. David, thank you for taking the time to comment. When you speak from your experience, you offer us a chance to know you and understand where you are coming from; however, please avoid passing judgement on the beliefs of others. Daughters of Mormonism is open to the spectrum of views, from solid believer to those who are no longer members, which means a respectful tone is needed.

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