Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Episode 19: "I have found my violin" — Motherhood vs. Education & Career, Part I

Right click to download the mp3.

Violet and Her Violin by Ann Gardner
Much has been said about the role of motherhood. Ezra Taft Benson, in particular, spoke at length about women's roles. Because of the strong directive to stay at home and be mothers, many women have felt conflict over desires to pursue educational and career opportunities. More recently, leaders have spoken of the importance of women getting a good education.

In this two-part episode, Beatrice shares her passion for teaching and research as she tells about getting her PhD and having her first child. She compares her strong drive toward pursuing her dreams to the intimate passion a violinist feels for her violin.

What have been your experiences in finding a balance 
between motherhood and your own dreams and passions? 

Beatrice will be watching the comments to answer questions or discuss issues raised in her interview.

Resources from Beatrice
The Crosswicks Journals by Madeline L'Engle


  1. Great job, Beatrice! I was so excited to listen to this. You very articulately explained your thought process and experiences--thanks so much.

  2. Beatrice,
    it was really helpful for me to listen to you and Sybil talk about the somewhat mixed messages the church gives women about motherhood/marriage/family and education/career. I've had plenty of conversations where people asked what I was complaining about since the church encourages women to have an education, and I had a hard time explaining that it just bothered me that we weren't actually supposed to use that education for a career. Education is just a fall back plan, plan B for when the more superior plan A of staying home doesn't work out for some reason. However, a career is NEVER equal to motherhood in the church, so women who don't want to be moms will always live second rate lives according to church doctrine. Makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Anyway, thanks for this, I'm off to listen to part 2!

  3. I love My Name is Asher Lev! Such a powerful example of opening up to what our true place in the world might be regardless of cultural expectations. I've struggled with this lately as I contemplate my future career, which since having children I always said would be once they were old enough for me to pursue. But now I see it all as something that is supposed to work together in my life. I feel that my part is more than just motherhood, however important that role may be, and it's been invigorating to realize that I can do them together and not lessen my impact in either area. Thanks for sharing your experiences Beatrice.

  4. You and Sybil compared Pres. Benson and Pres. Hinckley and their attitudes towards women working/getting an education in this part of the interview.

    It reminded me of an article I read recently comparing Mitch Romney and Jon Huntsman and saying they grew up in different generations of the church.

    It says about Romney:
    ...Romney appears to embody the Mormon retrenchment of the 1960s and 1970s, when the LDS church defined itself largely in opposition to the broader American culture, which was seeing cultural upheaval and the sexual revolution.
    That attitude prevailed through the 1980s. “Leaders of the church were very pessimistic about the way they talked about American society, using apocalyptic rhetoric, framing America as the new Sodom and Gomorrah,” Bowman said. “There was this real attempt to tell Mormons that we need to distance ourselves from the country, to be different.”

    Then about Huntsman:
    ...Huntsman – who was born in 1960, 13 years after Romney – is part of a subsequent generation of Mormons who see themselves as quintessential Americans, not so different from their non-Mormon friends and neighbors.
    That new attitude is evident in the LDS church’s current “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign, which emphasizes that there are Mormons of all ethnicities and from all walks of life.

    I think this fits really well with what you guys were saying. Pres. Benson's message was "Don't listen to those evil messages from the world," while Pres. Hinckley's message didn't have that and was more about practical advice for your life.

  5. Courtney,

    You bring up a good point about women being encouraged to stay home with their children while their children are young. I took a BYU class from a very wise adjunct professor who had all of us who were in our class (mostly women) write down what our education/career plans were. The next day she commented that most of the women put something about finishing their degree, staying home with their kids while they were young, and then working. The professor commented that that plan wasn't very realistic insofar as you can't jump right back into something that you have been out of for 10 or so years.

    I think there are ways to make this more to your advantage. You can continue to work when you have children, you can stay home with your kids most of the time, but keep your skills fresh through part-time work etc, or you can reenter school once your kids are grown. Obviously, it is not ideal for you and your spouse to work really demanding jobs so you never see your children, but it may not be ideal either for one spouse to be at home full time. I believe that there are ways to find the most ideal situation for every family.

  6. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart...something I've talked to dozens of women (especially students) about. I think this tension between motherhood and education is very real, but I see it as a positive, not a negative. (Similar to the last comment by Beatrice.) I think it drives us to ponder carefully the principles we are taught and then seek the personal revelation and take responsibility for the choices we make.

    And I think that wrestle of sorting through these things is part of why we are here.

    "However, a career is NEVER equal to motherhood in the church"

    But it's never equal to fatherhood, either. A career for men is also in context of their responsibilities in their families first and foremost. The gospel is fundamentally about eternity. Our careers, no matter how noble, are not eternal. Even our church responsibilities are not eternal. They come with releases, changes, etc. That doesn't mean they should not be important to us or have a place in our lives, but I think at the same time, it's very important to acknowledge what the Church's mission is, rather than expect it to validate personal choices outright. That's ultimately between us and God, imo. It's like Sister Beck recently said - the question shouldn't be about whether women should work or not work, but whether we are seeking God's will in our lives and doing what He has guided us to do and fulfilling our divine, eternal roles (which men have as well!)

    Again, I think that is part of why we are learn to exercise agency.

    1. Excellent. Thank you for your insight.

  7. Beatrice, I haven't finished the podcast, yet, but have so many thoughts in my head that I need to share.

    First, our stories are very similar: I went to BYU and graduated in MFHD. I constantly fought against the MRS stigma of that degree because I REALLY loved it. At the time I switched to this degree, I had just gotten married and wasn't sure what my career goals were. Unfortunately, by the time I realized I wanted to go on to grad school, I was pregnant with our first and felt tied down to the decision I had already made by bringing a child into this world.

    After having our daughter, I finished my degree and was one of those moms who brought her baby to class, the library, and research things I did. I became very close to professors, especially female professors, and pondered on where my path would lead me.

    Anyway, fast forward almost two years and I am applying for a master's program, in something very different than what my original plan was.

    OK. Topic change. I have had quite a falling out with the church, too complicated to talk about right now, but one of the things that left me feeling bitter was the mixed messages of Pres. Benson and Pres. Hinckley to women. I really feel that if I had been pushed toward working, my husband and I would have made things work. I mean, a family is a joint decision and responsibility, so why should I be the primary caregiver and my husband the primary financier? It just didn't make sense. I can't turn back time, though, so the decisions we made are things we must face up to, and I wouldn't give my children back for anything. However, something I am letting go is the idea that women must be mothers and workers while the men can go about doing only one responsibility. If I do get into my master's program, my husband and I will share responsibility of the house and other things.

    Phew. Those are my thoughts as of right now.

    I am REALLY enjoying this podcast and am so glad to hear a perspective that is similar to mine.

  8. “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” (Alma 38:12), and Paul said "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." (1 Tim 6:9).

    Alma didn't just say, "Bridle all your sexual impulses", but "passions".

    From Merriam Webster:

    "pas·sion" noun \ˈpa-shən\

    : a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

    : a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way

    : a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone

    So, it would seem that a passion for any hobby or persuit, however noble, worthy, or strong it may seem, must be "bridled" and put in it's proper place, and those that seek to be "rich" in passions are in danger of falling into "fllish and hurtful lusts".

    Dallin H. Oaks has warned "[A] woman's righteous and appropriate desires to grow and develop and magnify her talents ... also have their extreme manifestations, which can lead to attempts to preempt priesthood leadership, to the advocacy of ideas out of harmony with Church doctrine, or even to the abandonment of family responsibilities."

    I think in our current world and day, "passions" have become the new form of entitlement. They are a privilege, not a right or a guarantee, and although we may have many talents that we can easily recognize, we also have the opportunity to develop other more Godly talents that our natural eyes or cultures may not be able to recognize through the simple act of caring for our families and children in the simple, mundane, routine, relentless tasks of nurturing and caring for the physical bodies and physical environments that our families reside in. Just because we can't recognize or feel passionate about something doesn't mean it is less important in our Heavenly Father's plan than the things we do feel strongly in, it just means that the the vail of forgetfulness is still hindering our ability to recognize and see things as they really are.

    1. Hi, anonymous. I'm not sure if you're aware that your comment violates the comment policy for this podcast. Points two and three say:

      2. This is a place that is open to many points of view along the Mormon Spectrum. What this means is that there is no “right” answer; in other words, one view does not trump another. Please keep this in mind as you comment so that you stay focused on your experience and ideas rather than trying to correct someone else’s experience and ideas. To keep things clear, it can help to use phrases like "in my experience" or "as it has happened to me."

      3. Feel free to disagree with the points made in the podcast or by those who comment, but refrain from making personal attacks of any kind (this includes insults, name-calling, and calling people to repentance).

      The purpose of this online space is to create a place where we can share our experiences rather than preach at each other. Is there some piece of your own experience you would like to share? Something that comes from you instead of from the dictionary or the scriptures or a general authority?

      You are very welcome to bring yourself to the comments on this blog, but you are not welcome to stand in judgement of those who have been willing to share their own experiences. Would you mind leaving another comment that comes from yourself so that you can contribute to the conversation?

  9. Certainly I agree that being able to pursue our passions is a privilege, not a right or a guarantee. I know many individuals who are just trying to get by and working jobs that they are not passionate about because they love and want to be able to provide for their families. My concern is that sometimes within a couple, one spouse is afforded the ability to pursue his or her passions while the other spouse is sacrificing his or her passions for the good of the rest of the family. I firmly believe that couples should share both the opportunities to pursue their passions (if the family has those opportunities) as well as the burdens that come with doing things that they are not passionate about for the good of the family


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