Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The back up plan

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This is the hardest post so far in this series. I have been fiddling through drafts for days and was going to write a long post about all of my superior thoughts on the subject and why you should agree with me. But I’ve come to realize, it really doesn’t matter what I think--at least not to you. What matters is what each woman thinks and decides to do in her own situation. I value stay-at-home-moms. I think the work they are doing is exceedingly important and certainly admirable. I am also impressed and pleased to see women being strong leaders and (sometimes more visible) role models in their communities through their careers. I think we can learn a lot from each other. I wish we could be better as women in building each other up, working together, and coming together to advance the cause of women. Too bad we are often our own worst enemies, and often in the way of cattiness, gossip, and passing judgment.

So what’s the big deal? Where did this whole conversation come from? If you aren’t LDS you may be puzzled. In my perspective, I feel there have been two potentially contradictory philosophies in our church. One is for women to stay home as the primary nurturers of children whenever possible. The other is that women should get as much education as they can. I think this is a big grey area where each woman (and family) needs to do her best to figure out what is right for her. Unfortunately, some people see this as very black and white. Women who choose to work are being selfish and not following the prophets…unless they absolutely have to work as in the case of a single mom. It can make it seem like “Education is great as long as you aren’t married yet or you don’t have children.” (Certainly I don’t speak for the church or all women in the church but these were some of the concepts I gathered from the blog comments and have heard over the years.)

I used to get very frustrated with the judgmental comments that arise from these ideas. As I said, I was quite defensive and this was something I thought about a lot in the past. Strangely enough, I had to find a blog to remember that people even think this way! Maybe that means I have grown up. Maybe it means I am more confident. Or maybe I was just hoping that everyone else progressed, too.

Regardless, it doesn’t really matter any more.

I feel confident in what I am doing.

I know it is right for me and my family.

I don’t really care what other people are thinking or even saying about me (at least in regard to this topic) anymore. Go ahead, ask me if I am going to be a dental hygienist. I will smile and politely say, “No, actually I am a dentist. (Yeah, like a dentist-dentist, not a hygienist or assistant)” or ” Ask me how I am going to manage my family and a career and I’ll tell you, “I’m not sure” or “We’ll take it one day at a time.” I may even ask for suggestions.

The only real issue I want to discuss is the concept of education as merely “the backup plan.” I think education is crucial and for more than just having a career path “in case” you don’t marry or your husband can no longer provide for your family. I want women to educate themselves for a simple selfish reason…to improve!  To find empowerment through knowledge and new skills. To be enlightened to new viewpoints. To experience. And I think this not only improves the mother, but her children.

At some point, for many of us, the “back up plan” becomes “the plan.” I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t decide to follow through with my inspiration as a 20 year old single woman from Utah. I know I wouldn’t be married to Abe and maybe not married at all. I obviously wouldn’t be a dentist—would I be a stay-at-home-mom? Regardless of what I may have been, I don’t think that after all of that time, money, and work that God wants me to quit now.

I hope you can support me in this choice just as I will strive to support you without judgment.


Dani and Bryan said...

Love these posts hon!!! It makes my heart sing having been a working the entire time I've been a mother. You do make it work, one day at a time! I teach with a faculty of working mom's, and it isn't such a big deal anymore. But back three years ago it was such a big deal when I had my first kid and came back to work. Then I had a second kid and STILL came back to work! I can't wait to blow even more minds after a third, fourth or even fifth! Ha! But for the most part, I agree that people grow up. I love being apart of a group of women who are in the same place I am, it is a good support. Being isolated in the dentistry world, I think you need the same support system! Seek out others in your field (the few and far between) I bet they exist, and rely on others not in your field too! I'm offering my support too dear friend! And keep writing, I"m horrible at commenting, but I ALWAYS read!!

Wishing I'd Done It a LIttle Different. said...

Well said. From a woman who quit school when she got married because she thought she was doing what she was supposed to do. I feel very lucky to have been able to stay home and raise my kids and take care of my husband. Now, all the kids are about gone and I would like to find a job to restore that feeling of contribuiting again, but the fact that I don't have a degree is suddenly a big deal. It has been hard on my self-esteem.

Cristi said...

Well said Erin! Thankfully I pushed my way through school since I am now the bread winner, everyone should keep learning. We had a lesson about this in relief society last month...... Be proud of who you are.... What you do is between you Abe and Heavenly Father, and you are a great person. You are right it does not matter what others think. One day at a time is the way to go and I have no doubt if and when you do have kids you will figure it out. Besides I think it has taught my kids a lot about what men and women can do and what you have to do to work as a family. There was also an amazing talk given in general conference in the fall 2010 I believe on women working and not judging. Love you girl

Sarah said...

Thanks for this series, Erin. I just started working again and I'm applying for teaching positions for the fall. I've heard some well-meaning (but very annoying) advice from people who don't understand my situation.

Courtright Family said...

Love this and love you!! You go girl.

Rachel Culmer said...

You have my support. :)

Tawnya said...

Good for you Erin! That you found a path that works for you and your husband and you are both happy!

michele said...

Way to own yourself, Erin!

I dated a guy once who thought it would be cool if I was able to say to my future kids that I had a PhD but they were more important than my PhD and that's why I stayed home instead of worked.

And a later boyfriend told me how great it would be for my future daughter to see her PhD holding mom out in the world working hard and making a difference.

So like you said, there is value in both situations. But for me, well, I married the second guy.

Actually, one thing this really made me think about was how much my attitude toward working moms has changed since I became a mom. Before I had a baby I was planning on having no less than four kids and having a flexible schedule that let me be at home part time with the family. Now I just want two kids and I'm ok with the idea of working full-time. I could change my mind, but all I'm saying is--well, what you said. That what matters is that each woman thinks and decides what to do in her own situation.

Sarah said...

Okay, so several months later...I have a real response to your blog. I just posted it as a facebook note.