Sunday, February 17, 2013

Working Moms part 3: The big plan


Ironically, I ended up at the University of Iowa for dental school, right back to that professor’s old stomping grounds, and appropriately, where he had first been tempted by the devil to make his own evil career choice. I moved few weeks before my 21st birthday, so I officially became an old maid just in the nick of time to get started on my way to the career bliss I so clearly “chose” over my family.

But what my religion professor didn’t understand was that part of my pact with the devil was if the devil helped me get into dental school he would help me find a husband. Maybe the good professor would have been more okay with my decision had he known that part.

I know working with the devil isn’t usually an acceptable way to achieve your goals (especially for religious people), but in this instance, if it was leading me towards marriage, my ultimate goal, I figured it would probably be okay. A means to an end, as they say. One can always repent later, right?

So, my plan was to find a husband early on and get out! I figured my likelihood of meeting another dentist or doctor would be higher as a student there myself. Yes, Iowa was a gamble as there was a relatively small LDS population there, but I was willing to give it a try. I knew it was an investment and I figured if I found him in the first year it would be a $50K investment well spent if it meant I was marrying a dentist.

Unfortunately, deals with the devil don’t always pan out exactly right. Yes, I did meet my husband, and even right away (he was one of the first people I met in Iowa). But, we weren’t married until I was half way done with school. At that point I felt like I was so close to being done, it made sense just to finish.


This is the young Abe I met my first few days in Iowa

Luckily, Iowa was a breath of fresh air. Suddenly I was going to church with women PhDs, masters candidates, and MD students. They were women in math and music and education and science. I was still unique and people often had “heard about me” as the girl dental student from Utah, but people seemed much more supportive, at least in the singles scene. I did get occasional comments, “So are you going to actually work when you are done?” or even an idea that I was a big flirt at school with the LDS husbands. But these were vary rare. Except for the, “So are you going to be a hygienist or an assistant?” questions which I was asked all the time. I was grateful to have met a man who never once questioned my decision to go into dentistry or if that meant I wasn’t interested in a family, and actually seemed impressed by the skills I was developing.

When we got married we started going to a congregation (known as a ward in the LDS church) with other married students. Although I have heard a lot of comments from the other women at church, they tend to focus more on how intimidated they are by me (don’t be scared!) or that they think what I am doing is “really cool.” In fact, it has been so long from my negative experiences back home, I have forgotten that what I am doing is sometimes frowned upon.

I didn’t remember until I happened upon a blog that prompted this whole story just a few days ago. There were hoards of comments from other women who look upon other women who choose to work in a judgmental way. I was surprised. And of course, you know I have something to say about that next time.

Next up, part 4…getting bored yet?


Tawnya said...

I really do think it is cool Erin! Really!

michele said...

Do you think the cultural beliefs of a congregation can be such a big influence? I hadn't thought about it before. I lived in a ward in Manhattan for two years that was full of non-stereotypical Mormons--working moms, three or four stay-at-home/work-at-home dads, and parents making money as artists and writers. Anyway, I think it helped me not be ashamed of my career aspirations but I wish I had earned that confidence on my own and not in response to outside influence. It seems like working moms are less frowned upon the farther away from Utah they are.

Erin said...

Interesting thought Michelle. I wonder how much of what we do is intrinsic and how much has to do with the influences around us. I like to think I am strong and independent but obviously I am not immune (fashion is a big key to this--I never thought I would wear skinny jeans!). I also agree that further from Utah there seems to be more flexibility in roles from a judgement standpoint.