It’s been awhile since we revisited the “mommy issue.” And I’m tired so I thought I would let someone else do the (blogging) work today. Except for one quick personal story: I ran into an acquaintance from years ago, mostly from my single time here in Iowa. He moved away but was back visiting. When he saw me, he greeted me pleasantly. After some friendly chit chat, he asked if Abe and I had any children. I said a simple, “not yet.” He responded with, “Well, it’s a personal decision, isn’t it?”
Something about that rubbed me the wrong way. I wouldn’t say I was offended but it did feel a bit unsupportive. For all he knows it isn’t a personal decision. Maybe I struggle with infertility. Maybe I am pregnant now. Maybe I just had a miscarriage. Regardless of the case, I think the world often needs a little more sensitivity, even with catch phrases like, “It’s a personal decision.” Luckily for him, I wasn’t experiencing any of these situations or he could have really caused some grief. No harm, no foul…but good blogger food for thought.
This one is from my friend Michele. I met Michele in Iowa when I started dental school. She was one of the women I found so much inspiration from in our little single’s branch (church congregation) pursuing her graduate degree. I feel that this experience of being around educated, spiritual women really influenced me in my future family/career choices and it sounds like it had an effect on Michele as well. I was really excited to get her input, especially considering the fact she (and her little family) is living an adventurous life in Cambodia! I love reading the evolution of these stories. It reminds me that so often our lives don’t turn out how we expect…and often times better.
From Michele Bowen Hustedt
I, like Erin, am a Mormon and I grew up in a Mormon community. All growing up I was taught by my church, my parents, and by the examples of women around me that a righteous woman's most important role is that of mother and wife. But as I grew up and moved farther and farther from home I learned that many successful and important women have degrees and careers and earn money.
I believe what my church teaches about women--that their most important role is found in motherhood and marriage. But there's another teaching that almost always gets tagged onto that one: a woman's place is in the home. And I'm not sure if I'm on board with that one because I also believe what sociologists, economists, and those in favor gender equality have taught me: that having more women in the workforce has had incredibly positive outcomes for communities.
As a child, I don't think that I felt strongly one way or the other about being a stay-at-home mom or being a career woman. But I do know that I had lots of encouragement (epecially at church) to work towards a goal of marriage and children and no encouragement to work towards a career.
After high school I attended BYU. My desire for education slowly evolved into me getting a degree so that I could be a full-time SAHM and use my education to enrich the lives of my family members. I had many female classmates who had this same plan and that plan has worked out nicely for them.
But by the time I graduated from BYU I wasn't married, so I decided to continue my education. I went to graduate school at the University of Iowa. For the first time in my life I had encouragement to work towards a career. Both at school and at church.
I continued my education with each passing year that I didn't get married. I earned a masters degree and then a doctorate degree. I got my first job, teaching at Georgia State University. I was becoming a career woman. But that's not what I really wanted. I wanted to get married and have kids. The more time that passed the more desperately I wanted it.
And then, FINALLY, it happened. I got married.
I quit my job, we moved to New York City, and I had a baby. I was completely in love with my perfect little girl even though I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I struggled with serious insomnia and I struggled to keep her happy all the time. Sometimes we would go on two-hour subway rides just so that she could have a nap and I could get some rest. Motherhood was not the dream come true that I thought it would be.
Then my husband got a job with the World Health Organization in Cambodia, so here we are in Cambodia. Our money goes a lot further here and we were able to hire a full-time nanny to cook, clean, and help take care of our daughter. And that has allowed me to start working again. It's only part-time for now, and when I'm not working, I have time to sit on the floor and play with her because I'm not cleaning or cooking. I'm happier, less stressed, and a better mom all around.
These experiences have caused me to re-think what it means to be a good mom. Before I thought that being a good mom meant saying to my children, "I have a doctorate degree, but YOU (and cleaning the house and cooking dinner) are more important to me than that." But now I think being a good mom could also mean showing your children the value in having outside interests and working hard to benefit your community.
I do feel pressure in some circles to have more children and stay at home with them. And I feel pressure in other circles to become a successful and important career woman. I don't know if I have it in me to be either of those and I don't know how things will turn out but for now, this is what's working for me and my family and we're happy.
Michele I think has made an unconventional choice, at least in terms of the Mormon Mommy Model (I’m creating all kinds of catch phrases here) in using a nanny but I think it is another example of a capable and smart woman doing what she feels is best for her family. And (it sounds like) without guilt!
I would love to hear from more mommies or future mommies. And what do you all think about nannies vs. daycare, etc?