The Choice

Which would you choose?

Of course in a “perfect world” (stereotypical perfect world in my opinion) a woman would stay home, be a great mom, and wife, take care of the children, and the father would work, and provide for the family. Well that’s not a reality for most families today. It’s not. Apparently around 75% of families in the United States are dual-income families, or both parents work. that’s very eye opening… Especially since I feel like most of the women reading my blog are stay at home moms.

Now I’m going to stir the pot a little, I’m beginning to go back to my old liberal thoughts a little when it comes to some “expectations” for family child-rearing practices (especially when it comes to LDS families).

This is a quote I often here when relating to “The Timing” of having children:

President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.” Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices.

It’s hard to admit this out loud, but reading stuff like this often pushes me in the opposite direction of the way they’re trying to lead. It’s not that I’m rebellious, it’s that I can’t help but feel that it’s either 1. Out of context or 2. Not meant for everyone.

When I read “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” the key words to me are “able to do so”… Able to me means ready… In many ways.

Some would see this and think it means “Get to it! What are you waiting for?” But that can’t possibly be the case in every scenario. That can’t possibly mean, “if you don’t have any money have faith and we’ll give you welfare of all else fails.” I don’t know… Maybe it does, and maybe I’m an evil person for saying this but that just seems irresponsible to me.

This may sound like a previous post I had, but if you bear with me, I’m trying to be more specific.

When you compare this with other doctrine it seems even more challenging. In other scripture like The Family Proclamation it says things like “…Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” I’m sure leaders of the LDS church know there’s not a cookie cutter situation for every family (at least I hope so) and that these are GREAT guidelines, but I can’t believe that this is really what it expected of everyone. Especially not if you put both quotes together. Sometimes (like in my case) one wouldn’t be possible if the other is necessary.

I can’t help but feel a little envious of women who are at home with their children while their husbands make all of the money. Hey… Most of America doesn’t had that privilege. But I think it’s a little much to expect that of everyone. What if the husband can’t make enough to support a family but the wife can? Should you “wait” until he can? But then you’re breaking “rule #1”. Or should the dad stay at home while the wife works… But you break “rule #2”?

It seems that in some–No, a lot of cases you have to choose one or the other. An even bigger extreme: What if you’re both unemployed? Have a kid anyway?
Am I alone here? Am I reading too much into this? I believe in faith and miracles but I also, agree with Cynthia when she says ultimately we live with our choices and I try not to “check my brain at the door.”

I really do welcome all of your opinions so please, don’t let my crazy rant scare you off, even if you’re not with me on this.

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  1. I totally get where you’re coming from. Those prescriptive pronouncements make me want to do just the opposite. We waited for several years before trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t about finances or self-fulfillment–I really did not feel it was the right time at all. Then I discovered the world of midwifery and home birth and all that good stuff and, for me, it was what made me very ready to have children.

    With guidance from Church officials, there is always room for individual adaptation and personal revelation to figure out how your family is going to work. I do feel very strogly that children need to be raised by their own parents, but if the mother works and the dad stays home, that can work really well for some families. For the first year, though, it can be really hard to mother in the way that I feel is best (breastfeeding, etc) and work full-time. But hopefully you can find ways to make it work if that’s the arrangement that fits your family best: perhaps some part-time/flex-time work when they’re little babies, for example. Anyway you might also find that your desires change when children come around, and that’s okay too!

  2. What it really comes down to is that you have to make your own choice. But you know that. 🙂

    Personally, I don’t think that mom-at-home is an “if you can” or a “privilege” kind of thing. I think it’s a “just do it and figure out a way to make it work” kind of thing. My husband is a school teacher for goodness sake, we do NOT make very much money. But we make it work because it is a priority for us to have me at home. We are having kids sooner rather than later because we believe it’s God’s plan to do it this way.
    I know the world disagrees with this, and I suspect even many church members do, but that’s my understanding of what the prophets have been saying for decades. Mom belongs at home. Period. Couples who are physically and mentally able should have children. Period. (nope, I don’t think financially is a valid argument, babies are just not that expensive.)

    So there ya go, I spake my mind. 😉

  3. I think it’s a very outdated policy. I understand women are supposed to stay at home with the kids, but what if the woman would rather have a career? I loved staying at home with my daughter, but I think my husband has more patience and is better at it than I am. I don’t enjoy my job right now, but I make more money than my husband does at his job.

    I understand that the church leaders know what they’re talking about, but I think it isn’t fair to families. You have to do what feels right to your family. My husband will probably be the stay at home forever while I work. I would love that.

    And, I don’t think the church says that you should have kids when you can’t provide for them. Government programs are great, but you shouldn’t rely on other people’s taxes to get by. Or even church welfare for that matter. You have to be able to provide at least a little bit. I understand if you already have kids and things turn bad, but if you decide to get pregnant when you have nothing? That is just irresponsible in my opinion.

    And I totally understand your post btw! It has been on my mind alot lately. I just wish the answers were completely clear cut.

  4. You made some great points Jennifer. I believe that you should just go with your gut. Do what you believe is best for you and your husband. If you still have goals you want to accomplish before you have children that’s okay.

    But I want to comment on one point you made. And I quote:
    “I can’t help but feel a little envious of women who are at home with their children while their husbands make all of the money. Hey… Most of America doesn’t had that privilege. But I think it’s a little much to expect that of everyone. What if the husband can’t make enough to support a family but the wife can? Should you “wait” until he can? But then you’re breaking “rule #1”. Or should the dad stay at home while the wife works… But you break “rule #2”?
    It seems that in some–No, a lot of cases you have to choose one or the other. An even bigger extreme: What if you’re both unemployed? Have a kid anyway? “

    I wish I had a second income to bring into my family. With today’s economy I don’t have a choice but to stay at home. And yes my husband and I were both unemployed for a few months. That was very difficult but we made it. Yes I do rely on the Lord every day to help get us through this tough time. I’ve tried to find a job to help support my family but there just isn’t a lot of jobs right now.

    It is dinner time so I gotta go. Great post. I enjoyed reading it!

  5. Yes, I feel it’s a bit outdated, if not simply misunderstood on THEIR end. I think many of our church leaders who were born and raised in different times – like the 1950’s when the father worked, the mother raised the kids and you could make it and thrive on one income – simply expect people in 2009 to be able to do what they did in 1950! And it just isn’t so. That may be a blunt thing to say, but today is not then. In that quote they speak of making sacrifices. Well, one obligation parents have in making sacrifices for their children is to create the best environment we can for them. And if that means a mom works while a dad stays home or vice versa then that’s what we should do.

  6. “When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals…” I think the key word in this is material goals. Meaning lets wait until we buy a fancy BMW or can afford ___. I don’t feel like I have any obligations to have children until I am ready to do so. I’m finishing my education which is definitely not a material goal. About the whole father mother thing. I think that if your husband is better suited to be a stay at home dad than there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe he’s more nurturing than you are. It all depends upon your situation. And to the person who said babies aren’t that expensive are you kidding? I’m not trying to be mean or disrespectful but buying the clothes, bottles, diapers, wipes, crib, carseats, food, toys, blankets, etc. is really expensive. Not to mention if you don’t have insurance (which most LDS college students who get married and have babies don’t) it’s even more expensive, especially if baby has medical problems. For the first year of the kids life it’s about $20,000 without insurance and as long as baby is healthy. I don’t know about you but I don’t have $20,000 lying around, and my husband certainly doesn’t make enough money to cover that cost. Even with insurance it would cost about $10,000. I know most college students don’t have that kind of money either. So to get married and have babies while still in college is IRRESPONSIBLE, especially if the taxpayers dollars are paying for it!

  7. Well I really understand your points which are good 🙂 and I don’t think that people are watching this whole thing as they did some 30 or so years ago so in my opinion now it really doesn’t apply! I hope you understand what I’m saying!

    As for us when I got pregnant we weren’t married we were engaged, we got married when I was 3 months pregnant (our originally set date 🙂
    We didn’t have much we were both working and if I was concerned about something at the time it was about our finances. You know now I can say we could probably afford to expand our family, but as much as I want to in back of my mind I’m afraid with today’s economy we really never know what could hit us next!

    BTW Thanks for stopping by today 🙂

  8. Jenn,

    It sounds like what you’re trying to say is that you’re not able to provide your children with the necessities of life you think they need and it sounds like you think it’s impossible right now for you to stay at home.

    The first problem you would need to address is “What are necessities of life?” In the last General Conference, Elder Perry said the necessities of life are food, clothing, shelter, and fuel.,5232,23-1-947-2,00.html But again, notice that people around the world live in much more humble circumstances than most Americans and they still consider children an immense blessing and give their lives to raise them and live happy, fulfilling lives.

    What I believe the church leaders and the Lord are telling us is that the responsibilities outlined in the family proclamation are divine roles, not choices. Mother is primarily responsible for the rearing of children. This is her primary responsibility. She may have others, but this one comes first. Father is to preside over the family in love and righteousness and is responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for his family. This may mean going to school, working, protecting them at home, (fill in the blank).

    Whatever we do, I do not think we should rationalize our way out of commandments. I do think we should use good judgment and follow the spirit. Children are a blessing, not a burden. They add to our life; they don’t take away from it.

    If we believe prophets are called of God and speak for God, then we can believe their guidance is unchanging and true.

    That’s my two cents… 🙂

  9. I agree with you. We waited until we were done with school (undergrad and grad for DH) before having kids. I think we are all entitled and responsible to evaluate our personal circumstances and invite revalation for OUR family.

    The church also encourages self reliance. I think it is incredible irresonsible to knowingly bring children into this world when you don’t have a way to provide for them – either termporily, emotionally, etc. The Proclamations also states that other arrangements may be neccisary for some people. I don’t think that just means single parents. You have to do what’s best for your family.

  10. When I first read President Kimball’s talk I thought… wow that’s harsh. Especially seeing the word selfish, then I saw the date 1979, I was 1 year old! I too think sometimes their words may be outdated, but then we know that their words can extend to all dispensations, so I wonder if I think that to satisify my wanting THEM to be wrong and ME to be right.

    Me personally, I grew up with an attitude of I was going to be a working mom. My mom was a SAHM and I thought that was an archaic, 50’s style, molly mormon, dirty word which I never wanted to be. I went to college got a degree, married a blue collar worker ( nope I didn’t snag myself a doctor/lawyer/businessman like a good little mormon girl.. I *GASP* married a nonmember who converted later.)
    After finding out I was pregnant I started to nag in my mind what to do with regards to childcare, I ended up quitting work to help my husband’s then business. After my son was born with some defects that would have added costs to childcare, I had bounced the idea of WHERE he would go, where would he get good care? I would cry and cry and lose it when hubby and I would talk about me returning to work.
    I scoured talks on trying to find some words on what to do.
    Physically I can’t stand the thought of someone else raising him, and him being the statistical child who is hurt in childcare. I found all these articles and stats where kids going into daycare get SIDS, etc etc etc. All the worst possible scenarios out there, and yes blown out of proportion.
    I do know though, if I had family, like my mom or sister, who was able to watch my children while I worked, then I would be back to work already. But in my case that is not possible, I can get assistance, but not full time care.

    So this is what works for me, I teach piano three days a week. No it doesn’t bring in a lot of money but an extra 500-700 is a lot of money to help. I also have started substitute teaching as well. It isn’t a set job, and the hours flex, but it has been an additional blessing where I can help bring in some cash, while still staying with my son.
    So am I technically a SAHM mom? yes I guess so, Well it would benefit us if I worked, but we are paying things right now. If we didn’t have debt from my hubby’s old business then we would be more comfortable, but darn that man and his venture!
    I feel blessed being able to stay home with my son, I miss the larger paychecks, and I miss the socialness of working, but these first few years are SO precious I don’t want to miss them. They will never be back.

    I will return to work, that is a given, but I think when they are older and school aged.

    So my answer is I made a compromise, I found a part time job situation where it doesn’t take 40 plus hours out of my week. In a few years things will change, but it seems to be working for now. I’m happy with it, and feel that this is the best situation for my family. I prob would do that even if my hubby made great money.

    I’m waiting my time to apply for the RN program, so then I can work shifts and get more money. I wished I was a Dr or something.

  11. oh hey, that picture you commented about, I told my hubby that it was such a cute picture of him that if I died, then he was to use that picture on a dating website or whatever cus it was a great picture of him. He didn’t like hearing me say that. LOL
    We are attempting to try Spanish around here, but its hard enough to get him to speak English words at all.

  12. I completely understand your thoughts and wonder the same questions myself. Most would probably say it comes down to faith. God can do anything he wants if it’s his will but at the same time we have to be responsible. I had someone ask me about keeping the sabath and what we thought that meant. That’s another hard question because although many believe that we are to go to church and spend the day with family while pushing our daily worries to the side there are still things that need to be done. We still need to cook, drive/walk, ect. Maybe it isn’t a lot but there are still things that need to be done. We can’t just sit on our butts waiting for things to work out. We need to be responsible. I believe if you are able to be a stay at home mom then it should be done. I believe that it is selfish for people to not have kids because they want fancy cars, surround sound, ect. If you’re waiting for kids because financially you are incapable of taking care of them then I agree on waiting. Like always (in my opinion) it depends on the individuals situation.

  13. and to the person who said babies aren’t that expensive are you kidding? I’m not trying to be mean or disrespectful but buying the clothes, bottles, diapers, wipes, crib, carseats, food, toys, blankets, etc. is really expensive. …For the first year of the kids life it’s about $20,000 without insurance and as long as baby is healthy. I don’t know about you but I don’t have $20,000 lying around, and my husband certainly doesn’t make enough money to cover that cost. Even with insurance it would cost about $10,000.

    No, actually, i was not kidding. I speak from experience.
    I’ll tell you why it’s not that expensive. Because if you get over the idea that babies need a ton of ‘gear’, and if you are willing to get the essentials second hand via craigslist and things like that, you can TRULY have everything you need for more like $1000 for the first year. I do believe in buying a good carseat and getting it new, yes. But breastfeed (free!), cloth diaper ($3-400 birth to potty training), co-sleep (and/or get a secondhand crib or just use a pack n play–again under $200). I agree, you need clothing and blankets and things like that, but most babies don’t have much interest in toys in the first year–certainly not more than a simple rattle or something snuggly to hug.
    If you’re having a second child, it’s nearly free–the same cloth diapers, carseat, crib, clothes, blankets, etc will still work for baby # 2 or 3.
    I feel that we live in a hyper-materialistic society, and when I say that babies do not have to be expensive it is because I mean it. I have babies. They were not expensive.

    Yes, if there are medical issues that is a valid point, and no I don’t think that we should have kids with the intent to live off the government–I agree that’s irresponsible. BUT, if you just mean the birth it should be noted that there are ways to save money even there–a nurse midwife is usually much cheaper than an OB (and ime more helpful anyway), shorter hospital stays or out-of-hospital births cost a lot less as well.

    I do understand that the church leaders who said these things said them a while ago, and that they were raised in a different era. But I don’t think that makes the statements invalid. President Hinckley often said “we understand that there are some exceptions” but he never said that this was no longer the rule. I frankly believe that if the mom at home policy were going to change then they would tell us so. Even in the 70s and 80s Presidents Kimball and Benson said that they were aware that this was not the popular stance nor the cultural norm, but that it was still the Lord’s way. Period. I stand my ground. 🙂

  14. Jenn,
    You need to check out the church guideline book for today. It covers all topics, this one included. Concerning childbearing the church’s official stance for today is that the decision is between Husband and Wife and the Lord.
    Also last year for the Church’s Leadership Conference the theme was family.Elder Holland’s talk especially. You should take time to read it. The speak of the family, with a Father and Mother, as the pattern the Lord has set for us. They then say they realize that this pattern is not always possible for everyone but that there is a purpose for this pattern. Otherwise the Lord would not have given it to us.
    I love being a stay at home mom. It was a challenge to make the decision. I too had dreams of TV stardom. But now that I am here with my little girl, things just feel right. Of course I have my days where I wish I was a work, I think more because I need a break then anything else. But I know I have made the right choice for ME and my Family. Your decision is between you, your husband and the Lord. Always keeping in mind the pattern, and what the Lord wants you to do.
    Great provocative post.

  15. My longer commit was erased so I will just say that I don’t believe that the bible is against family planning. I think that man made rules are oppressive because everyone situation is different. Accidents can be great; I am living proof that having a baby in difficult situations can bring out the best in people. People who are disciplined planner are not necessarily the best parents. I have no money and need to wait but I am not sure that if I tried now that I would be able to get pregnant because I might not be fertile. If I had a weak moment and tried to get pregnant I would hate for someone to call me selfish.

    Less judgment and more empathy would help people make better decisions.

  16. RE: your twitter about being crunchy–I think anybody can be if they want to be. I think we come to it from different directions–some because it is cheaper, some because they believe in certain lifestyle ideals, some because it just feels right. We all live it in different ways too. I’m pretty ‘hard core’ in certain areas and very ‘middle of the road’ in others. It’s very adaptable to whatever works for you. 🙂

  17. Hub and I have had almost 10 years to mull this over. We’ve decided that the times now just arent’ what they were the in ’50s (as others said above): education is more expensive than ever while the largest employer is no longer a company like Motorola, it’s WalMart – so the average income is not as high as it once was. But then, there’s the other side where people back then learned to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” in a way that seems foreign to our current society.

    So what is the answer? The answer is this: each couple MUST decide for themselves – through fervent prayer and studying it out – what will work for THEIR family. It is as intensely a personal decision as how many children to have and when to have them.

    What was taught in the 50s, 60s, 70s is still spiritually relevant in many ways, but in many ways that’s EXACTLY why we have ongoing revelation, why we have a living prophet and apostles: to give us guidance for our day. We take that guidance for our day, apply it to our lives, and ask the Lord for direction for our circumstances.

    From M. Russell Ballard’s talk “Daughters of God” from last April’s conference, which is the MOST RECENT instruction we can receive as LDS women: “There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.”

    For me, I’ll probably be one of very few moms in my ward who will work after having kids, and I worry about it a little, to be honest. But here’s the thing: hub’s in grad school, we both know our abilities and limitations, and I know that my working is a compromise I’ll have to make in order to have children while I’m still relatively young and in order for him to finish grad school so he can support my staying home some day.

    It’s a personal decision that I’m sure many will not understand, but then again, waiting 10 years to have kids was an intensely personal decision many did not understand (and still don’t). Personal revelation is just that: PERSONAL!

    Really, what works for one – or even a seeming majority – does not work for all, nor should we expect it to! And we shouldn’t judge those who have done it differently. Some of my best friends had children under the “it’ll all work itself out” philosophy and have had government assistance for years – not something I would choose to do – but it works for them, they are fabulous parents and good examples to me, and it’s simply not my life nor my place to judge them.

    (Sorry for the missive – this is something I’ve thought, prayed, and studied quite a bit about in the last 2-3 years!)

  18. I’m surprised at how many people are saying that Pres. Kimball’s words are outdated. He was a prophet of God and, as such, his words are scripture! Are the scriptures outdated? I know some people may argue that the Old Law is, but really it was a type in preparation for the Higher Law. When you got sealed in the temple, you covenanted and were COMMANDED to multiply and replenish the earth. That is a COMMANDMENT that is still in effect. Sometimes we don’t know what circumstances we will find ourselves in later. But, with faith, and effort on your part, things will work out fine. Heavenly Father will bless those who put their trust in Him, in order to fulfill His commandments.

    I hope you don’t take offense at this. But it is something that I feel very strongly about!

  19. I think the main point is you don’t have to have everything and have it now! That’s how this generation’s attitude is coming. I mean that’s part of the current financial crisis. When I got married, a lot of friends of mine bought a house, because that’s what their parents had. At that point they couldn’t “afford” to have kids.
    I moved into a 1 bedroom 400 sq ft apartment. We stayed in that apartment until our first was 1 because that’s the limit they set. We then moved to a 600sq ft 2 bedroom apartment. It’s what we could afford. We took advantage of student housing. We were students and we lived as students.
    My husband worked at Discover card, to pay the bills. Before I had my first, I also worked.
    I think that’s really the main thing. Do the best you can, but live within your means. They aren’t telling you to live on welfare, they are saying to be happy with what you have and don’t delay kids until you have everything.
    This is of course just my personal opinion 🙂

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