Finding the “Perfect” Life

photo(2)Today’s guest post is from Jennifer Merrill, who describes herself this way “I am a mother of four beautiful daughters, ages 8, 5, 2, and 8 months.  I sometimes cringe at the amount of pink, glittery princess things in my house because everything else in my life is male-dominated.  I am a mechanical engineer, heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America, and I love superhero movies and Star Wars.  Thankfully, my 2-year-old loves cars.”

When I was younger I dreamed of having the perfect LDS life. In this dream, I would be the stay-at-home mother of several children with a husband who had a great job so we could afford anything we wanted. I went to BYU thinking that I would find a returned missionary and we would be married by the end of the first semester. Isn’t that what happens to everyone?

When I turned 21, I was still single and the Spirit prompted me to serve a mission. My dream changed slightly, but I still envisioned living the perfect LDS life when I returned. Then I graduated and I began to realize that my future husband may take a while to find me. In the meantime, I started down the path of a full time career.

It was two and a half years after I graduated BYU that I met my husband in the singles ward. I imagined my dream of the perfect LDS life would finally come true. He had a job, but was planning for a career once he graduated from the local college. We decided not to have kids until this had all happened.

Two years later we felt prompted to start our family even though we were still both working. His job had made school too difficult to attend and that was put on hold. We tried to make it on his salary alone but couldn’t. We decided that we would both work and our child would stay with a family member. I cried all the way to work the first day I went back. It didn’t get easier as a second and third child were added to our family.

During this time, I always felt guilty about working and not staying home. I felt pressure at church, even though no one said anything to me directly. I was jealous of my sisters and sister-in-law who were all stay-at-home moms. But whenever we talked about it, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t be able to afford it. He did not make enough at his job to cover our expenses. We were still waiting for him to finish his degree and get started on a higher paying career.

When I became pregnant with our fourth child, I knew that something had to change. I believed the Spirit was prompting me to find a way to stay home. I mentioned it to my husband and he was a bit hesitant at first. When our reliable babysitters told us they would be leaving town, we were forced to make a decision. We started by cutting out some extras (like expensive vacations) and cut our spending. We built up our food storage and started couponing to save money. My husband’s great budgeting allowed us to pay off all our credit cards and both our cars. Through it all we paid our tithing faithfully. We felt the guidance of the Spirit in making our choices. But we still felt that my husband’s salary alone could not support us.

At one point we started throwing around the idea of me working while he stayed home. I was making more money at my job than him. My job was more secure. He hated his job and wanted to have more time to finish his degree. His company’s health benefits were being cut back. The answer seemed to stare us in the face but we were hesitant to accept it as it didn’t fit with the “perfect” LDS life.

When we decide to follow the Spirit’s prompting, everything seemed to fall into place. We had a very good amount of food storage. We had no bills other than our mortgage and utilities. Our fourth child was born. I just received a raise at work (while on leave!) We decided that I would work and my husband would be a stay-at-home dad.

Since then things have been great. Being the sole breadwinner of our family has some drawbacks, but I can feel it is the right thing for our family at this time. My husband is excellent at keeping house and our kids are happier. Our situation isn’t the “perfect” LDS life that I dreamed of and maybe someday things will change, but I feel more content than I have ever been. I no longer feel guilt or jealousy. It is right for our family and we have been blessed for following the promptings for my husband to stay home.

If there was one piece of advice I could give a young woman it would be to follow the Spirit. No matter what you think your life should be, no matter your dreams, always be willing to follow promptings of the Spirit. They will lead to happiness and usually something better than you have dreamed for yourself.

13 thoughts on “Finding the “Perfect” Life

  1. Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing your story. Your last paragraph is excellent advice!

  2. Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think you have illustrated that there is more than one way to live the “perfect” LDS life.

  3. I think the perfect LDS life is a pipe dream. I have learned to accept that circumstances change, life is fleeting and we have to do what it right for our individual family. I am grateful to read about someone who is embracing a non-traditional family lifestyle and hearing that it can work. Even though I know that I will never be the one who goes to work (my husband has a job he loves and my health prevents me from holding a job outside the home) I am happy to know that there are people that can do this. Thank you for sharing your story! I am sure it is a challenge, just as any life is. But it is yours, and you and your husband are on the same page. That is all that matters!!

  4. KShaw – You’re right, the perfect life is a dream. And somehow we need to help the youth know that it’s good to strive for perfection, but also there are many individual ways to attain perfection. Not everyone’s journey is the same, but we can be on our own correct path when we are directed by the Spirit.

  5. I love this! The narrow view that if our lives aren’t “just so” then they are wrong is complete rubbish. I don’t mind being different. My husband is always telling me that he wants to stay home with the kids while I work. He is a really great dad but most of my career skills are related to waitressing. In other words, no way I could support us in a million years!

  6. Jennifer, you are an amazing example of ‘perfectly’ following the Spirit to guide your life. Your kids will be ‘perfectly’ happy and will not have to feel the guilt you felt. Thank you for your story!

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph! I wish it was encouraged and taught more often, especially to the youth. Thank you so much for writing and sharing!

  8. Good for you to have the courage not to let anyone but the Lord to direct your life. Some people are so “church” led that they follow the LDS culture rather than what is really meant for them. I applaud you =D

  9. “No matter what you think your life should be” – this is what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you for this :)

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