Women and the Hermeneutic of Generosity

“Hermeneutic” (I had to look it up, too) is a ten-cent word meaning interpretation. The phrase “hermeneutic of generosity” comes from the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Dr. Paul Farmer, who brought health care to Haiti with his Partners in Health organization. And here is what Dr. Farmer means: when someone tells you something, you assume the best of them. You don’t look for things to criticize, you assume that they mean well in whatever they said.

To reframe it in terms that are useful to me personally, having a hermeneutic of generosity towards others means that I refuse to allow myself to be irritated by them. I refuse to seek for reasons to be offended or bothered or critical. I assume they mean well, and I treat them accordingly unless proven otherwise.

I’ve been thinking about generous interpretations as I’ve read the recent war of words concerning Hillary Rosen and Ann Romney. There are better discussions and analysis of the issues surrounding the war between women here, and here. That’s not really what I want to go into right now.

What I’m most interested in are the stories behind the labels: working mom, stay-at-home mom, do-a- little-of-everything mom. Segullah‘s newest staff member, poet Terresa Wellborn, posted this on her Facebook wall, from Barry Lopez: “Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”

For me, the two ideas are linked: that what creates the hermeneutic of generosity is the assumption that the person you’re hearing has a story, has a reason for being the way they are, for seeing the way they see and saying what they are saying. I believe that this is one of the most powerful aspects of charity: when we see others as they are, as God sees them, then we do not allow Satan to stir up our hearts to contend with anger. Instead, we assume good, because we see them as good.

Here’s my story: I’m a stay-at-home mom. I stay at home because I can, financially, and because I feel like that’s where God wants me to be (me, personally. Not you. Just me.). But I chafe at it sometimes, and second-guess myself. A while ago I attended a wedding reception and encountered one of the bishops I grew up with, who asked me what I was up to. “At home with my kids,” I told him. “You could have been anything,” he said, “and look at you. You chose to stay home.”

He meant it as a compliment, I am sure. But there’s a part of me that thinks, I could have been anything, and I didn’t. I didn’t do any of it. I didn’t write the book, I didn’t get the advanced degree, I didn’t have the job, I didn’t. And there are many women who had kids and also did all those things. I have no idea how, but they did, and I’m amazed by them. So when I’m being honest, I admit to a certain amount of envy. I know this is wrong, this envy, and I’m working to stop it.

Five years ago I was invited to join the staff of Segullah, and I was not sure that I should. Should I really take time away from my family just for something I wanted? (“Wanted” is a weak word; “yearned for” seems cheesy but accurate.) I knelt down to pray about it, and I felt overwhelmed by the Spirit telling me that this would be a good thing in my life, that I needed to do it, that it was all right. More than all right: that this was the direction God had blessed me with.

Maybe you have already figured this out, but for me, it was hard for me to believe that I was allowed, permitted, encouraged by God to cultivate the things I used to be good at, before I had children. I had thought I would need to put it all on hold till my kids were grown; to feel like I did not have to was eye-opening and liberating. I felt like God knew me as a person, not just as a mother, but as a woman with creative abilities that He wanted me to pursue. Right now I’m not employed, but maybe some day that’s where He will lead me. In fact, I hope it works out for me some time. I would love to go back to school, love to teach, when the timing works out for me and for our family.

I want to know your story: where do you fit into the continuum of working/SAHM moms? Do you ever second guess your decisions? Where had God led you? And, in the spirit of generous interpretation, let’s have the discussion be without preachiness or attacking anyone for the decisions they have made as they’ve worked to care for their families. Stories and compassion are what will hold us all together.

About Emily M.

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

34 thoughts on “Women and the Hermeneutic of Generosity

  1. I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately as well – the idea of being compassionate because everyone, EVERYONE has a story. When you are struggling with a trial or even just living a life that may not look exactly like everybody else’s, it can be easy to feel like you are the only one with a story. I try to continually remind myself that that’s only my pride, fear, and selfishness speaking!

    I’m not a stay-at-home mom, because I don’t have kids. But I stay at home full time. I used to be a full-time student, then I was a part-time student, then things came to a head and I felt very strongly impressed that it was time for me to leave school and stay at home. All of this was for medical reasons. So now, I stay at home. I take care of my physical body, which can be a daunting task, and I take care of my home, which is more fun. I have great difficulty explaining to people what it is that I ‘do.’ I have a hard time in our new ward when people ask how long we’ve been married (a little over 3.5 years) and then ask if we have kids, and the answer is no. There aren’t a lot of women who are married and stay at home WITHOUT kids. Often, I feel like I’m just a slacker, and I struggle with the way people perceive me. I second-guess continually. However, I KNOW from countless experiences that this is absolutely what the Lord wants of me at this time in my life, and so I follow Him.

  2. I work outside of the home because if I don’t work, I don’t eat, and neither do my kids.

    It sucks, but at least it’s relatively free of guilt.

  3. My baby, my first child, is seven weeks old. I’m currently on maternity leave, and my boss called me last week to ask if I really am coming back. I told her I’d get back to her this week, and I’ve been agonizing over it all weekend. Not just about this job, but the future of my life and the seemingly warring roles of mother and career woman. The words of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” have been playing in my mind over and over, and I wonder which path, for me, will “make all the difference.”

  4. I’m currently a SAHM, but I have been a work in an office mom and a work from home mom in past incarnations. It takes a great deal of trust in our own tenderly sought answers not to second guess what we choose, whatever it is we are choosing at the time. We can find ourselves feeding platitudes to our spirits instead of honesty. We need to really know and own our own stories as well as others’ stories in order to make the best choice and then trust it and trust others to do the same for themselves.

    I could have taken offense when, in a brand new ward, a sister chastised me for not having more children (yeah, wow). But I had been married for just over two years and had a 10 month old child, so I was comfortable in my own story. She had assumed that because my husband and I were lawyers that we had chosen to delay children, not that we hadn’t found each other until law school.

    There are times and seasons for everything. Sometimes when I see something I want, to do, to be, to try, that just doesn’t fit with life right now, I chant that quietly to myself–times and seasons, times and seasons. But sometimes, I find myself in a rut, willing to allow my spirit to starve for food because I have failed to notice that it was time for a new season. The hermeneutic of generosity needs to flow inward as well as outward–assume that what your soul wants really is for the best, counsel with the Lord to keep the barometer reading true and be gentle. I have often found that those who are hardest on me are harder still on themselves. Perhaps if we were gentler to our own souls, we could better extend that generosity of spirit to others.

  5. I’ve been at home with my kids from the beginning, but I’ve also run a home business and worked a part time evening job along the way.

    I was also raised by a single, working mom and my hat is genuinely off to those women who manage working and mothering all at once. I personally find it very, very difficult to balance the two.

    God has led me to this point, and I am now not only a SAHM, but a home schooling momma as well. I often feel isolated in my community AND church, b/c home schooling is totally weird and people just don’t “get” it. I am also living in a foreign country, so my feelings of being an outcast extend in nearly all areas of my life.

    I recently felt overwhelmed with these feelings, when the Lord really blessed me with comfort and peace and opened my eyes to a well-known phrase in my patriarchal blessing that helped me realise that home school was part of His plan from the beginning for me.

    I am learning to turn my eyes to the Lord; to look up, and not look around me to compare. If I am straight with God, I am happy. If I compare my life with others’, I am downing that quart of pickle juice before I even realise it.

  6. I think what you said about being at home because you know that’s what God wants for YOU is exactly how I feel. My husband and I discussed and prayed at length at what exactly God wants for us. For now that me being a 95% SAHM with a bit of part-time work here and there. Currently, that means being on-call for the busy season at my old job, which is three, six-week periods a year of 10-20 hour weeks. For us it is ideal because whenever I have prayed about my work/career versus motherhood situation what has always been my answer (so far) is that I need to stay employable but not necessarily be employed. So I keep connected with my old job so that I still have current professional references and connections should the need to jump back into full-time employment ever arise.

    I am extremely grateful that the Lord has answered my prayer so clearly because I still find myself feeling guilty whenever I mention to other moms at church that I do work a little bit. But it’s only in the comparing and assumed judgement that I feel guilt. The minute I remind myself that God has directed me and given me the current employment and motherhood opportunities I have, I’m okay and can own my decision. When we have the assurance that we’re doing what the Lord wants, it’s easier to ignore the presumed judgement from others.

  7. I’ve learned long ago when I know the Lord is pleased with me and my choices nothing else matters.

    I went to Ricks at age 15. I had plans – get a masters by 20, maybe a PhD after that, work to find and develop life saving medicines, then maybe get married and have 2 or 3 children. Thankfully the Lord had other plans and I chose to listen. I married a month after I turned 17 and have been a SAHM ever since. My nine children bring me such joy!

    My life is definitely different than I planned but I am at peace. Oh, there are the occasional times where I think what if….then on of my children comes to ask a question or give a hug and it changes to “What if I hadn’t listened? I would be missing all of this!”

    And I am so glad I am not.

  8. I needed this today. At the moment I am in the depths of hyperemesis with my 4th pregnancy. A time when I am literally incapacitated in the name of being and becoming a mother. It takes everything I have and then some, and leaves nothing behind. The person with interests and talents that I used to be feels like a memory through dark glass when I’m in such a low place. Knowing that the Lord loves all of me and remembers all of me, even the parts I am beginning to forget, is wildly comforting. Thank You.

  9. This topic has been on my mind for so long with such intensity. I’ve been married for 10 years (a mom for 9 of those), have three kids, and always felt such a stong desire/pull to be a stay at home mom. I was able to for 8.5 years. And then the economy collapsed and my husband got hurt. Our sole bread winner suddenly wansn’t employed or employable in his field. I found work readily (thank goodness!) so that we didn’t find ourselves homeless. But I ache every. single. day. for my kids and my home, both of which have suffered. I live in a very homogenous ward, where very few women work fulltime outside the home. It’s hard not to feel judged, because they don’t see the whole picture. I wish/hope/pray that more people, especially women, would take the time to not judge eachother, to empathize instead of criticize, and to try to understand another’s ‘story’.

    And just for the record, (in my opinion), being a full-time stay at home mom is harder than being employed full-time. Very much harder still is trying to do both at the same time without feeling like your losing your sanity.

  10. I always wanted to be a mom and run a household. Then I went to college and liked that and decided that I would like to pursue advanced degrees [instead]. So when I was finishing up my bachelor’s (no boy friend in sight) and planning on a ph.d., one day out of the blue came a clear impression “You will be a mother.” I was sort of floored b/c I had NOT been thinking along those lines but I tucked it away. (I should also mention a couple other things that happened along the way–I wanted to major in art at one point but was concerned about being employable. My [wonderful] freshman year bishop leaned back in his chair and said, “Your husband will support you so you don’t need worry about majoring in art.” At the time I was kind of shocked that he could say that to me but I think he was speaking by the spirit. Then, a few years later when I was considering getting a teaching degree that I didn’t want [to accompany my not-very-employable-by-itself humanities degree] I prayed and told the Lord that I really didn’t want to teach. The [almost immediate] answer was “Okay. So don’t get the teaching degree.”) Now I am at home with nine (soon to be ten) children. I don’t have any doubts about what I am doing right now (for one thing it would be counterproductive for me to get a job to pay the day care costs ;)) and so far the impressions I got about not needing to worry financially have held firm. I am grateful that it has worked out this way for me, but also sensitive that not everyone’s situation is the same as mine. (I did work during college as an administrative assistant to help put my husband through up until our 2nd was born but my boss let me bring our first child to work with me. I agree with Amelia Bedelia–I think doing both is hardest.)

  11. I graduated with my BA nine months pregnant with my first child, and I had a conversation with a professor of mine (yes, she was a woman) that went like this:

    “So you aren’t going to graduate school?”

    “No.”

    “You are going to do this [gestures toward my pregnant belly]”

    “Yes.”

    “Too bad. I thought you were talented.”

    I remember leaving that interview turning the corner and then sitting down and crying, but I knew I had made the right decision. I didn’t get a job. I didn’t go to graduate school. I stayed home with that baby and the three more that followed.

    There are still times when I feel jealous or wonder why the Lord allowed other women to pursue different paths, but it is usually my own pride talking when I feel that way. It usually happens when I want people to think I am smart or important. I know that I don’t do well with busy schedules, tight timetables, and other stresses I would encounter if I were to pursue things outside the home, so I am sure that is a contributing factor to why I have always felt impressed to trust that original decision.

    Plus, I was actually raised by a capable housewife who passed on to me a lot of practical “old school” methods like gardening, canning, budgeting, meal planning, and cooking from scratch. So while I may not actually generate any income for our family, the amount of money I save is nothing to laugh at. And I know this because I have taken “time off” during each of my pregnancies and the effect on our budget has been catastrophic.

    This may not be a fulfillment of the academic talent my professor supposedly saw in me, but I am skilled and incredibly valuable to my family. :)

  12. What fun to read everyone’s experiences! I’ve done a little of everything, and I think it’s ALL hard. School (wanting kids, with hubby), school (with a kiddo, without a hubby), work with a kiddo, home with a hubby and lots of kiddos and wanting work (or really, just external valuation), work with lots of kiddos and wanting to be home, home with kiddos desperately needing work, work AND school with kiddos who are less and then eventually more self-sufficient. It hasn’t mattered what situation I’ve been in, there weren’t enough hours in the day and there was always an opportunity out of reach. I don’t think any of us have “it all” – so we have seasons. I try anymore to enjoy the pleasure of my time. Soon enough, they will all be gone and all I’ll have is work and quiet time. When the bass is rattling from the basement I remind myself of that.

  13. I’m loving the stories too. I believe that God is mindful of us and will teach us what we need to do to meet our own needs and to bless our families. I love very much Angie’s wise counsel to own your story so that you’re not tempted to compare yourself with others or feel defensive.

    I want to respond more in depth, but I can’t right now. Tomorrow. And thank you, all.

  14. I love these stories, too. I am home with my three kids. I dabble in a little work, but my primary focus is my children. My sad confession is that I am currently being stripped of pride and working to overcome envy because my sister makes more money than I do, and I watch her kids so she can. I have a degree, and she doesn’t. It is hard for me to let go of my pride about this. I tell myself that it is because we have chosen to live rural to be near family that we struggle financially, but it could just be that my sister is a wonderful person. It could just be that her employer recognizes that. It could just be that I need to swallow my pride and recognize her for her amazing talents, and be happy that someone noticed and rewards her. The problem with pride is it’s just not coated in chocolate to help it go down easier. Maybe with time my throat will widen to let it slide. I am certainly getting a lot of practice.

  15. I am a SAHM. I have always second-guessed it. We would be living with a lot less financial worries if I were working. Maybe my husband wouldn’t have lost his small business without the pressure of supporting us completely with it. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to file bankruptcy. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to leave the place we loved living. I have tried some small things like both in-person and online tutoring, even working in my husband’s office, but nothing has worked out peacefully. But when I ask my husband about it, he says that we are making a sacrifice for me to stay home with our children. To do what we both strongly felt I need to do. But I still feel guilty for not contributing financially. I have good skills and could make a difference. But I couldn’t handle it emotionally. So instead I focus on doing things to save us money and I make the most of my time with my small children, remembering that they are worth any sacrifice, even if it’s one of my pride.

  16. my hubby finally was ready for the job market but I was the one offered a job at his interview. with Hubby free to be Mr. Mom it could have worked well, I would be a very different person today if I had said yes thirty years ago. But that was not my life.

  17. Emily F, isn’t it the oddest thing that we can KNOW it’s right for us to be a SAHM, but still feel guilty about it? I love being with my children and feel strongly that I’m doing the right thing with my life. But every time my husband I talk about how we need a bigger house but don’t know how to afford it, or wonder how we’re going to cover any of a dozen upcoming expenses, I feel bad that the weight falls completely on him. Even though I do all that housewifey stuff like cook from scratch, shop clearance, etc.

    Maybe I need to apply some of that hermeneutics of generosity stuff on myself?

  18. I’ve been a SAHM, I’ve worked full-time with a child in daycare, I’ve worked full-time with kids in school, and now I’m a sole parent looking for work – any work – that fits in with the best hours for my kids.

    Every single stage I’ve doubted I was doing the right thing – the right thing for me, for my family, for my intellect, for my potential. Now I’m in a position where I don’t have the option of not working, no choice to be a SAHM, and I still doubt myself.

    I think the majority of doubt comes from my own potential, mixed with the golden possibility of an imagined ‘other’ reality. You know, the one where I’m confident in my own abilities, know with certainty I’m doing what God wants me to do (to the very last detail), and have everything behaving nicely, all the time. It’s a lovely little daydream, but I know God doesn’t work like that.

    Steph, your words hit the mark for me – I’m going to apply a healthy layer of hermeneutics of generosity to myself, daily.

  19. Recently I was remembering that in junior high I wanted to be a doctor. I had the intelligence and the drive, but I spent time reading about the schedules that doctors live. I decided it wouldn’t fit in with the life I really wanted: to be a mom.

    In college I majored in Humanities. I danced. I painted. I minored in Spanish. Then I got married, graduated. Worked a little in a few offices. Then had kids and have “stayed home” since.

    I have also helped run my husband’s various home businesses over the years (cartoonist, animation training video sales, now an online animation school–AnimSchool).

    Once my daughter asked what I would have been if I hadn’t been a mom. I said maybe a dance teacher. But I have never regretted being a homemaker. (I don’t really like the term SAHM. I don’t have to stay home! But I like “homemaker” because that’s what I am trying to do).

    After 21 years of marriage, and almost 19 of motherhood, I feel strongly that women should pursue their dreams. Even in marriage and motherhood, find ways to develop your interests. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do…but just suggesting that even women who choose to be home with their children can spend time for themselves.

    Personally I’ve always been all over the place. I’ve taught Yoga, I’ve played the cello in an orchestra. I’ve taken painting classes. Had an art show. I’ve remodeled my homes repeatedly.

    I don’t feel guilty about being there for my kids, except for when I’m not “here” enough mentally or emotionally. Being a mom is hard work in every way! I have five kids in very different stages with different needs.

    I sometimes suffer from depression, which runs in the family (my son too). I have fear of success too, I think. This keeps me from focusing on one goal long enough to achieve more. I hope I don’t fear succeeding with my kids, though. Again, I repeat this is hard work!

    Overall, I like my life and my story. I am trying to fine tune my abilities to show love in all areas of my life, including for myself.

    I like this idea of hermeneutics of generosity. I think realizing everyone has a story, that everyone is a child of God with a purpose, helps the love in our hearts to come forth and critical words and thoughts to dissipate.

  20. I feel a strong vocation to pursue my master’s in gerontology, which is largely online. This allows me the flexibility to care for my family while my husband has a very inflexible job and a busy writing schedule on nights/weekends. Because I was very achievement oriented before I married at 34, I often get into a huge funk, feeling inadequate. I just posted on FB last week about feeling like a failure because I didn’t have a job, a book, or the Ph.D (I did all the coursework and then married and had a baby). Nevertheless, I do get a quiet calm about my gerontology work and family support work. It’s just a lot less sexier than the humanities work my husband does (and that I was doing, too). I have to validate myself before the throne of God, and I often neglect to do that. And then I let the world devalue me, and I stupidly allow it. This is a GREAT post, Emily, about how we can talk to ourselves in a more productive way. Thank you.

  21. Oh, I love the Segullah community . . .

    This is a subject very near and dear to my heart. Roughly a year after I was married, I received strong spiritual direction to apply to law school, and with great urgency. I felt very specifically that much of what my law degree would be needed for would have to do with meaningfully serving those who were underprivileged. I remembr feeling that most likely it would occur with those in other nations, particularly with China, since I spoke Mandarin after serving a mission in Taiwan. This idea brought me unspeakable joy since I found enormous fulfillment in humanitarian service, and was eager to become more useful in this way.

    And so off I went to law school, an experience which I savored beyond measure. Because the line between secular learning and spiritual enrichment is very thin for me, I often teared up in class, thrilling at the privilege I had to be there. By my 3rd year of law school, I had acquired valuable international experiences and was working with a local nonprofit that had an orphanage in Haiti, and hoped to begin efforts in China. They hoped to send me not only to Haiti to initiate certain efforts, but had purchased a Chinese visa and airline ticket for me as well. . . As far as I could see, all was fitting snugly into the promptings I had felt years earlier.

    And then one of the greatest miracles of my life took place. Having faced a couple years of infertility up to that point, there were many individuals in my life who knew my husband and I would love to adopt a baby, and were waiting to have enough money and preparation to make that dream a reality. On a winter morning just 6 weeks shy of my law school graduation, a friend approached me saying that he had a friend who had just given birth to a baby and felt she should place him for adoption. He asked if we would be interested, and if so, would we want to meet the birth mother that day? . . . To make a very wondrous story very short, within 24 hours that little baby was in our arms for good. Overnight my world had changed, and I was left to consider the consequences, both joyful and difficult. I felt so close to God during this time, and yet it was with some wistfulness that I sent a law school colleague in my stead to accomplish my work in China. “I’ll have another opportunity some day.” . . . But when, I often thought.

    That question returned to me with even more vehemence 3 months later as I studied for the bar exam and noticed I was feeling very nauseated and tired . . . I was (miraculously) pregnant! After wondering for years whether or not my fate was to pursue international humanitarian service rather than traditional motherhood, all of a sudden I was thrown into the traditional route with Irish twins. Talk about a shock! I remember crying for a month straight about what this all meant, all the time questioning whether or not what I had thought were legitimate answers from the spirit were real or imagined. Was this really my life, and how did it happen again?

    Since that time, mothering has been it’s own journey for me. I now have four children, (the first three all came within 2 1/2 years). For as delighted as I was to become a mother, there were parts of it I had to make peace with, particularly when it came to weathering a serious period of motherhood burnout. By the time my last child was born, I had made complete peace with my role . . . (Part of which came when I went on inactive status as an atty and ceased working from home altogether). I have been able to surrender my will completely over to the Lord, and in the process embrace my mothering with absolute joy beyond what I could have ever imagined possible.

    Fast forward that to 2 months ago. I received word that a very dear friend of mine who runs a foster care orphanage for medically fragile orphans in China was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and that my legal expertise and connections were suddenly needed. All of a sudden the contacts, connections, and training I had received several years before moved to the foreground, and I could feel the spirit intimately moving the pieces of the chessboard. I sat in amazement as I observed all the promises/reassurances God had once made me come to pass now. And then I realized, it was all in His TIMING. The guidance all those years ago through the Holy Ghost were always true, but it was based on God’s eternal continuum, not my short-sighted perspective.

    For a myriad of different reasons I have found myself coming repeatedly back to some words from President David O. McKay, regarding what our personal interview with the Savior will be like. Though he spoke these words to priesthood brethren, I often apply them to myself, and reflect upon whether or not my priorities match the Lord’s. The list essentially first addresses our relationship with our spouse, then our individual relationships with each of our children. . . Then I think the next thing he mentions is interesting. President McKay says the Savior “will want to know what [we] have personally done with the talents [we] were given in the pre-existence.”

    Before the recent change of events with my service, I found that this third priority came to my mind quite often, and I sat and wondered what talents from the pre-existence I was supposed to develop and when.

    I think I found part of my answer, and it sounds as if perhaps you did, too. God bless you in your journey, Emily. May it prove joyfully rewarding, surprises and all.

  22. Last Spring I attended our local college’s graduation ceremony. Anna Quindlen was the main speaker. I loved her speech to the graduates about being true to yourself and not giving in to pressures from the world to become what the world would have you be. But, I wondered, how would I know, without the gospel, what my true self is? All through this discussion there has been a theme–that we are daughters of God, that he loves us and has much greater vision for us than we have for ourselves.

  23. To everybody who has posted above:

    I know that sometimes when you (I) post on a blog, you (I) check back to see if anyone has noticed or responded to the comment you put so much thought and effort into. And then you (I) sometimes feel disappointed since no one did.

    I want to say thank you to EVERYONE above. I am a very frequent, VERY SILENT lurker on Segullah. I am often edified by your comments, but very, very slow to return any of my own. Even if it seems no one noticed your individual story, remember people like me who read and ponder invisibly.

    Thank you!

  24. Yes, it is Amanda DeLange is the friend I spoke of. I’m thrilled to hear of others thinking of her. She goes in for surgery tomorrow, so please pray for her. I know for certain that God is very aware of her, but I also know that the power of prayer in her behalf has already worked wonders.

  25. Cindy, that is how I feel when people ask me if I’m going to have another baby (what is it about having a baby that makes random people ask if you’re going to have another?). The answer is complicated, and I have to remember to trust both past and future inspiration.

    SilverRain, I wish life gave everyone the choice to be employed or not, instead of requiring it. Blessings to you.

    LIndsay, I don’t know. I believe Sister Beck when she says that the ability to receive personal revelation is one of the most important skills we can acquire in this life, and it seems like that will be the way for you to go: find out what God wants you to do. You can do this.

    Angie, I love the phrase “comfortable in my own story.” That’s what I need more of: to be comfortable in my own story, to trust my own answers. I love what you’ve said here.

    Sarah, “to look up, and not look around me to compare,” is perfect, as is “drowning in a quart of pickle juice.” Thank you.

    What I’m loving about all these answers is the way we find where God wants us to be. As Emily says,”The minute I remind myself that God has directed me and given me the current employment and motherhood opportunities I have, I’m okay and can own my decision.” Yes.

    Chocolate, you remind me of my grandma–she loved her kids and grandkids, and would always say “What if I missed this?” I need to do that more often with my family.

    Em, blessings to you in your pregnancy–motherhood does require everything and more than that sometimes. I believe that God is aware, very aware, of everything we give up to be mothers, and that he knows us.

    Amelia, so glad you found work and so sorry that you live with the feeling judgment. I wish there were a way we could just bypass the judging circuit in our brains and have compassion and listening be the default.

    Ana, congratulations on your pregnancy! Yay! Are you going to change your user name? Ana of the Nine Kids has a great lyrical ring to it, but it will no longer be accurate. Thank you for sharing the ways you were guided.

    DeniMarie, I had a similar conversation with a professor just before I graduated, and it stung too.

    Bonnie, I love your perspective, that there are never enough hours in the day, and always an opportunity out of reach–even more reason to enjoy now. Thank you.

  26. Jen, I wish pride were coated in chocolate too. Mine has taken a beating over this issue in many ways. It’s good for me and also hard.

    Emily F., I’m so sorry it has been rough. I just am–I wish that following where we felt guided to would mean that God would make it easier, but sometimes he doesn’t.

    rae keck, yes, I chose a different life than the one I imagined, and it’s both sweet and hard.

    Steph, yes–that is one thing this thread has taught me–we need to be generous with ourselves!

    Kel, you are so wise– the doubt comes from potential mixed with this imaginary other reality. Also, you should always, always be generous with yourself, because you so deserve it.

    Sage, I love the way you’ve been all over the place, as you say. So many great talents and skills to develop. And I need to be “there” emotionally for my kids more often. It is very easy to check out.

    KDA, speaking from personal experience, you have been very helpful to me with your gerontology work. I’ve loved the book you recommended, and it has helped me revise my self-perceptions in a way that makes me less resentful of the caregiving I need to do. You’re doing a good work, and thank you.

    Amanda, I love your story. So much. And the quote by President McKay. And the way you were guided to develop the skills so badly needed right now. Which mission did you serve in? My parents are mission presidents over there right now.

    Amos, I agree completely. Without the gospel, I don’t think I would have become a mother of four. Possibly one, maybe none. And I love my children. They are great, wise, funny people, and without the gospel I would not have known them at all.

    Hi Shelah! :-) I love small world connections.

    Grateful friend, you inspired me to respond more individually than I sometimes do, so thank you. And thanks for reading.

    Everyone, I have loved your stories. Thank you.

  27. Thank you for this post and all the comments. I gave up my work 20 years ago to be a SAHM. Off and on I’ve wondered if I made the right choice. Even though it was a prayerful decision, made with faith. The world tends to creep in making me feel worthless. I have 6 wonderful boys, the youngest who just woke up. No time to write more or edit my post!

    Just thanks everyone.

  28. http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmormonscholarstestify.org%2F1718%2Fvalerie-hudson-cassler&h=qAQFKKy-a

    Sorry this link is through facebook (typing from smartphone). Hope it works.

    This is such a great article about Mormon women. It is called, “I am a Mormon because I am a Feminist”. Her interpretation of the two trees in the garden of Eden is so inspiring. I felt like it fit on this post.

    Thanks again for this great post and your kind comment, Emily.

  29. When I read about the comment the professor made to Denimarie when she was pregnant it reminded me of a different kind of exchange that I had. I was (very) pregnant with my first and feeling some anguish about becoming a mom and not going on for more formal education so I went to see a good friend/mentor/professor–Arthur Bassett at BYU. He was so kind. After listening to me cry about my emotional angst he told me that the window for motherhood is so short, that what I was doing WAS important and that this way I would be young when I had grandchildren (I was 21). I asked him if grandchildren were really that worth it and he got a twinkle in his eye and said, “Oh YES!” This conversation helped me a lot and I have reflected back on it many times. I love that man!

  30. I have been blessed to be a stay at home mom for the last 11 years. Recently, though, I started getting cabin fever, and since I’m a lousy housekeeper anyways, I was ready to start looking. What I didn’t want to do in the recent economy though, was take a job from someone who really needed it, not just a bored housewife avoiding laundry.
    A school district near me was hiring substitute teachers, so I took the test, rounded up what I needed to and have been subbing for a couple of months. Some teachers need only the half-day, which is perfect. It allows me to drop off my middle schooler and head to a job, then be home in time to pick up my elementary schooler. I have the freedom to turn down jobs (High school boys gym, anyone?), although I understand some districts don’t give that option. It’s been a good compromise, and I find that I am pretty good at subbing. It helps that I no longer care what middle schoolers think of me!

  31. I loved reading everyone’s different stories! I am a stay at home mom and I have never had one moment of doubt that’s it’s where I should be. How blessed we are that Heavenly Father knows each of us individually since we all need different things. While “hermeneutic of generosity” sounds much fancier, growing up my mom pounded into us the phrase “nobility of intent”. To always assume people’s intentions were noble, whether they seemed it or not. That phrase has helped minimize a lot of pain and hurt over the years.

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