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Has the counsel changed?

By Michelle Lehnardt

My entire life hinged on a single sentence. “And in your schooling prepare yourself to be a mother in Zion, for this is your role in life.” Less than a page and generic in almost every way, my patriarchal blessing contained just this one startling admonition. I was stunned, humbled, disappointed. Academics were my venue and I played them well. Motherhood had never interested me and I chose teen poverty over babysitting gigs involving diapers, dishes and hours of screaming babies.

Just a few days after my blessing, I witnessed President Benson’s appeal “To the Mothers in Zion” where he punctuated the charge of motherhood and homemaking. His words struck my soul and I threw away my Ivy League brochures, abandoned my dreams of becoming a doctor/lawyer/journalist and scoured the BYU catalog for homemaking majors.

Twenty-two years later, my decision sounds naive, but at the time my parents praised my obedience, my young women leaders thought it was lovely, and my seminary teacher burst into happy tears. And I… I am completely amazed at how well it worked out– I scurried through college in three short years, married in my last semester, graduated with a BA in History(never did fit into the home-ec department) and was pregnant just days later. At the pleading of my senior advisor I took the GRE but was soon too sick and then too overwhelmed with my colicky baby to apply for grad school.

It was nearly twelve years later when I emerged from debilitating pregnancies and six beautiful screaming babies, that I realized I’d had options. That I could have put off childbearing for a few years, that my husband could have pursued a career that utilized his talents, if I’d taken a paying job and put him through school.


Still, I can’t complain. We’ve been incredibly blessed with six remarkable children, the ability to pay the bills and a latent aptitude for mothering that I might never have discovered.

But would I give the same advice to teenage girls or my own daughter? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Many of my friends never had an opportunity to marry– those who chose an interesting, enriching career path have maintained rich, happy lives. Those that dreamed only of a husband and babies? Not so much.

Nearly a dozen friends are widowed, divorced or caring for injured or unemployed husbands as well as their children. The ones with teaching degrees, nursing degrees and/or business experience are weathering the storms better than those with no career plans.

The Lord’s command to “multiply and replenish the earth” has never been rescinded, but I believe it’s been tempered a bit with  continuing revelation, “You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.”(President Hinckley: A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth) and “I urge you to pursue your education—if you are not already doing so or have not done so—that you might be prepared to provide if circumstances necessitate such.” (President Monson: General Relief Society Conference Oct 2007).

Tell me. What do you think? How have your educational goals been determined by church and parental counsel? Have you followed a commandment and been blessed later? Or taken advice and regretted it? What dreams have you put on hold for parenthood and what advice would you give your daughters?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

81 thoughts on “Has the counsel changed?”

  1. I didn't put off getting married, but I didn't put off a career, either. I got married when I was 30 after graduating from college and managing a five year career where I was rather successful. I quit working outside the home when my son was born and took four years off to have a second child. Now, because of the groundwork I laid during my career, I am able to work part time from home making almost as much as I did working full time in an office. I am very blessed. I have so many friends that are not in any sort of position to provide for their family should something happen to their husband – no education, no work experience. In this world, that is too big of a risk. I have learned that you can have both. Having children later limited the amount that I was able to have, but I am grateful for both of them and for the things I learned in the journey.

  2. I, too, have been surprised by motherhood. Surprised at how much it takes to be a good one, surprised at how rewarding it can sometimes be, surprised that after ten years I am only beginning to see the pay off.

    Other paths are worthy and delightful, but there are so few voices out there encouraging and supporting the choice to become full-time, stay-at-home mother that I think it's important for our Church to be one of the places young women hear that message. Hopefully not to the exclusion of other paths.

    At sixteen, I never would have guessed how incomplete my life would have been without children. Isn't it okay for our Church to give us a hint?

  3. My advice to my three daughters and to any young woman in search for answers is this: Pray with heart, and remember that the decisions you make are between you and the Lord. He cares and he knows the capacities that you carry in your heart and mind. These decisions and answers will enable you to have personal revelation and draw you closer to Christ at all times.

    When I was getting my Masters Degree, teaching, and pregnant I was judged harshly by the women in my neighborhood. I loved being pregnant and I loved teaching literature and writing. Twelve years later, and three girls later, I feel very blessed to have the separate pieces of my life integrate and merge into one. I feel blessed that the Lord answered my prayers to be at the crossroads of my girls' days no matter what. Do I have it ALL? Certainly not, but I have what matters most to ME. Sure, I miss out on tennis dates, shopping, and book club, but these are the choices I made with the Lord.

    The exciting part is that my education is now blessing their lives as I teach writing in their classes every week, along with teaching in my own classes. Doors have opened because I kept a steady line of communication with the Lord at all times. Sure, my journey has had its rough points, but the blessings of relying on the Lord for this decision to pursue an education, and be a wife and mother has been a blessing.

    In my scriptures I carry a bookmark that is quite sacred to me. It reads
    "I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do no ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass." ~~Pres. Hinckley

    Don't you love the word–Capacity? We all have different capacities at different times of our lives.

    One blessing of using my education is that twelve years later, I was able to lead a student of mine to a sweet conversion into the Church. It was a belated blessing of using my education and integrating the parts of my life into one.

    Michelle, thank you for this early-morning, first-of-the-week post. It reminds me that we are all educated women seeking personal revelation. We all have different capacities, and we are all blessed with spiritual intellects that will guide us gently home to heaven. It's clear to see that the audience of Segullah are life-long learners.

  4. I have three daughters, so this is something that matters a lot to me. I want them all to get an education, for sure–as the world gets more and more competitive and complex, they're going to need one even if they have happily-ever-after marriages. And education will make them better mothers.

    But I also want them to be able to pursue their passions. I believe that writing regularly actually makes me a better mother to them.

    A couple of years ago, one of my girls came to me and said, "I want to be a mom when I grow. And an artist." She took it for granted that she could do both–and motherhood was #1 on her list. I figure I'm doing something right.

  5. I feel like one of the few who got to enjoy both worlds. I didn't get married until I finished grad school. So I managed to fit in college teaching, child life, and world travel before I had kids… I was pregnant with my first child less than a year after I married and began motherhood and honestly never regretted that choice– I could have put it off and continued in my work, but I didn't and it was the right thing. I crammed everything in knowing what my future plans would be– stepping off the career bus. My education has enriched my life in powerful ways, it gives me knowledge, identity, skills, ways to serve, & it has blessed my family immensely. I try to still keep up in small ways on my certifications, with volunteer work, so I am always marketable should I ever need to step up support my family.
    Motherhood always figured in my plans, I chose not to pursue medicine because I knew I couldn't make the two fit the way I would wanted. I know that might raise feminist arms. I know I could have done any of those things well but life is about choices and priorities and there is where mine fall.
    Our religion has always been pro-education/knowledge. To often I think our culture ill prepares girls for reality.I had a friend actually say to me I don't think girls really need a good education, if they are going to be moms. When I hear things like that I want to cry and scream all at the same time. I love to the Mothers in Zion- I think the recent counsel has been to wake girls up more to the reality and importantce of education, to try to sweep away these false culutural beliefs.
    I learned to value education because my mother had a great education and while she wasn't working outside the home, she used it every day- her choice to be with us was powerful.

  6. To answer your first question, no. I believed then and I believe now you can study whatever your heart desires and it will prepare you in one way or another for wife and motherhood. Ever since I can remember my plan was to study English and no one could have deterred me from that.

    But when we decided to have children and for me to be a SAHM even though my husband was still in school and on paper it looked darn near impossible to make ends meet, we did it anyway. (Continuing to make ends meet on a beginning school teacher's salary–which back then was just dollars above the poverty level–took another great leap of faith.)

    But because I watched my mom have to support six children when my father died of cancer while I–the oldest–was just 19 I always admonish girls–including my own daughter–to pursue an education and prepare to be able to support not just themselves, but also a family if needed.

    That said, I also encourage them to get a personal testimony of the prophet's counsel and I witness to them of the blessings we received even when it didn't seem practical to follow that counsel but we did it anyway. Nor do I hesitate to share with them my joy (I can tell them how hard it is in the same breath) in being a wife and mother.

    It's a very personal thing and I hope my daughter as well as my sons and their eventual wives will do what's right for them.

  7. I think I went more with my parents counsel and not the church's–my mom went to college while I was in elementary school and got a teaching degree. She has been in school or working for most of my life. Sometimes I wish I had grown up with a totally at-home mom, but the fact that she worked has blessed our lives in many ways (including paying for our missions). I'm not sure the counsel has changed all that much–I still hear a lot urging women to stay home and mother as much as they can. But I do hear a lot about getting a good education. I think part of that is also because the church is so diverse and circumstances for women all over the world are very different, but education is always a good thing.

    I think with my kids I would urge them to follow the spirit and to not plan their life too much when they are 14. I never thought I'd want to get married and have kids. Just wasn't my life plan. I ended up getting married shortly after my mission, but still went ahead and finished my BA, MA and am now in a PhD program. But now I'm seriously considering putting graduate school on hold for a while because it's just too much with my little children. I actually do most of my homework at night and they are with dh when I'm in class, so I don't think my schooling is taking that much away from them, but I've just been feeling that my mental and emotional reserves are stretched thin. At the same time, I don't regret my choices. With my MA I can teach as an adjunct part-time while my kids are small and go back to school later in life if I feel a need. Anyways, I think the most important thing I will teach all my kids, my boy and my girl, is to constantly seek the spirit to guide them in their lives. And to have a flexible plan. I have a SIL who lost her husband after only 4 years of marriage, another that didn't ever marry, and one that didn't marry until she was nearly 40. You don't know where life will take you, and it's important to be a little open to other plans that the Lord might have for you.

  8. My patriarchal blessing contains absolutely no counsel regarding education, but nearly a page about my future family. As I graduated college, I had no idea what I would do with my life. I was single at the time (and would remain so for 6 more years) and had no real educational goals in mind. I had naively assumed that I would be married when I finished college–as if it were a right. I wondered when I was going to get to start applying the counsels regarding the children I was supposed to bear with the husband I was supposed to have. I really put no thought into what the situation would be if I were to remain single for longer than I had planned.

    I wandered relatively aimlessly for two years before deciding to go to graduate school. I am now about half way through my PhD now and plan to continue with my education. I got married in August to a man who is very supportive of my educational goals. The reality is that I will most likely continue to work once we have children. In theory, I have come to terms with this. Of course, since we have no children, I don't know what the result will be in practice.

    I, for one, am grateful that I didn't just go by what my patriarchal (didn't) said. I don't know that I wouldn't have found someone to marry had I not followed the path I have chosen. I do know that I love my husband and I am grateful that he came into my life when he did. I also know that I have found an incredible amount of satisfaction as I have pursued my post graduate education.

    I don't know exactly what I'll tell my daughters about their educational pursuits. I think maybe I'll tell them that it is a very personal decision and that they should study something they are interested in and that they find fulfilling.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. It is refreshing to know that there are so many others that believe in the importance of education and motherhood. Growing up I dreamed about many different careers and decided on Music Education during my freshmen year of college. My mother taught me the importance of education throughout my life and her commitment and dedication to our family showed me that that education would never shadow her roll as a mother. I never thought that I would have to choose between an education and motherhood and I didn't. For me, the timing was perfect. I got married a few months after I received my Bachelor's degree and had our first child a year and a half later. I had the opportunity to teach for three years before I "retired" and am not at home with our two kids.

    I know that for some the timing isn't that perfect. I know that some women do have to make a choice. I will teach my daughter that she should stay close to the Lord. I will teach her how important education is, not just the obtaining of the degree, but also the journey one takes to get there. It is not just about having something to fall back on, it is about becoming a better women, a better mother, a better wife. And I hope and pray that through my daily example I will show her my commmitment and dedication to motherhood, just as my mother has shown me hers.

  10. what's hard for me to do as a single woman is to figure out when and how much to let go of the husband-and-babies dreams. there is nothing i want more than those things, so it's not as easy as it might seem to pick an enriching career path. i'm an educated person with a decent work history, but i'm not going to throw myself down a career path just because my life isn't where i would like it to be, and being a career woman is the only thing left for me to do. there is nothing about the prospect of working long-term that i find inspiring.

    i think hindsight is 20/20. it's easy to look back now and say that you should have continued more with school and seriously investigated career choices, but maybe, truly, that's not what you needed to do. in moments wherein i let myself despair i look back at my BYU days and think i should have flirted more, gone to FHE, lost weight, worn more makeup, tempered my opinions, whatever it would have taken to secure a man. and maybe that would have all worked and i would have caught a husband, but then, maybe years from now i'd look back and regret not going down a path similar to the one i'm on now. thank goodness the Lord is merciful and doesn't let us screw up our lives too badly if we have our hearts in the right place (and you most certainly do).

    i appreciate your candor on this subject. this has been such a wonderful forum for learning and growth for me.

  11. From my family, it was always assumed that all the children would have degrees and education, and still be mothers and parents. I feel like I opened up the door so I could fully choose my path as a SAHM. Having the ability to make that conscious choice has made my experience as a mother more meaningful.

    And having an education has helped me tremendously in rearing my kids.

    But that said, I don't think that's the only path. I agree that we each have our own strengths and talents, our own unique path to walk here on earth. I don't think everyone needs to have a master's degree to be a successful or fulfilled parent. But I am also watching my dear sister struggle to go back to school to be able to provide for her children now that she's alone. Skill and vocation are so important — on any level.

  12. Very thought-provoking questions. Thank you for asking them. I'm not sure I have any answers. Early on in college, I set aside my career-driven goals because my heart changed. It was internal conversion to the gospel that allowed me to recognize guidance from the SPirit for me personally more than counsel from leaders that lead me to marry younger than I expected. I graduated two weeks before my first child was born and have dedicated my time to my three children ever since. Now, though, I am still young and am moving into paths where I am using my education to extend my outreach in different ways. I like what Elder Faust has said on these lines, and that would be my advice to my daughters: "Life is Sequential." Hes said:

    "Women today are encouraged by some to have it all: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world. For women, the important ingredients for happiness are to forge an identity, serve the Lord, get an education, develop your talents, serve your family, and if possible to have a family of your own.

    However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. You cannot eat all of the pastries in the baking shop at once. You will get a tummyache. You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent Church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially.

    Sequentially is a big word meaning to do things one at a time at different times. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under … heaven.” 12 Woman may fit more than one interest into the various seasons of life.

    I would encourage you sisters to develop all of your gifts and talents to move forward the work of righteousness in the earth. I hope you acquire all of the knowledge you can. Become as skillful as you can, but not exclusively in new careers at the expense of the primary ones, or you may find that you have missed one of the great opportunities of your lives. (Pres. James E. Faust, May 1998 Ensign.)

  13. I'm very passionate about this subject.

    Growing up I kind of thought of the motherhood first talks we received in YWs to be simply noise. I wasn't old enough to really internalize Benson's talk on motherhood (or even to think about how it would have affected my working mother.) I was ambitious, still am, and those ambitions did not extend to how a family might fit in to my plans; it just didn't occur to me.

    In fact, I reacted with revulsion at the girls around me who wanted to 'be a mom' when they grew up. WHAT? WHAT? What was WRONG with them?

    My parents were firm that education was an imperative part of our life and plans; it wasn't IF I was going to college, it was which graduate degree would I pursue? And I was not about to put a man through school, he could put me through school, thank you very much.

    Needless to say I had some growing up to do.

    Now I look back and realize that my mother was trying to gently prepare me for a life where I might work AND have a family. "You know, dentists set their own schedules and only work a few days a week. It's a great job for a woman," she'd say. I'd look at her like she was nuts…'for a woman'…whatever. I can do anything I want.

    I encouraged my young women to get an education no matter what. I don't care if that wasn't done, someone ought to tell them that the lone and dreary world isn't that forgiving. I never want them to have to depend on another person to support themselves. You never know what will happen in your life and a good education is the key to keeping you out of poverty.

    How many of us know women who stay in miserable, terrible, even abusive marriages because they lack the skills and education to leave?

    Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones who makes a choice to stay at home and has a partner who can provide all that a family needs, a partner who doesn't leave, get injured, or die.

    Maybe you won't.

    Maybe you should prepare with an education to improve you and simply you.

    Not only has the counsel changed, but it was a necessary change that I hope will save years of agony and heartbreak for our sisters.

  14. When I was in high school and college, I really bristled at the idea that my purpose on earth was motherhood. In my ecclesiastical endorsement interview for BYU, my bishop asked me if the reason I wanted to go there was to get married. I honestly answered no, but he refused to believe me, which I found quite annoying. I ended up getting married my 4th year there, going to graduate school, and having a baby towards the end of my Ph.D. program (which is finally over, thank the Lord).

    I really don't know what the young women are being taught today (it's been quite a few years since I listened to General Conference). But my opinion of what I was taught as a young person has changed. I realize now how it FEELS to be a mother. It's all encompassing, and overwhelming. Even if you have a supportive husband and a good daycare provider, your internal world is never the same. If I were a young woman now, I'd want to be told:

    1- Chances are you'll want a baby some day, even if you don't now.

    2- You will probably have an overwhelming need to be with that baby when it happens.

    3- Your baby will get older and need you less, and you'll want to do other things besides being a mom.

    4- Life is totally unpredictable.

    5- Study career choices, talk to grown-up women, and choose an education that's going to give you CHOICES.

  15. My best friend and I both got degrees and jobs in different, rigorous helping professions. A few years later we both found ourselves mothering children who absolutely needed the skills of a full-time, in-home ICU nurse and speech-language pathologist, respectively. Her kids wouldn't be alive, and my kid wouldn't be succeeding in jr. high and life without the specific knowledge and mindsets we took from school and work into motherhood.

    Most kids don't need a mom with an advanced degree to survive. But some do, and if my daughter wants an education, it may be the Lord leading her toward what my grandchildren will need from her.

  16. This is something I'm struggling with at just this moment. I put off getting married to serve a mission and finish my undergraduate degree. I put off having kids to finish a graduate degree, put my husband through school and frankly, because I was terrified of having kids. However, I have always believed the counsel of the leaders and my patriarchal blessing that motherhood would be an important role in my life. I am now a SAHM who works part time at night so my kids don't have to go into daycare. My husband is the primary breadwinner. I have to be honest and say that I don't enjoy it. I love my children, but as I see career opportunities pass me by, see my husband excel in his career when I cannot, and struggle with 3 little ones, I wonder if I really made the right choice to stay at home. Of the two of us (my husband and I), I am the more driven and ambitious and he is a much more patient parent. I feel like I'm trying to do what I've been counseled to do but I don't feel the peace, contentment, and fulfillment that so many others do.

  17. Most of all I wanted to be a mom. But really, there is only so much you can do to make that happen. So I made plans. Big plans. They included a Masters Degree and long term career plans. My plans also included a mission. Plans changed when two weeks before I was scheduled to enter the MTC my best friend asked me to marry him.

    Like is normally making the choices between good and better. It was good for me to go on a mission. It was better for me to marry my husband. I finished my bachelors degree and it will be very helpful if I ever need to work full time, but it is also very helpful now. The skills I learned in getting a college degree (organization, planning, etc.–skills that do not come to me naturally), help me now as a mom.

    You can't plan out all your life, but plan what you can control and you can always change it later. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a PhD. and not using it to work full time (but you still have to pay off your loans).

  18. When I was young, I was only interested in being a mother. Period. Maybe I was just a product of my generation's culture, but I'm not sure about that because being a mom is still my main interest. I did graduate with a teaching degree; my parents encouraged me to have "something to fall back on." However, I've never used it…at least, not for pay. Every time I neededto fall back on something, I worked for lawyers as an administrative assistant because it paid better.

    When my youngest child started kindergarten, I began to feel a need for "more" in my life. I went back to school to work on a masters degree and got some books and poems published. The writing turned out to be more nurturing for me than the counseling, so today I write for pleasure and (a little bit of) money. =)

    I only have one daughter, but I have encouraged her to get as much education as she is willing to get. Being a mom is still her main interest, though. (She even teaches preschool…BY CHOICE!) I guess she's more of a "mom" than I am, lol.

  19. I remember being so lonely when we were newlyweds living in BYU married student housing and I was the only woman in the stairwell who wasn't pregnant. I didn't necessarily want to be pregnant at the time, but I kept looking at those girls and thinking that they were making the kinds of dramatic sacrifices (putting off graduation and stuff like that) I wasn't brave enough to make. At the time, I felt like my birth control pills represented our lack of faith. No matter how much my DH tried to convince me otherwise, not jumping on the baby bandwagon immediately made me feel somehow less than worthy.

    More than a decade later, I'm glad I didn't win what was our first of many power struggles related to the timing and number of our kids. I squeaked in a graduate degree before we had our first. It's not even that I was all that ambitious for a degree– the opportunity fell into my lap and the ambition caught up later.

    And caught up it has. Now that I'm likely bringing up the tail end (see the previous paragraph about power struggles) of our toddlers, I'm itching to use my brain again, to put on nice clothes and leave the house again, to be accountable to someone older than age eight again. I went into being a SAHM fully believing that I was becoming a Mother in Zion– and believing that because I was making the "right" choice, it would be fun, it would be easy, it would be rewarding! So I was caught unprepared for the fact that although it is fun and rewarding, there are plenty of times when it's neither. I've tried to parlay that ambition into areas that won't have adverse effects on my small kids, but I can't envision myself as a SAHM when there are no kids at home during the day.

  20. How do I love the women of Segullah? Let me count the ways…

    What advice would I give to young women or my daughter? Read the replies on this thread! Thank you, thank you for your thoughtful and honest comments.

    Heidi– thanks for sharing your path. You will comfort many.

    Red– I love your phrase "surprised by motherhood" and this "At sixteen, I never would have guessed how incomplete my life would have been without children. Isn’t it okay for our Church to give us a hint?"

    Leslie R.– I've admired, and yes, envied your path. Thanks for sharing the element of prayer and study that accompanied it.

    Annette– you are certainly doing something right! I loved Elder Uchtdorf's now famous talk that encouraged us to always pursue creativity.

    Leslie– I love the powerful choice you and your mother made. I see that in you– the powerful mothering that comes from choosing your own path.

    Dalene- thanks for emphasizing the very personal nature of this choice. Love you!

    Foxy-J- you are are so fantastic. I appreciate your honesty. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of having it all.

    Mrs. H-B- you illustrated this dilemma so perfectly. Best wishes with your family and the many decision to come!

    Bethany– love this "It is not just about having something to fall back on, it is about becoming a better women, a better mother, a better wife."

    Justine– you're right any level of skill is helpful. On of my friends has fallen back on her skills as a beautician; it's a very profitable recession-proof occupation.

    T.J.– bless you for recalling Elder Faust's counsel– I'd completely forgotten that beautiful talk.

    Carina- wish I could reach through the screen and kiss you for your long insightful reply. I so admire you young self-assured women. Wish I'd had half your insight at that age.

    Emily– what a perfect list. I'd like to put it on a card and hand it out.

    LeAnn- you are so right that education enriches our mothering. This may sound sexist but I think every woman could use a nursing degree.

    Andrea R.– thank you, bless you for sharing your ongoing struggles with this.

    Allison– thanks for reminding us of flexibility

    and Sue- thanks for offeringa more long-term perspective. And it's so encouraging to hear you were able to pursue your dreams later.

    Keep 'em coming. I still have lots to learn from you today.

  21. I love the advice given by President Hinckley a few years ago in General Priesthood meeting. He cited statistics showing that a higher percentage of women were graduating from college than men. He admonished YOUNG MEN to get an education. He asked, "How will you feel if you can't hold an intelligent conversation with your wife, let alone get a job that pays enough to provide for your family?" Money isn't everything. Good companionship and a loving relationship comes close.

    As my marital bliss has progressed through the years I grow increasingly thankful for the education and highly developed mental capacity of my wife. We discuss gospel topics, great literature, politics, business, life, etc… Without her keen intellect I might as well be a lone man in the wilderness. Her natural ability plays a big part in this, but formal education has a major role too.

    Encourage your daughters to get an education – strongly. Make it mandatory. Even if they never need to pursue a career. Education will allow good mothers to be great. It will truly allow wives to be equally yoked with their husbands even though their traditional God given work will be very different. Being a mother and wife is not for mindless drones – it is takes a highly skilled woman to do it well.

  22. My YW leaders used the approach of get your education so that if anything happens to your husband, you have something to fall back on. That advice frustrated me to no end because I felt they ignored the plethora of important reasons why a woman should be educated.

    Anyhow, I've always felt that education was important for a woman. I didn't consider it to be second to child-bearing or third to being a wife or whatever. I married my husband when I was in my 3rd year of college. I worked hard to finish school before I had children. I've stayed home since then, but have supplemented my education by taking courses here and there.

    I've been a SAHM now for nearly 10 years. I've worked part-time occasionally. Last fall, I was ready to start a Master's degree. Everything was ready, I'd been accepted, had the loan, was ready to enroll for classes, and it just felt wrong. I think the timing was wrong for me.

    Three of my sisters married and had children before they finished their degrees. They've been happy and do not, as far as I know, have any regrets about their choices.

  23. Shelah- thanks for sharing the opposite side of my decision. I'm convinced that yours was as right as mine. Because although I might sound regretful(and I certainly have over the years) I know that my non-sensical path was the right one for me. I remind myself that every baby, every move, every job decision was made with prayer.

    At the ripe old age of 39(today!) I am starting to see that my path was the one God prepared for me and that possibly he knows what's best better than I do. And I am certainly young enough that the future is wide open and full of beauties I've never considered.

    And Erik L.(I should reveal he is my smart and lovely husband)– love you. Thank you for always pushing my intellect and teaching our children that they need to be educated in oh-so-many ways.

    As much as we fight for the education of girls in our society– we also need to encourage boys to develop their talents. Mothers must take a decided stand against modern never-grow-up boy culture.

  24. When I attended BYU I wasn't mature enough to know what I wanted or who I was, I thought I did, but I wasn't commited. So I got married. We grew and matured together, I have been so blessed to have a husband who weathered my storms. I don't know if I would have survived intact without him by my side.

    Now that I have a few years and mountains of experience I do know what I want to study so I'm finishing my degree. I can see that for me it was good to not complete my degree at that time, I wouldn't have been happy in that field. Now I am studying something I am passionate about and am getting the best grades of my entire life despite the fact that I have 4 kids!

    What I am teaching my children is a love of learning. It is a given that they will go to college but I hope it is not just a means to an end for them. Aren't there some of you out there who are happy to work because you are helping people, not just because it brings in a paycheck. I hope our lives at their best can fulfill our souls and feed our bodies.

    I do not judge anyone, life is too rough to pretend to know another person's path, it's hard enough to find my own. But I will say that for me I did the most important thing first- being a wife and mother. School, career, and worldly ambition can be had in almost any stage of life while children take up only 1/8 of the years of our life (of course depending on number of children and spacing) and are limited by our physical capacity to bear children. Was God giving us a hint at the best time to have children with women's most fertile years being earlier in life?

    As I read through the comments I'm amazed at how blessed we are to have support, be it spouses or parents, that have enabled the choices we all have made. An acquaintance once told me that her husband didn't want her to stay at home with the kids, it wasn't fair- If he had to work so did she. It was a concept that was so foreign to me, I was shocked. How grateful I am for a husband who realizes the benefits of mom staying at home and that it's not like a vacation! But at the same time supports me in obtaining my degree.

    To those who think that depending on another human being, your husband, is weakness I must disagree. It is wisdom because the result of your depending on each other equals more than the sum of your parts. If you cannot trust another human being in this way you are missing out on one of the joys of life. He depends on me to care for our children and I depend on him to provide financially. It is a partnership, not a subserviant co-existance. I know that there is heartache and loss of this dream for some but it does not change the fact that it is beneficial when successful. It is a balance worth seeking.

  25. I haven't read any of the comments, but here's mine:

    I think prophetic counsel comes when we need it (umm…duh, right? 🙂 ), and I think it applies here aptly. President Benson's counsel came at a time when Society told all women that they were worthless unless they had a career outside the home. Imagine all the LDS women who would have put off (or never had) having families without this counsel.
    Now, when the pendelum has swung the other way, and Society is telling women that being a SAHM is a noble thing –President Hinckley encourages women to get an education. Imagine how many women would never get one without this counsel.

    For me, it's ironic, because I remember very clearly when President Benson gave his counsel –and my working mother was the recipient of rude remarks from ward members. But she and my father prayed about it (again) and new she needed to work. She has been a 2nd grade teacher for 31 years, and her calling in life was always to be a teacher to the youth in Zion –and not just her own (and just for the record, I've never resented her for working).

    Personally? I always wanted to be a mom. I had my first baby one week before graduating from BYU. And although I'm a piano teacher and an aspiring writer, I have never desired to work. Ever. I'm grateful I don't have to! But if I did? I could.

    Motherhood is hard. Dang hard. Harder than I ever thought possible, but I have never regretted it. Even now, expecting our Fifth child, I feel a sense of wonder at this calling. I hope my daughters understand what it is I'm feeling –I hope I can convey it to them. At the same time, I will never let my daughters feel like they can't be everything they want to be! I will make it very clear to them that sometimes we have to choose one path at a time (career and then motherhood. Motherhood and then career. Both together, but without certain benefits, etc.). I will teach them that prophetic counsel Rocks, but they need to decide what the Lord wants for them individually. I'll teach them about prayer –about differences in circumstances and about following the Spirit. And I will most definitely tell them that sometimes (a lot of the times) what God has planned for us will be different from what we have planned for us. And that when we follow God's plan –even if it devestates our dreams –we will be blessed beyond all understanding.

    Great post!

  26. unfortunately I didn't have time to read all the comments, but my own thoughts on the subject are this: My own personal decisions were such that demanded schooling, and I was determined to wait to have children. But through numerous experiences and setbacks in school that ultimately ended with my getting married without so much as an associates, I followed that personal witness that this was the correct course. After firmly telling my soon-to-be-husband that we were defintely waiting for kids (despite his desire to begin immediately), I was soon given another witness that I was not meant to wait. It was perhaps the clearest and most profound revelation I've ever personally received in my life.

    But it is DEFINITELY not the road for everyone.

    I think the only answer that can possibly fit every scenario, is that there IS no answer. Each person must find the answer from the Lord, but even more importantly find PEACE in that answer. What I mean by this, is that there are still days that I jealousy watch my girlfriends traveling to far off places to pursue their Masters or PhDs. I don't always have peace in the knowledge that I am where the Lord wants me. I don't always take the time to FIND fulfillment in mothering and I perceive the academic road to be more desirable.

    But while there is self-fulfillment in both paths, perhaps the rewards of mothering are less-verbalized and deemed "less" in many ways…and are sometimes harder to recognize at all.

    I think that often the grass is greener on the other side, and we are too quick to suggest the road we haven't traveled.

  27. I have lots of thoughts on this. Probably too many.

    I think we do hear a lot about the importance of education, but I think it's important not to overemphasize that to the expense of continuing counsel to have children, and to do so in faith (in other words, it won't always be when you have your education done, or money in the bank, or….) I have never heard a leader say to put off children for an education, and I don't think such counsel is what we should give.

    I think the best thing we can do to help our young women is to help them see BOTH elements of the counsel, and then to learn to go to God to figure out the specifics. This isn't a zero-sum game, and there isn't one right answer. And I think we do a disservice to our youth if we try to sway specific decisions. I will encourage my daughters to consider ALL the counsel, which puts family first and education as important. I will always emphasize family first. But mostly, I will encourage them to look to God for guidance, because HE knows their individual paths.

    Sometimes it will be right to pursue an education with fervor (I never planned on grad school, but after my mission felt an URGENT need to get my Master's immediately, so I dropped my two minors, graduated with my bachelor's in four months, and got into grad school right away…and ended up having to support myself for a few years).

    Sometimes it will be right to suspend that pursuit of education to have children (I would never want to encourage a couple to wait and do _________ if their plan (if they were to go to God) is to have children before some unforeseen trial or difficulty or situation arises, and I do believe couples can and will be blessed (blessings may not be immediate, but last for generations!) for having children in faith).

    Sometimes it will be right to do both at the same time (my sister had her first four children in six years, and completed two degrees along the way — she's a hero in my mind for not losing sight of either goal).

    I am on the flip side of Michelle in a way. I'm so grateful I got to get an education, but my childbearing years were limited (I didn't find hubby until age 27, and by 32 could not have any more). And now that my children are all in school, I lament how quickly the time all really goes. Generally speaking, you can almost always go back to school. You can't go back and have more babies. Had I put off my babies, I would not have them. My husband and I often wish that we had met earlier and been able to start our family sooner.

    I tend to see your life, Michelle, and your patriarchal blessing, as taking you where you needed to be, of giving you the direction that didn't come naturally so you could get your babies here. And now you have years ahead of you, with talents and opportunities to develop those talents. (And talented you are! But, OH, what a family you have!)

    I will always celebrate a life like yours, all the more so because of where I am. I know what it's like not to have all the children you wished you could have or thought you would have had. Even as I felt I did all that I was supposed to do for my personal path, and I am grateful for my education, I carry with me that ache of not feeling done, of wondering why I can't have more, of seeing women who have five children at the age I had my first — it's hard. The more I have gone along, the more I believe that there is nothing more important than the role of mother, even as I'm passionate about education for women, too. But I still think in the end, it's secondary to what motherhood means for those who have that option and opportunity. (But the point is, again, that it's not a zero-sum game, not an either-or proposition, and we need to emphasize that, because it's too easy to ignore one side or the other.)

    Lastly, I love Pres. Faust's counsel. In our culture, it is hard as a woman not to feel that you have to do it all now. I remember feeling antsy and trapped for a while when my babies were little, even as I had my education (then it's hard not to be using it directly for a time!). It's hard having little ones, and life is chaotic and so demanding. But they DO grow up. Time DOES go by, and opportunities CAN come later. It doesn't all have to be done now.

  28. When I started at BYU, I discovered a love for public relations. I completed all of my pre-req's to enter the program. And then I reconsidered. I thought about what it would take for me to succeed in this career path. I thought about the importance of networking, and being fully immersed. And I realized that my goal to be a mother would be comprised by this career path.

    Is it possible for someone to be in PR and be a great mom? I think so. But I did not feel like I could be that someone.

    So I chose elementary ed. The coursework wasn't very intellectually stimulating, but the practicum experience was fabulous. I do love children, and love teaching, so it worked for me, even though it wasn't my first choice.

    My great-grandmother graduated from college. Her son, my grandfather, got a masters in the 30's from UC Berkeley. Education is very important in our family. It was expected that we would all complete our undergrad, and many have gone further in their educations.

    Except my mom. She got married young, had children right away (which was a shock, as she had been told at her premarital exam that she would be unable to have children), and never finished her undergrad.

    She put forth massive opposition to my engagement at age 19, and marriage at 20. And I think it is because she was afraid I would lose myself like (I think) she feels she has. My sisters had been 24 and 26 when they married, and I was clearly too young in her eyes. I think she feared I would give up my own personal potential by making the choices I have made.

    When I met my husband, I had no desire to marry yet. But it was the right thing, and I knew it, so I did. I was 9 weeks pregnant when I graduated from BYU, and I had been married for a year and half by then.

    I can't say our road has always been easy, but I can say that we have been greatly blessed. We have very prayerfully considered when to have children, when my husband should go to grad school, and have seen the Lord's hand in our lives. I would like to go back to school someday, but this isn't my time.

    I have four daughters and appreciate your thoughtfulness about what to teach them. My favorite advice already offered here is about staying close to the spirit. There is great strength in knowing you are doing what the Lord wants you to do, whether or not others agree with your path.

    I would add that there is great safety in following the counsel of the brethren. Family is the ideal. Deliberately choosing to put off marriage and family for career and greater financial means is not what we have been counseled to do. Getting all the education you can is still very important, but it needs its proper place in the priority list. I will encourage my girls to at least finish their undergraduate degrees, but if they feel impressed to do more or less, I will do my best to support them, hoping they will be doing their best to follow the spirit.

    I will encourage them not to compare their choices to those of other women, but to God's will for them. We all have different needs and timelines. We should do our best to be in tune with our own, and assume others are doing the same without judging them. I have a good friend pursing advanced degrees who just took her family to Europe (with two small girls) for a job opportunity. I know her well, and I know that even though her choice wouldn't work for me, to spend so much time away from her girls, I know she is doing what she feels the Lord wants her to do, and I know He is blessing their young family. I also know some have felt to criticize her for not choosing to "just stay home."

    Finally, I will prepare my girls to remember their eternal perspective. I think sometimes we mistakenly assume that if we do what is right that life will work out easily. The righteous will be blessed, right? That is true, but making right choices does not mean things will all fall together nicely for us. We are working for our eternal rewards, and will be blessed with what we need to get there. And much of it isn't pretty. But much of it is, if we choose to focus on the half full part of the glass.

    Think of Nephi. The poor guys saw all kinds of trials. His brothers spent the better part of their days trying to kill him. He hung out in the wilderness. He left his posh life in Jerusalem behind to follow the prophet. And he says, "having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God." He still considered himself highly favored of the Lord despite a life filled with afflictions.

    I think the part of YW lessons that sits sour with many of us, is that somehow we felt like if we prayed, and went to church, and read our scriptures, and tried to do what is right, then we would be blessed with an easy road running the direction of our choosing.

    That's not reality.

    I want to teach my girls to "come what may, and love it," and to live so they can feel the love of the Lord no matter what their path.

    Sorry that was so long! Writing it sure helped me to internalize the topic, but I hope it didn't overwhelm the rest of you!

  29. I also think it's worth noting that the counsel about education is not a new thing.

    I pick the following because it includes the thoughts of several early leaders:

    The right of woman to develop her native gifts through education has been held before the Church from its organization. Women have, indeed, been urged to train for the various life pursuits of society. The fine arts, music, painting, literature, teaching, business, science, mining, medicine, civil government, and law were mentioned by Brigham Young as suitable studies for women. (Discourses of Brigham Young, chapter 22) President Joseph F. Smith spoke similarly: "It is very important to the welfare, usefulness, happiness, and comfort of our daughters (in view of certain circumstances) that they learn some branch of industry that could be turned to practical account in the way of making a living, should circumstances require it." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 440) President Smith also declared his belief that "spiritually, morally, religiously, and in faith" woman is as strong as man. (Ibid.)….

    In harmony with this view the Church has always favored a system of education to fit man and woman for their respective spheres of activity — that is, a practical education. Home-making, today a well-established applied science and art, is looked upon as the wise education for woman. Speaking on this subject, President Brigham Young said: "It is more necessary that they [women] should know themselves and the duties that will be required of them when they are wives and mothers." (Journal of Discourses, 10:370). This does not imply a narrowed education, for in the words of President Joseph F. Smith, the Church says to woman, "Seek to be educated in the highest meaning of the term; get the most possible service out of your time, your body and brains, and let all your efforts be directed into honorable channels, that no effort be wasted, and no labor result in loss or evil." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 439) In brief, the major education for life's duties may be supplemented by training for the development of special activities or endowment.
    (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.306-307; emphasis added)

    But again, I think this can be pursued over a lifetime; doesn't necessarily have to all be figured out before age 25. 🙂

  30. I grew up in a family with 1 boy and 6 girls. My mom was always a sahm- but very involved and educated. I knew that if she wanted to, she could work and be successful at whatever she chose to do- but she chose to be home with us and was able to do so. Graduating from college was never a question- it was something that I knew I would do. Being a stay at home mom was also never a question for me.

    I was always against and opinionated about people getting married really young- when I moved to Utah- it really shocked me when girls were getting married out of high school. I felt sad for them that they would not have the experience of living away from home and going to college, possibly on a mission and working in a profession. It is not my place to judge- but I am soooo.. grateful for my education and also the chance I had to serve a mission. We waited three years to have children- and during that time- I worked as a teacher and learned many valuable lessons. Now that I am a sahm- I feel like my education, mission & work experience has helped to be a better mother, wife, etc. I don't fear for the future because I know if I had to- I would be able to work and support my family. I have a friend who did not graduate from college. She is very talented- but she realizes that her choices in the work force are limited.

    It will never be a question that my sons & daughters will have a college degree. We are already planning for that in our savings. I also teach them that one day they will have families of their own and try to prepare them also for their life as a father or mother.

    Someone once said, "You can have it all, but not all right now!" I think sometimes we want to do everything right now… I am excited for the day that I can further my education and work again- but for now I am so grateful to be at home with my children.

  31. Thanks for the great post! I echo the sentiments of so many of you: following the Spirit, making choices, and honoring the same in others.

    For me my path went like this: married at 20, kids at 24, then 26, then 28. I loved those years of "mommy boot camp" (as one of my friends calls it), being immersed around the clock in mothering and all the lofty and mundane things that come along with it.

    I was YW president in an urban ward and that experience led me to some questions about how I could help other children in addition to my own–young people who clearly needed the world to pay more attention to them and needed some voices/research/programs/mentors to speak up on their behalf. These questions, combined with some clear passages in my patriarchal blessing led me to go back to grad school when my youngest entered school and get my master's and now my PhD. (FoxyJ, I just took a break from my program last year for 6 months for the same reasons you discuss. I play it by ear semester by semester, day by day. Don't we all :))

    I believe in the high value of mothering and nurturing and its important contribution to individuals and society. Sometimes I worry that ward members/family/friends might interpret my choices as judgments of *their* choices. Other times I worry they're judging me! For me, this is right and I've received confirmation of that. I'm willing to tinker with the details, always putting my family at priority #1, in order to have that. Hats off to any mother who is striving to do her best and sensitively work out the particulars.

    [as an aside, this is also a balance I have reached for my own mental health. Once my kids were in school, I went through a long period of mild but troubling depression. I have found that this choice–again speaking just for me–is healthier for me. I have deadlines. I need to show up, to get up and get ready and go. Could I find this in other things? Yes, probably. This particular mix of school-mothering-church service-wifery has worked for me, though]

    Oh, I could go on and on, can you tell?

  32. I was thinking about this some more while I was taking a shower, so I'm back. I went to Women's Conference in my stake this weekend. While I sat rolling my eyes at a lot of it (including "dressing to look nice for other people," "how to sit like a lady," and "how to stand and look ten pounds thinner" the speaker made a point that I thought was really great. She held up a tape measure that represented our lives. She had marked off the time that we're home with little kids. In the grand scheme of life, our time as moms of small kids is short. SO short. When my oldest turned six, I cried when I realized that I was already 1/3 of the way done with my job of raising him to adulthood. It's not too late for any of us to start doing what we want to do with the rest of our lives. That doesn't mean we jettison the family responsibilities, but once the kids aren't under foot all the time (like the one calling for me to release her from her crib right now) it becomes easier to focus on other pursuits, whatever those may be.

    I think that you're right that prayer and personal inspiration is the key to helping each of us find our individual paths. I know that all along the way, it was what guided me, especially when DH and I wanted different things. Each woman's path will be different, because we're all different.

  33. I met my husband my second semester at college. We dated until I graduated college then got married. A total of 4 years which was unheard of! I taught for a year then worked as a nanny while my husband finished school. This meant the only debt we had was for our home and later a new car. We had our first child a year and a half after my husband started working. I was still young when I got married, 21, and when I had kids, 25. Getting a degree worked for me by still allowing me to start a family at a young age, which I had always wanted.

    However, I am a sahm and had always planned on staying home once I had children. I had a scholarship for college so did not have any debt upon graduation. I would not have personally followed this same path if it meant I would have graduated college with a huge debt just so I could stay home with my children. I think there are other ways to obtain skills that will help if you have to go back into the workforce besides a 4 year degree. To be honest there are many college degrees that do not guarantee a job or a job that would pay enough to justify the amount spent on obtaining the degree. This advice really is only for people who are married, want to stay home, and no fertility issues… 🙂 I guess that's why it's best to pray and not always listen to others since you never know what will happen in your life!

  34. I was thinking after my last comment that this might quickly descend into a round of 'which is more righteous to do first' which is not helpful.

    The more important question is what does this mean as a worldwide church?

    Now that it's been made clear by Hinckley that women ought to do their best to prepare themselves through education and skill acquisition, what will that mean?

    I think it has the potential to seismically change our world.

    It was all well and good for Benson and some previous prophets to counsel us to concentrate on being stay at home mothers at that time (which was probably never in the cards for most of our membership.) Now that we have the specific directive to prepare ourselves, what amazing things could happen in the lives of our sisters that will ultimately affect the foundation of nations?

    I don't think profound even begins to cover it.

  35. Great questions, great post.

    I love the President Faust quote someone referenced earlier. I think there are seasons for everything. Someday I want to get a graduate degree; it's not my season right now.

    I feel like women need counsel and direction from their leaders, and they also need to be encouraged to seek our personal revelation and inspiration. And then live by it without second-guessing themselves. The commenter whose mom taught second-grade, and felt to continue teaching? Good for her! She followed the Spirit. And the one who was prompted to have kids right after she got married, and stay home with them? Good for her–she followed the Spirit too.

    My favorite counsel from President Hinckley to women? Do the very best you can.

  36. I so enjoyed reading this, Michelle (and Happy Birthday)!

    As for what advice I would give my daughters, if I get any . . . I plan to tell them you just never know when or if you will get married, so follow your passion in pursuing your education and career; at the same time, develop healthy relationships and be prepared to allow marriage into your plan if/when it comes.

    I wish I'd had that advice when I started college, though I am very very grateful I did receive such council in blessings after my mission. I had a masters and had worked five years before I got married, and it was much longer before we could adopt. You just never know.

  37. I grew up poor and never wanted to be poor. I was very career oriented and told my husband when we got married that I would always work – he could stay home and take care of the kids. Since I was earning three times what he was earning, he was o.k. with that.

    Of course, once I had them, I wanted to be with them, and my high powered management position made that impossible. So I did what I'd sworn I'd never do – I quit, and found work I could do from home, so that I could be with them. I've worked from home ever since. These days I work about four hours a day in the daytime, and then a number of hours at night. My husband is in social services, so the money I earn makes a huge difference in our financial well being. We'd be below the poverty level without it, even though he has a college education and experience. The work he does is important, but not valued by society, unfortunately. Sometimes I feel guilty about having a nanny over for 4 hours a day, but I'm so glad that I have the skills I have.

    For a couple of years we had a business, and it imploded, and because my skills were current and I had current experience, I was able to immediately step into a full-time job for a couple of months, until we were back on our feet.

    I will definitely tell my girls to get an education, to make sure they can support themselves. If motherhood is important to them, they'll be wise to consider careers that they can make work within the context of motherhood – via freelancing, part-time work, self employment, etc.

  38. I'm 30 years old and never been married. I'm also working on a PhD in my field right now. Two months ago an older gentleman at church asked me what I plan on doing with my degree once I'm finished. Honestly, I want to me a mom when I'm done. I will be qualified to do several things, and if I'm not married I will do those things, but I want to be a mom.

    So that's what I told him I wanted to do.

    He replied by asking if that wasn't a lot of education for that.

    What? Does he think uneducated women and mothers are better? I study education, and the benefits children get from having a highly educated mother can hardly all be listed.

    Even if I never formally use my degree, it has the potential to affect generations.

    President Hinckley said to get all the education you can, so that's what I'm doing.

  39. Not to be flip, but I am at the stage (I hope it is a stage!) where I look at my kid every day, surrounded by undone things and messy dishes and think "Seriously. I have a graduate degree. Why on earth did I ever take out those student loans? I could be a really well-dressed SAHM with that cash."

    This may be why they have not called me into the Young Women's right now. Because I would be all "Bag that. Degree or not. Doesn't matter. Get a job, don't get a job. Either way you are having to touch someone else's poop."

    I need to go read some uplifting counsel. Sorry.

  40. You know the most delightful facet of this discussion? No one has criticized our leaders or each others choices. It's been a compassionate thoughtful dialogue.

    United women are powerful and I second Carina's sentiment that armed with education there's no limit to what we can accomplish.

  41. It was all well and good for Benson and some previous prophets to counsel us to concentrate on being stay at home mothers at that time….Now that we have the specific directive to prepare ourselves….

    I guess my question is – have we ever as a people really not had the general counsel to prepare and be educated? And has the counsel to stay at home with children disappeared? I just don't see it all so pendulum-like, as though suddenly Pres. Hinckley changed things so drastically. Pres. Hinckley didn't just talk about education. He also talked about moms being home whenever they could. He talked about education in the context of giving options and choices, but never, in my recollection, presented it as something that should take priority over family life. I just don't think things are really THAT different.

    I recently had a conversation with our YW president, and she is really concerned about how many young women are not really holding family life in the same light…but prophetic counsel about this, imo, has not changed in any significant way. It's so important, imo, that we not overemphasize education at the expense of family life. She asked me to come talk about education, but we also talked about teaching this principle in context of the big picture — which still puts family squarely at the center.

    Don't misunderstand, I do think we are hearing more about education because of the times in which we live. There is a lot of uncertainty in many ways. And I think that is not insignificant. And I spend a lot of time talking to youth and young adults about this topic.

    But I still think we need to be careful about not swinging too far the other way, either, or suggesting that the counsel has swung THAT far, because I just am not convinced that it has.

    I went back to last year's WW leadership broadcast, the first thing said at the roundtable was this:

    In the family proclamation we’re told that the “family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” That means that our individual decisions and desires on marriage and the bearing and rearing of children are immensely important in eternal terms.

    Later, Sister Tanner says something that I think is specifically relevant to this conversation (forgive the long quotes, but it's just all too good and worth a look, imo):

    I remember when I was a young single adult and in my early married years that I heard that [commandment ot multiply and replenish] preached over the pulpit by apostles and prophets, and I was grateful for that continued counsel. I remember hearing them preach that we were to get married, to have children, and to get an education, sort of all simultaneously, as impossible as it sounds. And I think that maybe it does seem sort of impossible and that we have people who question and wonder about that.

    As I’ve thought about that commandment remaining in force, I really believe that it’s correct, and I believe that it requires of us great faith and great courage and often great sacrifice. I think it requires us to be in tune with the Lord to receive personal revelation, and I think it requires a pure heart so that we are not judgmental of other people who are exercising their faith and having their own personal revelation in regard to that commandment.

    In my mind, that sort of sums it up. It's all important, and the Lord can help us make those choices.

    And Elder Oaks in essence gives a second witness of that, and of that importance of personal revelation in all of this. (I think learning to get the answers is part of the journey, no?)

    We’re in danger today, it seems to me, of our members of the Church looking to worldly priorities in their decisions about childbearing. Instead of making those decisions in faith on the Lord’s promises and in reliance upon what we know of the great plan of happiness and the purpose of life, they look to other sources—television or prominent ideological gurus in the world today or even the pressure of their neighbors—to make decisions that are fundamental and eternal and need to be made prayerfully before the Lord.

    So I go back to Michelle's original question. Is the counsel really all that different? I don't think it is. I think perhaps our lives and world are more complex, and we just need God's help all the more in making the decisions. But the fundamentals seem the same, esp. regarding the importance of child bearing and rearing in the big picture of God's plan.

    (Michelle Cobabe-Loosli, there are some great things in that broadcast about homemaking, getting to the breadth of what that means. FWIW.)

    Giggles — all I can say is AMEN and you go, girl!

    “Seriously. I have a graduate degree. Why on earth did I ever take out those student loans? I could be a really well-dressed SAHM with that cash.”

    And La Yen, imo, no education is wasted! Your children will grow and they will know that you got an education. And you might be surprised at how life can unfold over time. I couldn't have imagined the kinds of things that would come into my life, and the way my education continues to bless my life, even as I have always been a SAHM. Hang in there. 🙂

  42. Sometimes I see young LDS mothers and I feel shocked and sad, wondering if they were aware of all their choices before they entered motherhood. I feel assured from the responses to this post.
    As a convert, I entered the church at 18 with definite plans to get a college education. I'm glad I did. I feel it has helped me keep on par with my husband, has helped me help him through grad school, and will make me an even better mother someday. I fully intend to follow the admonition of your Erik and make education mandatory. I want to give my daughters options. If what they want to do after a couple years of college is be a mother, they will have made an educated choice.

  43. When I was growing up I wanted to be a mother and I also wanted to have a great career. So I figured whichever came along first would be fine with me. I'm kind of mellow and easy that way, I guess.

    I graduated from college when I was eight months pregnant with my first baby. There was no way I wanted to go through all the trouble of taking classes and have nothing to show for it. that being said, I have no marketable skills (good idea majoring in Art History and Geography–NOT!) To me college was all about educating myself. I'm a very enthusiastic believer in education because the things that we've learned are just about the only things we can take with us when we die.

    I really strive to be well-educated and intelligent and I think that isn't stressed enough to young people today. College should be about more than just getting a job.

    I would like to go to grad school, and have a job. But I really agree with president Faust. Now isn't the time. There will be a couple dozen years for me to be career-oriented, but not quite yet. My prime child-raising years are ticking by very quickly. There is no way I want to give those up to go to boring meetings and sit in a cubicle.

  44. This topic has been a passionate one for me. Especially over the last few years…

    I married at 19 to a returned missionary (barely returned, I might add) and continued on my way to my BS without skipping a beat. He relocated with me to another state so I could finish my degree out as I had planned. I have always felt like I didn't delay THE MOST important endeavor and commitment in my life (eternal marriage) and my eternal progression, and therefore deserve latitude in the timing of our child-rearing. Now after a bit of travel, some professional licensure and a lot of developing of hobbies, I am in my late twenties and joyfully expecting our first child.

    If my husband wasn't overly anxious to be a father, we would likely have waited longer. As it is, I have spent much of my time on my knees over the last year or so praying about timing and that the Lord would help me find the part of me that was ready for children (I knew it was in there somewhere).

    I get a bit frustrated at hints of "selfishness" or that I have not chosen "the BEST" path. The fact of the matter is this: we are individuals. We all have different needs, talents and TIMELINES. Lucky for me, I have been able to seek the Lord's counsel and use it to make my choices. We have made choices as a family that work for us. I do not look back on the summers and winters of time spent with my husband developing those hobbies as wasted time. This is right for me. Now is the time for me to turn to motherhood… and my experience listening to others' both overt and surreptitious disapproval of my choices has only taught me that we cannot judge another woman or another family's choices. Unfortunately that is a part of our religious culture that doesn't seem to be going out of style with either the men or women.

    As for my daughters, they will be encouraged to get an education (at least a bachelor degree) because IT IS GOOD FOR THEM to pursue their interests and develop their talents regardless of whether or not they want/need to work. Being able to support a family if necessary is only a byproduct (valuable though it may be). Beyond that, setting the example for your children of either sex cannot be discounted.

  45. Michelle L, thank you for linking to President Benson's talk, "To the Mothers in Zion". What a beautiful message. I am also greatful for the encouragement our daughters and sons receive to get as much education as they possibly can; as parents we should be echoing that counsel all the time.

  46. I had a plan, And it didn't include marriage or babies until after a chance at an education and career. Funny how life works out. I got after married my junior year at BYU. Fortunately, my good husband followed me back to BYU after he finished his graduate degree so I could get my degree. I wanted it and he insisted. I now have three children and I part-time freelance from home. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I know if I have to I have maintained the skills to get a full- time job. I am a strong believer in education and mothering. It is not always possible to do both at the same time but I think we do not need to abandon one for the other. I believe my daughters can do anything and that includes the monumental task and job of mothering.

  47. Motherhood (and marriage) has always been unequivocally my number one priority from a young age. I also wanted to go to college and have a back-burner career, as in something I could do and still stay at home with my kids (or do when my kids got older). To me, as long as we were able to survive finacially, staying at home with my kids was more important than climbing the career ladder.

    I do, think, though that as a youth I got a mixed message from my young women leaders. I remember very distinctly an activity as a Laurel with about five other girls my age and two leaders. We were asked to discuss the question of where we wanted to be in five years. Of that discussion, I was the only one who said that I wanted to be married and starting a family. Everyone else in the group, including the leaders, clearly thought this was the inferior choice and the other girls said they wanted to both graduate and start a career before they got married. This was about 7 or 8 years ago.

    As it turned out several of those girls were married within two or three years. It worked out for me that I was able to graduate before I got married. I worked for a few years supporting my husband in his education and am now a stay at home mom with our little girl who is almost a year old. We didn't intend to put off having kids for more than a year, but we had some obstacles to overcome in order to get pregnant.

    However, when it came to choosing between finishing my education OR getting married earlier, there was no question that I would finish my education first. At the time my husband (then fiancee) was going to BYU, I was going to BYU-Idaho, and my transfer application for my senior year to BYU was denied. So, we did a long distance engagement for a whole miserable year before we got married. I got to know the drive from Rexburg to Provo really really well. As hard as that was, I definitely don't regret it in the least as it was very important to me to finish my education, especially when I was so close.

    Today, I think most young women don't see career or motherhood as an either/or choice. However, I do think this places a greater responsibility on us as individuals to make sure our family is our first priority.

  48. I ignored church counsel, left BYU, and pursued (better) education. I married early, against my better instinct at the time, but it has fortunately worked out very well. I've postponed having children so that my husband and I can both pursue graduate educations. I have regrets, of course. I occasionally regret going to graduate school. But, I NEVER regret finishing my Bachelor's degree.

    When I was at BYU the counsel from the General Authorities was very much that we should not put off marriage or starting families for the sake of career pursuits. I watched as several friends struggled with this counsel feeling that they were being stiffled, marginalized, and objectified. They were heart broken that their dreams and talents were not valued by their church.

    It angers me that the counsel is now changing to reflect the reality that I recognized years ago, which is that sometimes things get tough (like our current economy) and it becomes difficult to make ends meet and families need more than one income, and women cannot always count on a husband to provide for a family for a full life-time. Why did the Church leaders not realize that women who are not educated and self-sufficient come to suffer greatly with financial burdens and the emotional weight of being unqualified for the type of work that would bring them satisfaction and fulfillment and allow them to best apply their talents and pursue their interests when life doesn't come up all sunshine and roses? I know far too many bright young women who followed the counsel and, due to divorce, the death of a spouse, or a spouses low or absent earning potential, have been forced to work in low-paying and unrewarding jobs where they are undervalued and where they feel little self-worth. These were women who might have been making a real contribution to their society and their families and are instead barely staying afloat. I wish church leaders had been more forward thinking 10 years ago when my dear friends were sacrificing their dreams and ambitions.

  49. Thank you for your post. I believe that the questions you rose are those that all Mormon women must ask themselves at one time or another.

    April of 2008, I too graduated from BYU with a history degree after three short years (at age 20). I was married the week after graduation and am now working in Provo to support my husband while he finishes BYU. We have prayed diligently about when to begin having children, and though there were a few months that I wanted to start sooner rather than later, my thoughts have always returned to a clear and distinct thought that came to me a couple years ago, "you owe it to your children to get an education." My parents are divorced, I have friends who have had a parent die or become disabled suddenly, and though I am confident in my marriage, I do not know what the future will hold. I am now applying to graduate school. Our plan is that my husband and I will trade off going to grad school and support each other. I do desire to have children, and I do not want to wait too long, but I know that now is the time for me to prepare to have children by building a solid foundation in my marriage and in preparing as much as I can though education.

  50. Thank you for this list. I think that all girls should hear these things and specific examples of when an education might be more than enriching and become necessary. It was helpful to me to witness two strong women when I was a young girl:

    One had pursued education and a career (law) and later had children while working. She endured the gossiping and bad mouthing at church with grace but she did have to move out of an older and especially judgmental ward, leaving the dream home her husband had built.

    The other married young and spent the years her husband was in college and dental school having 5 beautiful children. They had a lot of debt associated with his education and training and establishment of his dental practice. Unfortunately, he died young in a small plane crash. She was left with a huge amount of debt. Perhaps she was not totally responsible for all of it but it was still crushing. She and her children became a burden on her aging parents who had to come back from retirement to support her while she pursued the education she never had.

    I admired both of these women for their courage and determination but I definitely didn't want to find myself in the second woman's shoes.

    Young women also need to be reminded that marriages sometimes fail. It is sad and awful but very real and it is happening more and more frequently in the church. And sometimes men can be real dead beats, even in the church.

  51. I regret not finishing my degree. I am smart. I enjoyed and did well in college. But I got married a year into school, moved to Utah and didn't finish my schooling. I could've transferred to the Y. At the time, I felt like I was done with school and ready for a family. My two children came not long after. I love them. (Of course.) In a way, I think it was easier for me, never having to choose my children over my career. But I still regret it.

    At the same time……I don't know what the "right" choice would have been. I thought I was following the counsel to not put off children for schooling. But I was also kind of ignoring the counsel to get all the education you can. I just didn't see how to do both, and still follow the counsel to raise your own children and not have them in daycare during their most formative years.

    I still don't know what the right answer is. I suppose it's subjective for each woman. And I think what I chose was right-ish.

  52. I wish church leaders had been more forward thinking 10 years ago when my dear friends were sacrificing their dreams and ambitions.

    I know I've already said too much, but comments like this don't seem to recognize what has been said over decades of time.

    e.g. Pres. Kimball

    Some women, because of circumstances beyond their control, must work. We understand that. We understand further that as families are raised, the talents God has given you and blessed you with can often be put to effective use in additional service to mankind. Do not, however, make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. [So there's the thing about priorities…still there.] Pray carefully over all your decisions. [There's acknowledgement of personal revelation. Still there.]

    We wish you to pursue and to achieve that education, therefore, which will fit you for eternity as well as for full service in mortality. In addition to those basic and vital skills which go with homemaking, there are other skills which can be appropriately cultivated and which will increase your effectiveness in the home, in the Church, and in the community. [and there's the realization that education is more than just about homemaking skills, or about short-term needs.]

    One of my fave quotes is too long, but can be found here, from 1975… some amazing stuff from Dallin Oaks, who recognized the value of education in its own right for women — for their development, for preparation for unforeseen needs to support themselves or a family, and for the benefit of a family. His is one of the most clear evidences to me that the Church in some way or another has recognized women and their talents, abilities, and need to prepare for decades.

    I still just sort of scratch my head when this idea that preparation, development, and education is somehow a new concept with Pres. Hinckley. I just don't buy it.

    That said, I respect women who took what they heard and felt and did their best, even if that meant they didn't finish an education. And I am sad when women regret their lives.

    But why live in regret? Is it ever too late to pray over decisions in this regard? Is it ever too late to 'get all the education you can' for any stage of life, or at least to take that issue to God? Education doesn't have to equate to a degree, or something that leads to a paying job. It can mean so many things, and can be pursued in so many ways!

    (Even as I think of my comment about the ache I feel for more children, I realized I need to embrace my life and my path and my choices and my specifics more, and trust that God can and will compensate for my honest efforts to do my best along the way.)

    I just didn’t see how to do both, and still follow the counsel to raise your own children and not have them in daycare during their most formative years.

    wonder woman, fwiw, my sister took a class at a time, with hubby at home for an hour or two here or there. My friend got her Master's the same way, planning class and whatnot during naptimes. She teaches classes at night when hubby is home.

    I think where there is a will, there can be a way. Sometimes it's about timing, and that's great. But sometimes, it could also be a bit about creativity and figuring out ways to work it in. BYU has independent study, so do other schools. There are online programs, and other programs.

    I think it would help to make sure that we don't equate an education with a degree. While a degree is ever-so-valuable, isn't there more to 'get all the education you can' than just a diploma? I believe there is, and I also believe there are many, many ways to have a résumé that is active without leaving children in daycare.

    Let's be creative, ladies! We can figure this out, this balance, this tension. God can help us figure out what is right for us, each, individually, now, and forever.

    (And I think motherhood is a significant part of an education. So let's not forget that in the equation. 🙂 )

  53. And dear Michelle L, I'm sorry I have gone on such a comment frenzy here. There are few topics about which I a more passionate than this. But I also realize I'm bordering on obnoxious (if not past that point already).

    I will say one more thing in general, though. At some point, whatever we have decided, it seems to me that blaming the church or even God (which I have done at times) for our choices doesn't get us anywhere. There is always an interplay between the counsel that is given, and our own free will and choice. At some point (just like I realized I wasn't doing myself — I look good in black, like a pot or kettle) I think embracing our lives and owning our choices and trusting in God's power and love and big picture view of our lives can really help us not get bogged down in regret.

    I remember once blaming the Spirit for a choice I made. I was paralyzed in the past, wondering if I had goofed, and sick about the potential ramifications of that. But then I realized that the Spirit didn't make me do anything. I made the choic, and eventually owning that choice made a big difference.

    I also think it's all too easy to play wooda-cooda-shooda, and not trust our past selves, when we really probably have done the best we knew — and maybe even ended up doing the 'right' thing, even if it's hard to see now.

    And is there any dead end with God's help? I have found that He helps me find dreams I never knew I had….just that sometimes they take decades to unfold.

    Sorry. Shutting up.

  54. Wow, well I feel in the minority here, even though I know I am not in the minority IRL. When I got married at 19, yes 19…..no one bothered to tell me about birth control. WHAT? Seriously true. So of course a month later, I'm expecting my first. I tried to keep going to school after that, but my Mommy brain couldn't handle it all. I tried again after having my 3rd child, and again, couldn't do it. Now that I've had my 5th..and hopefully last(unless my husband finds a way to become a millionaire, lol) I know I want to go back to school, but ONLY when the kids are all out of diapers! Will Mommy brain end by then? I hope so!

    I hope that by my example my children will be able to see the importance of getting an education and working. They've seen me working along the way, and know that it is important to me to do other work outside of the home. The hardest thing for us has been following that dang Proclamation to the family stating that the Mother should be the main one to provide nurture in the home, and the Father should be responsible financially for the home. There have been plenty of times where we each thought the other could do a better job in the opposite role, and maybe, just maybe, I wish we would have followed our own hearts instead of that counsel. Because you know, it's been hard! I know, maybe that's bad…but from what I am getting here, is you DO have to follow your own personal revelation. Thank you for that added insight.

    So, for know, I'm just encouraging them to do well in school. Be open to so many possibilities. Travel the world before settling down. Have fun and make a difference in the world around you. I can't wait to see what they achieve, and I hope that I can be an inspiration to them, regardless of what I should or shouldn't have done. After all, they wouldn't be here if I had followed another path. Would I do it all over the same? I don't think so…but there's no going back, only forward…and that's good advice right there!

  55. I was saved by my patriarchal blessing which specifically instructed me to get as much education as my intellect would need. I was going to just quit after a bachelor's degree. But some professors at BYU let me know that I had the potential to continue. So I did. Now, my husband is working at a low paying job while I pursue my graduate degree. This fall our roles will reverse once more and he will go to graduate school while I work.

    I have never once felt guilty for pursuing the degree, I think that peace of mind has definitely been fueled by church counsel. When I tell fellow church members and leaders they are always supportive and mention something about the counsel we have received to get as much education as possible. I think it has especially helped my husband to better understand why it's so important.

    This makes me think though, it's true-education and preparation has been emphasized as of late. But the role of mothers has not been altered and has been re-emphasized in conferences as well. I think we can take it as an important indication of the many roles that women have been required to take and will be required to take as time goes on.

  56. I don't think the role of woman has changed, nor the ideal of what a woman should be or do. I think certain aspects of that role have been emphasized to give voice when certain cultural messages are prevalent at the time. I think they try to find the best way to show we want both- strong smart educated, skillful woman, but women who choose and value the nuturing of family.

  57. I never felt like I was disobeying church counsel and my parents always seemed to encourage my choices when I pursued both my bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. I chose to delay children while I finished my degrees (two years) and for another year while I pursued my CPA. Children were delayed for another two years but not by my choice. Once I started having kids they came fast (five kids in 4 1/2 years including a set of triplets – wonders of infertility). I think each of my life's experiences – my education, my career, infertility – prepared me in the personal way that I needed to be prepared. If I had mapped my life, my path would have been different. I think I am a better mother for the path I took both the choices I could control and the ones I could not.

    Maybe you were inspired by President Benson's talk and your patriarchal blessing to take the path you did because if you had gone through with your original plans, your life would have taken another turn – possibly one with less kids and less fulfillment. We don't always know what we want or need at 18 which is why continued revelation is so important.

    My patriarchal blessing speaks about me specifically coming in a time when women are recognized for their intelligence so maybe that made me question less my own educational and career choices. Even living in Wymount, I never felt any real pressure to forego my education or career.

  58. It's interesting that while we're focusing on our differences here, they seem mainly to be a difference of a few degrees, not major differences. Virtually every woman who has commented, married or mothers or not, realizes the importance of families. When I was 19 and desperately wanted to get married, it seemed cruel that I'd have to wait until I was 22 (I was waiting for a missionary) when it seemed like everyone around me was taking the plunge. My sister was 25 when she got married, and has commented that I was "just so young" when I got married. But ten years removed from the getting married phase and the early family planning phase, it's funny how the timing doesn't enter the discussion much anymore. I don't know which friends have been married longer than I have and which haven't. But during that phase of life, for me at least, it seemed like everything was focused on the timing.

    As far as advice to my daughter goes– last year when we were trying to decide whether or not she'd skip an elementary grade, a large part of our decision to let her do it was based on the fact that she'd have another year of early adulthood to get her schooling accomplished before settling down to start a family. It felt kind of weird to be looking at a six year old and making those kinds of decisions, but a year can make a big difference in the early twenties.

  59. Shelah, I had to do the same thing with my daughter. She has a September birthday and I remember when she was five deciding whether she would start kindergarten a year earlier than she was supposed to. The decision finally came down to the fact that she will turn 19 shortly after her freshman year in college begins. Which means she'll be at least 20 when she gets married (hopefully!) It is wierd to have to think that way when you're looking at a child who hasn't even lost a tooth yet!

  60. This is a fabulous and thought provoking discussion. Life rarely gos the way we expect it to when we wre young. I joined the church at 16 and was taught that the only thing I should plan for in my life was to marry and have children. I went on a mission, and did a degree. I taught for a few years and married at the old age of 31. Church wise I felt a failure for not being maried younger. How ridiculous is that? I look back and think that 31 is still young these days, people marry much later than that. However, I was obsessed by the fact the one thing I felt I should be doing was pasing me by. Hindsight is a great thing. Would I change things? Yes, I would have had more fun and worried less. Now I have 2 daughters of my own and my counsel to them is to get as much education as they can while they can, and to have rich experiences and fun. You never know what life will bring. I would also love them to serve missions if possible. BUT I cannot make their choices for them, they have to do what they think is right. My 10 year old is desparate just to be a mummy as soon as possible without university etc. I just think 'over my dead body' to myself and hope she will grow out of it. Not that I don't want her to be a mummy eventually, it is truly my ultimate wish for her, just not the only thing.

  61. I don't consider myself to be that young, but maybe, at 40, I am young enough that I never felt like it was an either/or equation. "I threw away my Ivy League brochures, abandoned my dreams of becoming a doctor/lawyer/journalist and scoured the BYU catalog for homemaking majors." When I read this my first thought was, "WHY??" Why should plans to be a stay-at-home mom prevent you from becoming what you want to be? Pursue the education you really want to. You don't cease to be what you are just because you are no one's employee. The Lord gave us a mind. He also gave us the Holy Ghost to guide us. We need to use them both to create our life's plan, individual to who we are and are meant to be. There is nothing wasted in a lawyer who's job is raising children.

    Everyone has to make their own choices of when to fit in the children. But as infertility becomes more and more common, and as one who experienced it herself, I must leave you with this bit of advice. Don't put off having children until you really want one, because if it doesn't happen for you, you will find that you would trade everything you achieved just to have the chance to have that child.

  62. I don't recall ever feeling a conflict between counsels as as youth. In my home, I got strong messages about both pursuing education and having a family. I always knew I would be a SAHM, but that I would do other things on the side. I honestly don't remember what I was taught at church in relation to this. I'm sure it was mostly about being a wife and mother.

    I got married at 25 a few days after graduating with my bachelors's. I started graduate school two weeks later. When I was applying to graduate school, I wasn't seeing marriage in my immediate future as I wasn't dating anyone seriously, so there was no conflict there. In fact, I think grad school was kind of a way to stave off having to think in terms of career for a few more years. However, I LOVED grad school and count it as one of the most fulfilling times of my life. Grad school had a tremendous impact on me as a learner and teacher.

    When we were first married, we felt impressed to start trying to have children. This was a difficult choice for me because I felt it would mean dropping out of grad school; I didn't see how a person could do both. But I never did get pregnant. Instead, we went through many years of infertility–it was seven years later that we finally were able to adopt our first child.

    After grad school, I floundered. The children I assumed I would have did not come, and it was hard to figure out what to do with my life. Although I had been prepared to get a lot of education, I had NOT been prepared to actually have a career. That was never in my plans. My career would come later, and would be built gradually over my years of raising children. Suddenly now I didn't know what to do with my life. My degree (music) was such that a career would be mostly freelance work, not your typical 9-5 job working for someone else. I wasted a lot of time over the next 4-5 years. I kept anticipating that the longed-for child would arrive at any moment, so I hesitated to throw myself into career plans. I didn't want to work at a job outside of my degree. So I did odd things here and there and basically waited till I could be a mother. I do regret that time and wish I had been more prepared for a situation like that…but I also know that it can't be changed, and I needed that learning experience.

    Since having children, I have struggled with the balance between family life and developing myself professionally. I thought that being a mother would satisfy my every need and was shocked at how much I have longed to do more with music. It's ironic that I had all those years to do it, but didn't.

    The answer for me, as far as what the balance should be, has been that if I seek the Lord in prayer, and receive an answer or a direction, I am always safe in following that direction. If I ask the question, "What does the Lord want me to do with my talents at this time in my life?", then there is no conflict between the two things. I feel that right now I have a pretty comfortable balance. I'm a stay-at-home mom like I planned (and I truly feel that nothing else can compensate for that), but I do musical things on the side, just enough to feel that I am developing myself.

    I never pursued my education with the thought of possibly having to provide for my family. My education has always been about fulfilling myself and my interests/talents. Like I said, my degree is not conducive to full-time, stable work. But I have thought ALOT about how I would support my family if I ever had to, and I think I could do it and stay in my field.

    I will definitely encourage my daughters to get as much education as they possibly can, because I think it will make them better people. I will teach them that family comes first, but that life takes unexpected turns. I will teach them that some decisions can't be made until the moment, so we need to be prepared for several different options.

  63. I will definitely insist, to the best of my ability, that my sons and daughters receive the best and most education possible (minimum requirement is a Bachelors degree). I received my undergrad and worked and put my husband through grad school (and some fun DINK years) and don't regret having kids 5 years later for anything! I think you are a great example of faith in your path.

  64. I wonder if the counsel actually contradicts each other. I feel like I am a loving and present mother AND I have a significant education and am able (and need) to support myself and my family. I cannot remember the last time we had a GC, RS or YW meeting where we were NOT encouraged to get as much education as we could. That speaks to me–I think it is vital (there is no way I can express how important I think it is, and you'll listen to Hinckley better anyway). But other people felt Benson's emphasis on motherhood spoke to them–and they acted on it. Maybe we just hear what we need to hear.

    On the other hand, I sometimes giggle at how many women brag about taking out excess earrings when they heard the prophet tell them to do so, but when are those ladies going to heed the word on education and enroll in night classes? I am looking forward to that day.

    You cannot go wrong with education (but be smart about debt) and it does not need to be done instead of children.

    Get practical education too. Learn how to cut hair. Use your culinary skills. Know how to maintain your cars. I cringe at the thought of my sister (like SO MANY) totally dependent on her husband. She is one car accident away from total and complete devestation–she has a totally useless BA (got married and wanted to graduate) and no work experience. If something happens to hubby I gaurentee she will be moving her family back in with mommy and daddy and getting a job as a cashier. Why do that to yourself?

    So ladies: use your lovely hubbies to watch the kid while you go out and get your license, learn business skills for your etsy shop, or hit the books. Do it for yourself–it is great me time; do it for your kids–they will love that mommy loves herself and has discipline; and do it for your hubby so when those kids are squared away you can contribute to retirement.

  65. This has been such a great discussion.

    Carina, I LOVED your comment about what women's potential. loved it.

    thanks, Michelle for opening this up.

    I have been torn at different times, and felt guilty for not being completely fulfilled by motherhood alone. I'm happy to say I've gotten over that. The thing that helped me greatly is that I view my life in "chapters". My mid-twenties until I was thirty was the "birthing and raising babies and toddlers" chapter. We are now in the "school aged kids" chapter. It gives me great comfort to know that there truly WILL be a time that it makes sense for me to pursue my master's degree (so glad I did the bachelor's before babies arrived). That will be the next chapter. I've seen some amazing women intermix these things, but as we've all mentioned…it's different for everyone and it did not make sense for me to mix those two in the same chapter. I have found that I am much more appreciative and "in the moment" with this stage of my life, knowing that when the time comes and it makes sense to add school or work back in the mix, I will. And that will be a happy day, too! : )

  66. This has been on my mind too. The first thought I had was that patriarchal blessings are personal. You were looking elsewhere and hadn't been thinking "be a mom." This was an eye opener for you.

    Second, you did what you did. Looking back for too long and too critically does no good for your present and future.

    Third, education and motherhood can be intertwined. Whether formally or informally, it's good to be learning and showing your kids you value learning. I have two stay-at-home mom friends who are working toward online degrees.

  67. I had plans of becoming a nurse, so I started out collage at the UofA. But when the chance came to marry in my sophmore year, I took. I was married at 20. I still continued school however as I felt like this was really supposed to be a part of my life. So with the support of a wonderful husband and family, I graduated 7 years after starting my schooling with a BS in Nursing. I also had two children during this time and was pregnant with my third.

    With much prayer, I worked for a little bit, quit because I felt like the time wasn't right and now I'm back at work part time.

    Is this a path I would say is the best for every one…no, but it was right for me and I absolutely don't regret any of the decisions I made. I would love to do more in my field..like go back and get a masters, but that will have to wait. Right now I am doing self study to be a direct entry midwife and I have the opportunity to be involved in research at work. I find myself fighting all the time to incorporate education and family. There are times when I feel I am being too selfish with my educational pursuits as it deflects from my family…finishing my bachelor's though was not one of them.

    I think this is all very individual and luckily we live in a time with many choices open to us. I think we need to make sure though that what we choose is according to the Lord's plan, not just our own….in my opinion that takes a lot of prayer and a great amount of humility. While I love be a nurse, if it came down to it, my education and my job would be the first thing to go. If only it was as straightforward:)


  68. I continue to be amazed at the depth and breath of this conversation. Please don't apologize for long or multiple comments– writing really does help us process our feelings and connect the dots in our lives.

    JM- I know my decision sounds naive, but I'm guessing that you were raised in a family that values education while I was not(none of my three brothers graduated from college). Admittedly, I've had times of bitterness when I wished someone had told me not to take that counsel so seriously– but when I look at my kids I'm grateful for the path I followed. I do know that I will counsel my daughter and future daughters-in-law to pursue their talents and I'll be ready and willing to babysit when they need me.

  69. After training to be a teacher I discovered that the public schools were not the best fit for me. What I needed was a career that I could pursue at home. So I became a professional mother. I learned later that returning to the work force is not as simple as it might seem. Learning is a life long necessity.

    It is not enough to simply get that degree. It is impossible to just step into a career if things go awry. It is necessary to keep up with everything new that is going on in your field. It is necessary to keep any kind of required credentials current. It doesn't hurt to have a network in place when the arises and not have to start from scratch. Fortunately most women whether educated or not will not have to take over the total responsibility for supporting themselves and their children. However, society has changed to the extent that two incomes are almost mandatory to provide all the goods required for an average life.

    Having said that, I am convinced that as long as there are children in the home someone needs to be there after school. I count teens as children who need supervision and companionship. I have no regrets.

  70. ’m guessing that you were raised in a family that values education while I was not(none of my three brothers graduated from college).

    I don't recall this being something that was mentioned in any of the comments, and I think it's HUGE. I suppose for those of us who grew up in families where teh culture just included education as the norm, this is likely something we sort of took for granted.

    So, I would add that it's pretty darn clear in our home that education matters, so it's not like I feel I have to pound that into my kids' head (although we do that, too). hehe

    I learned later that returning to the work force is not as simple as it might seem.

    I do think this depends on the field. Which reminds me that one thing I will encourage my girls to think about it what kinds of fields/degrees/experience/training can offer flexibility for a woman's many roles if she gets married and has kids. I will be forever grateful to God for guiding me toward options that have had that kind of flexibility. I have always been a SAHM, but have been able to keep a resume that is has been active a good majority over the past decade.

    Let's not forget, too, that some volunteer and other work can be ways to keep ourselves involved and networking and with some possible skills. (I haven't been paid for anything on my resume for eight years!)

  71. I was a mother in the 70's and there was a definite message from the pulpit to not limit your family or put a career over motherhood. I had particularly hard pregnancies and so I was very anxious as to how to go about my personal family planning. I remember going to the Temple one night and something struck a chord "that you might have JOY in your posterity". For me that was the answer. Our Heavenly Father wants us to experience the most joy possible. He also knows that our "humanness" makes us weak and by nature we don't always choose the harder things when so many times they prove to be the things that are the best for us.I laugh now at the thought that Mother hood was a duty. When it ceases to bring you joy for heaven sakes don't have anymore kids.Leave martyrdom for some one else I don't think you're going to get any shiny gold star for trudging through it. It's kind of like boys who choose not to serve missions. I don't think any less of them, I just feel so sad at the wonderful experience they are missing out on.As far as a education clearly as members we know that the glory of God is intelligence. I want each one of my 6 children to gleam as much as possible but you know education is a very subjective thing. It's impossible not to learn by the mere fact we live and experience life. I am reminded of a Mother who after battling a child over music lessons had a epiphany that learning is eternal and a process that will never end and her having a peaceful relationship with that child was more important than him learning the piano. Isn't it wonderful that there is no time table that is one size fits all. There are those that want to be told what and how to do life every step of the way and others that resent even a suggestion. It's why free agency is such an important principal. Answers are there for the taking but they are different for each of us.

  72. I am coming from a different perspective than most of you. Yet, I too often felt like I was hanging by my fingernails as I raised my eight children beginning in 1968 and ending in 1984. Even though education was important in our home, only 3 of my 11 brothers and sisters graduated from college. All of them attended a University for at least two years and married spouses with degrees. All of my 8 children have degrees or are working on them currently and all married spouses with degrees. Yet, this issue was even controversial in my time, clear back in the dark ages of the 60's.
    There will always be many voices on this issue but it is important to note that there have always been positive voices to be heard on the subject of women and education in the church. Clear back in the 70's, Camilla Kimball, wife of our prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, spoke out; " On the issue of education for wives and mothers, she has said: “It is sometimes urged that education for women is not as important as education for men, but there is no real difference.” She also said, "What we must be concerned with is preparation for life, and that preparation is continuing education. Whether it is to earn a living or to rear a family, men and women both need to have the knowledge that enhances their natural talents” (address at Spencer W. Kimball Tower dedication, Brigham Young University, 9 Mar. 1982). Preparation for life is for young women who marry and those who may never marry. It’s for women who will have children to help educate and others who will not. It’s for women who will need to support themselves and their children at some time in their lives. For some of us, this may mean going to college or a trade school. To others, it may mean home study. To all of us, it means looking at the long-term goal of making education a lifelong process, not just a two- or four-year event after high school called “higher education.” Sister Kimball said, “I would hope that every girl and woman … has the desire and ambition to qualify in two vocations—that of homemaking, and that of preparing to earn a living outside the home, if and when the occasion requires. An unmarried woman is always happier if she has a vocation in which she can be socially of service and financially independent” (1985)Sister Kimbal earned a degree and taught school before she married. She planned to get a masters degree but married instead; yet she continued taking courses at the University of Utah into her 70's.
    Sister Marie Hafen, wife of apostle Hafen gave a wonderful talk printed in the June 1992 Ensign "Celebrating Womanhood."
    " Knowing, then, that marriage and family come first, what should we think about education and careers? Remember—the issue is not marriage or education; the issue is marriage and education. But why? And how? . . .It has been said that before becoming somebody’s wife, before becoming somebody’s mother, become somebody. Let us consider seven variations on that theme. First, become somebody who can support herself. Young women should prepare for a career, but not because a career is more important than family life. A career isn’t even as important as family life. Although Church leaders have counseled mothers of young children to avoid working outside the home whenever possible, they have also urged young women to seek education and prepare for careers and meaningful involvement in society."
    When you meet people that discourage you from encouraging your daughters to get as much education as they can, there have been wonderful quotes through the years you can use. Several years ago when I was in the Stake Young Women's Presidency, we planned a Career Night based on the theme "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." There were women in our stake that were upset and tried to stop us from having this event. We went to the Stake Presidency with our material, our plan, and our "quotes." Needless to say we had a wonderful and productive evening with young women learning about the many choices they had from women who were educated and were working or had worked in many different fields. You can be influential in educating not only your daughters but also those around you to the importance of preparing our young women for the world they live in.
    Even though I taught High School English for only two years,I always felt secure that if I needed to, I could teach. Nothing could have brought me more joy than raising my eight children, but I will always be happy I had a degree to use if I needed it. It doesn't have to be a college degree, as long as you find something you are good at and get all the training in that area you can get. Good for you for discussing such an important issue. I believe we will be blessed according to the opportunities we take advantage of, the children we have, not punished for the things we couldn't do or children we didn't have. Those that have more children will have different blessings, not more blessings. Those that have less children will have different blessings because they will be able to accomplish different things than those that have more children. Our lives simply take different directions and lead us to different opportunities. Relax, just love, learn, forgive, grow, and have joy as you strive to become more like Your Father-In-Heaven and Christ. In the end, those are the only things that will matter.

  73. Joanne– thank you for your insightful words. You're further down the path than most of us and I so appreciate you taking the time to write such excellent counsel. And it sounds like you raised a fantastic family!

  74. What an amazing and thoughtful discussion. Thank you so much to all the women who have shared their experiences and perspectives.


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