Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Liber Mothering, or Liberated Mothering Part I- The True Women's Lib

So, you may be asking, what is "liber mothering?" (liber is pronounced "lie-ber.") It's liberated mothering, or the true women's liberation. It's the proper form of mothering and womanhood. Ezra Taft Benson, a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once wrote an article about the proper form of government. Well, with inspiration from him, here's my article about the proper form of womanhood:

I first became aware of "women’s liberation" as a young girl coming of age in the 1980s. Every summer my siblings and I would spend a week at my grandparents’ home in Nephi, Utah, while my parents went on a trip. My grandmother was somewhat of an anomaly for her small, rural town. She decided to get her college degree as a mother of six children in the 1960s. This was when her youngest children were teenagers and the oldest ones were out of the nest. Every day she made the one way trip of about forty miles to the closest university and then back again for four years to get a bachelor’s degree and certification to teach home economics at the local high school.

I don’t know if Grandma felt like a “women’s libber” but she certainly had the books on her bookshelf to support the label. Being the perpetually hungry love of learner that I was, I loved to peruse them. I found books like by Betty Friedan and The latter book proposed the ideal solution for women’s oppression: have the government pay for childcare at mothers’ job sites. This solution seemed strange to me. I had never felt angst about being female or the prospect of being a mother until I encountered these books. I had never known that women felt oppressed or deprived of a career because of their children. I had always looked forward to being a mother and being home with my offspring. From these books though I learned that some women felt oppressed and deprived in their roles as housewives and mothers. I didn’t sense this, however, in my own mother.

I wish my grandmother was still alive so I could ask her what she felt about those books. I don’t know if she agreed with them or not. I don’t know if she bought them to support her decision to pursue a career outside the home. I don’t know if she pursued a job outside the home because she and her husband, a farmer and flour mill worker, simply needed the money, or if it was because she wanted a career outside her home to feel fulfilled. I do know that she told me a year or so before she died that she wished she had had more children. Would she have stayed home longer and delayed having her career, or not had it all, if she had more children? I don't know.

I do know that I have often felt a tug between my own ambitions outside the home and my maternal, homemaking ambitions to have a bunch of children and be the Kool-Aid mom for the neighborhood, always home and always preparing food for family and friends. Because of this, I have often felt out of place in our typical American feminist culture, which seems to say that the only great ambitions for women are outside the home.For a time, I thought I would have a baby or two while pursuing graduate education. I got married in college but was able to finish and get my bachelor's degree. I went forward with the idea of graduate education by applying to medical school before I had children. I didn't get accepted into medical school after applying to three or four of them. This gave me time to ponder my plans. I didn't want to wait years until my professional education was over to start a family. Did I really want to juggle medical school with having babies? After much soul-searching and praying, I decided I didn't want to. I know some women have combined having children with graduate school and/or careers, but I felt it wasn't what God wanted me to do, for my mission as a mother.

I decided not to apply again and to go ahead with having a baby and being a full-time stay-at-home mom. So many things I read in my early mothering days indicated the popular attitude of “What’s a smart woman like you doing at home?” The implication was that home with little children was boring. This wasn't what I wanted to experience. The start of my career as a full-time homemaker coincided with my start as a full-time mother. I remember when I left full-time employment at the laboratory of a medical school professor to be a stay-at-home mom, it was two weeks before my first baby was due. (To be continued...)

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