What Work Can A Stay-At-Home Mormon Mom Do?

I like to write. I didn’t know this a while ago. I sure didn’t know this when I was in college. I studied the sciences. I wanted to be a doctor, but I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom too. I didn’t get much guidance on what you can do when you want to do both. I had this strong desire to do both. But I was conflicted about career and staying at home to be a full-time mom. “Follow the Prophet” in 1978 meant stay at home. The phrase, “no success can compensate for failure in the home,” rang through my head. I wanted to do the right thing. In 1977, I was 23 and had just married.

I had a bachelors degree in biochemistry and I was in grad school at USC, at the medical campus in the worst part of LA–Boyle Heights–right by LA County Hospital (the backdrop for the old soap opera–General Hospital–you see it in this photo.) I was studying pharmacology and nutrition in a PhD program. 

My professors were not very supportive of women in research. In fact, while being interviewed, one of them asked me if I was going to hang my diploma in the nursery. That kind of talk would get me a law suit today.

I couldn’t really see where that was taking me–I was confused and abandoned that — took a job in a hospital — the lowly surgery clerk. I should have finished the degree, I regret that now. I could have taught part-time at a college. Oh well, I got pregnant and barfed my guts out for the next 9 months. And the next 14 years.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was a joy to have that baby, to nurse her and just hold her in my arms. I totally agree with “joy in your posterity” being a true principle. I will admit though, I was often bored at home all day with one baby. I still wanted to do more. 
My bishop was a pretty cool guy and he advised me to do more. He even went so far as to say I could work a little. And this was in 1981– no failures in the home still resonating through my mind. And I was nursing a baby and didn’t want to leave her with someone else. My sister was my example and I was trying to be like her. My bishop said I didn’t need to be like her. I didn’t get this at the time. 

I had more kids and that pretty much filled up my space of not having enough to do. I had plenty to do. And I found I loved being a mom.

But there were many times when I wished I had gotten my pharm degree–I could have worked a few days a week and helped out when my husband had set backs. You know, sometimes Eve must help–“And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.” (Moses 5:1) 
And maybe one day a week would have helped me appreciate my other six days.

When it came time for my daughter to choose a career in college I encouraged her to find something she could do and still be home with her babies and kids — and something she could fall back on, if needed. She chose to go to Paul Mitchell Hair Design. She is my hairdresser. I love it. She is talented and she can work on her own schedule, out of her home, nurse her baby and play with her two-year old. And work when she wants to or needs to.

I’ve kept busy with five kids. And they became my work — my serious science projects, labs and dissertations to-boot. I jumped into the stay-at-home thing, breast-fed my babes until they were two (please no gasps, here), tried out public school, private school and home school; soccer, swim lessons, track, tennis and golf, piano lessons, gymnastics and paper routes.

And now my oldest is close to 30 (with 2 little babes) and my youngest is 15. I have a little more time again. And so I write. I write to become a better writer and leave something of my life and personality for my posterity. 
But I also write to get some money. It’s hardly any, you can’t live on it. But I have faith in the promise that by small and simple means, great things come to pass. I do my part and believe God will bless us with what we need. And hope my experiences help others. I find that I like the freedom to work when I want.

And if I had to get a job, who would look with awe at my resume? — endured much, raised five kids, managed a home, a business… I have looked, there are no job descriptions out there for what I have done and experienced, and especially no bosses to list as references. (well my two year olds bossed me, and my teens tried to) And I am still fully employed here.
I am needed at home still. I enjoy home schooling my one last puppy here. I’m still guiding him along. And the family business–West Fab–yea I still help my husband with the books, though we have no project yet, so that makes bookeeping easy. But I did get the internet site up, learned how to do that.

All of us need something we can do–if needed for financial reasons or even to improve our outlook on life. You work in the trenches day and night and sometimes it’s hard to appreciate motherhood. And it seems the current trend in follow the prophet is for young women to have a skill, something they can do in the workforce as needed and desired, not neglecting the value and blessing of motherhood, which comes first.

One of the blessings of the Church is that we believe in revelation, and the counsel of a current day prophet. You can see how some things change over time:

President David O. McKay (1951-1970)“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” ( not a McKay original, but  Quoted from J. E. McCullough, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116.)(here)
President Harold B. Lee (1972-1973)
Remember, paraphrasing what President McKay said, “No success will compensate for failure in the home.” Remember also that no home is a failure as long as that home doesn’t give up. “- Harold B. Lee, Ensign, Feb. 1972
Presient Spencer Kimball (1973-1985)
“Women are to take care of the family–the Lord has so stated–to be an assistant to the husband, to work with him, but not to earn the living, except in unusual circumstances. Men ought to be men indeed and earn the living under normal circumstances” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 31) “Too many mothers work away from home to furnish sweaters and music lessons and trips and fun for their children. Too many women spend their time in socializing, in politicking, in public services when they should be home to teach and train and receive and love their children into security” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 319). (here)
President Ezra Taft Benson (1985-1994)Recognizing that circumstances required some sisters to work outside the home, the prophet nevertheless reaffirmed that women rightfully “‘have claim on their husbands for their maintenance.’ . . . The counsel of the Church has always been for mothers to spend their full time in the home in rearing and caring for their children.” (Fireside, 22 Feb 1987)
(and here)
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1995-2008)You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part. Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family, but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry, or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry.  (New Era, Sep 2007)
President Thomas S. Monson (2008-
My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. There are those of you who are married. Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. Some of you are empty-nesters. There are those of you who are married but do not have children. There are those who are divorced, those who are widowed. Many of you are single women. Some of you have college degrees; some of you do not. There are those who can afford the latest fashions and those who are lucky to have one appropriate Sunday outfit. Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another? (Gen. Relief Society, 2010)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02944899733768126383 Patty Ann

    I remember those days. I tried to be a stay at home mother, but life threw me a few curve balls and I ended up supporting my family. I have been successful in that endeavor. If I could have chosen though, if like had been just a little different, I would have chosen to stay home. Since that was not an option, I have chosen to do as well as I can with what I have to give. I am glad the times have changed, and especially glad that I don’t have to justify my decisions to other sisters anymore. I am glad to feel that perhaps there are those who don’t judge me too harshly. I am also willing to see that we are all here together trying to do the best we can in an ever changing world. Love this article today. Thank you for posting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10342635172904848811 Jocelyn Christensen

    As I read those quotes, I don’t read a change in their counsel, only an expansion in their message to include people who cannot stay home for whatever reason…but I believe the main gist of the counsel remains. Do what enriches you as a woman, but do also do what will make it possible for you to be at home with your family.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05969217675340711841 dgenetaylor

    General Hospital… I well remember those days.
    Photo of Los Angeles River bottom?