Monday, March 28, 2011

Women and Education

A friend of mine is doing a paper for her Social Policy and Feminist Legal Theory class at BYU law school and asked for my thoughts on women and education (particularly in relation to a talk given by President Hinckley - the text of which can be found below.) 

This is my response: 

I come from LDS parents who have always placed an emphasis on the importance of education. With a solid foundation and a fairly healthy self-esteem (again, thanks to parenting) I believed myself capable of achieving great things academically. However, in the back of my head there was always the thought – and religious teaching – the home comes first. My young mind interpreted this religious teaching to mean that being a wife and mother trumps education or vocational aspirations.

Trusting in my parents a great deal, I relied on their teachings and urgings to pursue academic goals. However, the comments, looks and/or perceived judgments that I received from fellow LDS women were (and are) ever constant. These perceived judgments often left me feeling the need to justify my decisions to church members, casual associations, friends, etc.

While I do not recall hearing President Hinckley’s talk as a youth, I believe my father gave it to me, or I came across it, as a young single adult preparing to take the LSAT and apply to law school. It was everything that my mother and father had taught me but was now coming from the words of a prophet. I felt empowered, uplifted, and vindicated all at once. No longer did I feel the compulsion to explain away my decision not to go on a mission and to pursue a legal education. No longer did I feel a pit in my stomach when the nosy onlooker would inquire if I wanted children and how I expected to make that work.

We as women must empower ourselves for so many reasons. We need to have the means to support our family if the needs arises. We need to set an example to our children that we value education. (I heard somewhere that the amount of education children pursue is often based off of the level of education of their mother – not their father.)

All of this being said, a career has followed my legal education and, while I forever stand by my decision to go to law school, I have begun to experience the guilt that comes with being a working LDS mother/wife. At times I feel plagued by feelings of inadequacy, guilt that I am not in the home full time, and fear that I am falling short in my duties as a wife and mother. However, when I begin to experience these negative feelings from the adversary, I am reminded in the quiet contemplation which accompanies prayer that I am on my path. The Lord is pleased with me for enlightening my mind, improving my family’s situation, positioning myself to help others, following the Spirit's promptings, and setting an example for my son. I may not be the perfect mother – but my son is a happy, well adjusted, bright, loving and nurtured two year old. I may not be the perfect mother – but my husband feels loved and supported while having a companion who walks in even step with him. I may not be the world’s most accomplished lawyer, but I have made a difference in the lives of my clients and I receive great satisfaction in knowing that I have followed the Lord’s promptings in pursuing an education and maintaining my career. Oh, and there is nothing like the pleasure received from an in-Court victory.

Do I think that every LDS woman should go to graduate school and work outside of the home? Not necessarily. I believe that each of us have a path that we are to follow. However, we should each educate ourselves (whether formally or informally), empower ourselves, and feed our minds and souls with both Gospel knowledge as well as some form of knowledge that will enable us to meet the temporal needs of our families.

I feel supported my church leaders in pursuing an education and career. However, I think that LDS church membership as a whole needs to catch up with the teachings of prophets and, when coupled with the gift of personal revelation, realize that an LDS wife/mother can pursue and education and/or work while still living a life in accordance with Gospel teachings.

I love being a wife, mother and lawyer and will forever work to achieve the perfect balance amongst the three. 

This is the talk from President Hinckley: 

Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.
Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution.
The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. 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.
I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.
For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.
Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience—positive, wonderful, purposeful experience—that will lead to life eternal. He has given you this glorious Church, His Church, to guide you and direct you, to give you opportunity for growth and experience, to teach you and lead you and encourage you, to bless you with eternal marriage, to seal upon you a covenant between you and Him that will make of you His chosen daughter, one upon whom He may look with love and with a desire to help. May God bless you richly and abundantly, my dear young friends, His wonderful daughters.
Of course there will be some problems along the way. There will be difficulties to overcome. But they will not last forever. He will not forsake you.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. …
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Look to the positive. Know that He is watching over you, that He hears your prayers and will answer them, that He loves you and will make that love manifest. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do as you look to become the kind of woman of whom you dream. You can do it. You will have friends and loved ones to help. And God will bless you as you pursue your course. This, girls, is my humble promise and prayer in your behalf, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eyes of Love

When my mom was a little girl she used to cry herself to sleep wishing that she had been born Native American. I inherited my mother's love of other peoples and cultures. When I was ten I dressed up as a middle eastern woman (veil and all) for Halloween. When I was twelve I purchased disks and books trying to teach myself Hebrew so that I could go live in Israel. I have a Guatemalan sister who is the embodiment of love and kindness. I see the richness that different cultures, backgrounds, religious beliefs and traditions can bring to our lives. 

Growing up I was lucky enough to travel to nine countries in Europe with my mom. I have been so privileged to see other places and learn of other cultures. I have been blessed with a mother who has constantly taught me to love other learn about their traditions and judge each individual on their heart and not their skin color, religious beliefs, accent, etc.

I stumbled upon this talk during my personal study and wanted to shout it from the rooftops. There are so many great quotes from Elder Morrison's talk but this one seems all encompassing:  "Sadly, however, deep divisions of race, ethnicity, politics, economic status, and culture still separate people the world over. These divisions corrode, corrupt, and destroy relationships between neighbors and prevent the establishment of societies where there is “no contention in the land, because of the love of God which [dwells] in the hearts of the people” (4 Ne. 1:15)."

It is so important that we are accepting, tolerant, and respectful to others - including those with whom we do not agree! I truly believe that the type of person we are is not measured by how we act when things are easy but, instead, when we are confronted with something that it hard (whatever that may be). It is easy to surround yourself with people who look, talk, and think like you. It is divine to be accepting, loving, and tolerant of everyone. We need to celebrate diversity in its many forms.

The consequences and pain that come from judging others hastily and without love can be lasting and severe. As Morrison stated, "We must look beyond the superficial stereotyping which influences too much of our thinking about the worth of those who seem on the surface to be different than we are. We must learn to look at others through the eyes of love, not as strangers and foreigners, but as individuals, fellow children of God, of one blood with us."

I quote this talk not only in relation to race, but also gender, sexual orientation, political persuasion, religious affiliation, and the many other areas in which we differ from one another. We have all judged too hastily and found ourselves proven wrong. We have all been wrongfully judged. If only we could each strive to view each other with "eyes of love" we would find ourselves in a better place (both without and within).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Moirae

The Fates seem to be guiding my path in life. Although I do not believe in Polytheism (I simply liked the reference to The Moirae as a title to this post since it fit perfectly), I do believe in some type of predetermined path (or foreordination) - subject to change as a result of our own agency.

Like most everyone else, I have made some seriously poor choices along my path of life. Low-lights including: dating a bejeweled hockey player and having flings with various rock boys donning guy-liner. (Hey, after dating the same guy for years I had to spread my wings a little, right?!) However, after minor deviations, I seem to find my feet back upon the path that was meant for me.

If there is one constant that I have felt throughout my life it is this: if I listen ever so closely to the whisperings of the Spirit, I can feel myself being propelled (or compelled to follow) a foreordained or predetermined path for my life. Break-ups. Law School. Robby. Moves. Jobs. Baby. Being a working mom.

While I have rejoiced over some of these events (Robby and Connor being the best two decisions of my life), others have brought mixed emotions. I love being a lawyer. I hate being away from Connor as much as I am.
 Are you sensing a theme in my blog posts? It is because my life seems to have been overrun with mommy guilt lately. (I promise that I will try to move away from this subject in my next post.)

Perhaps the hardest part of this internal conflict is that I know without a doubt that Robby and I were inspired to have Connor when we did. However, on top of that, I was undoubtedly inspired, and expressly directed, by the Spirit that I was supposed to go to law school....and practice law. Apparently just because the Lord wants you to take a certain step, or head a certain direction, that does not necessarily mean that said step will mesh well with the other inspired choices in your life. Hmmm. I am not really loving that reality.

There is nothing like the thrill of winning a case, or slaying an oral argument in Court, but I wish that I could have a little less of that and a little more time playing hide-n-seek with Connor during the day. I truly don't intend to abandon the practice of law entirely until I reach retirement age, but I wouldn't mind being part time. The problem: part time is not in our cards for a long time. The reconciliation: I must continue to find joy in the journey and let go of the guilt that I am not at home with Connor all day.

There it is again. That ugly 5 letter word g-u-i-l-t. (Four letter words pale in comparison to guilt in my mind.) I have decided that instead of allowing that dirty little pest to crowd out my ability to rejoice in the monotony of life, I must embrace that I am on my path. I am following the promptings I am given, counseling with my husband, and we are moving forward down the path that the Lord intended for us. Just because it is right for my sisters to stay home with their children does not mean that I have to feel guilty for being unable to stay home with mine.

Connor is happy, well adjusted, and developing just as he should be. Robby is supportive, strong, reliable, and worthy to lead our family. And so....I must accept that The Fates have a different plan in mind for me than anyone else.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Obvious Realization

Have you ever found yourself having an epiphany - a smack you in the face insight into the true importance or meaning of something - about something that you've been told (or "learned") a million times before? I have. I do. I did on Valentine's Day. I had the epiphany that you need to date your spouse. I know, this is the most novel concept you've ever heard, right? 

Don't get me wrong, Robby and I date but usually we double date, hang out with a large group of friends, or have our precious little Con Man come along. One thing that we have failed miserably at is going out just the two of us. We had not planned on doing anything special for Valentine's Day but at the last minute Robby's sister said she would watch Connor and off Robby and I went to Cracker Barrel. (We decided to live on the edge and go to dinner on Valentine's Day sans reservation. Yeah, we're crazy like that.) 

Without the distraction of group conversations (which I love, crave, and which definitely have their place), I was able to focus on my own personal, quirky, adorable (in every sense of the world), and amazing Prince Charming. I was reminded all over again why I fell in love with him. We have such easy and endless conversations but the deep ones (where undivided attention can be given) are few and far between. And so, nearly three and a half months into the year, I have finally made my New Year's Resolution: go on more dates with my man.