Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fears of Expectations as an LDS Woman

I thought about changing the title of this blog. I thought maybe it would elicit I-told-you-so comments from people who have not been happy with the choices I have made in the past couple years. BUT, that is what this blog is about, AND regardless, I wouldn't have made my decisions any other way.

I have pondered the issue all day. Over the past couple months, I have had many conversations with different male friends that often led to a discussion on gender roles. No, I highly doubt they realized that that's what we were talking about, but it was. One person told me they would be ashamed to stay home and raise their kids while their wife had a full-time job or went to law school. Another told me it's ok if I don't know what I want to do for the rest of my life because once I have kids I'll be home with them all day long. And the majority of men and women tell me that the woman is to "nurture" and the man is to "provide" and "protect" for the family, as if those words meant the mom is the sole caregiver and the father is the sole bread-winner or that those roles could not possible be divided equally.

All these comments are meant with sincerity. They are not meant to make me feel that I am only as valuable as my child-rearing skills, but they make me feel that way. I have been told that I should get a college education so that I can pass that knowledge on to my children. Never have I been told that I should pass that knowledge along to my fellow man. I mean, let's be serious, I'm probably not going to sit around with my kids and explain to them phonetics and syntax, nor do I think that doing so will make them better human beings. So why am I even going to school? I want my sons AND my daughters to grow up and get as much education as they want. I want them BOTH to have huge aspirations. I want to hear my daughter tell me she wants to be an astronaut, and I want her to actually try just as much as I hope my son does the same.

I feel like I am judged harshly for wanting to have a career where I am helping immigrants assimilate into American culture or teaching literacy when I should want to be at home all the time with my children. But what about my husband? Is he looked down upon for having a full-time career and spending less time at home than I am? Would my children be any worse off with a father who took them to school in the mornings and was there for them when they got home each afternoon? I feel like that's a horrible expectation for men, as well.

I'm not saying that I don't want to raise children or that I expect to have a full-time career while my husband is a home maker. I discovered last summer that I love children. I loved playing with elementary school kids for hours a day in Mexico last summer. I loved helping them read Harry Potter in Spanish or being their soccer referee at recess, or playing zombie games after dinner. I think I spent more free time with children than any other age group, in fact. What bothers me, is that I feel like nobody asks me what I want. Everyone assumes that they know what I need to do and that I am acquiescing.

So, here's what I really want. I want a husband who loves me and who will decide with me how many children we want, can financially support, and can devote enough time to equally. I want to raise my children, hand-in-hand, with my husband. I want our children to see us as equally capable of having deep conversations, helping with homework, packing lunches, and playing games. I also want them to see that we both value education as much for girls as we do for boys. I want them to look at both of us as people who spend time not just raising them, but devoted to our communities and helping others. I want my children to see that it is important to help those outside their physical families, and that it is important for both men and women to reach out and work for the betterment of mankind. I want them to judge my husband and I based on our works and our character, and not on our gender and what roles we are "supposed" to fulfill.

I think understanding how I feel about my own society's expectations for me as a woman will help me with my project this summer. As I interview moms in rural Mexico about what they hope for the daughters they are raising, I hope to empathize with them by understanding my hopes more clearly. Do they hope their daughter gets enough education to snag a man? Do they hope their daughter gets the education she wants to do the job she desires? Do they hope their daughters provide them with many grandchildren? Do they just want them to be happy? I don't know, but thinking about these things and how they affect me, will hopefully give me insight into the lives the roles that they fulfill and how they are passing those beliefs onto the next generation.