July 18, 2017

Why would a good mother leave her children to go to school?

Stephanie had a question for me in the comments section of my last post.  She said,

 I have loved your blog for years and have learned so much from you and enjoy your honest and unique perspective, even if I don't always share your opinions. I completely respect that you are trying to follow the Lord's will in your life and yet I can't help wondering why, after feeling so compelled to bring each of your children into the world, you would then choose to have someone else raise them in your place. I understand and believe in the value of education but don't think it is confined to an institution. I sincerely ask you to help me understand the trend I see in our church (I am also LDS) for women to leave their young children to go back to school or work. I so fiercely believe in the need for mothers to be home with and raise their children! In the spirit of love and the desire to understand the women around me who are making that decision, I really would love to hear more of your thoughts on the subject. I apologize for sounding (or even being a little) judgmental. I am so concerned for our nation, as a whole, though--where families are concerned--and feel that mothers can still be home and put their children first and also find ways to make an impact outside of the home. This is a tough issue, and I hope you don't regret your decision to blog about it! Hopefully this can be an opportunity for a great discussion. I think you're an amazing woman and appreciate that I feel like I can ask you hard questions and you (hopefully) won't take offense. :)

First, I want to say THANK YOU Stephanie for feeling like you could ask me this question.

I am a mother with a huge mother heart.  I am (or have always been) a stay-at-home mother who LOVES being home with my children.  I have eight children because I know there is no greater work.  There is no place on earth that I could have done more good, then right here, in my home, raising my family.  I believe this is truth.  Although a part of me has always dreamed of returning to school, I honestly never imagined I would leave my family.

When I began feeling prompted to look at Grad Schools it was really hard for me to do it.  I felt like I was selling my birthright for a bowl or porridge.  It was the weirdest feeling in the world to feel that leaving my family, even for school, was WRONG, and at the same time feeling strongly that God was prompting me to do that.  I felt similar to Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.  My closest friends will tell you that I did not make the decision to go back to school lightly.

Not only did I feel that I needed to apply to Grad School, I started studying for the GRE when I had NO IDEA what I was going to study.  Ben is four.  Once I began to seriously consider going back to school, I decided I would wait one more year before starting a part-time program.  But, I continued to feel that I needed to act quickly and that I needed to do school this year.  

It wasn't until after I had applied and was accepted to a program (I had EVERY intention of postponing for one year) that my little town of Tully approved a preschool program that starts this Fall where Ben can go, for free, to the sweetest preschool ever.  This is in the same school that three of his sisters also attend and where he can get the speech services he needs.  It is not just a coincidence, it is providence.  Having my mom here with us this summer is also providence.  

I do know, without a doubt, that I have been led to this program, at this time.

I know that my mother is such a gift in my life.  She is a blessing to me and my children.  She is their grandmother, and she is home with them this summer (my classes go from 8 am to noon), but I am still raising my family.

I am not home raising my children full-time, like I have been for the past 20 years, but they are being raised by me.  They are doing so well. We all are.  A friend of mine said, what God says is right for one is right for all.  Not that the same thing is right for everyone, but that if God tells you to do something, and you obey, it will bless your whole family.  I am feeling this truth.

I honestly don't know why God wants me to go to this Grad School this year.
I don't know what my life is going to look like next year, five years from now, or ten years from now.
This is hard for me and so exciting.

I know that my husband feels strongly that our lives will be blessed because of this opportunity for me to go to school.  We pray about our life choices together and receive confirming and aligning witnesses.

He is the Bishop of our ward.  He is also a professor.  He knows the time and effort this program will take, even better than I do.  And, he's so, so excited for me to do this.  

My home functions well.  In the next four years, my four oldest will leave for missions or college. The older kids drive.  They are helpful with dishes and dinner and younger kids.  I know I still have younger children, but I'm at a different stage of life now.

In a way, this process has been a conversion for me.  
I'm not sure why God opened my heart and mind and poured into a testimony of the power of a mother in the home and then 20 years later, opened up my heart to pour in the idea that there are times and seasons.  He is showing me that we really can't judge the paths of those around us, because our paths are unique.  I'm also learning that you can place family first, you can even raise your children, even as you are called to work outside of your home.  

Adam and Eve labored together.  
Throughout history, women have always 'worked'.  
I don't believe prophets have counseled us against 'working' I believe they have counseled us against the love of money and material things.  I believe God will judge our priorities and our heart.  I'm not afraid of that judgement. I have held 'full-time' callings that took me away from my family for a time.
Serving the Lord best does not always mean that I am the one at home, cooking, cleaning, and caring for my children.  Sometimes, serving means being away for a time.  I felt that when I was in the hospital for months at a time.  I was not abandoning my role as a mother, I was fulfilling it.

Similarly, my education is not distracting me from my mission in life, it is another step in becoming the eternal mother that God is helping me to become.

I don't want young mothers to see me and use my story as an excuse to miss the refining, foundational,  creating years with their children.  I would not trade 20 years at home for anything in the world.  But, I'm at a different season in my life now.  Even with the exact same priorities, my life looks different.  

Sometimes I wonder if I should be so open with the struggle parts of my life.  You might feel so strongly in your soul that you don't need to go to school for an education, and you would be right.  That feeling might be burning inside of you, because YOUR time and season is at home.  

Getting pregnant with Ben was very, very hard for me.  I struggled for months with this decision.  And, in the end, Todd and I together, chose to have our eighth child.  We felt it was God's will and we knew it was our choice.  Similarly, choosing to apply to grad school after 20 years of being a stay-at-home mother was very, very hard for me to do.  I have no doubt that God led me down this path because I know it is not a path I would have chosen on my own.  I don't know why I am in school.  I don't know what I'm going to do after school.  

But, just studying for the GRE did something for my soul and my family.

My mind was foggy after Ben was born.  Having over 200 units of blood and many reconstructive surgeries, left me with a mind that was slower.  When I first took a GRE practice test, I got around 70th percentile for the qualitative and 0 as in Z-E-R-O on quantitative.  I could not answer ONE question.  I studied from a book, all of December.  My teenagers and even my elementary school kids, would sit around and help me with my math problems.  They could all do multiplication facts faster than I could.  My memory was awful. 

My teenage boys spent hours reminding me of geometry and algebra rules that I had long forgotten.  
Just one month later, I got 95th percentile in qualitative and around 45th percentile for qualitative the average in my program was 50th percentile.  It feels so good to stretch my brain.

My kids have been a very active part of my schooling.  They are so excited for me.  I write emails back and forth with Leah while I'm in school.  This is the first email she sent me...

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Anna and Ellie help me pick out my outfits.  Anna made sure we took a first day of school picture.  She said, "Mom, you always tell us how smart you were when you were in school.  Now we can see for ourselves how true that really is."  I am still managing my home.

On my first day home from school, we went around the table sharing two good and one bad.  Lily said, "I can't decide what my favorite part of today was.  It's between getting to go to the library, and seeing how happy mom was when she came home from school."

Again, I don't know why I'm in school right now.
I chose this.  
I really, really love it and I want to be here, but I didn't really believe it was "right" to want to do this.  
Can a mother of 8 still be a good mother to good children while she is at school (or working) outside the home?
Can a mother of 8 go to school full-time and still "raise her children"? 
I hope so.

We judge each other every day.  I think it's good to use discernment in our lives.
I don't think my life is more right than your life.  
When you read my story, I hope you know that I am, and will always be a mother.  
I am raising my children.
I am also going to school, full-time, in the top MPA program in the US.
It's hard and it is really, really, fun.

Today, Ben stood by me, telling me about the magna-blocks homes he had built for his trains.  I looked into his eyes and I knew, again, with my whole soul, that the best thing I ever did as a MOTHER was to choose not to abort that life-threatening, high-risk pregnancy.  The best thing I ever gave my children was that youngest brother, even though that choice made it so that I was away from them for over a year in a hospital bed.  So many people, in my family and on the internet, did not agree with my decision.  They felt that my decision to have Ben was putting my other children at risk.  I understand their perspective.  Maybe, another mother would have made a different choice.  Maybe another good mother would make a different choice.

Right now, I am spending one year in a graduate program.  My children will be well cared for.  My heart will be in my home.  I am ridiculously excited for this program and I'm also somewhat nervous.  I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to be a mom and a student at the same time, but I trust that my Father in Heaven will help me to mother his children.  

Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
I am a mother of 8 and I am in Grad School.  
I'm really grateful for this opportunity.  
It is a blessing for me and my family.
(Hopefully Grad School will teach me to be a little more concise.)

Life is good.

7 comments:

Aflyonmyhomeschoolwall said...

Beautiful.

Heavenly Father has different missions for each of us. He will lead us in the directions we need to go, if we listen to Him.

I have a friend who ached to stay home with her children, but every time she tried, Heavenly Father spoke to both her and her husband of how very much she needed to keep working. It was part of His plan for her and their family.

My darlingest of friends just recently graduated from a master's program that she completed while her husband was stationed overseas and she was at home raising their 5 kids (2 with special needs) alone. It was a horrible 2 years for her. I wondered time and time again why she was doing this crazy thing--why not leave school at that season?!?! But she is a faithful, God-fearing woman who listened to the promptings of the Lord for her and stuck it out. She is so happy to stay at home with her children again for the foreseeable future, but she's listening to what the Lord directs her to do, and she does not know what He will say next. :)

If we look back at the pioneers of the LDS church, the women often went to school or worked to provide for their families in all kinds of ways. The husbands and fathers were often called on missions--leaving their families to survive as they could.

The virtuous woman of Proverbs works with her hands and helps provide a living for her family.

I firmly believe in stay-at-home motherhood. But I believe more firmly in listening to the Lord as He directs our paths. And sometimes those paths are surprising!!!!

Jenifer Moss said...

Thanks for sharing! ^^^^ I like what was said in the BYU devotional last week that women's stories are important. It is good for us to share even when our stories are messy.

I should add- this summer I am taking "full-time" condensed classes from 8am to noon for six weeks. Once school starts in the fall, I am able to be home when my kids get home from school. That is really important to me.

Jenifer Moss said...

My program is a one year program (unless I add a second masters in a second year).

Jenifer Moss said...

And, remember I was called by my Stake President into Stake Public Affairs when I was too ill to grocery shop by myself. God asked me to serve when I was unsure I would live. This still feels like a calling to me. My mom, interestingly, just mentioned to me again last night that she feels like she has been called to help me at home while I'm in this program. I don't feel at all like I am neglecting my family to go to school. I feel like I am going to school to serve them and Him more effectively.

Jaydee and Shaunda said...

I love all that you have to say. I have read and have been inspired by your blog for a few years now. This last post really spoke to me because I am starting something new also. I am a RN and worked part time for 8 years after our first child was born. After more children, my husband and I decided that it was time for me to stay at home full time. I did for ten years and absolutely loved it. I am so grateful for that opportunity. Two years ago, a part time teaching job opened up and it felt very right. At that time, there were some changes in my husband's employment, so this actually was an answer to a prayer. I loved teaching at the community college and using my nursing expertise. I wasn't looking for a change, but this spring two ward members texted me on the same day about a job opening for a nurse in the public school teaching at the technical/vocational high school. We prayed about it and I applied and got it. After 18 years, I am going back to work full time next week. My oldest goes to college in a few weeks and my youngest is in 3rd grade. Like you, this decision wasn't made lightly. It was after a lot of prayer, going to the temple, and talking to others that my husband and I decided that this is what the next step for me is. My patriarchal blessing talks about influencing youth and being a good example to them. As a SS teacher I have experienced that, but now as a high school teacher, maybe there is someone I can help or touch their heart, or spark a desire for learning. I am so excited, but a bit nervous. My husband is a bishop also, and like your husband, I think he is more excited than I am. Eventually I may need to get my Master's degree also. I am confident that my family will all step up and we will work through this together. My 13 year old son has actually cooked dinner 3 times this week. He says that it is in preparation for him having to help when I'm busy. I love that he has that desire. This will be a definite change, but I am so excited to see the blessings as we do our best to follow Heavenly Father's will. Good luck to you. Keep on blogging when you can. I love reading it.

jenifer said...

Shaunda- As I read your words, I could feel your goodness. I can feel what a blessing this job is to your family (including your son who is learning to make dinner). I can imagine that as we both walk forward on our paths there will be days of resistance but hard doesn't mean wrong. Good luck to you my friend. God has a WORK for you to do, He is guiding you to fulfill your eternal mission and you CAN place your family first even if you spend a few hours each day blessing the lives of other people's children.

Stephanie said...

Jenifer,

Thank you for not being offended by my difficult question and for taking the time to help me understand your decision to go back to school full-time. I am sorry if I made you feel that you had to defend that decision. That wasn't truly my intention. In my stumbling way, I think maybe I was seeking more of a conversation on the issues of women, motherhood, and education than addressing your own personal decision. At any rate, I am not surprised that your family is being wonderfully supportive and helpful to you in your new journey. It is much to your credit that your children are so wonderful! You are an amazing mother. I have no doubt that the Lord preserved your life so that you can continue to accomplish many great and wonderful purposes. You have certainly inspired me these past few years.

I have searched my heart and I have read and re-read Eva Witesman's devotional address; I have studied the General Conference talks and devotionals that she cited in her talk, and I have prayed for understanding and help recognizing truth. These past few days have been a wonderful time for me to reflect on and ponder what the Lord has told us through His servants regarding women and their roles. I have much, much more to learn and am excited by that prospect.

What it comes down to, for me, is that the Lord has counseled the mothers in our church to stay home with their children unless their husband is unable to provide the necessities of life for his family. Either that is truly God's commandment, or it isn't. It seems to me that a majority of the women in the church feel that the Lord is leading them to be an exception to that counsel (and command). The question that sits heavy on my heart is WHY the Lord would inspire mothers to disobey the words of His prophets?

As far as education goes, we know that our Father in Heaven wants us to learn all we possibly can in this lifetime, and to be seeking His wisdom and truth and light. Contrary to what Eva Witesman asserts, our prophets have NOT counseled women to sacrifice everything (including staying at home with their children) in order to pursue formal education. The counsel has been to seek as much formal education as possible before or after the period of raising children. (See https://www.lds.org/ensign/1975/03/insights/women-and-education?lang=eng) As we know, formal education has the potential, in and of itself, to take a woman out of the home with the end-goal of a career that will also take a woman out of the home.

With all my heart, I long to seek futher understanding and guidance through the Holy Ghost on this subject. I love the women in our church and believe that God does need us to serve Him with all of our hearts, might, minds, and strength in building His Kingdom on earth and ministering to His children all over the world. He also wants us to obey Him and follow His commandments and the words of His prophets. When our desire to make a difference in the world conflicts with His commandments, I think something has gone amiss.

Alas, I have said far too much! I have attempted to write this comment several times and have even prayed fervently for help knowing what to say. I have no desire for contention. I only want to understand the truth on a difficult subject, and to express my concern that Eva Witesman's speech is very misleading and contrary to the teachings of our prophets.

Thank you for being willing to have difficult conversations and for being courageous enough to share your own experiences with the world! God bless you and your family as you go forward in faith and your strong desire to serve and bless others.

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