The first time it happened was when I was eleven years old, though I’m sure it happened before.
I was in Sunday School in a small town in Utah. My teacher asked all of us girls what we want to be when we grow up. As we went around the room, each one said they wanted to be a “mommy.” When it got to me, however, my defiant and passionate spirit blurted, “I want to own a business and live in a New York City skyscraper with revolving doors!”
Happy with my response, I was met with gasps and murmurings of “that’s so selfish” and “that’ll never happen.”
I was heartbroken.
Later, I told the same thing to a woman in my life I loved and respected dearly. I was again met with, “How dare you? That will never happen. You’re going to stay here and live with me forever.”
This pattern continued to my senior year in high school, when the girls around me in my English class shared their goals for the future, usually involving going on a mission, going to college, or getting married. When they asked me, I shared my plans of going to Boston University to pursue a career in Journalism. They responded, “Oh, I guess that’s okay too,” and I was quickly dismissed.
My life is not unique. The Mormon woman narrative has continued to attempt to shame the dreams of those longing to make a difference, focusing instead on pushing conformity to the norms of female submissiveness, gentleness, and the stereotypical homemaker.
There is a utopian cycle that we all follow: a young woman is born into the Mormon faith, baptized at 8, enters the temple at 12, starts dating at 16, gets married before 19, has kids before 20, and stays home and raises those kids, until it all begins again.
While some do choose this path, I won’t pursue it myself.
There is nothing wrong with being a homemaker. I love and support the women in my life who are and aspire to be so, as much as my career-focused counterparts.
What I don’t condone is the bullying, ostracizing, and sexist disregard for women who choose to have a career rather than a family – either immediately or ever.
We forget our ancestors. These women who crossed thousands of miles in all types of weather, in a heavy dress I might add, to bring their families to Zion. Women who, after their husbands passed away, pulled up their bootstraps, and went to work single-handedly supporting a family. Women who said no, who fought for truth and rights, and made way for the future. They did not sit idly by nor let other women fail, they got to work.
My family is filled with these women.
I am a “Legacy Mormon,” where my ancestors were part of the original founding of the Church, played big parts in church leadership, and brought Mormonism to the western United States. Every woman in my life has fought stereotypes and paved the way for me to succeed – with great difficulty, I might add.We cannot be happy resisting the truth that we are daughters of God. Click To Tweet
The women in my life taught me that no woman has to sacrifice their faith or hopes for a family in order to fulfill their dreams. Period. It is not selfish to not want to get married right away, nor is it selfish to not have kids now – or ever.
We must remember that Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. We cannot be happy when we are living up to others’ standards. We cannot be happy when we let others undermine our dreams to fulfill their standards of success. We cannot be happy resisting the truth that we are daughters of God, who deserve everything this world and God has to offer.
Remember, “Men [and women] are that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi 2:27
We cannot be discouraged.
It seems to be that the General Conference talks from our prophet and apostles, while amazingly empowering, mostly end up measuring a girl’s worth in how she relates to men or those around her. She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a girlfriend – but never a boss, self-sufficient, or in any way an independent woman.There is no one right way to be a Mormon woman. Click To Tweet
This leaves women to believe they are not whole until they have another person in their life to judge their worth. Neither types of women are better than the other, but the disregard for the sovereignty of women is unacceptable.
We, as women, must redefine our versions of success, without the influence of such stereotypes. There are already so many, like Al Fox Carraway (Author of “More than the Tattooed Mormon”), and Sheri Dew (CEO of Deseret Book Company and past General Authority), who are paving the way for young women to challenge stereotypes and show that there is no one right way to be a Mormon woman.This leaves women to believe they are not whole until they have another person in life. Click To Tweet
I found that moving out of the town that my ancestors settled in Utah, in order to move all the way across the country has been liberating beyond belief. When I realized that my success was not defined by when I got married or how many kids I had, I truly blossomed. I’m reaching the potential that God designed for me and only me, by living my fullest life, even without immediately getting married.
I have not lost my faith, in fact, it has increased exponentially as a result of following my dreams.
Bottom line: Women who choose to delay family or have a career are often shamed for doing so, which ends, now. Break the utopian cycle, become who you are and who God knows you can be.
Find your potential – for therein, you will find joy. I promise.