Let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved Sister Beck’s talk. I was almost as excited about it as Laura was about President Eyring in the First Presidency (she cheered out loud at that announcement). I don’t try to push my thoughts on those subjects here but I heard about a RadioWest show discussing the talk and I had to comment.
My basic impression of the show was that it was the typical dithering that we find whenever we try to tackle a spiritual topic from a secular viewpoint. The discussion rings hollow in many places. My favorite comment from the participants came from Julie Smith who pointed out that this talk was pointed specifically at mothers and that despite all the emphasis in the church on being mothers there is very little counsel directed specifically at mothers. On the other hand there was commentary such as the statement by Marie Cornwall (sp?) that the option to stay at home is not an economic reality for most people. She states that in Utah a family must have a minimum household income of $70,000 to purchase a median home. This is blatantly untrue. It is based on some economic assumptions that run counter to the counsel that has been given repeatedly to church members so those who live in that economic reality are undermining their own ability to follow this counsel being given now. The fact is that I purchased a very decent house less than 2 years ago and I could afford this house on just over half of the income that she cited. (To afford my house now with my current debt would require more than that, but I could still afford it at it’s current value on much less than $70K.)
The last caller, Reina (sp?) from Pocatello, expressed the same sentiments that I have and that Laura has as someone who has chosen to stay at home that the talk was right on. She nailed the truth with “if the talk is taken in the spirit that she delivered it there is no way that anyone can be offended mom or not, stay-at-home mom or working mom.”
I not only listened to the show, but I tracked down some of the blogosphere discussion that was referenced in the show (Julie Smith, Kristine, TftCarrie, fMhLisa). I found that most discussion seemed to miss the point of the talk that our focus in parenting (mothering specifically) needs to change. There was plenty of discussion about how the high standards illustrated in the talk make some people feel guilty. I have long been concerned as I looked at the mothers in my neighborhood that even those who are following all the counsel of staying at home to raise their children are doing too much. They engage in so many activities that their children do not get the highest level of mother’s attention that they need. Those who have tried to avoid the pull of a society that tells the lie that you can do everything found this talk very validating because it made it much easier to let go of the pull of the world that wants us to tear ourselves apart having it all.
Sister Beck was telling us to make a choice and quit trying to be everything to everyone all the time. We have to accept that a woman can’t be a great employee, and a great mother, and a great community activist, and everything else which she might want to do well all at the same time. (In the same vein a father can’t be a great father, and a great breadwinner, and a great activist, and a pursue every hobby to which he is inclined at the same time.) I believe that women can “have it all” if they choose, but not all at once nor should they feel pressured into choosing to “have it all.” My mother-in-law is a great example of this. She chose to postpone her education when she started having children. She eventually finished her college degree after three of her children had finished theirs and she now works because she feels the desire to work. I guarantee that she is happier to have raised her children by giving them her undivided attention than she would have been if she had tried to do all of that at once.