This is a post I’ve hesitated to write for a long time. I have a very traditional view of these things, and I fully recognize that it’s going rub some people the wrong way. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this post I want to clarify two important points:
- This is not intended in any way to be a commentary on the choices of others, it is merely a reflection of my own choices and the temptations that have come along the way.
- I fully recognize that I am extraordinary blessed in this area and recognize that not everyone has the same opportunities and I do not desire to add any guilt or pain to those who yearn for things they don’t yet have.
Thanks to the fish bowl of social media I find it fascinating to observe how people strive for success. Because we are all individuals, and there for have distinct talents, capabilities and goals, what success means to a person can be a huge spectrum. It has lead me to ponder what kind of success I am striving for and what kind of success the Lord desires for me.
By many secular scales, I am failing miserably at success. I have no job, my traditional education is pitiful (though I fully admit that it is mostly due to my lack of dedication to such, specifically as a high school student, to which I have grown to be sincerely regretful about and may someday work up the gumption to to do something about it), I certainly have nothing in terms of a career, I have no productive hobbies, and produce no income. But what of eternal success? What does that look like? What kinds of things should I be doing now to achieve eternal success?
I have come to realize that although it’s that I completely lack any sort of temporal success, and I have also come to realize that I am blessed to be able to have a different focus on success, that of eternal success. Success, and therefore happiness we search for, is indeed found most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
My wonderful, blissful, life is made possible because my husband is so fully fulfilling his role as someone who is providing the necessities of life and protection for our family. Because of him we have a home, we have food, we have cars to drive, we have adventures, and maybe most importantly I have a little space heater to sit next to when I’m cold (which, by the way, is ALL THE TIME). Because we have all of that, because all of my temporal needs (not wants, needs, though we certainly have lots of wants included) are provided for I am able to spend my days concerned about more important things. The things of eternity. I have come to realize that the biggest blessing that I have as a stay at home mom is the that it frees me up to spend more time dealing with those things of eternal importance. I have the flexibility of schedule to carve out time to study, to pray, to worship, and to serve, and most importantly to teach all of that to our children in both words and by example in far greater quantities than my husband is able to. His temporal providing, makes it possible for me to help provide spiritually, and my providing spiritually makes it easier for him to carry the weight of his temporal providing. Both of these kinds of providing are required to achieve balance in the family.
What does all this have to do with success? In the recent Face2Face event featuring Elder Holland, he mentioned that the only organization that we know of as being eternal is the organization of family. No wards, stakes, governments, or social groups have that same reach as that of families. It is the only organization with eternity on the line, and we need to prioritize it as such. In the end, in the words of President David O. McKay “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” (Quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization (1924), 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116.)
Let me clarify that success in the home does not necessarily mean everyone in your will follow the path taught, only that the opportunity for eternal life and responsibility for choice is taught and modeled to the best of our abilities.
If there is one thing that I can guarantee, it is that any thing that has eternal importance comes with strong temptations. Now that my kids are in school full time I have been shocked at how strong the temptations are. Two of the biggest are intertwined so tightly that it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins, but one is the temptation that what I do isn’t important and the other is to think now that my kids don’t stay at home anymore I don’t need to either. I had one specific incident when I noticed that a secretarial position at my kids elementary school was open. If there is a perfect job, that would have been it. Work when they work, but home when they’re home. I had filled out all of the applications, and was seconds away from hitting that submit button when I was overcome with the feeling that it was a huge mistake. The many words of the prophets and apostles concerning the importance of stay at home mom’s came to mind, and none of them, not one, has a footnote that says anything like “It’s okay to work as long as you work at your kids school and are home when they are home.” Or “It’s okay to work if it means that you can give your kids other opportunities or extracurricular activities, or go on more vacations, or buy a lake house.” They all say that my role is different and distinct. And they don’t pull punches about it either:
Many divorces can be traced to the day the wife left home for the workforce. (Spencer W. Kimball)
No career approaches the importance of wife, homemaker, and mother. (Spencer W. Kimball)
Husbands who for selfish reasons encourage their wives to work outside the home hamper their own spiritual progress. (Howard W. Hunter)
Mothers who work should be sure that it is to provide for necessities. (Gordon B. Hinckley)
(Source for all of the above bullet points: Mothers’ Employment outside the Home, Building An Eternal Marraige Teacher Maunal, 2003, 58-61)
(Source for all the above bullet points: Mothers’ Employment Outside the Home, Eternal Marriage Student Manual, 2003, 237-240)
Side Note: I would completely recommend reading in entirety both of the sources linked above. Treasure troves!
I have noticed that as my kids grow, their problems grow with them, and my spiritual stamina needs to increase with them. I wish I could say that I was completely engaged in that task while the kids are at school, but I have plenty of Netflix binges “while I’m folding laundry” and other major time wasters. (I have to put the folding laundry in air quotes because even if that’s the original intent, that doesn’t always be what is executed. I am by nature a lazy person, though I like to pretend and call myself efficient instead.) I have found that my time will fill up no matter what, but as I ask the Lord how He would have me fill my time it is inevitably filled with things of much greater worth and opportunity than I could come up with, or even have drive for, on my own. His strength gives me the ability to keep my focus on, and recognize the importance of, the things of eternity when the things of right now are so loud and crowded.
Although, as stated above, my success is temporally pathetic, I recognize that my contribution to my family as a stay at home mom is geared towards greater eternal success. It is frustrating to see people go on vacations, live in houses, drive cars, or do activities that we just plain can’t afford. Although it’s easier now than it was when my husband was right out of college, it is never an easy thing to be a single income family in a double income economy. Reassurance comes as I recognize that when I am fulfilling my divine role, I will not lack things of eternal importance (though things may become physically uncomfortable). In Doctrine and Covenants Section 25 I love this admonition to Emma Smith that sums up the role of women:
And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.
We are entrusted with a task that requires vision beyond the moment, beyond the sleepless nights, the difficulty of whatever raising kids looks like in that moment, and asked to recognize the eternal nature of our responsibilities. Interestingly enough the section before D&C 24:9 Emma’s husband Joseph is also told he would not have strength in temporal labors because it is not his calling. They were asked to fully rely on the Lord. I don’t think Joseph and Emma could ever be considered well off temporally in any sense of the word, they hardly ever even had a home of their own, but they sure always had just enough to survive. Of course, spiritually they were so incredibly blessed it’s hard to fathom. Though the Lord differs in the level of prosperity he blesses people with, those who trust in him and follow his commands always have enough, maybe not even a grain of rice extra, but enough.
As both my husband and I do our imperfect best to serve the Lord by fulfilling our divine roles, and with the grace of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we will be eternally successful and blessed with the power that striving for such entails.