This quote is from President Ezra Taft Benson in 1981. You can find it echoed in many Conference talks since then:
Beguiling voices in the world cry out for “alternative life-styles” for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.
These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the “Mormon woman stereotype” of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment.
I am aware that many of you often find yourselves in circumstances that are not always ideal. I know this because I have talked with many of you who, because of necessity, must work and leave your children with others—even though your heart is in your home. To you go my love and sympathy for your present, and I hope temporary, situation and my prayers that you will be blessed by our Heavenly Father to compensate for a situation that is less than you may desire.
In other words, we're after an ideal. We want the father to have adequate income to support the family, the mother to be home with the children, the circumstances to allow additions to our families without obstacles of biology or money or marital discord. We want families free from abuse and divorce and early death. So much of what is taught by general authorities rests on that ideal situation as a foundation.
But in almost every talk about this subject -- at least in the last 25 years, which is longer than I've been able to keep track, since I'm only 30 -- there's that loophole, that place where you can look and say, Do I fit here?
I was so sure, when I was waiting to become a mother, that things were going to be ideal. Even when my kids didn't come by traditional means, I never imagined that I'd be a working mom. In fact, just the opposite. I can recall all too clearly many, many attempts at negotiation through prayer. Lord, if you'll just make me a mom, I swear, I will do everything right. I will give it a hundred percent. I will defend my family even unto bloodshed.
We adopted. Almost immediately, my commitment was challenged. When my oldest was about six months old, my former employer called me up, begging for just a few days, maybe even just a few afternoons a week. My first thought was defensive: I've waited five years for this baby! I'm not leaving him with someone else! (In those days, Sam even came on dates with Glenn and me.) Yet the thought of working wouldn't leave me alone. Turning it down wasn't right. Accepting it wasn't right. It wasn't until I hit on the idea, through lots of soul-searching and prayer, of working one full day each week that I found some peace. I did that for a year, with my babe spending his Fridays at Grandma's house, and then we had the money to adopt again. In the meantime, I think I was saved from baby burnout.
Now, with my husband working on a Ph.D., we are once again in less-than-ideal circumstances. We had the choice of sinking deeper into debt or sending me to work. Once this job opened up it sure seemed like a no-brainer, but I still didn't want to take it too lightly. It took six weeks of fasting, praying and temple attendance to decide what to do. My husband, bless his heart, stayed the heck out of it. It was my decision to make and my responsibility to face.
And here I am, working. Living in a loophole. I was so afraid that others, especially women in the Church, would judge me the way I know I judged others when I was in a more ideal situation. But I haven't found that, not a bit. Everyone I know seems to understand. Some people have even expressed admiration that I was willing to "take the pressure off" Glenn while he finishes his long education.
It's a comfortable place for me. In some ways, it will be hard to give it up when a more ideal family situation presents itself. But I hope I will give it up, especially when we are able to have more kids in our family. I think I will.
This all leads me to think that maybe what the Lord wants me to learn is not to obey the rules, but to obey Him. Not to accept without question words on paper or over the pulpit, but to search the depths of my soul for the place in me where His words are heard. Somehow He seems to like to make sure that I don't do things the conventional way, even when I'd be thrilled to do so. I think He wants me to learn to understand when others live a little outside the lines of the ideal family, too. It's not easy for me. But as I find my slightly-unconventional place, I'm learning.