Mothers At Home, At School, At Play (Doctrine & Covenants 88)

Monday, August 9, 2021


A big thank you to Heather for completing this transcript!

Channing: Hi! I’m Channing.

Elise: And I’m Elise.

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

Elise: [00:00:12] But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood.  We are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

Channing: We saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants section 88 for the dates August 9th through the 15th. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:58] Yes, welcome back everyone. We're seriously so, so, I don't know, filled with love for all of you. We've just been receiving lots of great messages and lots of really nice iTunes reviews and just feeling like people are really coming together around this work and we can feel your love and your support.

[00:01:17] And one of the things that we've heard ever since the very, very beginning, like, baby stages of the Faithful Feminists, is that people will continually reach out to us in emails or in DMs on Instagram. And they'll say, “oh my gosh, like, I would love to get together in person,” or, “oh my gosh, I would love to meet you and I would love to meet some of these other people that are in community, and I would love... Do you ever plan to do a workshop or a retreat?” And so there's just been a lot of energy around trying to be together in-person and learn and share with one another.

Channing: [00:01:47] So in light of all of that, and with our shared excitement of meeting all of you, we are so excited to announce that we are having an event.

[00:01:57] It is called the Soft Chairs Workshop, and it will be on Saturday, October 9th, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM in South Jordan, Utah. We have tickets available. We just announced the event on Saturday. And we're so excited to have you there. And we're really excited about the theme of this workshop too, because we think that it will fit in really naturally and really well with the work that we already do on the podcast.

[00:02:25] So everyone will be really familiar with it. This event will be a day full of feminism and scripture. And together with all of us in a group, we'll explore some of the main themes of feminist theory, critique, and theology in a way that's really accessible. So you'll be able to walk away with a lot of skills of doing the same work that we do on the podcast for yourself, because that's something that we're really passionate about it is really showcasing the fact that Elise and I, sure, we have a lot of research and we know what we're doing, but it doesn't mean that we're the only ones who can do this work. And we want to extend those skills and share what we know with everyone so that we can have an incredible community of really knowledgeable and talented scriptorians, like, amateur scriptorians. So we're just really excited to share this day with you and we hope that you'll be able to come. 

Elise: [00:03:24] Yeah, absolutely. And really at the heart of this workshop is this desire for us to be in a safe community together to have this creative imaginative practice so that we can bring the scriptures to life and bring our God to life and bring our gospel to life in ways that maybe, I don't know, our normal Sunday school classes or the traditional ways of reading scriptures have just kind of watered things down and made it feel less vibrant. And also as we engage in this workshop we're going to continually strive for shaping a more equitable world for all. So we really hope that you will follow either the link in our bio on Instagram, or visit us on our website and register for a ticket. We're so excited for this workshop and we really hope to see you in person.

Channing: [00:04:11] So as we move into the content for this week's chapter, and this week's episode, we move into section 88 and this is one seriously mega section. It's something like 120 verses. It's very, very long and contained in this chapter there are lots of details about God's majesty and power, which includes some really lovely lines and some important clarification about the three degrees of glory that we find in the Plan of Salvation. And the section also says that God and Christ are in all things. And this was something that was really important to both Elise and I, because it showcased that there's a lot of autonomy and a lot of agency, as far as what, you know, kingdom of glory you ultimately arrive in.

[00:05:02] It was really beautiful to see that God is in the sun and God is in the moon and God is in the stars. We also receive a lot of clarification about the heavenly kingdoms being a place to, in verse 32, “return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive.” Also in this chapter, we find the lovely parable about God visiting each of their labors at different hours in the day. And we find some really incredible verses about the body and the mind and the soul all being one together, which is something that just really fascinates both of us. And so after this little bit of clarification and expansion on the original revelation of the plan of salvation, we also learn about the development of the School of the Prophets. And that kind of brings us to our conversation which is going to be the bulk of our episode today. And we're going to cover a lot of topics, but they all fall under the umbrella of education, gender roles, and stay-at-home moms and homemaking. And we're so excited to share this episode with you, but before we get into it, we just want to remind all of our listeners that feminism is for everyone. And at the heart of feminism is the freedom to choose. And so we're not critiquing, like, we just want to be really clear from the get-go. This episode is not a critique of motherhood. This is not a critique of those who choose to be working moms or stay at home moms.

[00:06:34] This is a conversation about systems. Because we recognize that women continually always do their best and always make the best choices for them and their families with the circumstances and availability that they're given. So we just want to say that from the get-go, that we honor all women and all of their choices.

Elise: [00:06:55] I think maybe before we jump into motherhood and homemaking, I actually want to talk a little bit about the school for the prophets and just a bit of context from Revelations in Context. In section 88, the Lord talks about how the elders should be “prepared in all things when I shall send you again to testify and to warn the people of the earth.” And this revelation, section 88, really commands church members to organize themselves and to teach one another and to build a house of God.

[00:07:23] So then, acting on this revelation, the saints began to establish a School for the Prophets in Kirtland. And even though both men and women attended the very first organization of the School for the Prophets, the school itself was, I'm sure you can guess, reserved for men ordained to the priesthood only. This revelation also outlined some specific instructions for, like, the curriculum at this school, which was to include both religious and secular topics.

[00:07:51] Students were supposed to become really well versed in the theory, principle, doctrine and law of the gospel, but they were also supposed to learn about the earth itself, what was above it and on it and under it. They were to also learn the history and current events with perspective on the future through prophetic revelation.

[00:08:08] All in all, the school for the profits was supposed to be a place where these men could come and learn from an appointed teacher, but where they could also participate and learn from one another. And perhaps if you know anything about Channing or I, you know that we actually really love studying. We really love school. We really love research. And so to see this, kind of, what would appear to be a more secular topic show up in the scriptures and one that's so focused on studying and learning and teaching, those are, I mean, that absolutely stuck out to us. And we're like, “we have to talk about this!” And that paired with our obvious feminist lens, we see a really strict exclusion of women. And we wanted to talk a little bit about that. Maybe one of the first questions I asked myself is why should or do women care about spiritual education? And remember the School for the Prophets was a place for both spiritual education, but also secular education.

[00:09:03] So why should it matter? Or why does it matter if women were educated in these spiritual and secular things? I think for a few reasons, and many of these come from my own experience, I think just like men, women feel connected and called to God and called to spirituality. So why wouldn't they want to learn and study that more?

[00:09:23] Also women are part of the people of God and their perspectives have been disregarded for so long. Spirituality affects women just as much as it affects men. Maybe some of these women would be interested in spiritual education in order to find a community. And maybe women would care about spiritual education because they were asking questions and seeking answers to some of life's most existential questions.

Channing: [00:09:51] I think you highlighted really well, Elise, why women really do care about spiritual education. And I think another question that we could ask is what are the risks of excluding women from biblical studies, from theological education, or from spiritual schooling? And I think that there's a couple of answers.

[00:10:09] The first might be that there's a lack of marginalized perspective in theological developments. And we see this continue, like, we see this pop-up in a lot of different ways, right? Like through liberation theology, through womanist theology, and even through feminist theology. Another risk that we might come up against is that if we only ever include one perspective from one group of people, what ends up happening is that theology begins to develop in an echo chamber and everyone just kind of supports and upholds what they believe is true, even though that perspective is only coming from a very limited and exclusive viewpoint.

[00:10:54] Another risk might be that there's an emphasis on “correct interpretations of scripture” versus an imagination or a poetic or story lens to scripture and to history. And in this way, we create a more fundamentalist theology rather than one that's creative and inclusive and imagines a better and brighter future.

[00:11:21] And finally, probably one of the biggest risks that comes from excluding women is that God becomes more like men and God becomes made in their image and their image only. It's like that quote from Mary Daly that we use pretty often here on the podcast: “When God is male, male is God”. And I think that that's, yeah, these are just, this is just like a small handful, right? Of what some of the risks or downsides are of not including women in theological study. 

 Elise: [00:11:55] Absolutely. And this is something that I'm really passionate about because I believe everyone who feels called to learn, ask, study and explore more about faith, spirituality, religion should be given equal opportunity to do so and equitable resources and support to study the work of feminist theology, which is like a feminist study of God is literally what I am obsessed with doing. That's why we have a podcast. That's why we're doing this Soft Chairs Workshop. I just feel this insatiable hunger to learn about God, to learn about how to love radically, to learn about how to be hospitable instead of hostile, to learn how to care for the least of these. And then I also want to get my whole butt handed to me when God flips the whole thing on its head and says, “Wait, wait, wait, everything that you thought that you knew you actually don't know because the first shall be last.”

[00:12:48] I love this whole journey and my faith, not in the church, not in the gospel, but my faith as this kind of constant risk and creative exploration of finding and enacting love is a really fundamental element of my being. Studying the scriptures, teaching, talking story-telling, critiquing, and celebrating are all part of what it means to me to be holy, which is to say wholly at one with my God. And really, not to, like, toot our own horns, but our words and our work have value.

[00:13:21] It matters to me that we have a diverse and varied perspective and interpretations of the scriptures. There will be no liberation without the voices of the marginalized who can see God so vividly. Just imagine what we could learn from each other if everyone was invited and supported in their own theological study, in their own personal search for God.

[00:13:42] Imagine that instead of this really, like, brotherly, masculine, patriarchal greeting that the men shared when they entered into the exclusive School of the Prophets- mind you, as they left their wives and partners at home to tend to all matters of home and child life- instead of that greeting, what if all were invited and welcomed with a different greeting?

[00:14:02] One that, instead of saying, like in section 88, verse 1 33 “art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, and a determination that is fixed and movable and unchangeable to be your friend and brother through the grace of God and the bonds of love.

[00:14:25] To walk in all the commandments of God, blameless and thanksgiving forever and ever. Amen.” Instead of that greeting, what if in this re-imagined school that is open for everyone to study and learn, what if the greeting was something more like, “art thou a student or a learner? I welcome you in the name of our God and promise to remember my covenant to see you as my equal, my colleague, my fellow, my friend, in a way that extends even beyond this schooling.

[00:14:53] I will be your friend and student through the grace of God in the bonds of love and will walk with you wherever this faith journey may lead, always moving from a place of thanks forever and ever. Amen.

Channing: [00:15:05] Mm that's so beautiful.

Elise: [00:15:07] So different. And this is for me, it's one of the important parts of imagining something different, more equitable, and perhaps even sweeter. Because this school that we're imagining can look like anything. This theological study that's open to everyone can look like anything. And in no way am I saying that everyone has to learn and study like I do. Do it however you want, because we need your voices. We need your art. We need your prayers and your poems. We need your dances and your cries. We need your pain and your hope. We need it and God is big enough for all of it.

Channing: [00:15:44]Elise, I love that beautiful re-imagining that you offered us of this really radically welcoming and open school that's available to everyone, everyone who feels a call to learn about God or learn about the world, or just learn in general.

[00:16:02] And you're right. Education is kind of at the heart of our friendship and at the heart of the work that we do here on the podcast. And it's something that you and I both approach in very different ways because our life circumstances are different. I think that our lived experience and our life experience definitely is lending to the perspective that we're bringing to this week's chapters, because for those of you who don't know Elise is, like, very formally educated. She teaches courses at ASU. She has her master's degree in communications. Like, this girl knows her stuff. And for me, I'm a stay-at-home mom and I love learning. I stay up until way past my bedtime reading really snooze-fest, scholarly articles on feminist theology.

[00:16:54] And I know my stuff. And it's two very different approaches to education, but at the heart of it is a really deep passion to learn. And I think that this perspective leads us really well into the next section of the podcast, which is talking about stay-at-home motherhood and this really exists in contrast to the School of the Prophets.

[00:17:16] And even when we were having a conversation before we got onto record, Elise and I were discussing that, you know, the church has its own school for teaching theology and it's the seminary, CES. And CES, for those of you who don't know, actually has a policy that women can become seminary teachers, and they can teach seminary unless they have kids.

[00:17:44] And the moment that these women have children, they are no longer allowed to teach seminary. And I think that that's an important thing to keep in mind as we study and imagine a School of the Prophets that is radically open and welcoming because in order for it to be, that means that it also has to be accessible for all people in all stages of life.

[00:18:07] And so today we wanted to examine a little bit further motherhood, homemaking, and all of the things that make it possible for the world to continue turning and for the School as a Prophets to even exist.

Elise: [00:18:22] The verse that stood out to us is verse 119 that says, “Organize yourselves, prepare every need, full thing, and establish a house even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” And I know that this is only one verse, but really the main idea to us seems to be homemaking. And what does it mean to make, to organize, to repair and to establish a home.

[00:18:48] And this is no surprise that for many, many years., and I would argue this rhetoric still continues even today, women's primary duty or realm or role has been in the home. 

Channing: [00:18:59] Yeah, I think you're totally onto something there because you're right in the church, even still today, it is pretty assumed that the home is the workplace of women. And I think in this chapter, we actually have a really lovely acknowledgement and a really good nod to the homemaking work of women. But before we can offer a loving interpretation of this text, we absolutely have to offer a critique of it first. And I think that it's really interesting to see these two concepts side-by-side, right? This verse about establishing a house of order about homemaking and then, like, literally the right next thing in the chapter is talking about the establishment of the School of the Prophets. And so we come across right here in the text what we felt was a subtle entry point to the discussion on gender roles, on women's work, and about freedom and choice.

[00:19:58] But really quick before we get into that, I did want to acknowledge just really quick, because I know that there will be some people who might feel frustrated that I didn't mention this, that we do recognize that the concept of the house reference in this text is actually referring to the church at large.

[00:20:16] And we do also want to acknowledge that there is no explicit mention of women being in this or any home, or any explicit distinction of gender roles within the text, however, the interpretation we offer here is rooted in lived experience within the church and the text acts as an entry point for discussion about the language we use around the home and the church, and therefore about the men and the women in those perceived spheres.

[00:20:45] And so like we've mentioned earlier, we really strongly felt that these verses referring to the home spoke to the magic of stay at home motherhood. But we recognize that motherhood is intimately entwined with strict gender roles in the church. And we cannot offer a liberating or loving reading of the text until we take a closer look at the expectations of women in the church.

[00:21:07] It's no secret, just like Elise said, that in the church, it's claimed that the highest honor a woman can hold is motherhood. But even within that honor, a hierarchy of goodness exists. It's not only expected that a woman reached her full potential through bearing children, but that her motherhood must look a certain way in order to truly magnify this calling.

[00:21:31] For example, a good LDS mom births her own children. Ideally, she has more than one child and, for sure, she definitely stays home with those children. And I imagine even this extends her motherhood into grandmotherhood, which is always perpetually involved in the raising of children. I want to ask the question why such a big focus on motherhood? And I think that there's two reasons for this. First, I think that we've made the mistake in the church that we equate motherhood with priesthood. And like, of course, because priesthood is such a big focus in the church, I don't think that it was done with ill intent. Right?

[00:22:15] But I definitely think that it was done with an unconscious bias that we say, “well, women are mothers and motherhood is equal to priesthood.” And I think we see that play out, even in this section where men are attending the School of the Prophets, which is like, basically, a bro club for people who want to learn about God.

[00:22:39] Well, like you said, all of the women are at home caring for the children.

Elise: [00:22:43] Yes. To back that up, I actually found this great quote from Caroline Klein who wrote that, “because of this equation of motherhood and priesthood, the word mother has become a kind of sacred title like Elder or Bishop. Through application of the title “Mother” Mormon women are named out of the priesthood. In this way, the equation serves as a distraction from the real situation that women are excluded from leadership structures in the church.”

Channing: [00:23:09] Yeah. Caroline, get it. You have to keep that part in the podcast link. Get it! Because she's absolutely right. This equation between motherhood and priesthood, it basically absolves men of their responsibility to fully equality.

[00:23:25] That's exactly what it does. It obscures it. Love it. She totally nailed it. Yeah. I think another reason why motherhood takes kind of a center stage when we're talking about the conversation of women in the church, I think the other thing that comes up there is really strict gender roles.

[00:23:48] And I think we see this play out, especially in The Family: a Proclamation to the World, which kind of explicitly states that women's responsibility is to nurture and men's responsibility is to provide. And this is kind of based in the assumption that women are just naturally better at nurturing and men are just naturally better at providing, whatever that means.


Elise: [00:24:14] I'm glad that you pulled up the idea of gender roles. And just a quick refresher gender roles are the expectations a culture or a society places on you because of the sex that you're assigned at birth, which also brings us to something called essentializing. And when we essentialize, this is when we reduce something to its essential characteristics, which are then presumed to be innate or unchangeable.

[00:24:39] Julia T Wood writes, “To essentialize the sexes is to imply that all women are alike in basic respects, that all men are alike in basic respects, and that the two sexes are distinct from each other because of fundamental, essential qualities. I think that with the pairing of gender roles and this idea of essentializing, we can see the breakdown that happens with men and women.

[00:25:02] Can you see how sex and gender become fused into one innate and unchangeable thing as if, because I'm born with the certain hormones and chromosomes and genitalia and assigned female at birth, then therefore I'm automatically perceived as a woman. I will essentially, because of some genetic DNA makeup, be more nurturing, more caring, more compassionate, closer to The Spirit, more soft-spoken, more peaceable and therefore more fit to fulfill my divine role and destiny as a mother.

[00:25:37] And this division or separation between men's roles and women's roles wasn't even always in existence. Julia T. Wood writes that before the industrial revolution, which was like 1760 to 1840, men and women worked together to raise crops and run businesses. And both sexes were involved in homemaking and child rearing the industrial revolution gave rise to factories and paid labor outside the.

[00:26:03] With this came a division of life into separate spheres of work and home. As men took jobs outside the home, masculinity was redefined as earning income. As women increasingly assumed responsibility for family life femininity was redefined as nurturing and making a good home. And just a side caveat. This is absolutely speaking about white men and white women.

[00:26:28] And to echo some of what you were saying at the beginning of the section, I want to be really clear that I'm not critiquing mothers or motherhood. I'm being critical of the singular one-dimensional path, given to many women, especially women in the church. This path looks like: get married, have kids. Your family is what will bring you so much joy and complete total fulfillment. You were made for motherhood, not just birthing children, but made for nurturing them. And this is your one singular divine destiny.

Channing: [00:26:59] Yeah. I can really speak to that for sure, because that is the story that I was told my whole life growing up. And before I share my story and before I talk about what my experience has been with this. There is kind of an underlying theme that I want to share with you. And that's the theme of freedom of choice. And I went to lunch with a friend. Her name is Colette, and I really, really appreciated during our conversation. She shared something with me that's kind of reframed my entire perspective on what my life experience has been so far. The question that she asked was, “If you didn't feel like you had a choice, did you really have a choice?” And while I recognize that of course, I do make my own choices in life and I am accountable and I am responsible for the consequences of those choices.

[00:27:54] I also recognize that stories and language have power. They have creative power to shape our lives, and that definitely shaped my experience. And so I just want us to remember this question: If you didn't feel like you had a choice, did you really have a choice? As you kind of listened to this experience.

[00:28:15] So I grew up in the church and starting from a very young age, I was often told the story about other churches, believing that if a child died before being baptized, they would go to. Luckily for me, I was in a church that had a work around for that. And they told me that if I died before being baptized, I didn't have to worry because I would only have to go to spirit prison until someone was baptized by proxy for me.

[00:28:43] Then if I chose to accept the baptism work, I could go to heaven. If I chose not to, I would go to outer darkness. And so in my eight year old mind and in my 30 year old mind, I don't really hear freedom of choice in my options; either I chose to be baptized or someone else would do it for me.

[00:29:07] And if I chose neither, I would go to hell. For an eight year old whose priority was family, because that's who I was told would take care of me, I got baptized. As I grew older more than I heard encouragement to attend school or get good grades, I heard that my highest calling from God was to be a mother. As a person who has shaped her entire life over what she thinks God wants her to do, that was my highest priority. And so I didn't care about what grades. I didn't care about which school I went to for college. And even when I got to college, I didn't care much about grades again, because I went to school for my “MRS” degree. And for those of you who don't live in Utah, your “MRS” degree is your Mrs degree.

[00:29:56] And this meant that my highest priority was to find a husband, which I did. And I was married at 19 years. When I was taking out my endowment, I went through the temple for the first time. This meant that I had a vague idea of what I would be experiencing, but no real concept of what promises or rituals I would be participating in. At the beginning of the ceremony, I was given one final chance to leave the building before the ritual began.

[00:30:23] If I chose to stay, I was eternally obligated to the covenants I was about to make. Well, I was in there with a bag full of ritual clothing, a pink piece of paper pinned on my brand new temple dress. And the room was full of my parents, extended family, ward members, my husband's family, and my husband who had already been through this entire process.

[00:30:46] And most importantly, I had to receive my endowment if I wanted to be married. So again: Did I really have a choice if I didn't feel I had a choice? If I wanted to be a good girl and do what God asked of me, which was to be married in the temple and have children, did I have another choice? And so I went through with the endowment and I got married and for a while, being married was good enough. But I wasn't married for very long before people started asking me when I was going to start having kids.

[00:31:19] And. In my not-yet-fully-formed 22-year-old brain, I mistook this anxiety for me to conform to expectations- I mistook it for God's will in my life. And so my partner and I began trying for children. It took us 18 months to get pregnant with our first. And she was born three months into my partner's rigorous doctorate program and three years later, my second was born. And again, I want to make it really clear that I recognize that the choice to have children was mine. No one forced me to make a baby or two. With each pregnancy, I was excited to welcome a child in the world, and I am really, really thankful for my kids. I did not go into motherhood with anything but the best intentions and the most generous understanding of mother.

[00:32:09] But I also have to recognize that my choice was not made independent of pressures and expectations from within the church. I had both of my kids before I turned 25. What I will never understand is how confident I felt in my ability to be a mother when my brain was still not done growing. I had no degree. I had no income because my partner was still in school and I had no real way of providing for a child. And with all of these circumstances, I brought not one but two babies into the world. And literally every LDS woman I knew at the time was doing the exact same thing: having babies and staying home with them while our partners were in school.

[00:32:53] How did we survive? How did any of us care for ourselves and those kids? Well, food stamps and Medicaid. In fact, most of the young mothers I know personally have all relied on some form of government assistance at some point to care for their children. And so my question with this experience that I share with you about my own journey into motherhood, the question that I have is: why? Why was I so hell bent on having kids and staying home?

[00:33:22] And my question again, that one that I'm always coming back to is, “If I felt like I didn't have a choice, did I really have a choice?” And really soon after the birth of my second child I experienced really intense postpartum depression and OCD. And it was this experience with a debilitating and life-threatening illness that gave me the courage to look into the expectations set forth by the church.

[00:33:47] And for the first time say no. Sad in another way, it took a life-threatening illness to wake me up to the realization that the expectations put on my body, my heart, and my mind to have, and raise children were literally killing me. And what was so heartbreaking about this experience is that I had been promised from the very beginning something very specific: that if I got married in the temple and I had children and I stayed home with them, that I would be living the way God wanted me to.

[00:34:23] “Sure, it won't be easy,” people said, “But it would be worth it.” And yet here I was with my body, still healing from childbirth, my breasts constantly engorged with milk, and I was alone with my kids all the time while my partner was working. And all I wanted to do was disappear and all he wanted to do was die.

[00:34:48] And I couldn't help but ask the question: Was this the “worth it” part of the equation? Was this really what God wanted for me? Did God really want me to sacrifice to my family so much that it was more appealing for me to disappear than it was for me to live another day as a stay at home mom? And I recognize that this is extreme. I know that not every woman experiences stay at home motherhood like this, but I do know in my work on the podcast and in my individual sphere, that loneliness and motherhood is a real thing. Not all moms share my experience and hopefully not to the same extent, but the same underlying problems are there.

[00:35:28] And while I recognize that not all Mormon mothers' experiences will look like mine, I share this because I think it showcases really well some of the challenges that a lot of stay-at-home moms face. Those include little to no support. If we do get support, a lot of it comes from other, stay-at-home moms with same-age kids. And unfortunately, they're just as tired as we are. For stay at home moms, there's really no time away from our kids. It's a 24/7 job. And on top of the actual, real hard work of taking care of children, it's often added responsibilities of being the home taker, the caretaker of the home: cleaning and cooking and, you know, cleaning and cooking. That's literally what it is. Because most people assume that because women don't work when they stay at home, that they should be working at home. And it's all of this emotional and mental labor of childcare and house taking and homework. That really began to take a toll on stay-at-home moms.

[00:36:36] And I'm also hoping too, Elise, that you can kind of offer your perspective and your thoughts as well.

Elise: [00:36:43] I think so many women are going to resonate with your experience here, and I'm not a stay-at-home mom, but I know this story too because it's been fed and given and laid out as the story that all women in the church should follow.

[00:36:58] And I think here we can see a system at play. Systems try and make it really, really easy for people to make choices without any type of resistance. And I think we have a system of patriarchy, maybe even one of benevolent patriarchy showing up here that says, “Men and women, you are inherently different. And because of that, women, you should make these choices and fall in line with these expectations that are given to you, not just by the church, but also by a very traditional Christian society at large. Where you should be able to step into your motherhood fully.”

[00:37:40] And that's a path of least resistance. It's a path that is like one of those moving escalators that you get on at the airport. If you align yourself and you really don't push back or don't try and actively walk backwards on that moving escalator, you'll find yourself on the path that was laid out for you.

[00:37:59] The other thing that I'm thinking is that we can hold so many tensions within. We can both love our children and love being their moms specifically, and still feel dissatisfied. We can both own the choice that we made to be a stay at home mom and also feel like this isn't all that you are, or that this isn't your fullest element that fulfills you. You can experience those things simultaneously. And so I think that as people are listening, if you're feeling this tension bubble up inside you of, like, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to give up my kids. I don't actually want to stop being their mom. I actually love these tender moments that I have with them. And I really love all of these elements of homemaking.” You can absolutely still feel. And you can also have moments where you feel resentful and bitter and dissatisfied, and you can also have a fear that comes up that says, “wait, what? What about my dreams? I didn't realize that when I was getting on this moving escalator to motherhood that some of my dreams would be left behind. Of course, I got to move into this dream and story of motherhood that was laid out for me. But what about my other dreams of becoming a chef or  being an artist or traveling the world?” And again, it doesn't mean that moms can't do all of those things. It simply means that motherhood is incredibly demanding, incredibly taxing, and the work of motherhood is absolutely undervalued.

[00:39:40] You'll hear a lot of feminists talk about “the second shift” which is where a woman will stay at home with the kids all day and care for them as their partner’s at work. And then their partner comes home and their partner is so tired from the day that the partner just wants to, like, relax and have dinner and watch TV and get to have playful time with the children.

[00:39:56] But that's when the woman's second shift kicks in. Where after working a full day homemaking with the kids, you are now working a second shift where you are responsible for dinnertime, bathtime, bedtime, clean up. And all of that is just seen as kind of what you're supposed to do, what you're naturally good at doing. And the work is undervalued.

Channing: [00:40:22] Again, just coming back to the text and coming back to this chapter, like at the heart of the church is the rhetoric that the home is sacred and the family is sacred. Okay. Really the home and the hearth and the family should belong to everyone. But the expectation currently is just like you said, that women build the home.

Elise: [00:40:48] Well, the expectation is that women build, prepare, organize, maintain, clean upkeep, the home and the kids on their own 24/7.

Channing: [00:40:56] Right. Exactly. With zero support at all. And that's not the way that it is meant to be. And that's not even the way that it always has been. Just like you shared with that quote from Woods.

[00:41:06] Like, it has not always been this way. In fact families weren't designed to be this way. I've been reading a lot of research from Federici and she talks about how, even before the 17th and 18th century, families were together all of the time and men and women worked side by side, doing all of the home-caring and child-rearing roles together side-by-side and even outside of that, there were community spaces where children and childcare and cooking and caring for the fields and taking care of a community was done together, not even just in these individual family units, but as a community, as a whole. And so this idea that one woman be solely responsible for one family's children is actually a very novel development. And that's why I feel confident in critiquing it because it's obviously not working. And I think that the church has done its members a grand disservice, because they've made a distinction between the two spheres. They’ve said, “okay, well, women, because of your essential nature of nurturing you belong in the home. And men because of your essential nature of leadership and calling to God, then your sphere is in the church.”

[00:42:43] And they've kind of made the distinction between the two and kind of fallen into the ways of the world where, you know, basically like church is work. So men are doing the work and instead of really making the home and the family at the heart of our church's theology, what they've done is actually are continually taking men away from the family. Like even think about callings in the church. Who spends more time away from the kids?

[00:43:12] It's men, because they are having to perform their church callings. They're having lots of priesthood meetings. They're doing lots of activities for the church together in a brotherhood, all the while their wives are at home taking care of the kids. 

Elise: [00:43:30] Another thing that I'm thinking about in regards to families and homemaking and motherhood is that this idea that is, or this story that has given to us from the church and from like traditional Christian society, really only speaks to a very particular type of family that looks like white middle class able-bodied families. Right?

Channing:  Yep. 

Elise: [00:43:55] What it doesn't include and doesn't speak are: What about all of the working class moms who can't afford to stay home? Or what about immigrant families that are separated from their children at the border? What about families without moms, families with many moms. What about families with moms in prison or families with moms in hospitals? What about moms with mental illness and disabilities? Adoptive moms or empty-nesters?

[00:44:17] There are so many, and I think I'm just saying this because one, I think there's a critique that we could make here, but also that this idea and story of motherhood can be so much more than the story that we're given right now. And I think that's one of the things that I feel really disappointed in, is that this story of motherhood, which is valuable, it's an absolutely loving and necessary labor of love, absolutely. But the story has been really watered down, really confined and really, really limiting. Instead of something that looks more communal and shared that comes with support that comes with value that comes with recognition. Those are the types of things, at least I think from the outside looking in, that could really change the story of motherhood, perhaps.

Channing: [00:45:05] Yeah. And I think you really get to the heart of what the critique here is: the critique isn't about mothers and it isn't about motherhood and it isn't about having children. It's about motherhood being an all-consuming role and having no support. And if we could just reimagine motherhood to include that village- and moms are going to know exactly what I'm talking about- that village of people who can come in and help and support.

[00:45:43] So that women can be more than mothers, right? That's the whole point because women are more than mothers. Like the truth is that early child care, like in the very early years, it's a lot of physical labor and the truth is that anyone can do it. Anyone can change a diaper. Anyone can read a bedtime story.

[00:46:04] Anyone can drive the car and attend the parent teacher conferences. But women are more than mothers and women need freedom of choice to do the things that call to them. Feminism supports all of these women and supports all of their choices because at the heart of feminism is the power and the freedom to choose. How much better would our church and our society be if we were all truly free to follow our passion? How much better would the world be if we were truly allowed to follow our bliss? It would be amazing, but this requires the full dismantling of all of the systems that stand in our way of doing that. And I think you alluded to this really well, Elise, when you pointed out that this definition of motherhood and this definition of family, it only works for a very particular type of family, the white middle-class family, and this conversation about motherhood must examine all of the different ways and all of the different systems that we are participating in and that influence the sphere of choices that we believe that we have.

Elise: [00:47:13] Yes. And I think at the, perhaps, at the heart of this conversation is the desire to break open and expand the single story, the singular really limiting path of motherhood that is supposed to look a certain way.

[00:47:28] And that promises certain things that aren't always feeling. So maybe at the heart of this discussion is a desire to liberate women and all people from this very narrow caged-in understanding of what motherhood should be and what mothers should do, or what mothers have to do and have to be. And we want it to be bigger.

[00:47:48] We want it to be more supportive. We want women's labor outside and inside of the home to be seen as valuable. We want women to be seen as crucial contributors to building community and with enough support so that they don't have to feel like they're struggling and suffering in silence, in an isolating silence, or their only “duty and responsibility” is to sacrifice themselves for the goodness of their kids.

Channing: [00:48:19] Right. And going along with that too, ultimately, research show that it's better for kids if they have a wide support group and a network of trusted adults that they can rely on. No one person can be everything. That really goes for moms. Like we expect moms to be everything to their children when in reality that's never going to be how it is.

[00:48:46] We're all so incredibly limited in our own ways. And how much more beautiful could it be if we opened up the joy of parenting and the joy of raising children and the joy of their silly anecdotes at the dinner table and their exuberant energy> What if we shared that with the community? What if that was open and available to everyone and everyone participated in the raising of children, how much more healthy could our relationships be?

[00:49:18] How much more vibrant and alive could our relationships with each other, with our children, and our relationships with ourselves, how much more beautiful could it be?

Elise: [00:49:39] Friends, thank you so, so much for being here today. Everytime we have these conversations about the scriptures my mind is blown because out of 140 some verses, we probably chose maybe a handful of verses to focus on and look how much came up. This is to say that as you engage in your own study of the scriptures, as you listen to the podcast, as you share your ideas with other people, look how alive it can come for you.

Channing: [00:50:04] Thanks so much for joining us today for this conversation about motherhood, this conversation about the schools of the prophets, and learning and education. We love you. And we're so appreciative of all of you who left us fabulous iTunes reviews. Thank you so much. We can't wait to talk to you next week and we can't wait to see you at our soft chairs workshop. Love you. Bye!

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