Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Journal Flashback May 6th. 2001

This is the first of many, planned posts featuring things I wrote in my journals as a Mormon. I’m starting with the earliest stuff and working my way forward. I’m not going to bother editing the spelling and such because 1. I don’t feel like it and 2. it’ll give us all something to laugh about. Just FYI, all these journal entries were written in the form of prayers to “Heavenly Father.” Anything in {brackets} is added content for clarification.

Here’s the first excerpt:

That’s why we are told to live like Him {Jesus Christ}. You would never ask us to do something we can’t. It makes me feel better about myself. I don’t need to worry about whether I can do well at school and in my career. If I’m following my calling You wont let me fail.

The very first thing I noticed about this entry was that, at the time, I still was planning and looking forward to having a career. This entry was written very shortly after getting involved with the Mormon church. I still didn’t know a lot about “the Gospel” and I still held a lot of my own opinions and dreams. I hadn’t yet made the switch from a career mindset to the SAHM mindset. I guess I didn’t see, yet, that “my calling” would be a one-size-fit’s-all assignment, not some personalized path.

I wanted to go into show business. I started doing musical theatre when I was seven. I added competitive speech, drama club, glee club, etc. to my performing resume as I grew. My very last musical was the summer I wrote that journal entry. All the musicals I did were through the church I attended before becoming Mormon. I stopped auditioning for them as I became more wrapped up in Mormonism. I cannot begin to explain how much I regret that. I loved the stage. I miss it so, so much.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my daughter. And I love that I’m able to stay home with her instead of having someone else care for her and enjoy watching her grow. I would be heartbroken if I wasn’t the one with her all day, every day. But Mormonism is directly responsible for the young age at which we decided to start our family. And while there are definite perks to being a young mom, and while I would never, ever trade my baby girl for anything I’m also not blind to the things I’ve missed by becoming a mother so soon.

There are, of course, the financial implications. If I wasn’t caring for Lucy I could be working full-time and supporting Adam while he’s in pre-med instead of doing freelance digital illustration which nets me about $2 an hour on a good day, and 5 cents an hour on a bad day. Providing for Lucy would be a lot easier without all the student loans and with a decent savings. But, in the end, money isn’t everything. And we’re doing OK for now.

There are other things to consider, my love for the stage being one. If I could find a show to audition for I wouldn’t be able to do so. There isn’t a director anywhere who would be fine with a cast member interrupting rehearsals to breastfeed her baby. Besides, there just isn’t time for plays. Diaper changes, feeds, play time, chores, work…I have to sleep too. By the time I have time to audition for another show I can tell you this…I’ll be too old to have a chance of being cast in the lead.

The sad fact is that Mormonism tells young girls and young women that careers are merely a Plan B. Plan A is get married and have babies {preferably lots of them}. A degree is important, sure…so that if your husband dies or leaves you then you won’t starve. But your “divine role” as handed down by God Almighty Himself is to be a SAHM. The end.

What makes that teaching even more dangerous is that Mormonism also teaches that the people saying this stuff are speaking for God. It’s not just advice, or an opinion that you can disregard if it doesn’t jive with your own. It’s God’s will. There’s a mostly unspoken understanding within Mormonism that a woman who works outside the home is selfish, and “bad.” 

The expectations of when to have children and how many are, over time, changing. Many families can get away with having three kiddos instead of eight. And many couples, like us, wait a year, or two before procreating. But the pressure to do otherwise is still there. I dealt with guilt for using birth control from the time I was married until about two years later when we stopped. I was convinced I was denying some spirit in the pre-existence a place in my family and that I was a terrible person for it. And of course, a year or three before children doesn’t mean much when you’re also getting married at a young age. Because, even with the wait, you’re still really, friggin’ young.

I was barely 20 when I got married. Now I’m twenty-three. I can’t even rent a car without paying extra fees because the science indicates that my brain hasn’t finished “growing up” {the brain reaches full maturity around the age of twenty-five}. I love my daughter. I’m doing my best to do everything that is in her best interest. And, frankly, I think I’m doing a pretty great job. She certainly seems very happy and healthy so that’s gotta count for something right? So, in the end, for us, it’s worked out pretty well so far. But really, who thinks it’s a good idea to encourage women as young as 18 and 19 to get hitched and start a family? Before you’re grown up and before you have a chance to discover who you are and to just be that person for a while you’re suddenly responsible for this beautiful, wonderful, crazy, little person who can’t even wipe her own butt.

Would I have done things differently if it weren’t for Mormonism?


Would I change it now if I could?

Not on your life.