Motherhood as a Millennial Mormon Housewife

Millennial Mormon housewifeI knew I had to tell Ryan Olaveson about my future plans when I could see that he might become part of them.

Those plans had been a roadblock with dating in the past. As a woman at BYU-Idaho, I’d encountered returned missionaries with the expectation that I was only at school as a formality, as a way to secure a backup plan if my husband’s career ever went sour.

That wasn’t the case for me, nor for most of the girls I knew. But it was enough of an issue in my mind that I knew I had to talk to Ryan about it.

When I told him that I wanted to do a lot of things with my life, including but not limited to being a stay-at-home-mother, I kind of braced myself.

And what do you know? He liked it.

Not a question of either/or

The whole motherhood-as-a-career-path thing was—and still is—very confusing to me. Prophets have warned about the dangers of mothers leaving the home. But those warnings came largely in the 1970s when “working” and “leaving the home” were synonymous. What about now? Now, when opportunities—as well as challenges—for women are the greatest?

I’ve studied carefully what prophets have said—and what they haven’t—about what mothers should be doing with their time. President Gordon B. Hinckley said “Teach your children when they are very young and small and never quit. As long as they are in your home, let them be your primary interest.” (emphasis added) The Family: A Proclamation to the World reads, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” (emphasis added again).

Even back in 1979, the message from prophets wasn’t that woman must stay home, vacuuming in high heels and pearls June Cleaver-style and doing nothing else. President Kimball said to women of the Church, “We understand further that as families are raised, the talents God has given you and blessed you with can often be put to effective use in additional service to mankind. Do not, however, make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Pray carefully over all your decisions.” (emphasis added again.)

As a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my first priority is to meet these primary obligations. But unlike my grandmother, who spent entire days doing laundry and dishes by hand, I have at least a few hours every day when the house is clean and the children are asleep. A time for secondary opportunities.

Millennial Mormon Housewives

Maybe this is why we see such great variety in the way we, Millennial Mormon housewives, spend our time. Our primary purposes are divinely appointed and prophetically emphasized. Our secondary purposes vary wildly.

I usually wake up before my children and go to sleep after them, squeezing writing time into the spare minutes between primary obligations. I write while my oldest is at preschool and my baby naps. I write sometimes when Daddy’s home and I have a second, or while the girls are playing. But when it’s time to feed, bathe, clothe, love or play with my sweet girls, work can wait.

I am “primarily responsible for the nurture of [my] children.” And “the talents God has given [me] and blessed [me] with can often be put to effective use in additional service to mankind.”

As I’ve gotten to know other young LDS mothers from across the country, the variety I’ve seen in the way we live is as diverse as we are. I have friends who work full-time, part-time and nap-time. Some work for pay; others as homemakers. I know there are Millennial Mormon housewives who run businesses and blogs and households, who raise boys, girls, and multiples. My friends are historians, nurses, nutritionists, and teachers.

These Millennial Mormon housewives are your Relief Society presidents and Young Women advisers and Primary teachers. They are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. They meet secondary and tertiary responsibilities with angelic zeal and a clear sense of priorities and purpose.

I’m convinced that President Gordon B. and Marjorie Pay Hinckley were Millennials disguised as members of the Greatest Generation, for President Hinckley told all of us Millennial Mormon housewives (back when we were Millennial Mormon teenagers) this about our husbands:

“What really matters is that he will love you, that he will respect you, that he will honor you, that he will be absolutely true to you, that he will give you freedom of expression and let you fly in the development of your own talents.”

Prophets understand the opportunities and blessings of womanhood in the 21st century. They know what is most important and what will bring the greatest joy. And they want us to fly.

 

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Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, among others. She writes about things she loves, like her family and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on her blog at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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