At the end of last year I wrote a post entitled Three Things I Wish I Could Say to Every LDS Young Woman. The audience I had in mind when I wrote that post was young women who did not yet have children and/or were not married. I hoped to encourage them to set educational and career goals and to not preemptively close doors on opportunities based on assumptions about when and how marriage and motherhood would be part of their lives.
In the subsequent months I’ve been thinking about what I would like LDS men to know about how we women feel about education, career, and our (potential) roles as women, wives, and mothers. I queried a number of my female friends on this topic, and I was amazed –and yet not exactly surprised – at how similar their thoughts were. These are thoughts from single women to single men; however, I believe this information would be helpful to men of any age and marital status as they interact with the women in their lives.
Some men think that because a woman is studying engineering or applying to law school or working at a 60+ hour/week consulting job she is too focused on her career and must not be interested in being a mother. For the vast majority of us this simply isn’t true. More and more LDS women are remaining single through our twenties and into our thirties. We have time and talents and interests and plain old economic need to provide for ourselves. Focusing on education and building an interesting and successful career is something that we need and want to do in order to make the most of our lives and spend our time meaningfully. When the opportunity for marriage and motherhood comes, some of us would like nothing more than to be stay-at-home mothers while others of us intend to keep our ties to the professional world; however, these are decisions we plan to make jointly with our spouse and Heavenly Father. For now, we’re making the most of the time and opportunities that have been given to us.
We don’t start business school or move across the country for a job or take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans lightly. We know that these decisions have consequences that will affect our futures, and we’ve likely spent hours in prayer and fasting trying to decide how best to utilize our time, talents, and resources. A friend wrote, “When you dismiss my education and career, you are dismissing the personal revelation that I have received.” Trust that we have involved Heavenly Father in our decisions and are doing our best to follow His guidance.
“God gave me gifts for music, communication, learning, recognizing patterns, finding common ground, empathizing, cheering, comforting, organizing, leading, and teaching,” a friend explained. “The more I develop these talents, the better I am able to serve within my relationships, within the home, within the church, within my neighborhood, and within the wider community.” Our work is one of the means by which we gain skills and qualities that make us better women, sisters, wives, mothers, friends, daughters, citizens, and church members.
One friend wrote, “What I really wish is that men would ask me questions about my education, career, and aspirations. Ask me about what inspires me, why I enjoy what I do, how I deal with some of the challenges of my job. As of right now, I spend more waking hours being engaged in my job than any other activity. When you’re seeking to establish a friendship or romantic relationship with me, show interest in the work I do because that is a major focus of my life. That being said, do not assume that just because I invest an incredible amount of energy and effort toward being successful at my job that this is my only life goal or something that I value above getting married or having a family of my own.”
Don’t feel like you have to have everything in your life together before you can consider marriage. Sure, we want you to be working toward your own professional and personal goals, but also realize that we want to be your partner in achieving those goals. If you haven’t yet finished school or gotten your career going or put a bunch of money in the bank, that’s okay. What we really want from you is a commitment to honoring the priesthood and womanhood. We want someone who will be invested in creating and sustaining quality relationships between husband and wife, father and children. We have things to contribute, and we don’t see it as a weakness if you need to rely on us. We also want to rely on you. We may sometimes come across as independent, but what we really want is a relationship that is interdependent. Another friend wrote, “I know I can take care of myself, but don’t think there is anything weak in wanting a partner. Just because I can do it myself doesn’t mean I always want to…two is better than one.”
Above all, we ask that you to get to know us as individuals before you make assumptions. Assumptions “often feel like decisions being made for you. We all have an idea of the type of character we are looking for in a spouse, and that’s fine, but decisions about education, careers, and parenting should be made together once you are married.” Ask us about our goals, support us in our dreams, get to know why we’ve made the decisions that we have. One friend summed it up perfectly when she wrote that what women want from men is “to be loved and supported, to grow in all directions.”