Yes, They Do–Mormon Men Marry (Aspiring) Doctors

by Naomi Watkins

“Do Mormon boys marry women who want to become doctors?” –A search engine question that brought someone to AMW.

I’m guessing that a young LDS woman with medical school aspirations typed this earnest question, looking for affirmation. And I really hope that her Internet search proved that YES! Yes, they do. But in case she didn’t find an affirmative answer to her question, I want to take a moment to sincerely and directly answer her and other young women who may similarly question.

***

Dear Young Aspiring (Mormon Woman) Doctor,

I was once you. I didn’t have medical school aspirations, but I did know in high school that I wanted to earn a graduate degree, and at age 25, I found myself guided into a PhD program because it’s what God wanted me to do. Like you, one of my initial worries about my PhD pursuit was, “How in the heck will I find a Mormon guy who isn’t intimidated by this?” Like you, I had internalized many of the messages from my youth: don’t be too accomplished or strong or ambitious because then no Mormon man will want you. And at that time, I could think of nothing worse than never marrying.

I never heard these messages at home, but I did hear them from some adults and from some of the boys I dated and even from some of my female friends. Like you, many of my friends were already married and having kids, and I wanted those things–sometimes more than that graduate degree. And like you, I really wondered if getting an advanced degree would mean that I would never marry and have a family–that this great, worthwhile educational pursuit, a pursuit that I knew God called me to do–would keep me from realizing some of my greatest desires. But I also didn’t believe that God worked this way. He doesn’t unmercifully punish us by forever withholding blessings because we have pursued great things. He is a God of abundance and opportunity!

One of the main reasons Aspiring Mormon Women exists is due to my personal experiences. I had very few models of LDS women who were strong and ambitious and who had advanced degrees AND who also were married and had families. I wanted and needed to know that this combination did exist–that I could be desired for who I was and not for who I might conform or diminish myself to be. I wanted a different reality for other women, especially for young women like you.

To my youthful credit, I didn’t allow these messages to dissuade me from earning a PhD.

But during my beginnings in graduate school, I did minimize this challenging pursuit, particularly with the men I dated. I initially told them that I was just a student and a teacher–all of which were the partial truth. Naturally, though, they would push for more specifics and eventually it would come out that I wasn’t just a student, but a PhD student. More often than not, I was surprised when they thought that my PhD was awesome! And if they didn’t, their response served as an easy way for me to know that they were not worth my time or me. I reached the conclusion that I needed to start offering the full me–my PhD and my ambition and my strength and my greatness. I decided that diminishing myself was a far worse state than forever singleness. Assuming that all Mormon men are not interested in ambitious women diminishes men.

I know many, many LDS men who married doctors and aspiring doctors. You can find these women doctors on the pages of this website, in our AMW community, and in stakes and wards and branches around the world.  I hope you found the models and examples that I sought at your age when your Internet search brought you here. I hope that these models provide you with hope and fortitude that your dreams and wishes are noble and worthwhile. Most importantly, I hope that you see that you are noble and divine and worthwhile–married or not.

I wish I could tell you for certain that you will marry and have children. I can’t tell you for certain that I will either–even after six years of being called “Doctor.” None of my relationships ended because I have a PhD; they ended because none of them were right.

But I do certainly know this–there are Mormon boys and men who will see and know that your aspirations and ambitions and strength and greatness are assets, who will support and encourage your goals and dreams. I know these men. And if you find a man who wants to marry you–and you him–he will marry you because of these characteristics, accomplishments, strengths, and potential. I also hope that you find these men to be your friends, your brothers, your uncles, your fathers, and your leaders.

And most importantly, I hope that you love your ambitions and strength and greatness–that you see them as God-given attributes and assets. “No woman can afford to demean herself, to belittle herself, to downgrade her abilities or her capacities. Let each be faithful to the great, divine attributes that are within her.”

I know you are great, and I know you will accomplish great things!

Embrace your AND.

Love,

Naomi

 

A few examples here: an internal medicine physician, a current medical student , an anesthesiologist, an emergency medical physician and Mormon Women in Medicine.

10 Comments on “Yes, They Do–Mormon Men Marry (Aspiring) Doctors

  1. Thank you!!! There are so many things I love about this post! I don’t have an MD or even a graduate degree, but I’m smart and I have a career. I truly believe that my husband (who I married at age 36) loves me for those attributes, and not in spite of them. To my college roommate who told me that I needed to dumb myself down in order to date, I still say “No!”

    When I was growing up, my Young Women leaders were stay at home moms who hadn’t pursued a lot of education. But then and now, I look around my ward and see women who are medical doctors and PhD candidates and attorneys, while having a family. They’re not the majority, but they’re there. I hope that the aspiring young women look to these sisters as role models.

  2. Beautifully and intelligently written article Naomi! I love the encouragement I find at AMW through these kinds of personal essays. The wisdom shared here is so valuable, thanks for this post and organization! I do have a family and a husband who was very much attracted to my intelligence and ambitions and has always supported my various attempts to “have it all”, even the times when I wanted our family life to be “everything” for a season. I hope with you that more LDS women and men can confidently envision a life that includes education AND professional/vocational goals AND family AND whatever else will help us all thrive as individuals, partners, families, church AND non-church communities.

  3. I was never encouraged to not accomplish everything I could at home and church. My best friend from my home ward growing up had a Ph’D and a child before I had children. My female ward friends were all highly accomplished and our mothers were stay at home moms because it was culturally the norm. I’m confident we all graduated from college. My mother is and was a businesswoman who also stayed at home. She is now in her late seventies and still works. The chance to marry is a numbers game. If you are in Utah where the eligible women outnumber the men, then you may struggle. If you go far away from “Zion” then there just may not be enough “numbers” . Also, you marry someone from the circles you roll in. It is a fact that after a certain age the eligible LDS men dwindle significantly in numbers. My brother is in that age category where there are highly accomplished women and no eligible men.He has major mental illness so he chooses not to date. After a certain age, previously married people are also more likely to couple up and get the available people because they obviously put out the vibe of wanting to be in a relationship.

    • J,
      How fortunate that you had so many models of highly accomplished LDS married women in your life growing up. And, yes, marriage is a numbers game, which means that women often look for a competitive edge when there’s a scarcity of men. I would hate to think that young women would diminish themselves believing that doing so would make them better marriage contenders.

  4. Yes. Yes they do. I’m currently a Resident Physician and my wonderful husband has been beside me through the entire process. He encouraged me in my decision to become a physician and never complains. He raises the babies and is even in the bishopric.

  5. And, importantly, DO NOT LET YOUR AMBITIONS BE SHAPED BY OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS. You may get married. You may not. It will probably not have anything to do with whether or not you’re a doctor. I have pursued the path God put me on, and I have not gotten married, and I know it’s not because of my ambitions. It’s because I haven’t met the right man. And it’s frustrating and hard sometimes, but a lot of women who HAVE met the right man are far more frustrated and have it even harder than I do. Life is a lot of ANDs. Nothing is or will be perfect. It will be hard AND good AND sad AND frustrating AND sometimes fulfilling, regardless of your achievements or positions or relationships.

  6. Very nice piece. Amen. I am a Mormon woman doctor (internal medicine). It turns out that telling Mormon men that you are going to medical school is a great strategy for sifting some out. Why would anyone consider marrying someone who did not support his/her dream? At a local NAACP scholarship banquet a few years ago, I heard a speaker say, “Don’t share your dreams with people who won’t help you achieve.” True enough.

    I am married to a wonderful man who never thought that I shouldn’t go to medical school. Or run for our local school board. Or have 5 children together. Or run a marathon. It’s not about medical school or becoming a doctor. It’s about sharing your life with someone who wants you to do the things you enjoy and offering that person the same freedom and support.

  7. Bravo, Naomi! Your comments and articles never disappoint.

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