This week in my religions class we've been learning a lot about how families "should" work. It's been really interesting to read the quotes from prophets and apostles and to think about how negatively they would be accepted by most people today, but how I've seen in my own life how true they are.
For example, President Ezra Taft Benson said that fathers "have a sacred responsibility to provide for the material needs of [their] family." He followed up this statement by further admonishing men to work to support their families, and not to expect or require their wives to. Here's what he said, "In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter."
This is an extremely unpopular view today. By and large, men expect their wives to contribute to the household monetarily, and many women advocate for the "freedom" they experience by working outside the home. Many seem to feel that this new "norm" is an improvement over the time-tested and honored organization of a working father and stay-at-home mom. However, President Harold B. Lee taught, “the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home." In my own opinion, the work that a woman can do in the home is of far greater value than any amount of income or self-fulfillment she may receive outside the home.
I'm not just basing my opinion on the statements of some long-dead patriarchs of the church. I've experienced both sides of the argument in my life. My mom was, by my father's urging, required to work outside the home. My siblings and I missed having her at home. We needed the love, time, care, teaching, and nurture of our mother. There were many, many incidents that happened that likely would not have if she had been able to be home with us. My mom did the best she could, but it's impossible for a mother to give 100% to her children when she is at work 80% of the time that they're awake.
Contrast this with the blessing that I had of being able to be a stay-at-home mom with my own daughter. There were a few times in my marriage when disability or other needs necessitated my working outside the home, but by and large I was able to be home to take care of my child. I was able to spend a lot of quality time teaching, playing, and nurturing my daughter. I'm nowhere close to a perfect mom, but my daughter has made it clear to me that she appreciates that I "gave up" those years when I could have been working and spent them instead on helping her to grow and to feel loved. No amount of monetary compensation could have been worth more than the time we spent together.
My own experience, and that of many other adults and children I've known, confirm to me that a woman's place is in the home, not as a limitation on her, but as the most profound and rewarding growth experience that not only she, but also her children, will have.
I know not all women will have that option, and that there are many who do a great job raising their children while also working, and I salute them. They are doing the work of two or more people, and those who are able to successfully raise and teach their children while doing so generally have a lot of heavenly help and are amazing (albeit ultra tired) women. God bless the fathers and mothers, the husbands and wives, and the children who are all doing their best to love Him and to love each other.