An Open Letter to the Graphics Director of the Ensign

The pictures accompanying this month’s cover story entitled “Strengthening Future Mothers” make my heart hurt.

First, let me say that this is an excellent and important article by Sister Tanner. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that for all of our rhetoric about mothers being in the home for their young children, we don’t talk as much as we need to about what exactly it is they can and should do to be better mothers once they are there. So I thank Sister Tanner for her reflections on the topic. But it is the importance of the topic that makes the photos accompanying it all the more unfortunate.

Note that Sister Tanner presents five main ideas that “we as parents and leaders must do for our young women.” Exactly one half of one idea (or, one tenth of her topic) concerns the physical acts of caring for a home. This is as it should be: while the Church should provide some basic level of instruction in these areas, let’s remember that if a woman needs basic domestic skills, there are plenty of secular resources out there (try here and here to start).

So why, then, do five out of six of the pictures portray young women and their mothers being domestic divas? Sister Tanner begins her article by decrying the fact that even within the Church there is sometimes the sentiment that motherhood is not a worthwhile goal for a young woman. I am firmly convinced that this sentiment is sometimes the result of the false perception that full-time motherhood is a euphemism for unpaid maid. This is not a career choice that will appeal to many. Most of our young women do not have their hearts set on putting their best efforts into preparing pot roasts, floral arrangements, ironing, reading grocery labels, or sewing (all of which are pictured here. I didn’t include the cover picture in my count: there, a young woman is sewing a button on a shirt). And who can blame them? I have no beef with women who enjoy these things, but they are not prerequisites for enjoying motherhood any more than the defining characteristic of a stockbroker is one who really digs spending two hours per day on the train. There is one picture in this article that isn’t objectionable (except that it is almost too small to see): a young woman is reading her Book of Mormon. Scripture study prepares a woman to be a mother.

For most women, the physical acts of housekeeping are the price to be paid (as a doctor perhaps would consider the keeping of charts or a young lawyer doing document review) for the perks of the profession. The very next piece in this Ensign is a wonderful depiction of those perks: this sweet story tells of a two-year-old asking her mommy to ‘play Church’ and teach her.

Now, that’s the kind of teaching that the Church should be doing because Martha Stewart can’t. Real preparation for motherhood, as Sister Tanner clearly teaches (but the graphics undermine) involves someone who shapes souls, not meatloaves. We prepare young women to be mothers by teaching them that motherhood is so much more than keeping house. I think of housework as something to get out of the way so that I can teach my children, play with my baby, and persue my personal interests. (I also see it as a teaching opportunity for my kids.) But it doesn’t define me.

The overemphasis on physical housekeeping as the defining elements of motherhood is demeaning to women and destructive. It suggests that these skills are the pinnacle of a woman’s attainment. But the mother on the cover can teach her daughter to sew on a button in ten minutes. But she’ll spend countless hours modeling Christlike traits for that girl, and encouraging her to act according to her knowledge of the truth. Which is more important?

How I wish you could have focused on the examples from Sister Tanner’s talk and shown the young woman who lived in such a way that she was worthy to receive inspiration to pick her brother up from a party and have a heart-to-heart talk with him or the young woman from the part-member family trying to strike the delicate balance between observing the Sabbath and strengthening her relationship with her parents. But instead, the young woman casually glancing through this month’s Ensign will walk away with the (false) impression that being a mom means taking care of things, not people.

328 comments for “An Open Letter to the Graphics Director of the Ensign

  1. Steve Evans
    May 31, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    Nice post, Julie. I too have written open letters to the Ensign — but they never write back.

  2. Kevin Barney
    May 31, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Just out of curiousity, Julie, did you actually send this letter to the Ensign? Let us know if they write back.

    I wonder what Sis. Tanner thinks of the pictures. Authors don’t have input to these sorts of things. When my one and only Ensign article appeared on OT poetry (June 1990), they had some nice graphics, except one was of a Hebrew text *upside down*! If someone had just showed me what they were thinking of doing, I could have fixed it for them.

    I haven’t seen the pictures, but based on your description (and past familiarity with the Ensign), I would have to agree with your concerns.

  3. May 31, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    I had the same reaction- great article, but the pictures weren’t. I started reading the article with a rather negative attitude because of the pictures.

  4. Ben H
    May 31, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks, Julie, for putting this so tastefully!

  5. Jordan
    May 31, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    I was just offended that the women in the pictures weren’t all pregnant and barefoot too as they did their domestic diva-ing.

  6. Randy B.
    May 31, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Rough day at the office Jordan?

  7. May 31, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    Julie: Perhaps you could suggest what pictures would have more appropriately mirrored the content of the article?

  8. Tim
    May 31, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    Our Church culture creates a tough environment for many women. I commend all of you who struggle through these issues, instead of throwing up your hands in despair and leaving the Church altogther.

    I know there is a brighter future ahead, and we just can’t give up and get too discouraged. But it would be nice if the Church leaders were more supportive of women who do not fit the traditional homemaker mold. There are lots of unhappy women out there who force themselves into roles that are unrealistic, and then find themselves making themselves and their family miserable when they don’t live up to these unrealistic expectations of a blissfully happy home life.

  9. Randall
    May 31, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    The shock!! Magazines using pictures that don’t reflect real life…

  10. Elisabeth
    May 31, 2005 at 6:41 pm


    I think Julie was pretty clear which pictures would be more appropriate. For example, pictures of mothers sharing the scriptures and their testimonies with their children, mothers leading family home evening, etc. I also think it would be a nice touch to show more mothers exercising and being active with their kids as well, instead of focusing on sit-down activities.

    Great post, Julie.

  11. Ana
    May 31, 2005 at 6:44 pm

    Well said, Julie.

    I pulled the magazines out of the mailbox when I went home from work for lunch today. I’ll be reading them after I put my kids to bed. (No Mutual tonight, so fortunately I’ll have a chance.) You make me look forward to reading Sis. Tanner’s article.

    And though it’s only marginally relevant, may I brag on my story, “Stop!” in this month’s issue of the Friend? Hope you’ll all enjoy.

  12. May 31, 2005 at 6:51 pm

    Elisabeth: I’ll let Julie respond; your suggestions pulled from her article come to “2” possible pictures. Julie points out 5 pictures she dislikes. If only 2 of the 5 (or 6) photos had “home making” type stuff, and your 2 suggestions…brings us to 4 pictures. Let’s see some other examples. I think I’m being generous with your testimony one by the way…how exactly would you take that picture and convey what is actually going on? Perhaps in sacrament mtg; except that defeats the home setting, right? Hm…

  13. Todd Hopkinson
    May 31, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    Considering what most publications publish about the kinds of activities that supposedly benefit women and families the most, is the concern about those pictures really merited? I mean, from Oprah to Doctor Phil to most any publication with articles or content targeted for the ‘real’ women, you are finding issue with the Ensign of all things for publishing pictures of activities that you will find at any Enrichment night?

    Beyond this, you are making a lot of assumptions regarding exactly what message those pictures imply.

    I wonder if those of you so concerned about these pictures would be equally bothered if instead the Ensign had followed suit with most current publications and included images of kids rushed off to day care so mother and father could continue to bring in the big bucks in their executive offices somewhere, or the house help doing all the chores while the kids sit in front of the TV, or shots of each member of the family spending dinner locked away in their rooms in front of their own personal TV or Computer eating hotpockets instead of eating together as a family. Why not get even more ‘up to date’ by publishing live-in partners and other more ‘modern situations’?

    I’m thrilled that the Ensign is not in the business of trying to be with the times. Why not give the publication the benifit of the doubt?

  14. JKS
    May 31, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Since the pictures showed young women learning to do these homemaking skills with their mothers (mostly) then I think we are all glad they weren’t unwed pregnant teenage girls.

    While I think the pictures were a little unbalanced for the article, I would suggest you re-read your post as if you were a woman who enjoyed planning healthy meals and cooking them and cooking for friends and activities, or if you were a mother who loved working in the yard everyday to make your home look beautiful, or if you were thrifty mother spending extra time going to certain stores to shop ads or making things from scratch in order to make ends meet.
    Your post does a disservice to motherhood and homemaking by criticizing certain types of homemaking skills and discounting them as inimportant. If we aren’t playing on the floor with our children or reading them a story or discussing the gospel with them, we aren’t doing important things?
    Motherhood and homemaking are extremely flexible and cover a wide range of things. Some women DO enjoy the things you called “the physical acts of housekeeping (that) are the price to be paid” Dismissing them is in its own way demeaning to women and destructive. You are saying that all the dishes washed, laundry cleaned, and diapers changed mean nothing. They were only to be done so I could move on to something a little more important?
    Honestly, I admit to you, I’d rather clean my kitchen than give my 1 year old a bath or sit through my 7 year old’s baseball practices and games.
    While I take your point that we take the less enjoyable tasks (baths, baseball games & split milk) because we want the whole package of motherhood which includes some really fun stuff, I think it is important to not fall into the anti-anything-feminine type of feeling that discounts traditional female passtimes. I myself find myself falling into this trap some months as Enrichment meetings come up and I don’t find myself interested in the particular skills emphasized.
    I think we should remember that every mother brings her unique talents and abilities into her family. She’s going to love doing certain things in her role as mother and homemaker, and simply put up with other things, and a few things she’ll avoid at all costs. But no two women are going to have the same things in each category.

  15. annegb
    May 31, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    I thought that “play church” story was cute. . .but I also thought, after 15 minutes of it, I’d have had enough. I can’t imagine a kid sitting still that long. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m sure it is, and that is a remarkable sweet little girl, but I don’t think any of the kids I know would sit still that long.

    I had to go back and re-read that article, I guess I read the words and wasn’t offended or inspired, mostly. You’re right, Julie, I didn’t even pay attention to the pictures, and what they picture is basically a lot of drudgery.

    On the other hand, I think it’s important for young women to expect to keep a home if they get married. I hate housework, but some cleanliness and order–and it’s me who does it, because my husband is gone all day providing the money for us to live–is not too much for him to expect.

    My stepson married a girl who never cooked or cleaned, seldom did laundry. He came home from work after 12 hours of hard physical labor, to a filthy home, and had to cook for himself and the kids.

    There certainly must be a middle ground and it’s common sense for us mothers of teenage girls to teach them some elementary housekeeping skills.

    So I’m not offended, they can emphasize other aspects of mothering at another time.

  16. Julie in Austin
    May 31, 2005 at 7:35 pm


    I think I did suggest other pictures in the last paragraph, pictures following Sr. Tanner’s stories, such as the young woman driving her brother home and talking with him or the young woman at the pool with her family–but not swimming–on the sabbath. Pictures not following examples in the article but also appropriate might include a mother and child just talking, or doing something on the computer together, or a young woman watching as her mother disciplines another child.

    Todd Hopkinson–
    I’m not sure how many Enrichment meetings you have been to recently, but crafty-stuff is limited to once per year (and that’s a stretch). Other Enrichment topics that might have made appropriate pictures for this article would include things like maintaining personal spirituality, teaching children, sharing talents, charity, etc. Furthermore, I expect more from the Ensign than “it’s better than Oprah!” You wrote, “Beyond this, you are making a lot of assumptions regarding exactly what message those pictures imply.” Can you expand on this? I’m not clear on what you mean. I’d also like to note that the pictures don’t even suggest that the mothers and daughters are using this labor as an excuse to talk, but that the labor itself (along with vapid smiles) is the focal point. Your last two paragraphs do a great job beating up a straw (wo)man but have little to do with my original post. You’ll notice that I whole-heartedly endorse Sister Tanner’s point about the importance of motherhood and that I’m sad that the art detracts from that point.

    JKS–You really misread me. I do enjoy decorating my home and cooking good meals and a sparkling kitchen. But these things don’t define me or LDS motherhood, and I don’t know a single woman who considers the physical maintainance of her family to be as important as their spiritual and emotional maintainance. I would, in fact, suggest that such a woman has her priorities out of whack. It should also be no surprise that young women would be turned off by emphasizing these things (“hhmmm, let’s see . . . I can work in an office and go out to lunch every day or I could stay home and iron!” looks a lot different than “I can stay home and mold, teach, and enjoy my precious children.”) To any extent that I am suggesting these skills are less important, I’m simply following Sister Tanner, who gives them 1/10th of her article (an appropriate ratio, I think). You wrote, “I think we should remember that every mother brings her unique talents and abilities into her family.” This is precisely my point and I am afraid that the graphics marginalize any woman who doesn’t put physical housekeeping as 6/7ths the purpose of being an at-home mother.

  17. Elisabeth
    May 31, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Well, I just read Sister Tanner’s article, and found it disappointing. I think we need to focus on how both men and women can find balance in their lives while working together in raising a family and tending to household duties – not even more emphasis on a woman’s homemaking skills.

    This in no way demeans women who find homemaking activities meaningful and fulfilling. But please understand that all women are different in this way. You can still love your children and provide a wonderful, loving home for your family, but choose to spend your time on other interests instead of flower arranging or baking. I enjoy admiring my friends’ talents as wonderful bakers and flower arrangers, but these skills are not essential for providing a loving home for your children. And I worry that women would feel pressured by Sister Tanner’s article that they should spend every spare minute they have baking, ironing and flower arranging, instead of finding a balance between caring for others and pursuing interests that a women enjoys and finds fulfilling.

  18. Mimi
    May 31, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    I agree with Julie. The pictures in the article (which I have just read) imply that being a good homemaker (cooks, makes quilts, irons, and arranges flowers) is equivalent to being a good mother. Although mothering can include some of this, there is no reason that it must. The proclamation talks about nurturing, but not a word about homemaking (even though there is an entire lesson in one of the Young Women’s manuals devoted to homemaking under the section Our Divine Role as Daughters of God! Revision definitely needed). Why not show pictures of young women studying for school? Exploring the world? Interacting with friends? Going to seminary? I see nothing wrong with including one or two pictures of young women learning the domestic arts, but with almost all of them–ick. I personally think a separation between motherhood and home responsibilties is sorely needed.

    I wonder what the photos for the male equivalent of this talk (Strengthening Future Fathers) would look like. I also wonder how photos could represent what a father could do for his teenage daughter to help her be strengthened in her future maternal role (including only mothers with daughters suggests that the role of fathers is minor and insignificant).

  19. Sue M
    May 31, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    Hated the article. Hated the pictures. I actually threw the magazine against the wall after reading this article, and it is still sitting on the floor where it landed. Fought the urge to beat on something for the rest of the day. I think women in our church are already under enough pressure to learn traditional homemaking skills and fit into traditional gender roles. I get enough of this sexist crap at Enrichment every month.

    If my daughter wants to learn to bake bread (and honestly, whatever for?!?), she can take a cooking class. If she wants to know more about the art of cleaning, she can shadow a maid for a few days. In my house, she’ll be learning about literature, about exploring her talents, about the world around her, about the miracle of her brain – and the homemaking skills can take care of themselves later. Or heck, her husband can take care of the homemaking. Mine has turned into a pretty decent cook and does a mean load of laundry. All without training – horrors!

    And before anyone asks, YES, I AM in a bad mood.

  20. John T.
    May 31, 2005 at 11:39 pm

    ….I now see the underlying reasons for the high level of Utah Pro$ac consumption.

  21. June 1, 2005 at 12:05 am

    I agree that it would be very nice if the fathers role in taking part was emphasized more. Too often it is one sided, on the side of the mother, to care for everything… and yet there are two adults in the home. It takes two adults to make a marriage work, and I really feel it takes both the male and female to raise children. Children learn from both parents, not just one.

    I haven’t seen the article, so I can’t comment on if the photos were relevant or not. However, basic homemaking skills are very important. Especially cooking and planning meals, the art of thrift, and keeping a home clean. I know they aren’t the best parts of life, but they are very important, and they can make a home much more inviting. We don’t need an overemphasis on these things, but we do need to learn them (unless you are one of the lucky few who have enough money for maids and cooks).

  22. Sienna Dos Santos
    June 1, 2005 at 6:57 am

    I agree and disagree. Perhaps, the articles and pictures were designed for people other than those that comment here. Some women love that stuff and need reassuring that what they are doing is great. From what I can gather, the people here are not the ones doing the things in the pictures, and as such feel that the article and pictures are some how targeted against them. However, I could be wrong about that.

    So, if you feel that the article doesn’t apply to you, then don’t worry about it, and just think, this would be great for sister so-and-so. I see no problem with it.

  23. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2005 at 7:14 am


    You raise a good point. I think the problem here is that the woman in the pictures are presented as an ideal that all women should strive to be like. We should all enjoy flower arranging and baking, and spending all of our free time pursuing domestic activities. I agree that some women enjoy spending their time this way, and it’s great that the Church supports these activities. But we hardly ever hear of (or see) women doing anything else in the Church. Therefore, the women who are talented in homemaking skills feel validated by the Church, while the women who struggle to fulfill their individuality and creative expression through traditional homemaking activities may feel marginalized and “unworthy”.

    I don’t think we need to go to extremes here. We just need more of a balance, and a recognition that women have different interests and talents. And, as I said in another comment above, flower arranging and baking are worthy activities, but they are not necessary in creating a loving home. I’d like to see more of an emphasis on the things Julie mentions in her post.

  24. June 1, 2005 at 7:53 am

    Sue M:

    If reading the Ensign enfuriates you so, you might want to consider cancelling your subscription – sounds to me like its bad for your blood pressure.

  25. Sue M
    June 1, 2005 at 8:38 am

    Gee, you are probably right Cordeiro. I should stop reading the whole magazine and cancel my subscription because that article made me mad. Perhaps I should also just stop going to church and apostasize. (Offended, you know.) Or perhaps I can be annoyed by one article in the Ensign, express that frustration, and go on with life, without having to take things quite so far. Sheesh, whatever happened to there being room in the church for everyone? But thanks for your concern about my blood pressure.

  26. Sienna Dos Santos
    June 1, 2005 at 8:43 am


    I understand what you are saying, and it makes sense. I think however, that the real problem is that the majority of the people reading the Ensign and the Liahona(like we have here in non-English speaking countries), have no problem with it. I think the opinion that Julie expresses is a minority. How small of a minority I do not know?

  27. June 1, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Julie: Fair enough. How would you implement said shots? Captions? Visual clues alone would seem inable to convey the pictures/scenes you propose.

    p.s. the filterware setting is a tad high; nor does it allow saving of what you have already typed.

  28. Soyde River
    June 1, 2005 at 9:27 am

    Wow, all that angst over a few ……pictures! You know, I’ll bet Mother Teresa wouldn’t pass the litmus test of some modern LDS women.

    So the pictures were not your idea of a great time. I’ve seen pictures of fathers with their kids that didn’t seem to me all that great…with my five thumbs on each hand, I couldn’t build a model rocket to save me…oh, wait! I did build a rocket for my boy for cub scouts…only we’d left it too late and the paint wasn’t drying and we put it in the oven to dry it and the oven was too hot and it wilted…

    I think I’ll go wash some dishes.

  29. June 1, 2005 at 10:24 am

    I agree with Julie. The article would have been much more effective with appropriate photo illustrations. People learn from what they read, but also from what they see.

    I personally enjoy sewing, cooking and gardening (cleaning, not so much, but a certain amount is necessary for things at home to run smoothly). But I don’t see any reason that we should believe it’s our calling to be at home for the sake of these activities. When I made the decision to stay home with my kids, it was so I could be with them, teach them, nurture them and enjoy them — anything else I manage to “get done” on any given day is extra. Taking care of my kids is enough to keep me busy all day, every day, and I hate to think anyone would believe that housework is a more worthy pasttime, or the most important thing a mother could teach her daughter to prepare her to be a mother.

    Lyle, there are many things a mother-daughter pair could be doing in those photos that would better show how to help a daughter prepare for motherhood (and adulthood): riding bikes together, volunteering at a homeless shelter, helping her care for a younger child, helping with homework, sitting in church together, walking and talking, or showing affection (it seems like I never see photos of parents hugging a teenager).

    Soyde River, I think photo illustrations of dads can be ridiculous at times as well. But that’s not what Julie was writing about. And incidentally, most photos of Mother Teresa that I’ve seen focus on her caring for people, not doing dishes (which she almost certainly did at times).

  30. Sue M
    June 1, 2005 at 10:26 am

    I should probably stop commenting on this issue, but can’t seem to back away from the keyboard. It always amuses and irritates me when people try to tell me what should or shouldn’t be frustrating for me. What should or shouldn’t cause angst. Yes, they are just pictures. Yes, it’s just an article. But it’s one more article/set of pictures that reinforces a gender role that I (and other women like me) just don’t fit into very well – that of homemaker. It is supposed to be the “ideal” role, at least according to what I hear at church. As women, we are supposed to find fulfillment in that role, at least if we are correct in our spirituality.

    If men were all told to quit their jobs, and stay home with the children for the rest of their lives, I think a great deal of them would be restless, bored, and/or angsty. But I am not supposed to feel that way, because it is my pre-ordained, divinely sanctioned role. Only a less spiritual, “modern”, worldly, feminist, rebellious woman would feel that way. So since I chaff at that role, since I detest all things homemaking, all things domestic, and often struggle with being at home with my children (who I love, go figure, in spite of not loving the SAHM part of life), I guess I am a “bad” mother, and lacking in spirituality that I suppose would help me to accept the role in life that the church and therefore, Heavenly Father, wants me to play. I suppose I would find happiness in it.

    If it didn’t bother you, well then, cool. I’m glad that you were part of the majority of the women in the church who that article was probably aimed at. I’m glad that it resonated with you. But for me, it was just one more alienating article that pointed out how I do not fit in, how I am not even close to the “ideal” mother (and have no desire to emulate their idea of the ideal mother), and in fact, do not seem to belong in RS at all.

  31. Soyde River
    June 1, 2005 at 10:28 am

    Ahh, yes. If you’re caring for people as a job, like a nurse, giving spongebaths, cleaning dirty sheets, wiping dirty bottoms, taking temperature, bringing dinner, clearing the dishes, then it’s laudable.

  32. June 1, 2005 at 10:41 am

    Sue, Sue, Sue…

    Somehow you managed to construe my single sentence and make the Quantum Leap from cancelling a magazine subscription to leaving or otherwise apostasizing from the Church. That’s quite a distance. As for their “being room in the church for everyone”, there is….even for those of us who somehow find a way to not become so enraged by words and pictures to cause us to throw a magazine against a wall.

    Myself, I’ve got too many other things to get worked up about to let that kind of thing push me to a hypertensive state.

  33. June 1, 2005 at 10:43 am

    I haven’t seen the article yet–my wife usually absconds with the Ensign and then I get it in time to go home teaching the last few days of the month–but I have seen (in various non-church magazines and publications) examples of illustrations that didn’t exactly convey the point of the article. I’m sure this was not intentional on the part of those responsible for organizing the magazine’s layout.

    One other thing to consider is that the Ensign is now in the exact same format as the Liahona (international/translated version of the Ensign). In the past there were essentially two magazines–the U.S./U.K./Canada Ensign, and the Liahona which featured different artwork and layout. Now there is one layout for all of the magazines which are sent around the world. A photo which conveys a certain idea in the ‘States won’t necessarily convey the same meaning in another country or culture, and hence I do believe they are a bit more limited in what they can use.

    Just ask any company that has tried marketing a product overseas using a marketing plan that was successful in the U.S.

  34. Wilfried
    June 1, 2005 at 10:59 am

    Bonjo, thanks for bringing up the international dimension. But I think that argument reinforces Julie’s argument even more. Ah, the disappointment I have heard many times from European members about the choice of pictures in Church magazines… We really need some overhaul in layout and graphic power, especially for certain topics. So, thank you, Julie, for this courageous but still very positive message: you’re trying to help improve things.

  35. Randall
    June 1, 2005 at 11:04 am

    “If men were all told to quit their jobs, and stay home with the children for the rest of their lives, I think a great deal of them would be restless, bored, and/or angsty.”

    Actually, I would give anything to be able to be at home with my children daily.

  36. June 1, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Hmm. I haven’t read an Ensign for at least a year…I’ve never bothered to subscribe.

    Someone said Enrichment Night is only supposed to have craft activities once a year? None of the wards I’ve lived in the last few years seem to know that.

    Sue M, I’ve never fit into the traditional LDS mother role and it stopped bothering me long ago. I’m just comfortable with who I am and don’t sweat it.

  37. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Re: lyle #27: I really don’t think it would be that difficult and I’m not a graphics person. The pictures suggested by Sr. Tanner’s talk would be fleshed out in the article, and the others are not that tricky: how hard is it to show a mother intervening between two toddlers pulling on the same toy while her 13 year old watches from across the room?

    Re Bonjo #33: your point about the international-ness of the magazine is an important one that reinforces my point. I wonder what our rural Nigerian Saints think of the women comparing labels in a Western grocery store, or ironing. But I imagine they would better get the drift of a mother and daughter talking and hugging, or poring over the scriptures together, etc.

    Ah, I see Wilfried made my point in #34.

    Susan M–I think a lot of wards are stuggling with what exactly they are supposed to do for Enrichment, but the official guidelines (which I believe are the same every year, soemone please correct me if I am wrong) are available here:,17905,5034-1,00.html

    There is really no room for crafts per se in this schedule, although they are often sneaked (is that a word?) in under homemaking skills.

    In general, I want to say this:

    there is a difference between homemaking skills and mothering skills, although by necessity there is some overlap between these two, much as there is some overlap between riding-the-train skills and being-a-Wall-Street-broker skills, although I think it is easy to see in that example which part of the job is essential and which is necessary but incidental. I think one of the (many) ways that Satan is undermining the family is to try to convince everyone that what mothers do is clean house. Hence, mothering is degrading drudgery that should be avoided. Of course, mothering is only incidentally involved in keeping house: it is primarily involved in teaching, training, and loving children. I think it is unfortunate that one tendency in the Church (as evidenced by the graphics in this article but NOT in Sr. Tanner’s talk) is to try to vaunt the homemaking skills (“Ironing is important! It’s fulfilling! Be proud!”). While perhaps true for a very small minority of women living in certain cultures, the vast majority of women in the Church would be better served by this message: “Yes, keep your house clean and use the cleaning as an opportunity to teach your children how to work. But focus on people, not things. Let the dishes sit in the sink if your teen needs to talk to you. Let the baseboards go undusted while you climb in your two-year-old’s fort. Choose the better part.” I’m disappointed to see so many commenters on this thread ‘stand up’ for housekeeping. Again, I’m with Sr. Tanner: it is about 1/10th of what a mother does and deserves that level of emphasis. And, again, to give it too much importance is to have misplaced priorities.

    Children first, Formula 409 second.

  38. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 11:26 am

    I don’t think Mother Teresa helped all those people without clean sheets and dishes. Somebody has to do it.

    All this complaining about housework sounds a little juvenile, my 19 year old daughter does a lot of that, but she takes for granted the clean towels, clean dishes, bills paid, and food in the cupboard.

    I, on the other hand, was raised by a woman who sat around reading and getting drunk. I never undervalue a clean house.

    Although, truly, I wish I was rich enough to pay somebody to do it.

  39. June 1, 2005 at 11:30 am

    Sue M and Wilfried: You can get the text-only/HTML version of the magazine online, sans graphics. Of course, if something angers you, throwing a laptop against the wall could get expensive.

    Wilfried: My “argument” is simply that there are many factors to be considered when organizing an international publication such as the Ensign. Should Julie (and anyone else who likes or dislikes something they see) send her comments to the church magazine department, it’s quite possible her point of view would be factored into consideration.

  40. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 11:31 am

    PS, I heard once that the grownup in the room is the one who cleans the food out of the bottom of the sink.

    Something my daughter has never done in her life.

  41. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 11:35 am


    There’s a big difference between recognizing the necessity of housework and not complaining about it versus seeing housework as the defining function of your being. Think about my broker-on-the-train example.

    Bonjo–My link sends you to the PDF, which has pictures.

  42. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 11:40 am

    Oh, I complain, I hate housework! I just don’t feel as offended that women should teach their children to do housework as a function of motherhood. I wish my mother had taught me.

  43. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    Just because a mother stays at home with her children doesn’t mean that she has time to do the housework (I think Allison made this point earlier).

    And just because a father is at the office all day, doesn’t mean he can’t find the time to blog, chat with friends about the Red Sox, and take long lunches.

    I think a lot of the gender wars over housework are about making feel women guilty for not maintaining spotless bathrooms and organized family rooms, because men surely don’t want to be the ones feeling guilty about not scrubbing the toilet bowls until they gleam or picking up every last Cheerio out of the carpet (or, it could be that men really don’t notice or care about having a filthy house). I wish the Ensign wouldn’t play into these stereotypes, though.

    And, while I’m on the subject, why is it always that the fathers and the children are “helping” the mother clean the house? It’s kind of like fathers “babysitting” their own children.

  44. Sue M
    June 1, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    I just don’t see the relevance of housework in a magazine about our spiritual lives. Does doing housework efficiently/well make me a better mormon? Apparently so, or why is it in the magazine?

    And I really don’t know that housework is something that requires more than an hour or two of instruction, in any given life. Yikes.

    Off to go throw something at the wall, as is my hobby.

  45. Carrie Lundell
    June 1, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Loved your letter Julie. The picture on the cover doesn’t bother me so much as long as I believe these two things: she is learning to sew a button back on her own shirt (which I think can be empowering although not necessarily a quality of a “good mother”) and they would have used a simliar photo of a teenage boy learning how to sew on a button for the story of “Strengthening Future Missionaries”.

    The picture of the family cooking the meatloaf was a little annoying though–with the dad in the background laughing. If he is home from work in time to watch over the preparation of the meal, he should be right up in there chopping carrots with his wife and daughters.

  46. June 1, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    Housecleaning is to motherhood as commuting on the train is to being a stockbroker.

    Brilliant analogy.

    Thanks for another insightful article Julie. I’m excited to read it–and to do the mothering that matters today.

  47. Sandra
    June 1, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    Is it ok for me to be offended by your taking offense to the pictures in the article, Julie? I don’t see anything particularly wrong with them and I find your complaint somewhat offensive, if that makes sense. Mothers do take care of things and people. To separate the two is a distinction without a difference. Mothers are not philosopher kings who sit around and adduce their children into self-actualized beings. To the contrary, most of us (irrespective of our level of income and learning) take care of administering our families’ basic needs — food, clothing, and shelter — and that takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Most women can relate to the gist of the pictures accompanyin Sr. (including women in Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America) if not the Wasatch gloss because that is what most women do, have done for centuries, and likely will do in the future as mothers. In fact, more mothers in the church likely relate to the pictures (agains, the general substance of them) than do not.

    I agree that people matter more than things. Dishes should never displace a hear-toheart talk. And they need not. But someone has to get the “things” done, and it is usually the mother who does.

  48. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 1:19 pm

    Yup, Sandra, this is what I’m saying.

  49. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 1:27 pm


    If these pictures describe your reality of mothering, that’s great. But please consider the following:

    (1) a full-time mother who has a full-time housekeeper (I realize this is an extremely rare situation–although I do know someone in this position–but this is more of a mental experiment than a case study). The mother does not do any housework but interacts with her children–playing, reading, etc.–all day.

    (2) a ful-time mother who never reads to or plays with or talks to or takes her kids anywhere. The kids watch TV all day. But her house looks like it fell out of the last issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

    Which one of these is the better mother? Obviously, these are gross caricatures and no one lives like either woman. But that’s my point–the graphics in this article suggest that motherhood looks a lot more like (2) above than (1).

    Obviously, (most) mothers do all the things pictured. I am not disputing that. I do all (well, most) of those things. But those are not the focal point for an LDS mother. I see that as most (9/10ths) of the point of Sr. Tanner’s talk.

  50. June 1, 2005 at 1:34 pm

    Julie: I usually look at the HTML version. When you go the Gospel Library, under Church Magazines you can choose either PDF (layout same as print edition) or HTML. I use the HTML version whenever I’m online as it’s easier for me to scroll, cut and paste, etc. For example, the article referred to in this post is available at (I just pasted the link text, not sure if T&S comments allow hyperlinks):$f=templates$3.0

    Other than a photograph of Sister Tanner, there are no accompanying images.

  51. Brian C.
    June 1, 2005 at 1:37 pm

    A very small percentage of sisters in the church(probably much less than 1% of sisters active in the church) have professional jobs such as medical doctors,
    lawyers, dentists, business executives, etc.

    Those sisters who happen to have these jobs are either single (for example,
    Sister Sherry Dew) or have a small number of children. I know a sister
    who is a medical doctor and have children, but she got married in her mid 30s.
    Not sure if she practices now.

    Based on the current church teaching, a higher education beyond college
    is a waste of time for most sisters.

    By the way, are there women who pursue mba degrees at BYU ?
    I suspect that there are few, the chances are they will end up staying home
    unless they postpone having children after their marriage.

  52. June 1, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    “A very small percentage of sisters in the church(probably much less than 1% of sisters active in the church) have professional jobs such as medical doctors,
    lawyers, dentists, business executives, etc.

    Those sisters who happen to have these jobs are either single (for example,
    Sister Sherry Dew) or have a small number of children.”

    Brian C., I’m curious about where these facts come from. Do you have a source for them? And what is your opinion on the article Julie linked?

  53. June 1, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Elisabeth, I get annoyed when people mention husbands “helping” with housework and kids, too. Although I guess it’s better than hearing about them “not helping.” But I this frequently used word choice does point to a major problem in the way many view husbands and fathers.

  54. June 1, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Brian C., you are surely mistaken. 80% of the women in my stake work outside the home.

  55. Ashley Crandell
    June 1, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    Here’s my question after reading the artice: Why should homemaking skills be taught/presented as a gendered role? Why not call cooking, cleaning, sewing buttons back on, laundry, shopping, etc, *living skills* that we should be teaching to YM and YW equally? (And therefore, encourage our YM to assume their part of these duties when they become husbands and fathers–LDS households that have a more even division of household labor shouldn’t have to feel like mavericks! Frankly, mothers are more worn out at the end of the day than men are, on the whole.)

    Also, in each of the sub-headings in Sr. Tanner’s article, she begins with “We must teach, we must prepare, we must inspire…”, and if the graphics had shown fathers along with mothers teaching their daughters, I would have read into her “we” a directive to parents. As it is, the article reads as a directive to mothers only.

  56. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Did anyone notice that this article was NOT about how to be a good mother? This article had no information about pregnancy, nursing, caring for newborns, discipline, child development, child psychology, reading to your children, brushing their teeth, etc.
    This article was about YOUNG WOMEN. And what we should teach them as YW LEADERS and PARENTS. They said we should BE HAPPY as mothers, and show them HOW MUCH WE LIKE BEING MOTHERS. And teach them some practical skills they will need as adults like balancing a checkbook and cooking. And show them that MAKING A HOME a happy place, is what we enjoy doing so they will have the courage to choose to be mothers and they’ll enjoy doing it too.

  57. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    Cont. from above

    And I would say that most of you missed the point of the article and if a Young Woman was reading your posts, she would NOT get the message that motherhood and homemaking is enjoyable, respected, and worth her time.
    Sis. Tanner wants young women to say “I look forward to being a good mother. I am going to learn everything I can to make me a good mother and homemaker because I will spend years of my life raising children and making a home for them and I want to do it well.”
    Young women have picked up on society’s (LDS society included) attitudes. Who wants to be an unpaid maid? But people who pick on the article or the graphics basically are calling the three hours a day of housework that I do as an “unpaid maid” horrible drudgery. Where is the joy? Where is the joy of motherhood that Sis. Tanner says we should be radiating to encourage our young women to be mothers.

  58. June 1, 2005 at 2:11 pm


    Exactly. The emphasis should be on living skills and they should be taught equally.


    Where are the photos of the mother with a cordless power drill in hand ready to install a safety gate, or put together a crib [or a book shelf] from Ikea? Or of the mother changing the oil of the family’s ’89 Ford Windstar?

    The whole point is that the photos and illustrations that accompany magazines are part of the message of the article. That’s why they are included — you can’t separate the visual design from the text [of course, you can if you only read the html version, but the planning for the magazine, the decisions are made, for the print versio]. The images are carefully reviewed and decided upon by editors. And sometimes 50 or more images are reviewed for a single article. And as such they reflect the editors’ values and perceived values of the publication’s audience.

    So while someone might disagree with the conclusion that Julie draws from her analysis, the analysis is correct. Apparently the editors feel that domestic work [and a specific type of domestic work] is what much of motherhood is about.

  59. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    She’s in YW. She’s talking about teaching YW. She’s talking about leaders (female) teaching YW. She’s talking about mothers enjoying motherhood and showing YW that it is a worthwhile goal.

    I think she’s talking about maybe how nowadays motherhood is not viewed as a privilege or respected. Its all about “making” fathers do 50%. Making husbands do 50% of housework. Because its all so HORRIBLE that women have fled the home and into the workforce.
    Why on earth would young women be excited to be mothers when they are surrounded by this type of feeling?

  60. Brian C.
    June 1, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    Not in my stake.

    I realized that I should have mentioned
    that I was talking about non-single mothers like in the Ensign’ article. My apology!
    And I was talking about professional jobs, not teachers or nurses or secretaries,
    librarians, etc that usually require college or high school education.

    My stats are from what I have observed for the last 35 years in the church living mostly
    in the midsize cities in US. I don’t know much about church memberships in big cities like NY or LA, etc, but I would be very surprised if I see female lawyers who are members of the church although I know one in my neighboring stake.

    I would guess that about 20% of married sisters work in my stake.
    And very few sisters who have little children are working outside their homes.
    Most single or divorced sisters or widows work out of necessity.
    So, if you include these sisters, the percentage will go up quite a lot.

  61. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    “Again, I’m with Sr. Tanner: it is about 1/10th of what a mother does and deserves that level of emphasis. And, again, to give it too much importance is to have misplaced priorities. ”

    You keep referring to the 1/10 of her article, trying to prove that housework is only 1/10 of motherhood/homemaking. However, since her article did not say anything about about pregnancy, nursing, caring for newborns, discipline, child development, child psychology, reading to your children, brushing their teeth, (like I said in #56) am I to assume that these things are 0/10 of motherhood?
    I think that your very complaint about this article is a negative message that goes against what her article is pleading for us as YW leaders (or mothers who YW see) to do.
    Stand up and say “I find satisfaction in my role as mother and homemaker. Young Women, being a mother will be something you will enjoy.”
    Yes, the pictures were a little unbalanced, but really, the article didn’t tell us to have YW activities about labor and childbirth, about how to teach a child to read, about what types of chores a 4 year old can handle, about what songs 3 year olds like to sing, etc. It DID suggest teaching them practical skills that they would need as an adult anyway. And it did suggest helping them HELP THEIR CURRENT FAMILIES, and being strong in the gospel being really important to strengthen our young women…….who will be future mothers.

  62. Ashley Crandell
    June 1, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    JKS (#59), Yes, Sr. Tanner’s article was talking about female leaders teaching YW–but my point was that the graphics show only what appear to be *mothers* with their daughters (YW leaders were not depicted), and that this skews the message of the article toward being a message only to mothers.
    I agree with your defense of the article in general, BTW.

  63. Sandra
    June 1, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Brian and JKS, I tend to agree with you. The point of this article seems to be an attempt to encourage YW to want to become mothers. I think that the pictures — at least from my experience and observation — generally reflect what mothers do day in and day out while in their role as a mother. It would be more dishonest (or innacurate) to not show several pictures of domestic duties. Mothers across the world do the chores. Fathers do not. Of course there are exceptions, but they seem rare.

    Julie, I concur that chores should not come at the expense of parenting, but I don’t think the pictures suggest the slippery slope you imagine.

  64. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Brian C.: “I would be very surprised if I see female lawyers who are members of the church although I know one in my neighboring stake.”

    Good Lord, Brian! Have your observations over 35 years omitted the last 20?? You need to get out more, because the world is truly passing you by. There are many female lawyers that are members of the Church — the stuff of legends!

    JKS — why the ALL CAPS? ARE YOU VERY, VERY ANGRY? You know that’s the online equivalent of shouting.

  65. Julie Kraeger
    June 1, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Several years ago I was in a department store paying for an item with a check when the clerk asked for my work telephone number. I told her I didn’t have one, that I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home and take care of my kids. She stopped what she was doing, looked at me and said with a derisive tone in her voice “You call that fortunate?” Well, yes, I most empatically did. I now have four grown kids, the youngest graduated from college last year. While I wasn’t always enthusiastic about the “drudgery” involved in caring for the house, the laundry, the cooking, the little league, etc., I now look back on those years with the fondest of memories. Remember how my youngest at age ten would come flying into the kitchen after school every single day and call out “Hi, Mom! I’m home now!” still puts a big smile on my face. Wondering what could have been if I hadn’t been there to hear that still can make me very sad. I have worked outside of the home on occasion while my kids were growing and am doing so again now. Which of the situations did I find most fulfilling? Most definitely taking care of my family.

    Teaching our daughters that caring for a home and family can leave them with wonderful life-long memories and can be fulfilling and rewarding, shouldn’t be so controversial.

  66. Kaimi
    June 1, 2005 at 2:59 pm


    Wow. I’ll agree with Steve — you need to get out more.

    We’ve had two female lawyer guest-bloggers here at T & S (Karen Hall and Elisabeth Calvert Smith). They’ve got female lawyers blogging at BCC — Karen and previously Christina. Ms. Morality, over at her own blog, is a female LDS lawyer. Rebekah at AZ. Overwhelmed Kelly on her blog. And a lot of our frequent commenters as well, like Wendy and Kori. And more, I’m sure, that I’m forgetting right now. Plus, various other non-blogging classmates, friends, acquaintances . . .

  67. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    I’m a “female” lawyer, and there are three “female” doctors and a “female” dentist in our ward. But I think Brian C’s observations are pretty common.

  68. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 3:02 pm

    Here’s an idea
    Pic #1- “Mom, Dad, I’m going to make dinner for the family tonight” (because I learned in YW how to make this meal and I want to try it).
    Pic #2 – “Mom, that looks like a lot of ironing. Let me help you with that I know you’re really busy because you have a lot to do.” (because I’m trying to serve others in my family)
    Pic #3- “Mom, here are some flowers just because I love you.” (because I love my family)
    Pic #4 – “Mom, can I go to the grocery store with you I want to tell you about what happened in school today.” (because you’re such a good mom and you listen to me even when you are busy)
    Pic #5 – “I think I’ll help Aunt Bertha make the quilt she’s been talking about. She always tells me such cool stories about Grandma when we quilt because she used to quilt with Grandma.”
    Pic #6 – “I think I’ll read scriptures because I want to be strong in the gospel.”

  69. Rosalynde Welch
    June 1, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    Julie, I totally get what you’re saying, I really do. And believe me, I wish what you argue were true: I wish–how I wish!–that domestic work wasn’t the primary job description of a wife and mother.

    But it is, more than ever–in fact, it may be the *only* defining role of wife and mother that remains. Wives no longer bear children; women participate in the professional world; mothers are no longer the primary caregivers of their children; fathers are active participants in childcare. But studies show over and over again that in the vast majority of households, the woman, mother or not, performs a large proportion of the domestic work; the woman, whether or not she works outside the home, holds the pieces of the domestic puzzle in her head. Men spend significantly more time with their children now than they did several decades ago, but they do not perform significantly more domestic work than they ever have. This assymetrical division of domestic labor seems to be the most enduring feature of the traditional family social organization: almost every other aspect of family life has changed, but this hasn’t.

    Your version of motherhood–spending lots and lots of time teaching and playing with kids and relatively little time on the daily scutwork–sounds somewhat more appealing than the version most of us experience (though not that much more appealing, to me, since I’m not really a kid person). But I honestly think you have an unusual view of motherhood, Julie, perhaps because you homeschool your children: I and most of the mothers I know well really do experience motherhood primarily as the endlessly repetitive performance of domestic tasks (though not nearly as enjoyable or attractive as the Ensign pictures make it look!). And I have to say that, in my mind, the physical care of children *ought* to take precedence over precious teaching moments: great (and infrequent) as those moments are, they won’t be worth much if the child isn’t healthy and living in a safe environment. Maybe things will change as my children grow, but at this stage that’s sort of how it is.

    Do I wish things were different? Yes. Do I blame the church graphics department for this widespread social phenomenon? No. (And I realize you weren’t doing that, either.)

  70. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    Our ward doesn’t have any male doctors and only one male lawyer.

  71. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    “JKS – why the ALL CAPS? ARE YOU VERY, VERY ANGRY? You know that’s the online equivalent of shouting. ”

    I can’t find the italics.

  72. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    or bold, bold would work too to emphasize certain words in a sentence.

    If you want to think I’m angry only when I say PARTICULAR words, that’s fine.

  73. June 1, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    Just read your post, but I don’t have time to read all of the comments…stay-at-home moms are busy, busy, busy… Here are my 2 cents: When I saw the cover and pictures it was like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I didn’t want to read the article because of the pictures. As I skimmed the sub-headings I could immediately see the pictures weren’t representative of the message trying to be conveyed. (Phew!)

    I hope you really do send this letter to the editor, because it is a true shame that the visual images turned so many of us off to the message being taught.

    Thanks for putting into words what I was thinking!

  74. Brian C.
    June 1, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Steve: Well, I am glad that there are more female lawyers who are members of the church than I thought.

    As I had admitted earlier, there could be more sisters who have
    professional jobs in bigger cities. But, if you average them out over all of the
    non-single mothers in the church, not just in NY or LA,
    what would be the percentage?

    I still think it would be much less than 1% as I said earlier.
    I know that even among the non-member non-single mothers in the world, the percentage would be less than 1%. ;-)

  75. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 3:19 pm

    I think the most important comment of this whole discussion was that of JKS above regarding the impression this conversation could leave with Young Women who might happen to visit here.

    What a dissapointment and a failure at the hands (keyboards) of all of those here it would be were there even a single young woman to browse this site and take away an impression that motherhood is some kind of drudgery and dissapointing unfulfilling endeavor. I would be dissapointed were my daughter OR my son were to come here and walk away with a false and unbalanced idea of motherhood.

    For those of you who believe that housework is unimportant, you need get wiser. For those of you who believe that housework has to be drudgery and misery, you need to get more creative and recognize that housework should be a FAMILY responsibility in which everyone has a part. What a shame it is if children spend their days watching mother do all the work, without taking part, along with father as well, performing their own chores?! Have we really become so spoiled by modern times and ideas that we forget the way families of only a few generations past lived? Look at farming families for example, where everyone, even very young children had important chores and responsibilities, we could learn so much. Are we not a people who recognize the value of good healthy hard work? Have we forgotten our own heritage which holds up the beehive as a symbol of our attitude towards responsibility and work?

    The frustration regarding housework has come about, in my opinion, due to imbalance…due to the acceptance that house work belongs only to the mother. This causes those who buy into this imbalance, frustration – naturally so – at the unending and mundane chores that they believe are solely a mothers. So if you are frustrated, don’t diminish the importance of housework and work itself because you happen to be in or believe in an unbalanced notion of it. Those of you who diminish housework as unimportant misunderstand the powerful blessing it can be for building the strength and characters of all in the family. And for those of you who felt those pictures contributed falsely to the idea that the mother must do all the work, you are being overly defensive and seeing things where there are none.

    It is a shame when housework and chores are withheld from other members of the family, because to do so robs them of growth and development. A famous and succesful rapper recently appeared on a late-night talk show and boasted proudly how his children never have to do the ‘miserable hard work’ he had to do as a child. He has made sure that his children have nothing but fun and games, because when he was a child he always had to take out the garbage and do the dishes!! What he has done is retarded the potential of his children by robbing them of the very things that can build and help them.

    For those of you who have young children and have taught them to help and do chores early enough, you will recognize the validity of these things. How many prophets were nurtured in families where housework and field and farmwork were a part of their daily lives? Hard work and character go hand in hand. Children – until they are spoiled by going too long without responsibilities and chores, or until they adopt the ways of the world regarding chores – are anxious to have their own chores. Very young children want to help, want to work, and thrive on doing things. Not until they are spoiled by cartoons or video games or any other mind-numbing diversions do they begin to drift towards those things instead.

    To diminish housework is to uphold the deceptions of the day regarding home and family. To cast mother as the downtrodden slave maiden is to turn our youth against us and adopt whatever alternatives the world has to offer. To cry fould regarding pictures where there isn’t necassarily any is to inject contention when there should be unity. Where are the discussions here about how to improve things? What I hear are the whinings of complainers, not the suggestions of doers. Where is the recognition of the importance of housework, and of everyone having chores and responsibilities? Let’s seek to be worthy of a heritage that upholds work as an important and fundamental part of growth and development. Respectfully, It seems to me, this post and many of the comments that have followed come in a little short of the noble heritage we have to live up to. If you are offended by this, perhaps you should consider the cause of that offense.

  76. Mark B.
    June 1, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    If we solve the problem of men’s lack of contribution to household work, there’s no telling what other problems we would solve:

    Obesity–even vacuuming burns calories, to say nothing of washing windows and cleaning that mysterious goo off the garage floor.

    Infidelity–they’ll be too tired, and they’ll look so run down that they won’t be anybody’s idea of a trophy.

    Overpopulation–see the first part of previous item.

    There must be others, but I have to go empty the dishwasher.

  77. Brian C.
    June 1, 2005 at 3:27 pm


    What a great post! I couldn’t agree more.
    I am determined to have my teenage sons (including me) doing more house chores from now on to relieve my wife of doing the most house chores.

  78. M Youmans
    June 1, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    RW: I think the Ensign pictures in general seem to be attempting to make any task seem like the most dreamy and wonderful thing in the world. And, everyone always seems to be wearing pastel colors…What is it with the pastel colors?

    I can’t lie, I’m not a big fan of the Ensign’s this-is-supposed-to-represent-real-life-but-hold-that-fake-smile shots. They are the most contrived and artificial pictures imaginable. Don’t get me started on the church-produced seminary/institute teaching videos either. I’d much rather the pictures be from actual things that happened. I realize that can’t occur for some things, but I much prefer real photographs of people than the recreations of “real-life” situations.

  79. June 1, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    It is a great post — and I completely agree with the sentiments about families engaging in housework together and the problems with spoiling children and with imbalance in the assignment of chorse.

    But it misses the discursive/aesthetic point that Julie is trying to make.

  80. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    My children are age 7,5 and 1. Currently I am having fun thinking of new things that they are capable of learning. What fun it is to make dinner/lunch/breakfast together. Or doing yard work together.
    I recently discovered that the 5 and 7 year old were capable of loading their own dishes, unloading most of the dishwasher, etc. My 7 year old is older and naturally more capable (she could make Koolaid at age 3) so I struggle a little with my 5 year old and I need to be more creative and find a different approach to see what works for him.
    My 16 month old is adorable and I got her on camera wiping the kitchen table and trying to sweep and dustpan the floor just yesterday. Currently her only “job” is to put her diaper in the kitchen garbage.
    Honestly, when the kids are babies there is a lot of mess and no one else around to clean it but mom. When they are little, trying to get 2 toddlers to pick up toys is impossible since both of them need step by step instructions and visual clues as to what to do.
    But, now, the years of training is starting to pay off. My kids can clean up the family room by themselves (I still like us to do it together but its nice that I don’t have to practically move their hands and bodies for them).
    Summer is coming up. Endless days of fighting and TV watching? No. I am trying to make up some new rotating job charts to help them feel responsible for certain jobs now that my first grader won’t be at school all day.
    Motherhood has many phases depending on the age of your children. I have fond memories of most chores growing up. My husband’s memories consist of his dad waking him up at crack of dawn and yelling.
    I am too sick to move today. How wonderful that my 5 year old recently started making his own breakfast. It’s so good for him to get the confidence that being independent can give you. I managed to change a diaper, pour milk in a bottle and dump some crackers on a chair for the baby to munch on…..and then grab and bowl and go lie down again trying not to throw up. I’m feeling a little better now. Managed to get the baby in her high chair and cut up a banana for her for lunch.

    I love that Nate gave back the 50 cents and said it was worth it to complain.

  81. June 1, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    I think Rosalynde brings up an interesting point. It is true that these domestic chores are one of the defining roles for the adult woman in most households, no matter what her other roles and interests are. But I think it is a part (whether I like it or not) of being an adult woman.

    I like Julie’s version of motherhood (Rosalynde’s idea holds though, since I’m also a homeschooler). There is no place where I’ve seen Julie argue that domestic chores aren’t important to a family- just that those chores should be less important and less defining for a mother than teaching her children.

    I do a lot more of the domestic work around my house. I don’t do it because I’m the mother; I do it because I am the parent who happens to be home more. Interestingly, my parents didn’t teach me how to quilt, to arrange flowers, to sew on buttons, or to shop. I’ve picked those us later as I needed them. What they taught me was how to study the scriptures, how to make time for learning, how to play with and love children, how to control my temper (well, they made a good attempt on this one), how to treat others respectfully, and more.

  82. June 1, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    JKS bracket your text with <b>for bold</b> and <i>for italics</i>.

  83. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    Yesterday I asked my 6 year old to come out in the front yard with me and help pick up all the old fruit that had fallen to the ground. I told him I’d pay him a penny for each orange (a few months back he earned $8 from his grandpa by picking up pecans at a penny a piece). I kind of regretted offering to pay him because I didn’t want him thinking every chore he did had to be monetarily rewarded and in the middle of the thought he suprised me by saying, “why do you have to pay me?” He said it as he had already started picking up the oranges and it just warmed my heart because he was so earnest and eager to be helpful.

    My 2 year old is very eager to help out. Like JKS above, he helps take his diapers to the garbage. And, despite the fact that he loves to dump toys all over the floor, he’s also glad to help pick them up (if at least for a couple seconds until he gets distracted by something else). He does like to feel helpful and pick things up…at the same time he is fond of turning open cereal boxes upside down. Last night he got into my filing cabinet and dumped it. Now, it seems like drudgery to me that I’m going to have to go back through all those records and sort them out, but perhaps I can involve my 6 year old in helping me sort things. I know he will feel needed and benefit from it, even if it slows me down by a couple of minutes, in the end it will benefit us all.

    I was impressed lately by a talk I heard given by Michael Medved, well known talk show host and movie critice (he’s also had an article on the movie industry in the Ensign – he is Jewish, not a member, by the way). I was so impressed by his efforts regarding television watching in his household. They don’t watch TV. As he gave his talk I was impressed with how much his children will benefit because of the time they spend in reading, writing, and engaged in activities that result in real personal development, rather than sitting in front of the tube wasting away brain cells.

    I’ve always adopted a pretty conservative approach to Television for my children, even gone for good time periods with the TV put away somewhere – that was prior to 9-11, it came back out for news coverage as soon as that happened, and hasn’t been put away since. But the goal of replacing diversions with substantial activities in my families daily lives is something I think is beneficial, without question.

    What arises from this however is a demand for my wife and I to have a much better grasp on our schedules, on the kinds of activities we want everyone doing, because naturally, with the TV on, this need is not so evident and pressing, as the TV becomes a crutch allowing us to make it up – our schedule and focus – as we go, and the kids watch Dora, or whatever. This is where I think much of the challenge arises for mothers and families who become overwhelmed and frustrated. I think it is easy to try to do everything at once, and without a good plan, without preparation, and without any kind of routine.

    The other thing I wanted to share was this link to the 19 minute daily cleaning routine called the “Keep it clean” plan. It should be of interest to Moms and Dads alike, because nobody can say they don’t have 20 minutes to help clean up, and if they don’t, they should call a family counsel to iron things out! Here it is:,21770,1020737,00.html

    Another intersting link is this “get things done” web utility: and another here:

  84. Sandra
    June 1, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    Why all the fretting about TV watching on this board? Has there been a post considering this issue in detail? If there has, will someone kindly point me to it. I agree that too much of anything is not healthy, but social assimilation these days requires some form of TV viewing, no?

  85. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    I have a problem with Julie Smith’s statement that “The overemphasis on physical housekeeping as the defining elements of motherhood is demeaning to women and destructive. It suggests that these skills are the pinnacle of a woman’s attainment.”

    For the sake of discussion, let us assert that the images in the article overemphasize physical housekeeping (though I maintain that folks can draw from those images various other ideas than the mere physical chore conotations that Julie does, such as instead of seeing a mother merely teaching a daughter to shop and assuming with dread that the poor daughter is being ‘demeaned’ with the ultra-traditionalist idea that in the mothers do most of the shopping, one could see a mother simply spending time with her daughter since they are together and making the most out of it, no? Perhpas the daughter is preparing for a birthday party and they are buying ingredients to a cake the daughter wants to bake). So let us assert they do overemphasize the physical roles, for sake of discussion…

    Should we not be a little more cautious suggesting that this action is demeaning? Whether or not a woman choses to be defined by housework is her own choice, but to assert that showing images of mothers doing activities that happen to be housework or chore related is demeaning is, in and of itself, demeaning. It supports the Oprahesque notion that Homemaking is demeaning. It supports the attitude that points to greener pastures, in my opinion. I am perhaps as offended at the idea of housework as demeaning as Julie seems to be upset at its overemphasis. What a sad thing that the care and nurture that is necessary in a home, and that realistically is more often and not nobely applied by a faithful mother, whether it is physical or spiritual or emotional, would be seen as demeaning because it gets overemphasized! Has anyone stopped to consider that the overemphasis may be necassary in order to counterbalance the worlds de-emphisis?

    My point is merely be more weary of condemning something as demeaning and destructive, in case you judge that thing wrongly, or in bypass some important aspect it due to your own misstaken perception of it.

  86. Laura F
    June 1, 2005 at 4:50 pm


    Your comments and the picture on the front of the Ensign reminded me of something my Young Women Leaders used to teach me: that I should always have white button down shirts pressed and ready to go for my husband so that he could use them at a moment’s notice. Also, a few years ago I was teaching from the Young Women’s manual to a group of 16 year old girls about the sanctity of motherhood. An example on the importance of motherly service was illustrated in the manual this way: “A young man on a mission was asked what he missed most about his mom, to which he immediately replied, ‘Her cookies!’ “or something like that. Gee, what a nice way to help those Young Women feel like their sacrifices are really going to make a difference.

  87. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    Maybe her cookies were really really good!!! :)

  88. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    Todd: “Like JKS above, he helps take his diapers to the garbage.”

    JKS hasn’t worn diapers in years! At least, NOT SINCE THE ALL CAPS BUTTON WAS INVENTED. :)

    Also Todd & Brian C.: seriously, guys, what right do you two have to talk about household chores or motherhood or young women? Being older and married is no substitute for being a woman and a mother. Your pronouncements on this topic, while well-spoken, lack gravitas.

  89. Sue M
    June 1, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    Well Todd, what if I DO hate housework? What if it is not a matter of demeaning, but depressing? What if I see most daily homelife activities as necessary evils, not something to be glorified? Heck, what if we DO feel that much of motherhood and SAH is drudgery? What if I don’t always feel joy in motherhood? What if I find much more joy in having a minute to myself to read a book? What if I find more joy in getting out of the house with some of my friends? What if I find more joy in writing a complex piece of code, or working out? What if I spend most of the time that I am alone with my small children watching the clock? (Don’t get me wrong, although I’m feeling a touch of bitterness while writing this, I am generally not at all bitter about my life. In fact, believe it or not, I’m quite happy – but only because I am finding ways to live my life within this role that has been predefined for me – I am not because of the mothering role itself.)

    So should I pretend to my daughter or to the YW in the ward that the homemaking/mothering portion of my life is as fulfilling and happiness boosting as the other portions? Should I lie, if this is not the way I feel, in order to encourage her to aspire to this same life – the life that I often wish I did not have? Isn’t that hypocritical? Should I only present the rosy aspects of life to my daughter, or to YW in the ward?

  90. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    Re #51 where Brian C. wrote, “Based on the current church teaching, a higher education beyond college
    is a waste of time for most sisters.”

    I’m not sure if you are supporting or lamenting this state of affairs, but if you support it, then I feel sorry for you if you think the only way that a higher education is of value is if it is put to use in the workplace. Even if I didn’t use my graduate degree in professional endeavors (which I do), it changed who I am and makes me a better mother on a daily basis.

    Re JKS #61–Look, Sr. Tanner’s thesis is (paraphrasing) ‘here’s five things we should teach YW to prepare them to be mothers.’ They are excellent things, it is a wonderful article. But the graphics undermine everything that she says by only focusing on 1/10th of her talk. Imagine if Pres. Hinckley gave a talk on ‘five things to do to prepare to go to the Temple’ and half of one item was ‘wear Sunday best’ but almost all of the pictures showed people preparing their clothes instead of their souls. Would that seem right to you?

    Re Julie Kraeger in #65: this is *exactly* my point. You are not reviewing those years and thinking ‘dang, ironing those white shirts was worth every sacrifice!’ you are remembering the moments when you were taking care of a *person* not an object. Taking care of objects was incidental. When your child came home, you would have had that same moment if you were ironing, reading, surfing the net, writing a novel, etc.

    Rosalynde– You are right that homeschooling (and being a writer and teaching Institute) color my perception of what motherhood is. But surely you must admit that there is a world of difference between providing ‘a healthy and safe environment’ and arranging flowers and quilting. Maybe I’m just too efficient for my own good, but even with a baby and two other children, I’d estimate that it takes me maybe two hours per day to maintain my home, probably a little less. There’s a lot of hours left for everything else. While you are right that men are not doing much housework, I disagree with your conclusion that women are doing more: I think the amount done is less. Think boneless chicken, grated cheese, iron-free slacks, no-scrub toilet cleaner, etc., etc. But even if I were to grant your argument, I think we need to remember that this is an Ensign article about strengthening future mothers (that’s the title!) and we don’t strengthen future mothers by teaching them how to read grocery labels (any secualr source can do that!)–we do it by preparing them to raise their children in light and truth.

    Re Todd Hopkinson #75: “For those of you who believe that housework is unimportant, you need get wiser. For those of you who believe that housework has to be drudgery and misery, you need to get more creative and recognize that housework should be a FAMILY responsibility in which everyone has a part.”

    If this is directed at me (and I’m not sure it is), I’d like to suggest that you get wiser. I’m not saying it is UNimportant, less LESS important than the mental, emotional, and spiritual parenting that *only* the Church can teach, whereas not only is the physical stuff less important, but Martha Stewart can teach it. I would like you to address the discrepency between the pictures and the talk: why is Sr. Tanner pointing out all of the non-physical aspects of mothering if what you say is true? And re your statemnt in #85:

    “Should we not be a little more cautious suggesting that this action is demeaning? Whether or not a woman choses to be defined by housework is her own choice, but to assert that showing images of mothers doing activities that happen to be housework or chore related is demeaning is, in and of itself, demeaning”

    You are talking in circles here. If a woman can choose (as you suggest) not to be defined by housework, then to portray all mothers as defined by housework is to demean those who choose otherwise. It is demeaning because what is truly important is raising kids strong in the gospel, not kids who eat homemade ravioli (with sauce made from tomatoes you grew yourself, of course) for dinner. There is no reason for a woman to choose hyper-intensive domesticity (flower-arranging, quilting) if she doesn’t want to. To suggest that this is required of a LDS mom is a gross perversion of what is truly important in raising children.

    And, Todd, one final thing: houses don’t need to be nurtured. Children do. Once again, I am concerned that you are privileging the physical over the mental, emotional, and spiritual.

    I’m dismayed that many commenters have not engaged what I wrote in #37: that overemphasizing the physical work of mothering does a gross disservice to that which is truly important. Have none of you read Luke 11:27-28 or Luke 10:38-42?

  91. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    Honestly, NOBODY considers flower arranging to be anything but:
    a) career choice for those who work in the flower business
    b) something they do often if they like it or happen to have lots of flowers
    c) something they do for 30 seconds when they dump the occasional bouquet in a vase
    or apparently to somebody at the Ensign
    d) a nice picture of a mother and daughter together at home smiling at each other

    Why is it demeaning to see two females smiling at each other over a vase of flowers? Why does it show unpaid maid service?

    NO percentage of my life as a mother is flower arranging. I rarely get flowers. But does anyone actually think that because 1/6 of the pictures have flowers in a vase that 1/6 of motherhood is looking at flowers in a vase.

  92. Jordan
    June 1, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I think the essence of the pictures shown is mothers spending time with their daughters. Besides- I never look at the pictures anyway because they make me feel bad, since my life is not always so warm, fuzzy, and smiley.

    Read the articles and ignore the pointless pictures.

  93. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    Jordan: “Read the articles and ignore the pointless pictures.”

    Um… yes Bishop, I only read my Ensign for the articles, promise!

  94. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    Sis Tanner says the new part of young women’s theme is:
    “Be prepared to strengthen home and family.”

    I wonder why not just family. Why do our leaders talk about home, not just families. I’ve heard that our homes are just as sacred as the temple. Temples are always beautiful and peaceful.
    Perhaps I haven’t made it clear that I don’t love housework. But I do it. And I expect it to be respected as very important. I expect to be appreciated for my efforts.
    If my husband was a doctor, but really hated it, and wished he could be a scuba diver because that was his real love, I would still appreciate the work he did as a doctor and the effort he went to contribute to the family. Would he find it demeaning that he had to admit to people that he’s a doctor? Even if he “only did it so he could put food on the table and then come home at night and play with the kids because that is where the real rewards in life come from.”

  95. Mark B.
    June 1, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    But, Julie, often the best opportunities to teach and learn that which is truly important arise while we carry out the mundane tasks of “housekeeping”. That only works, of course, if a mother or father has engaged the children in carrying out those tasks.

    To be sure, we could overemphasize house cleaning–that’s not a fault either my wife or I are prone to, as a visit to our house would prove–but I think a greater problem is that we underemphasize work.

    That being said, the problem with housework is that it is repetitive and relatively unfulfilling. Much better to do something where you and the child can see something positive created (whether a great pot of chili, a productive or beautiful (or both) garden, an addition to the house or an altogether new one, a useful and comely article of clothing, a family history, etc. etc.), rather than simply keeping back the ever-encroaching tide of clutter and dirt that must be removed. The photographs that accompany Sis. Tanner’s article do at least have the advantage that they show some of those creative kinds of work, not just sweeping, vacuuming and taking out the trash.

  96. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Steve, you mentioned something that if I may try to find a respectful way to say this, lacks substantial reasoning and moreover brims with fallacy so full that it isn’t worthy of the keyboard on which you typed it. You suggested that because myself and another individual on this board happen to be male, we haven’t the right nor the weight behind our words to have any gravitas.

    Fortunately, ‘gravitas’ means little to me. I’ll take wisdom over the perceptions of others any day.

    You are out of line, and lacking substantial reason in your comments. Perhaps you, as a male, are fearful of my suggestion that housework is a family responsibility? I digress, I won’t take it personally. But I will note that the simplest case against the reasoning in Steve’s comment is to simply apply it to any other situation. I would be rash and out of line to suggest that a wife lacks the ‘gravitas’ to provide her ideas and wisdom on the role of a husband or priesthood holder or home teacher, simply because she was not one.

  97. Mark B.
    June 1, 2005 at 6:11 pm

    JKS, you obviously have never been to Japan, where ikebana, flower-arranging is a fine art. So, strike that all-cap NOBODY, and seek the enlightenment that can come through Zen and the art of ikebana.

  98. Sandra
    June 1, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    My sentiments, as well, JKS. My husband is a doctor but he does not love what he does. He does it so that we can get by. As he is fond of saying, it is what I do not who I am. Could I work and he stay home with the kids instead? Sure, but our income would be less and our house messier (no offense dear).

    Here’s a shocker ladies, most men don’t love what they do for a living and aren’t out living the good life while we slave away like Cinderella on the kitchen floor. I don’t hear men complaining about pictures in the Ensign of husbands/fathers posed in the traditional work-all-day-for-the-family-and-all-evening-for-the-Lord fashion.

  99. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    If I wasn’t sick, I could be homemaking……a little cleaning the kitchen, a little vacuuming, a few errands, a little bill paying, a few phone calls….and I wouldn’t be posting every few minutes.
    All of which wouldn’t be the mothering and caring of precious spirits, but would have solely to do with the order and functioning of our home and family. And all important.

  100. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    “JKS, you obviously have never been to Japan, where ikebana, flower-arranging is a fine art. So, strike that all-cap NOBODY, and seek the enlightenment that can come through Zen and the art of ikebana. ”

    I assume that would come under b) those who really enjoy it

  101. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    OK. I give up. I thought I was making the extremely non-controversial point that caring for people is more important than caring for things. (Not, mind you, that caring for things is UNimportant but simply that it is LESS important.) That seeing to your children’s spiritual development is more important than ironing their church clothes. Apparently many do not feel that way. Fine. I will no longer press the point.

  102. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Perhaps I don’t write in ALL CAPS. Maybe I just keep using acronyms that you are simply unaware of.
    For instance, JKS is not a person named Jks who just happens to be angry when she says her name……

  103. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    JKS makes another superb point regarding the home and it’s mention alongside the family in much church counsel. The home is a safehaven, a refuge, and yes sacred. The voices that are riled up against an emphasis on the home and housekeeping seem to think that to discuss or focus on this must necassarily detract from all other areas of spiritual, emotional, etc…

    It is always a stunning thing to me that people will get so fired up over a small thing here or there and determine that the church or the culture of the church is on the wrong course. How long does it take to begin finding these kinds of frustrations in the talks of the prophets? Why is it always others that are in the wrong, and not ourselves?

    Is it really so hard to consider that perhaps those that have the problem with the images are needing to change something internal, than that the art editing at the ensign needs changing? And even if the Ensign could have used better images, isn’t it possible that there are reasons, unbeknownst to the complainers that those images were used?

    Too many are making assumptions. Too many are almost looking to be upset. It seems there are some here that are merely content to be discontent.

  104. Sandra
    June 1, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    Well said, Todd. I found Steve’s reasoning flat as well as condescending. The whole notion that men can’t comment on women issues is more patronizing to me as a woman than men trying to control women’s issues, which I must confess they do poorly and unfairly. Men, especially husbands and fathers, should have a seat at this discussion table, not just women. In fact, the presence and influence of a father in the home (or lack thereof) will have a more profound impact on the now daughters and future mothers in the church.

  105. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    Julie in Austin, it sounds like you are trying to be a martyr. You are assuming that because others chose to emphasize or discuss the importance of one area, that they necassarily must not believe as you that the spiritual is more important than the physical.

    This isn’t a zero-sum game. Those that think that pointing to physical chores somehow demeans those who preform them seem to be ignoring the fact that you can’t have the one without the other. We can’t be whole without addressing the physical and the spiritual and neglect in either area will clearly affect the other.

    Order and cleanliness are opposed to disarray and filth. Taking care of our physical needs appropriately is part of our duty. Take the word of wisdom – neglecting the physical element of the word of wisdom directly impacts the spiritual aspects.

    Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be balance, but to think that an emphasis on one aspect in pictures in an article is somehow demeaning is just an err in judgement, in my opinion.

  106. Paul
    June 1, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    Julie, even a cursory glance of the artciles immediately following the one you cite, indeed, I believe the page immediately following the end of the Sister Tanner’s article, shows pictures of the type you would seemingly prefer. Magazines must have a variety of pictures that complement not only the story with which they appear but the other photos/drawings in the remainder of the magazine. Although I agree with you that people should be valued and nurtured more than objects, you seem to be straining at a gnat here.

  107. Soyde River
    June 1, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that point, Julie.

    It was that you were so offended by the pictures because they undermined all the progress made in civilization since the 19th Century. Some didn’t feel it was quite that important.

  108. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    Paul in #106–Even a cursory glance at my original post would show that I mention the article immediately following Sr. Tanner’s. Claiming that the magazine as a whole needs balance does not justify poor graphic choices in any one article.

    Soyde—See the last 30 comments. Several people are arguing that. And I wasn’t ‘offended,’ whatever that means. I was saddened that something complex (motherhood) was reduced to physical acts.

    Todd–At this point I have to think that you are deliberately choosing to misread me. A blog post is not “so fired up” that I plan on apostasying over it, although claiming that someone is trying to steady the ark tends to be blog-speak for ‘I’ve run out of real arguments so I’ll just call your testimony into question.’ Again, this isn’t about dissarray and filth. Obviously, mothers and others need to take care of these things. It is about graphics that bear very little relation to an article but instead give the reader a very false impression of what it means to ‘strengthen future mothers.’ Once again, I would like to invite you to respond to my original point: why is there such a disconenct between Sr. Tanner’s words and the graphics? Do you have a problem with what Sr. Tanner is teaching? If not, then why don’t you think the graphics should match her message?

  109. June 1, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    I agree for the most part with the principal sentiment in the original post: the most important work of a mother is teaching her children , not homemaking duties. I also agree with the point made by JKS and others that homemaking duties and skills are not demeaning or unimportant, but something worth taking pride in and doing well.

    Julie, in your original post you seemed to imply that by placing too much importance on homemaking, that the importance of mothering was being diminished. I think we can all agree that society has reduced the value of homemaking. Has their been a proportional increase in emphasis on good mothering? In other words, are mothers any better now than they were before now that society in general looks on homemaking as demeaning? I don’t think that’s the case.

  110. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    lacking substantial reasoning…brims with fallacy…out of line…lacking substantial reason (again)…AND flat and condescending (thanks Sandra)!

    Not bad for one small comment, which was more of a question and idea than real criticism. Todd, you’re taking things far too seriously, which is why I find your subsequent comments “It is always a stunning thing to me that people will get so fired up over a small thing here or there” and “Too many are almost looking to be upset. It seems there are some here that are merely content to be discontent” to have a particularly delicious irony.

    I was merely trying to point out that it’s delicate for a man to make comments regarding the proper instruction of young women regarding motherhood under the best of circumstances, and it’s even more delicate for a man to disagree with a woman on such points. Todd, you seem so intent on criticizing others (labelling Julie as “trying to be a martyr” was choice) and being defensive that you’re not interested in real discussion. Perhaps you’re not cut out for blogging with people that disagree?

  111. June 1, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    I got the evil eye from my wife when I said this to her after a talk one Sunday about how husbands need to help their wives more with the housework, but after reading some comments here, I thought I’d throw it out for your consideration.

    I hear talks all the time about how fathers who work outside the home need to help their wives more with the housework, but I never hear any talks about how mothers in the home need to help their husbands earn the money. What gives?

    Fathers, mothers, and children need to settle on an effective and fair division of responsibilities, and they need to be able to revisit the division and redistribute responsibilities as time goes by and circumstances change (e.g., one child vs. eight children). But blanket classifications, like it is always wrong for a father not to do household chores, seem to ignore the fact that the father does things that no one else in the family does. Nobody seems to ever complain or preach about that.

  112. DavidH
    June 1, 2005 at 7:18 pm


    I agree with your points, that caring for people is much more important than caring for things. It is unfortunate that the pictures selected by the Ensign were not more balanced.

    My grandmother was an MD in the early 1900s in NYC. So was her husband (they were YUPPIES I guess). Both LDS.

    My mother did not learn from her mother (my grandmother) many of the home making skills represented in the Ensign pictures; indeed, she is not highly skilled in those tasks to this day, and they do not interest her.

    She married my father after she finished college, a mission, and a few years working for a newspaper. She did choose to stay home with us, until my youngest sister started high school.

    Most mothers in my neighborhood and ward also chose to stay home. But I felt a little out of place because my mother did not have the superb homemaking skills that my friends’ mothers apparently did. I was embarrassed sometimes when, for example, at school bake sales in our Connecticut suburb, other kids would bring in freshly baked cakes, cookies and the like from their moms, and my mother would buy baked good from a bakery for me to bring in (still in the bakery box, of all things).

    My mother was usually more interested in reading books than in housework, and still is. She is the most well read person I know (my daughter is a close second). She loved her children and spent lots of time with us, including countless hours helping with homework, writing essays, and the like. She listened, and did not feel threatened when any of us voiced questions that some might think heretical.

    I love and appreciate her and, in retrospect, do not regret that she may have not measured up to the homemaking pictoral ideals in the Ensign or advocated by many in this thread.

    My wife is a former high school home economics teacher, whose homemaking skills come close to (if not exceed) the ideals memorialized in the Ensign pictures and in the comments that “pile on” in criticism of Julie’s post and views.

    Yet, my wife confides that much of the physical aspect of homemaking/housework is sheer drudgery, even with my, and our children’s, doing a share. I will inform her that, based on some of these comments, she is mistaken.

  113. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Sexist, maybe, but I find it very annoying for a man to tell me about housework. It’s like when they start lecturing about childbirth.

    Even though I don’t feel the irritation that Julie and others have expressed, housework is hard work and only part of mothering, essential, yes, but when a man starts telling me how essential it is, I feel the urge to rip off his face.

    Again I say, I think every man should have at least one kidney stone.

  114. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 7:21 pm

    Sexist, maybe, but I find it very annoying for a man to tell me about housework. It’s like when they start lecturing about childbirth.

    Even though I don’t feel the irritation that Julie and others have expressed, housework is hard work and only part of mothering, essential, yes, but when a man starts telling me how essential it is, I feel the urge to rip off his face.

    Again I say, I think every man should have at least one kidney stone.

  115. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Sorry, I double clicked.

  116. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 7:41 pm

    Did anyone notice the back cover? Mom & daughter working on an FHE lesson together.

  117. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you JKS, I hadn’t. Now we’re at, what, 2/8 topical pictures instead of 1/7? Some improvement, but I think my original critique still holds.

  118. Kaimi
    June 1, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    Todd, Sandra, et al.,

    I’m surprised by the assertions that Julie is trying to be a martyr or that she’s on the path to apostasy.

    Stick around, and read a little. Take a look at Julie’s prior posts. (They’re available at ). You’ll see that she’s a homeschooling mother in Texas, an Institute teacher, and someone who reads as many church-related books as she can get her hands on. She’s not a martyr or an apostate. You seem awfully eager to take offense at her post. She’s asking questions and discussing topics.

    And I’m surprised by the idea that a critique of picture layout in the Ensign — yes, picture layout — is beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse for a member.

    I have no testimony whatsoever of the layout of the pictures in the Ensign. The layout of Ensign pictures has so little impact on my eternal salvation as to be practically non-existent. If I received irrefutable proof tomorrow that the picture layout in the Ensign was designed by trained monkeys (or worse, Jehovah’s Witnesses!), it would have absolutely no impact on my testimony. The prophet is inspired; the Book of Mormon is true; the picture layout of the Ensign is put together by some low-level Church employee in the magazine department.

    Julie’s not saying that the prophet isn’t inspired, she’s saying that the Ensign could use better pictures.

    And she’s right.

  119. Sue M
    June 1, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    < > Jonathan – probably because women are commanded to stay home with the children unless “unfortunate circumstances” or “special situations” dictate otherwise. Men are not commanded to sit on the couch and avoid the laundry. Honestly.

    And by the way, I do work part-time from home, and bring in a substantial amount of income.

    And David, thank you for an insightful comment.

  120. Ana
    June 1, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    Jonathan: You might not hear in church that women need to help more with earning money. But a lot of women sure do, whether they’re selling Pampered Chef or tending other people’s children or writing stories or going into an office or other workplace every day.

    And you will sure as shootin’ hear it outside the church. When I started working last year, several people expressed relief that I had decided to “take the pressure off” my grad-student husband.

  121. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    Simmer down Kaimie and Julie. I never said, hinted, intimated, suggested, or telepathed that anyone was apostatizing:)

    Steve steve. Come on buddy. You’re being petty.

  122. JKS
    June 1, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    Jonathan Stone,
    Does your wife participate in the balancing of the budget? Or does she just simply spend and spend thinking “oh, its my husband job to pay for everything, I don’t have to worry about that.”
    Even without “earning income” your wife is either your partner in making your finances work, or she isn’t.
    So, depending on individual circumstances (is husband in Iraq for 6 months, does husband work & commute 12 hours a day, is husband in the bishopric/how many kids, how difficult kids, how big house, how big a yard, etc.) The real point would be whether you consider housework to be only your wife’s realm vs. a partnership. A partnership means that if my husband comes home and sees the house is messy and no dinner he doesn’t sit there and be mad and wonder when I’m going to do it. A partnership means that if the car breaks down and is going to cost $ to fix it, you both worry about what you can do to pay for it. It might mean making changes to expenses and sacrifices in order to do it. Of course no two people have the same opinion, but you are both partners.
    And also, as a husband and father, if you think homemaking or housework is worth doing and taking pride in, you enjoy participating in it with your wife. You honor your wife’s role as a SAHM by wanting to cook dinner too! By wanting to vacuum or clean the bathroom or do laundry. You show her you appreciate her efforts to maintain the home by showing your efforts to maintain the home. It is not demeaining work, because you happily engage in it too.
    Individual preferences come in as well. My husband, for instance, loves to barbeque. I have simply to tell him that there is something available to bbq and he does it. There are some housekeeping tasks that he has done automatically because I didn’t do them and he saw the need and stepped in.
    Honestly, “a woman’s work is never done” is true. I never get to the bottom of my list. So I make my priorities. Some things always seem to be on the bottom of my list. My husband occasionally drives me crazy because when I think certain things are important, he is busy doing something that is DEFINITELY not on the top of my list, but I have to take into consideration that he felt it was something that needed to be done and started doing it. Took initiative. So what if the breakfast dishes were what I preferred he did. My list is the same everyday and I’ll never actually get to the bottom of it, so those things would never get done.
    Anyway, consider what you are teaching your children as you do things, or don’t do things around the house. Will your sons and daughter’s think that homemaking is something you consider important? Or something you consider drudgery?

  123. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    LOL!!! Best thread EVER.

  124. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    Todd– I think Kaimi and I have done a fair reading of your #103. You clearly intimate that questioning the decision of Ensign graphics can lead to questioning the prophets.

  125. June 1, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    Steve, with all due respect, I think Todd may be right — you’re being petty. When it comes to sustaining the Brethren and promoting healthy families, we all have a role to play and we all should pitch in. Don’t let minor nitpicks get in the way of the larger picture!



  126. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 8:18 pm

    Julie in Austin, what posts of mine are you reading that make you think I question your testimony? Come on folks, just because you don’t agree with someone or because their comments don’t support your own conclusions doesn’t indicate they are your enemy or out to get you.

    Steve is the only one that should be on the defensive and that is because he made a dumb statement that males have no place to comment on motherhood or housework issues. That is as demeaning to motherhood as any poorly placed pictures and suggests a lot more than I think he understood when he said it. Let’s be big enough to retract dumb things. If I say something dumb, I’ll be happy to retract.

  127. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 8:18 pm

    Oh, one other thought for Rosalynde way back there:

    I think age of children can have a lot to do with perception. If I recall correctly, your older child is about three. There’s a world of difference even to have a seven-year-old. I never, for example, pick up toys, make children’s beds, pull weeds, clear the kitchen table, or wash, fold, or put away their clothes.

  128. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    Todd, #103.

  129. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    “Todd– I think Kaimi and I have done a fair reading of your #103. You clearly intimate that questioning the decision of Ensign graphics can lead to questioning the prophets”…ah, I see. I didn’t mean it like that. I guess based on the benefit of the doubt you give to the ensign, I can’t really hope for the benefit of the doubt either.

    But, put it in context. It is a comment on what I think is an attitude flaw (regarding this issue) that would lead one to question the innocent placement of images, which is debateable of course, and claim authoritatively that they are demeaning and dangerous. I’m not addressing anyone’s testimony, only the attitude and the shaky ground that that kind of attitude that could eventually encourage. But I think you should perhaps reread what I wrote not in the spirit of defensiveness or to argue but to see if there is a legitimate point in it.

    The point I’ve made more than once that I think some of you are overlooking is that you are assuming that there is an over-emphasis on the ‘wrong’ message, or ‘inconsistent’ message with these images. Why is it that you are so sure that there is not a need to emphasize these things? Further, how do you know it was not requested even to emphasize certain things with the images? The fact is you don’t know. You are condemning as demeaning and dangerous something you don’t even have all the information about. You have no idea what decisions were made in selecting those pictures, or who made them, or based on what counsel or information. In a rush to judgement you’ve determined that it is the ensign that is off course, not your attitudes. While it is not impossible that may be the case, how is it that you are so athoritatively sure of it as to deam it “dangerous” or “demeaning”?

  130. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Todd, you ask, “Why is it that you are so sure that there is not a need to emphasize these things?”

    And I reply: because Sr. Tanner didn’t and it is HER article. She gave physical homemaking 1/10th of her airtime, the graphic artist came close to inverting the proportion.) If you think my attitude is off (and you say as much) then you also think that Sr. Tanner’s attitude is off.

    This makes about the third time that I have asked you to explain why you chose to take the side of the graphic artist over Sr. Tanner in your own decision as to what should have been emphasized in this article. You still haven’t answered me.

  131. June 1, 2005 at 8:52 pm

    “Steve is the only one that should be on the defensive and that is because he made a dumb statement that males have no place to comment on motherhood or housework issues.”

    Wow. Todd, holy cow. You’re blowing my comment way out of proportion, apparently for no reason but to antagonize. If you insist that all dumb comments be retracted, be the big man and show us the way! Otherwise, I’d like to ask the webmasters here to enforce their comment policy and show you the door.

  132. Kaimi
    June 1, 2005 at 9:01 pm


    Don’t make me point out that you’re a man, commenting on a thread about motherhood. . .

  133. June 1, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Yes, Kaimi — but I’m criticizing the men. Thus, my comments are 100% utterly infallible. Thanks BTW O ye webmasters for the robust enforcement mechanism!!

  134. Jim F
    June 1, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Todd Hopkinson: If this were merely a question of “Julie thinks the graphics accompanying Sister Tanner’s article were inappropriate” vs. “Todd doesn’t,” this would have been a much shorter thread. You have not only disagreed with Julie. You have fairly consistently imputed bad motives to her, reading a great deal more into what she says than she says.

    If you can’t see that someone reading your posts might find them self-righteous, you should re-read them more carefully, with your own question in mind: “Why is it always others that are in the wrong, and not ourselves?”

  135. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 1, 2005 at 10:21 pm


    Notwithstanding the drift toward hard feelings at the end, I appreciated this thread. I began highly disposed to agree with Julie based on my own prior reaction to the article and my general ideas about the relationship between homemaking and church doctrine, but some of the critics, and particularly JKS, got me to think twice. I’m not sure what I think at this point, but I will be ruminating about it for a while and I’ll bring it up with my wife and get her opinion. Bottom line: the post worked well for me. If any of you leave the thread frustrated that people disagreed with you or misconstrued your ideas, please take the appreciation of one reader as consolation.

  136. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 1, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    “I’d like to ask the webmasters here to enforce their comment policy…”

    Be careful what you ask for. That could affect any number of us.

  137. Steve Evans
    June 1, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    NMS, point taken. All I ask is that the webmasters enforce their policies according to my whims.

  138. Todd Hopkinson
    June 1, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Steve, after all your relishing, you want me banned now? Come on.

    Jim, I hardly think I’ve imputed bad motives upon Julie. I’ve simply pointed out the mistake of her saying that something the Ensign is doing with it’s pictures is both “dangerous” and “demeaning” when it clearly is at least up for debate, and further all the facts are not even available.

    I think Julie is surely a very strong, very proficient individual and well-abled at all she does, after all she’s actually read the article that is the basis of this whole discussion, she posts on this blog, I don’t see anything I don’t like about her. I don’t think being wrong about stating those images is ‘demeaning’ and ‘dangerous’ makes her any less valuable or anything of the sort. But I am not about to refrain from speaking what I feel is the truth of the matter just because Steve or you are somehow (and strangely so) annoyed by it.

    Beyond that I’ve tried to contribute and be helpful in my comments above. I’ve even posted links to some productive and interesting websites earlier on that I’m sure others would really benefit from as I am.

    After reading enough of Jim’s and Steve’s comments, I think I’m actually beginning to agree with Steve’s first comment and would like to ban all further male discussions, period….no doubt females will benefit far more without any more of these kinds of bothersome interruptions from the grosser sex :)

  139. June 1, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Sue M & JKS, I wasn’t saying a husband shouldn’t help with the laundry, nor that a wife doesn’t help with finances when she works from home or finds ways to stretch a limited income a long way. Don’t interpret the question I asked as representing my own views. There are many reasons for a husband to help with housework. My point was simply that the automatic assumption that any husband in any circumstance is derelict if he doesn’t share an equal burden of the housework is incorrect. Different families will divide responsibilities in different ways, and rarely is it 50/50 on everything, whether that is doing the laundry, mowing the grass, fixing dinner, or earning income. Every family eventually settles on some kind of division, and as long as that division is made with consideration and agreement on both sides, then it is right for that family.

    My only point in my comment #111 is that I find it interesting that, as far as my experience is concerned (sacrament meeting and elder’s quorum), it seems like men get criticized a lot more for not helping with the housework than women get criticized for not helping with the finances. (Again, I am not saying that either side should be criticized or is doing something wrong; I am just making an observation about what I hear). Perhaps that is simply because women are doing everything right, but men are not. I am not providing an explanation. I just find it interesting. People tend to never question the traditional role of the man, but there is plenty of questioning of the traditional role of the woman. I tend to think the feminist movement, in its effort to equalize the sexes by making women more like men, for better or for worse, is a significant factor in that, by making traditional male roles seem like the ideal course for women, and making tradiitonal female roles seem demeaning and without value.

  140. Richard T
    June 1, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    I generally agree with Julie’s comment that being a Mormon mom is so much more than housekeeping and the pictures don’t really reflect that well.

    That said, I think most American Mormon couples could use some improvement in the housekeeping and cooking area. I think they’re generally pretty lousy at both. I grew up in Detroit in a classic Mormon home (sparsely furnished and decorated, grubby carpets, mismatched dishes, threadbare towels and linens, generally cheap and unattractive in pretty much every way), and I always felt self-conscious when I went to the homes of my lower-middle class friends. Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Arab, and Blacks, they all generally had nicer homes. They took much more pride in their houses and lawns. My Mormon friends–with few execeptions and on the other hand–generally had houses like mine. My wife, who grew up in Idaho, did, too. And everywhere I’ve lived and visited the trend is pretty much the same.

    It’s tempting to think this has something to do with money, and that’s why I pointed out that my friends in Detroit were in the same income category as us. Mormons just don’t give much of a hoot about their homes and lawns, regardless of how much money they make. I personally know Mormons who have hundreds of thousands, even millions, in savings, who live in homes just like the one I grew up in.

    To me, this is one of the truly distasteful aspects of our culture, and one I don’t really understand that well. My wife and I are trying very hard to make sure we don’t pass it on to our kids, but its hard. Our parents didn’t teach us how to keep a beautiful home, and we’re figuring it out as we go.

  141. Julie in Austin
    June 1, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    Richard T–

    Your comment is interesting to me, thanks for that perspective. To what in Mormon culture to do attribute home shabbiness (if I can call it that) if not money? (Not questioning your conclusion, just really wondering). I wonder if time pressure has anything to do with it. Case in point: our lawn is hideous, not out of any malice on our part, but we didn’t of course mow it Sunday, and then Monday was FHE, etc. . .

  142. annegb
    June 1, 2005 at 11:13 pm

    What are your whims, Steve?

    Todd, are you new here? I have disagreed with you, but “welcome to the jungle.” It took a long time before anybody responded to anything I posted.

  143. Richard T
    June 1, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    Julie in Austin-

    I think it tends to stem from Mormon men. My dad always made my mom feel guilty for wanting nicer stuff: nicer furniture, nicer clothes, nicer stuff for her kids. He thought it was all vanity and frills. I’m # 6 of 8. My brothers have been the same way with their wives and they have the same homes. My brothers-in-law have generally been the same with their wives.

    I grew up between my 4 sisters (two older, two younger), so I generally got an earful of the female’s perspective on things. When I got married one of my older sisters opened up and told me how miserable she was after 12 years of marriage, how she wanted to divorce her husband, and what she thought created the mess they were in. It always takes two to tango, but some of the things she told me have really influenced me in my own marriage. I also dated a girl who’s parents weren’t afflicted with this “shabbiness” and who shared their views with me, views similar to my sister’s, which had a big impact on me. I’ll try to sum them up in two points.

    (1) A woman’s home is her workspace, just like a man’s office (or the equivalent) is his workspace. Men tend to want state-of-the-art tools for their work (latest computer, nice working wardrobe, budget for lunches, fully functional car, etc.) and women need them, too. My mom always had a ghetto kitchen with cruddy tools. So did my mother-in-law. My sister compared this to me–I work in software–working in cruddy conditions. “Imagine if you had to work for 9 hours a day at a card table with a metal chair using an old computer with out-of-date applications and a dial-up connection.” It’s an exaggerated analogy, but you get the idea. “You take care of your wife and make sure she always has stuff that is at least as nice as yours.” In practical terms, this means my wife’s work tools need to be as nice as my work tools. They need to be well-made, in good repair, and as current as I would expect my tools to be. Her kitchen appliances and utensils, her house-cleaning gear, her ironing board and iron, the vehicle she uses to handle family business, and the general budget she has to handle it all, need to be similar in terms of quality, functionality, and currency to what I would expect my company to provide me with to do my job.

    (2) My old girlfriend’s parents were what I want to be when I grow up. In their late 50s they were fit, attractive, scripturally literate, highly active in the church, and had raised a successful family of 7. One day her Mom took me aside (she thought I was going to marry her daughter; alas, I was more in love with the family than the girl) and told me her had always supported and encouraged her interest in nice clothes, make-up, jewelry, and having beautiful things for her home and yard, etc. He also flirted with her a lot. He took her out to lunch as often as his schedule would permit and regularly took her for 3-day weekend getaways to luxury hotels where she could get pampered at a spa with facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages. “He left it up to me to not go overboard with that stuff. He always trusted me.”

    I was very touched by that and try to emulate those behaviors with my wife.

  144. Richard T
    June 1, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    4th line in (2) should be “her husband had always supported and encouraged . . . ”

    Summing those thoughts up, I think women who feel supported by their husbands, have nice stuff, are encouraged to live it up a bit, tend to be happier and thrive more in things like homemaking. Mormon husbands tend to deprive their wives of nice stuff–in the name of being thrifty and not being “of the world”–and it leaves most Mormon women with depressingly little to work with.

    This might seem like a money issue at first, but I’ve seen these trends in all kinds of income categories. It’s an attitude. “Nice stuff” is a relative term.

  145. June 1, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    My husband is a *much* better mom than me.

  146. Susan
    June 2, 2005 at 12:04 am

    I think that what Julie had was a “gender moment” as is described in Marie Cornwall’s Sociology of Gender syllabus. It is described as:
    “Gender moments are everyday situations when gender is more salient and visible. You will recognize a gender moment to the extent that it a) reaffirms or challenges gender expectations, and b) reinforces assumptions about what men and women are like or how they are suppose to behave.”
    It’s the assumptions that are troubling. When I saw the cover, my first reaction was, “I can’t believe they put that picture on the cover…can’t they do better than that?” I actually like to sew…it is one of the few creative things I do…but somehow the assumption that “Strengthening Future Mothers” is best represented by sewing on a button certainly makes you wonder. I think Julie was right on!

  147. Sue M
    June 2, 2005 at 12:11 am

    ” it seems like men get criticized a lot more for not helping with the housework than women get criticized for not helping with the finances.”

    Jonathan – these are not equivalent things. One is something men SHOULD be doing – helping their weives. The other is something that women SHOULD NOT be doing – at least according to our doctrine/culture. Why would women be criticized for not doing something they are told not to do? Your objection doesn’t make sense.

    I could see if you were asking why women were never criticized for helping with the yard work, or getting the oil changed in their car, or some other way in which they might help with “traditional” men’s work – but when you ask why women are not criticized for following the prophet’s counsel, your argument breaks down a little…

  148. Jim F
    June 2, 2005 at 12:16 am

    Todd Hopkinson (#138): You don’t think you’ve imputed bad motives, and you think that my annoyance with your posts is strange. So let me try to point out where I think you have imputed bad motives to Julie–or at least why a reasonable reader might think you were–as well as why I find the tone of most of your posts self-righteous.

    Note, however, that when I say that I am talking only about your writing, not about you. I have no way to know whether you are self-righteous, so I have no reason to accuse you of being self-righteous. But I can say that in several of your responses you come across to others as self-righteous, and I can point to reasons for that claim by going through your responses:

    In #76, you begin by continuing the thread as if Julie had written a post saying that homemaking is not important. She did not. Either you didn’t recognize that, or you chose to ignore it. In either case, that was unfair to her original post and gave the impression, right or wrong, that you thought that Julie had said that homemaking is unimportant. Then, rather than discussing or disagreeing with what she or others said, you preached, and you preached down to those who would be reading your response.

    #83 was better–advice rather than preaching.

    Then in #85 you went back to preaching. You quoted Julie’s sentence, “The overemphasis on physical housekeeping as the defining elements of motherhood is demeaning to women and destructive. It suggests that these skills are the pinnacle of a woman’s attainment.” However, you seemed to have overlooked that the subject of “is demeaning” was “the overemphasis” rather than “physical housekeeping.” As a result, you accused her of asserting that housekeeping was demeaning when she didn’t say that. Then you concluded by giving a moral warning in your last sentence, something that will almost always come across as self-righteous when it comes from someone without spiritual or moral authority over us.

    In the infamous #103 you suggested, though you later say that you didn’t intend to, that Julie and others, by criticizing the art work in the Ensign are on the road to criticizing the prophets (which for most of us means being on the road to apostasy). You also suggested that there is something wrong with Julie, that she is here merely to be discontent.

    At #105 you told Julie that it sounds like she wants to be a martyr. That seems to impute bad motives to her fairly directly and without any particular evidence.

    At #121 you denied that you said anyone was apostatizing, which I assume was intended to help us read response #103 differently. At the time I couldn’t understand how you could say that given what you had said about criticizing the prophets in #103. Later, with response #129, I understood this one better.

    #126 shows us that you didn’t understand #103 the way at least several others did, but it doesn’t show us why we misunderstood.

    With response #129 you cleared up what you meant in #103. At the same time, however, you describe Julie as claiming authoritatively that the images are demeaning and dangerous. Again, that misconstrues what she said, and she make her claims no more authoritatively than anyone else talking about these issues on this thread. None of us have authority here–that’s why it is a blog–and it is evident to most of us that Julie doesn’t claim any.

    So, it isn’t until #129 that we can see how we have misunderstood what you said in #103. However, instead of acknowledging that you did not express yourself as well as you could have, you suggested that the readers are the ones who made the mistake: “I think you should perhaps reread what I wrote not in the spirit of defensiveness or to argue but to see if there is a legitimate point in it.” Rather than considering whether you might have made a mistake, you simply assumed that everyone else did.

    I think it would be difficult for anyone reading this series of responses not to understand why a number of readers have thought you were being condescending and self-righteous and that you accused Julie of criticizing the prophets and wanting to be a martyr, if not more.

  149. June 2, 2005 at 12:31 am

    Sue, I’ve never heard a talk in church that women shouldn’t balance the checkbook, handle investments, or so forth.

  150. Bill
    June 2, 2005 at 12:35 am

    Brian C. —

    “By the way, are there women who pursue mba degrees at BYU ?
    I suspect that there are few, the chances are they will end up staying home
    unless they postpone having children after their marriage”

    It took me only a minute or two to find this:

  151. Jim F
    June 2, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Also see this on women and education:

  152. Bill
    June 2, 2005 at 12:47 am


    147 was a little misleading because “helping with finances” was taken out of context. It had originally been brought up with reference to earning extra income, which was taken to be a somewhat controversial role for married women in the church.

    Your point is well taken, however. We have in fact heard many talks encouraging married partners to counsel with each other on financial matters so that, among other benefits, the less expert spouse (in financial matters) will not find themselves helpless and confused in the event of tragedy.

  153. Sue M
    June 2, 2005 at 12:50 am

    Clark – Absolutely. However, this has nothing at all to do with what Jonathan said in post #111:

    “I hear talks all the time about how fathers who work outside the home need to help their wives more with the housework, but I never hear any talks about how mothers in the home need to help their husbands earn the money. What gives?”

  154. Sue M
    June 2, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Oops, Bill beat me to it.

  155. Sara R
    June 2, 2005 at 1:27 am

    I attended an Education Week session about “family work” that changed my attitude about housework. A lot of mothering can go on during family work time. It’s easier for kids to have conversations while doing dishes or working in the garden than sitting down and having a face-to-face conversation. Doing the work helps everyone feel useful. Because it’s boring and repetitive, even the youngest children can make a meaningful contribution. Julie, it could be that there was a lot of mothering going on during the moments depicted in the pictures.

    Here is a link to an article that summarizes this view: . It’s a very different perspective than our modern one, but valuable and potentially life changing.

  156. Todd Hopkinson
    June 2, 2005 at 1:33 am


    You are taking on the collective voice where you ought not. You suggest “readers” interpretations of my comments where you and perhaps Steve are concerned. Perhaps you might replace readers with the phrase “group of overly defensive folks who do not like your conclusions”.

    As for the examples you refer to regarding your assumption that I am imputing bad motives to Julie, there is no indication anywhere that I am directly refering to Julie. The exception being any post in which I deal with the fact that Julie said (and she did indeed) that an overemphasis on housekeeping was “demeaning” and “destructive”. And this is not imputing bad motives but disagreeing.

    Where you mention my post in 86 and assert I was targeting Julie, I absolutely was not. There had been several comments in between Julie’s original post and my #86, and to assume I was talking about directly to Julie is to take my comment out of context.

    Where you mention my post in 85, you assert that I was somehow manipulating words to show julie was saying something she was not…the fact of the matter is I never did this, and I think the whole context provided by the paragraph next is evidents of this: “What a sad thing that the care and nurture that is necessary in a home, and that realistically is more often and not nobely applied by a faithful mother, whether it is physical or spiritual or emotional, would be seen as demeaning because it gets overemphasized! Has anyone stopped to consider that the overemphasis may be necassary in order to counterbalance the worlds de-emphisis?” I never infered that Julie thought it was NOT the overemphasis that was demeaning and destructive, as you suggest I did, but it was in fact the point I made. For whatever reason, you, not I, failed to take note of it in order to accuse me of somehow maligning Julie where I did not.

    In 105 my martyr statement was directly directed to “Julie in Austin” in post 101 in which she stated: “I thought I was making the extremely non-controversial point that caring for people is more important than caring for things. (Not, mind you, that caring for things is UNimportant but simply that it is LESS important.) That seeing to your children’s spiritual development is more important than ironing their church clothes. Apparently many do not feel that way. Fine. I will no longer press the point.”

    – come on, does anyone not think that spiritual development is more important than ironing church clothes!? Now that’s a manipulation of things to make a point.

    Regarding whether I was preaching or giving advice, frankly, I never thought about it in any of my posts, only to share my thoughts that perhaps another might benefit from it. If it was preaching, then so it was. If it was giving advice, there too. Whatever you call it, I think only to those who already determined they did not like the conclusion were the folks resistant to it, or that felt somehow it was talking down to them.

    I grant you that surely I could have written my posts better. But then again, this is a blog with a comment area. It is not an Ensign article. It is a little bit more dynamic and prone to a multitude of crossposts and conversations than any other medium and it is hardly possible to edit and edit and edit to perfection.

    So, basically the areas in which you assumed I was maligning Julie, I wasn’t even talking directly to Julie, and the assumption by you that I was shows no regard for the context or the comment’s placement in the 80s, after numerous individuals other than Julie stated the opinions to which I was responding. And regarding what to me is the main issue of Julie Smith’s post, arguing against the idea that overemphasis of housekeeping through those pictures in the article was demeaning and destructive, you again pulled out of context to make your point against me by failing to ackowledge the very next paragraph after the one you quoted from. Other than that, you didn’t like my “tone” which is frankly a little hard to pick up when written on a comment on a blog, don’t you think?

    Could it be that the tone you percieve in my comments is as much potentially the product of your defensiveness as it could be some sort of condescending tone?

    But let me make it clear, if I’ve been condescending, it was unintended, but I hope you don’t mistake boldness for a condescending attitude.

  157. Julie in Austin
    June 2, 2005 at 9:12 am

    Sara R–

    You can certainly be forgiven for not having read this entire thread, but somewhere in the mists of time back there, I mentioned that it did not look as if these were ‘teaching moments’ of housework due to the vapid smiles (and lack of indication of any talking taking place) in the pictures. Plus, once again, I think my original post is being ignored in favor of the caricature made of it in the comments: I did in fact mention the teaching and training of young children as an important element of housework in the original post. And even if we are really generous and assume that all of these pictures involve real talking and teaching moments, the pictures *still* don’t jive with Sr. Tanner’s talk.

    (And forgive me for not following your link to the School of Abraham. I find that their view of the gospel has very, very little in common with mine.)

  158. annegb
    June 2, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Wow, Jim, you read all of Todd’s shares. I usually skip over posts that are more than two paragraphs.

    It’s like being talked to death.

  159. June 2, 2005 at 9:40 am

    “You suggest “readers” interpretations of my comments where you and perhaps Steve are concerned. Perhaps you might replace readers with the phrase “group of overly defensive folks who do not like your conclusions”.”

    Sheesh Todd, let it go! I don’t know why you have a strange obsession with referring to me — my initial comment (way back at #88) was mostly harmless.

  160. June 2, 2005 at 9:53 am

    Julie: I spent some time going through Ensign articles over the last two years and now concur with you; there are plenty of ways to get across the content of a picture. I don’t think this article was anything for folks to be upset about, but the graphix certainly could have been more effective in reinforcing the text.

  161. Salem
    June 2, 2005 at 9:56 am

    Jim, I agreed with your last post. So you can add my name to the list of readers who misunderstood Todd’s comments.

  162. Mark B.
    June 2, 2005 at 10:17 am

    The real question is:

    Would the course of Sister Tanner’s life been different if I had got up the nerve to ask her out in the fall of 1971 when we both were young and naive (at least I was) freshman at BYU?

  163. Not Ophelia
    June 2, 2005 at 10:39 am


    The Family Work article Sarah R linked to at the School of Abraham is actually a reprint of an excellent BYU magazine article from 3 or 4 years ago.

    You can also read the article at the BYU magazine site

    [and FWIW I’m also not keen of the School of Abraham]


  164. annegb
    June 2, 2005 at 10:59 am

    There is one thing I think that is pertinent to this discussion: The Ensign is too conservative. I realize they are putting their magazine out to millions and they must generalize. But it has seemed to me, especially in the last few years, that the articles are increasingly narrow in scope and there is no room for dialogue.

    Perhaps that is necessary, I guess I must assume since they are inspired, this is the way they must go. But I wish there was some room in there for more input from the members.

    Amira had a good post on this topic (poaching?), which I thought would make a really good letter to the editor of the Ensign. My fear is that they would never print it. But how sad, because for every woman here who objected to the graphics in Sister Tanner’s article, there are a thousand out there who agree with her. All they would need to do is validate that feeling to help diffuse it and help those of us whose main goal is not housekeeping to feel that they still belong in God’s church.

    And you know, Steve, I think you’re right, maybe you were being funny or sarcastic (I don’t know from funny or sarcastic or ironic and constantly worry that I will get somebody’s back up on accident), but I think men have no place in this conversation. Honestly. I really think when women are arguing about priorities, ie, housework, personal fulfillment, mothering children lovingly, you guys should butt out.

    This violates my own reading policy of more than two paragraphs. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then.” I imagine I do it a lot.

  165. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 2, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Julie — “Plus, once again, I think my original post is being ignored in favor of the caricature made of it in the comments:”

    To be fair, your #101 isn’t a very benevolent restatement of opposing positions, either. Do you really think the people who disagree with you rate ironing higher than spiritual teaching? I don’t pull that out of the comments. I suppose we’re all apt to overstate our positions and mischaracterize others’ arguments in a forum like this that lends itself to impulsive statements. Still, I’m always impressed when people find a way to turn away wrath by responding to their critics’ best arguments and brushing off the others. I still think this was a great post and discussion and that it’s too bad it got sidetracked with critiques (and rumors of critiques) of people’s motives, orthodoxy, and commenting excesses.

  166. Marc Bohn
    June 2, 2005 at 11:08 am

    After reading through this entire post and its subsequent comments this morning, it’s interesting to note that most of the comments critical of Julie’s original post seem to come from men. I think that is pretty telling in itself. Julie’s post articulately expressed sentiments that I have heard from a great deal of women I associate with in the Church. Her concerns are legitimate and should not be seen as somehow attacking motherhood.

  167. June 2, 2005 at 11:14 am

    “it’s interesting to note that most of the comments critical of Julie’s original post seem to come from men.”

    Careful Marc!

  168. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 2, 2005 at 11:16 am

    Steve #137 OK, I can live with that. How ’bout the following adaptation of a folk Mormon maxim to express your proposed policy: “when Steve’s whims are manifest, the thinking is done” :)

  169. sarah
    June 2, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Jim, I think you are misreading Todd’s posts, for whatever that is worth, but Todd, your tone is more argumentative thant you want to admit..

    Julie, the people who have pointed out the other pictures in the magazine have deflated your point substantially, IMHO. Your response has been weak. It seems to me you made a snap judgment without considering the larger framework, and your original post can only failry be characterized as a complaint. Re-read it. Would your heart have hurt if you had stepped outside of the tunnel before posting?

  170. June 2, 2005 at 11:21 am

    NMS, now you’re talking.

    Of course, many argue that the thinking is over long before my whims become manifest.

  171. sarah
    June 2, 2005 at 11:23 am

    Marc, you are wrong. The split seems about equal.

  172. Todd Hopkinson
    June 2, 2005 at 11:35 am

    But Steve, you are my punching bag!

  173. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 2, 2005 at 11:35 am


    Good point. Still, I can think of more than a few LDS women — my mother, for example, but also some women my age — whom I suspect could be offended or confused by aspects of the original post, because they view mothering more holistically than Julie does. I.e. they see laundry folding and salad-making as outward manifestations of an inward commitment to love and teach their children, rather than being comparable to document review. I suspect they might be hurt by the semi-pejorative use of “domestic diva.” By and large, they are not the type of people who feel comfortable laying their opinions out on the internet, for the same reasons they are uncomfortable with intellectual conflict in relief society. So limiting the discussion to women might carry its own risks of skewing the discussion, to the detriment of certain sets of views. Whether well meaning men could cure such a deficiency is of course debatable.

  174. Todd Hopkinson
    June 2, 2005 at 11:38 am

    Sarah, I’ll take that into consideration next argument I get in :)

    No, I do appreciate your comment Sarah, I will take it into considertion when I post and try to take the effort to be less argumentative where possible.

  175. Julie in Austin
    June 2, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    Sarah wrote in #169,

    “Julie, the people who have pointed out the other pictures in the magazine have deflated your point substantially, IMHO. Your response has been weak. It seems to me you made a snap judgment without considering the larger framework, and your original post can only failry be characterized as a complaint. Re-read it. Would your heart have hurt if you had stepped outside of the tunnel before posting?”

    ‘Pictures’ above should be singular–one person (I think JKS but I’m too lazy to check) found ONE picture on the back cover that I hadn’t realized was part of this article (one other person–again, I’m too lazy to see who–noted the next article, but I had already referenced that in my original post). So changing the ratio from 6/7 pictures to 6/8 does not deflate my point (I can assure you that my post would have been the same had I noticed that one picture before I wrote my post). Sarah, instead of making assertions (weak response, snap judgment, complaint, tunnel vision), please make arguments. What is your evidence for these accusations?

    Re Nathan in #165: Why don’t you apply your call to charitable reading to my comments as well as those who disagree with me? Everything you say in #165 applies to, well, itself.

  176. Sandra
    June 2, 2005 at 1:09 pm

    Julie wrote : “I can assure you that my post would have been the same had I noticed that one picture before I wrote my post.”

    Julie, I get the feeling that your post would have been the same if just one of the pictures showed some domestic duty (or “domestic divas” as you put it, which to me is an insulting term).

  177. June 2, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    I get the feeling that if one of the 8 pictures had been domestic and the other seven following other points of the article that Julie would have not written this. She gave several other suggestions of pictures that were more appropriate to the article, but I never saw her say that none of the pictures should have been about anything domestic. Good heavens, can a homeschooler with three children overlook domestic responsibilities and survive? :)

    It seems that Julie’s comment way back in #90 was overlooked:

    “Imagine if Pres. Hinckley gave a talk on ‘five things to do to prepare to go to the Temple’ and half of one item was ‘wear Sunday best’ but almost all of the pictures showed people preparing their clothes instead of their souls. Would that seem right to you?”

    It wouldn’t seem right to me.

  178. annegb
    June 2, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Whoever said it, that is just ridiculous that Mormons do not take care of their yards. Just ridiculous. Come to my neighborhood, there are about 30 homes, maybe 5 non-members, so 35. Maybe half are sort of unkempt yards, maybe two are really awful, maybe 10 are beautiful (mine is one), and the others are okay.

    So your math is wrong. I am insulted by your generalization.

    Which has nothing to do with the topic. Which, why, then, did you say it? What in the world has that got to do with pictures in the Ensign?

  179. Caroline
    June 2, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    Brian said, regarding his idea that about 1% of LDS women are professionals,
    “And I was talking about professional jobs, not teachers or nurses or secretaries,
    librarians, etc that usually require college or high school education.”

    Brian, since when are teachers, nurses and librarians not professionals? Teachers need graduate certification to teach; most I know have M.Eds. Librarians need a masters in library science. These workers are professionals. And by the way, I would estimate that at least 30% of the women in my ward are “professionals.”

    Julie, great post. I absolutely agree with your observations. Nothing turns me off more to the idea of stay at home motherhood than a focus on domestic work. How completely uninspiring. I’ve mentally (and ok, verbally) mocked the graphics in the Ensign for years. My friend was thinking of writing an article analyzing what the graphics in the Ensign say about family relationships. She found a huge majority of family pictures with the father pointing, teaching, or directing and the woman cuddling something like a child or pet. In most cases the man was placed higher in the picture than the woman. Hmmm…

  180. Sandra
    June 2, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    I’ve mentally (and ok, verbally) mocked the graphics in the Ensign for years….


  181. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 2, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Julie – “Re Nathan in #165: Why don’t you apply your call to charitable reading to my comments as well as those who disagree with me? Everything you say in #165 applies to, well, itself.”

    Everyone (and especially people who disagree with Julie): please read my comment in 165 to endorse benevolent readings all around. I’m sorry you felt singled out, Julie. As to the potential for my comment to be self-critical, you are right. I tried to make the point that all of us have a regretable tendancy to go after the weakest spots – the low hanging fruit — in each others’ arguments. Paradoxically, I can’t exemplify the point without commiting the sin myself by citing someone at his or her worst. For what it’s worth, though, I wasn’t going after your weakest moment as an inferior substitute for challenging your stronger points, with which I actually tend to agree.

  182. Janey
    June 2, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    I liked Richard T’s comments in 143 and 144. I’m not invested enough in this topic to make a substantive comment, so I thought I’d just agree with someone else.

  183. June 2, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Anyone have any ideas about how I could make my wife learn how to cook and keep house better and act more like these women pictured in the Ensign?

    Just kidding.

    After almost 20 years of marriage she is the same wonderful person I married. She has many talents and abilities, but she is not much like the women pictured in the Ensign.

  184. N Miller
    June 2, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Well, I am sorry I missed this post up until now. My wife was doing part of her “motherly responsibility” and went into labor this weekend to bring into this world a beautiful baby boy and this is the first chance to get back on. Interestingly enough, through this time, she was reading the article and made a lot of comments to me. I could argue my position, but alas, people are set on their sides and therefore will just add fuel to one side if I start commenting whether it was right pictures or the wrong ones. But as unbiased as I can say, while she was talking to me, not once did she ever say anything to me about the pictures, either for or against. I wonder how many people usually notice. What pictures were used for the first presidency message? Or what about the Latter-Day Saint voices? Before you look, take a guess, you may be right. I took a few marketing classes and know that pictures can affect you when you don’t even know it. When reading an article, they can influence your thoughts on the story. Do you think that the Ensign doesn’t know this? Perhaps you think they put them in there for no reason? I had a sister in my ward who was a wonderful artist and was commissioned to do some art work for a story in the Ensign (I believe for an article by Pres. Monson). It was interesting as we talked to her about the process. She was to read the article and pray over how to go about drawing the pictures to go along with it. After working long hours on the paintings, she submitted them (it was fun as she used many ward members as her models). They told her that she needed to make changes on many of the paintings. So she did, and and resubmitted them. They returned them to her to make some changes again, and this process continued for about three or four revisions before they accepted them. I don’t know who it was that OK’d the final pictures, but they obviously were concerned what the pictures portrayed. Go ahead and submit your letter, it may change it in the future, it may not. But perhaps, just maybe, the pictures were used on purpose, for a reason we know not, and without understanding their reasons, we ought to be careful on telling them how to do their job in portraying what they do (note that I said careful, not “don’t”). Maybe that is what Sister Tanner wanted to show. You give good reasons for why *you* believe what should be portrayed, perhaps they too have their reasons. Using an LDS authors line, “Seek first to understand”.

    BTW, I grew up with the want to become a stock broker working on Wall Street. I envisioned, and still envision, riding the subway with the Wall Street Journal in hand updating myself on the days events, using my hand held to go through my schedule, making phone calls to set up appointments, basically, doing the dirty part of my day so I can get down to business when I get to work. Important to the success of the stock broker or investment banker? I believe so. On the way home I would ride the subway with my iPod and listen to scriptures instead. Hence, two important parts of my day would be on the train ride in, and the train ride out. Careful in your comparison and be sure it evokes the image and emotion you want it to.

  185. Trenden
    June 2, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Wow, I just read this thread and had to open the Ensign at lunch to see the offensive pictures and article that generated so much ire. But I didn’t see anything to be offended over; just the usual Ensign stuff. I’m starting to think some people go through life looking for an excuse to be offended.

  186. JKS
    June 2, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    While admittedly they are an unbalanced representation of the text of the article, I found little to make me upset.
    Three of the pictures have non-blonde Utah looking people. But they forgot to represent the non-cooking/ironing/shopping people adequately.

  187. Brandy
    June 2, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    I can hardly stand the pictures in the ensign on a good day. I got my copy yesterday and flipped through. When I saw those pictures of the domestic divas, I didn’t want to even read the article. The pictures said to me that all I should be doing with my time is sewing, cleaning, cooking, and yes- being pregnant and barefoot. If that all motherhood is about I want no part of it.

  188. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 2, 2005 at 9:26 pm

    Trenden — “I’m starting to think some people go through life looking for an excuse to be offended.”

    Whoa. A single blog post is a stunningly weak basis for making judgments about how someone “goes through life.”

  189. Martin
    June 2, 2005 at 9:28 pm

    I too have seen the Ensign article. I see nothing wrong with the text or the photos. Good housekeeping skills are needed and beneficial to any mother. Housekeeping is not the only skills a mother needs, but certainly one of several skill sets any wife/mother should possess.

  190. Sue M
    June 2, 2005 at 10:15 pm

    Well, I’m a pretty crappy housekeeper. But I still think I’m a fantastic wife and mother (if I do say so myself, thankyouverymuch). Go figure.

    One question for you – is housekeeping one of the several skill sets a husband/father ought to possess? Have there been any articles in the Ensign lately about the importance of teaching our sons, as part of their preparation for fatherhood, to cook, clean, iron, or change the oil? I’m not saying there have not been, I’m just curious if that is also emphasized for young men.

    Or maybe I should just stop beating a dead horse already. Yeah.

  191. Bill
    June 2, 2005 at 10:35 pm

    Are skill sets different from skills?

  192. Marc Bohn
    June 3, 2005 at 12:41 am

    #184 – All those I know who have published Ensign articles say they were completely removed from the decision of what images to pair with the article. It’s likely Sister Tanner had no part in the images.

    #185 – Just because something didn’t affect you in a particular way doesn’t mean others aren’t justified in the way they perceived something.

  193. Harold B. Curtis
    June 3, 2005 at 1:04 am

    WOW… I’m speechless… But here is some hokey poetry anyway:

    A picture’s worth a thousand words
    And so our hearts incline
    That what I want to see in it
    My attitudes define

    The soul, at last, an open book
    Is seen by everyone
    And as we see, then so are seen
    The seeing is all done

    Harold B. Curtis…A new Poster

  194. Kingsley
    June 3, 2005 at 1:05 am

    Interesting, the idea that, where conversations re mothering are concerned, men should “butt out.” Seems kind of a clodhopping, sexist position. Having had a mother, & having listened to countless (countless, I say!) sermons on mothering, & planning, at least, to one day be a father with a mother at my side, I feel more than justified in participating in the conversation. Julie, a lot of what goes into the Ensign seems to reflect a sort of Father Knows Best-era clean-cut corniness. Like ads in mags from the 50s. My little sisters at least just sort of giggle at it. I have a feeling it will fade away as you get more & more Vietnam Apostles as opposed to WWII Apostles. It seems almost reflexive, for now. This too shall pass. It is late; my comments are pointless & wandery. Rest assured that many young women (& young men, though they get stereotyped less) roll their eyes at the pictures & value the articles!

  195. Adam Greenwood
    June 3, 2005 at 1:36 am

    May those plans come to fruition.

  196. Phouchg
    June 3, 2005 at 9:29 am

    When I saw the pictures mentioned, I think back to the episode of Star Trek when Harry Mudd is on the planet of the androids and seeing the female androids with their blank stares “Yes, my lord Mudd”. I think if I saw my wife doing chores wearing a vapid smile like those pictured, I would worry about what exactly is on her mind :)

    I agree that the quality of visual design is nowhere near that of professional magazines, and I think it is just one step above the Watchtower and Awake! at the attempts to influence thought. In many forms of print media, the author and art director work together on a project. In this case, I speculate that the article was written, then given to a design person “this article is about young women preparing for motherhood…let’s add pictures of what wives and mothers are supposed to do (always smile, make a roast, go shopping)”.

    I think the retrenchment Armand Mauss warned about in “The Angel and the Beehive” is proceeding even faster than he projected. I suspect such quaint imagery doesn’t resonate with the modern young woman of today. She may be more interested in deciding which college offers the best training for her career, extreme snowboarding or surfing, or not even thinking about marrying until she is at least 25.

  197. Kim
    June 3, 2005 at 10:25 am

    My goodness! An open letter to the Ensign and 196 comments in just a few days, how could a person pass by without taking a look? It took a while, but I’ve managed to read it all (the article, the open letter, and the comments) and sure enough I’ve a few comments as well.

    It seems to me Sister Tanner is on target and the photos are appropriate for the message. Every family needs a home that invites Spirit to attend. A clean, well organized home is a place the family and the Spirit will want to be.

    A couple of comments (#189 and #190) caught my attention. I’m sure my perspective will be up setting to some, but being a good wife/mother and a “crappy housekeeper” is kind of like being a good doctor that doesn’t bother to use sanitary surgical tools or a good lawyer that looses critical documents, or a great teacher that gives unjust grades. Most every professional has “less liked” tasks that need to be “handled”; should mothers be any different. If the home’s husband works full-time, then frequently the home is “run” by his wife and mother of the children.

    Just a few thoughts which I hope are not offensive; if they are please accept by apology.

  198. Caroline
    June 3, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Kim, your comments are offensive. Can you imagine how many hundreds of thousands of women you have just called bad mothers because they don’t focus on/aren’t good at cooking and cleaning? A good mother is someone who nurtures, cares for, loves, and teaches children. A good housekeeper is someone who cooks and cleans well.

  199. Sue M
    June 3, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    I suppose they would be offensive, if I thought you were right. Your analogies are flawed. A doctor who doesn’t use sanitary surgical tools will probably kill the patient. A lawyer who loses documents will not give his client an adequate defense and is incompetent. A teacher who grades unfairly is immoral.

    Even if my house is a little messy, or if I (horrors!) have a mother’s helper who cleans it for me, I am still a good mother – I am not immoral or incompetent. I do not damage my children via my disinterest/lack of focus on housekeeping. They have chores, they will still learn the value of work. They just won’t learn to glorify it. They will just know that their mother thinks that housekeeping and chores are a necessary evil. I suppose they will never learn to “exult over the smell in a freshly cleaned bathroom,” ala Sister Tanner’s mother. I suppose their lives will be none the less rich because of it.

  200. Peter
    June 3, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    Hey now, this lawyer-bashing has got to stop. I mean as a lawyer I lose documents all the time and I’m not incompet . . . uh-oh, maybe I am. Sigh, I think I need a cookie from a very clean kitchen. Is it too late for med-school?

  201. Todd Hopkinson
    June 3, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    Kim’s comments are offensive? The pictures in the Ensign are offensive? My comments have been offensive? The notion that good housekeeping actually might matter, beyond what you like, is offensive?

    How do you offended folks make it through a day? No one has said that even the best housekeeper’s don’t have tough or imperfect days. Why diminish the ideal just because you are not comfortable with it, personally? And why derive insults and aspersions out of comments that don’t intend them, simply because they don’t support your arguments?

  202. Mark B.
    June 3, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    Being uninterested in housekeeping is not a sin, I suppose, but using “disinterest” when “not interested” is meant is.

  203. Todd Hopkinson
    June 3, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    “Homemaking, as I view it, falls into two major divisions: homemaking and housekeeping. Homemaking takes into account the spiritual values: love, peace, tranquility, harmony among family members, security. It makes of a place of residence a spot to which family members can retire from a confused and troubled world and find understanding and rejuvenation. Its character is quietness; it evidences good taste, culture, and refinement” —

    Is this demeaning or destructive?

  204. Bill
    June 3, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    “exult over the smell in a freshly cleaned bathroom,”?

    I think I wrote a haiku about this. . . Oh, yes, now I remember:

    Ammonia, Ajax,
    Clean floors and fixtures. Breathe deep!
    Sweet smells for Christmas.

    View the whole thread here:

  205. JKS
    June 3, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    I am disappointed with thread. I expected more from an LDS, pro-SAHM culture. No mother is a perfect housekeeper. But being an imperfect one takes a lot of time.
    Are you really willing call up your mothers and tell them “I think you wasted your time. Remember all those hours you spent changing my diapers, cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, cooking meals, grocery shopping, running errands, balancing the checkbook, taking us to school & friends houses & activities, and wiping up our split milk, and washing the couch after I drew on it with a purple marker……..well, I don’t appreciate them. I only appreciate the times you were spending “quality time” with me. That is all that motherhood is.”

    When you’ve got a family, the housework is constant. The laundry doesn’t stay done. The kitchen doesn’t stay clean. Families have to have dinner every night. You turn around and somebody spills something on the newly mopped floor.
    Your house is NEVER clean for more than 5 minutes. Yet you still clean it.
    I work hard for my family. I am happy that my husband appreciates my efforts. Does he think that making a good dinner is “all” I can do? Of course not. He knows I can do our taxes and he doesn’t know what a W-2 is. But wouldn’t it be unkind of him to think that when I sweep the floor everyday because my 1 year old makes a mess when she eats, that I’m not doing something really important.
    I doubt I would win any kind of “traditional female thing” type of award. But my kids will be raised in a decently clean house, in a reasonably organized household and have normal, slightly healthy meals most of the time. And I did it because I love them.

  206. Phouchg
    June 3, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    “Is this demeaning or destructive?”

    No – but others beside the female head of household can contribute to this environment…

  207. JKS
    June 3, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Sue M
    Having a maid doesn’t make someone a worse mother. Just as getting a babysitter every week to go out with your husband doesn’t make you a worse mother than someone who doesn’t. And the someone who can’t afford a babysitter or just never does, isn’t a better mother for not getting a babysitter.

    A “good mother” isn’t about how much of this or that. Every mother is in a different situation. How can we compare. This mother and that mother. Aren’t 99% of mothers doing their best for their children? Aren’t we all good mothers because we love our kids? Aren’t we all good mothers despite our imperfections? Is it necessary to split mothers into groups of bad, ok, good and perfect?

    It is human to compare. But it is such a hurtful aspect of our culture. We can’t compare mothers to mothers to grade ourselves. We can’t compare our work done, or our results, or our ultimate creations….our grown up children to validate whether we were good mothers.
    I am a good mother. I’m just not a perfect one. Maybe I can stop trying to be perfect….I doubt it. No one should be able to convince me that I don’t try–or that I don’t love my children and do my best. And I shouldn’t be able to convince another mother of that either.
    I think mothers are mothers. And “mother” means a lot of good, good stuff.

  208. Sue M
    June 3, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    Oh good grief.

    For Mark, from
    dis·in·ter·est·ed Audio pronunciation of “disinterested” ( P ) Pronunciation Key (ds-ntr-std, -nt-rstd) adj.
    2. NOT INTERESTED; indifferent: “supremely disinterested in all efforts to find a peaceful solution” (C.L. Sulzberger).

    JKS – That is YOUR life. Those are YOUR choices. Mine are different. I would rather sit and read to my kids, and let the dishes sit in the sink overnight. I would rather that the whole family, dad included, go outside and play kickball together than vacuum the floor one more time. I would rather hire part-time help (since I can) to clean the house while I spend time with my kids in other ways. Sometimes the house will be clean. Sometimes it won’t. And guess what, I still love my kids. Hard to believe, I know. Different people express love in different ways. We all have different lives. My objection to the Ensign article was what I felt to be a glorification of housework as an essential part of mothering. It has been blown vastly out of proportion in this thread. It is sad that people feel that they have to call into question whether or not those of us who do not like to clean are good mothers or not. (And yes, I know that was a horribly constructed sentence, before anyone feels the need to point it out to me.)

    And yes, I think that’s an excellent idea – I will call my mother right now and tell her exactly that. Snort.

  209. Sue M
    June 3, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    JKS – I wrote that post before reading post 207. I agree with post 208 wholeheartedly. Thank you for writing it.

  210. Kingsley
    June 3, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    True story, this: my little, wriggly, two-year-old brother once escaped the bathtub & breaded himself from head to toe with flour from the pantry. I have no idea how he thought of it — little, wriggly, two-year-old boys are inherently wicked, I guess. I can never forget the sight of his horrifically white, pasty body streaking down the hall & out the front door, my mother in hot pursuit. He made it a couple of blocks before she caught him, dragged him back, hosed him off, clothed him, cleaned the pantry, & began her next thankless (& occasionally hilariously absurd) task. What is my point, you ask? I have no point. I just think the image of an enraged laughing flabbergasted woman chasing a naked floury child down the street is archetypical of motherhood.

  211. A. Greenwood
    June 3, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    I always thought I was the oldest child in my family, and unrelated to Kingsley. Wrong on both counts. Because, strangely enough, when I was two years old I escaped from the bathtub . . . And the rest is history.

  212. Kristine
    June 3, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Kids + flour are a very bad combination. I came out of the baby’s room after putting him down for a nap one time to find my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old throwing handfuls of flour into the air in the living room. In a tone of hushed wonder, the 4-year-old said “mom, it’s snowing! look how beautiful!” Since they had already emptied most of a 10-lb. bag of flour, there was nothing to do but join them in tossing the rest around the living room.

    (I guess that makes me the Anti-Mother–not only do I not like cleaning, but I have, on occasion *deliberately* participated in completely trashing my house :))

  213. JKS
    June 3, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Even when dishes sit in the sink while you play….eventually they must be done…..
    Which is why I believe in paper plates. Those of you who love the environment would think I’d a bad person, but in order to keep messes to a minimum so I can have a reasonably clean house AND play with my children I use paper/styrofoam plates half the time….but it saves water and energy because I don’t have to run the dishwasher as much, right?

  214. Sue M
    June 3, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    Kristine, I love you. :>

  215. June 3, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    “A couple of comments (#189 and #190) caught my attention. I’m sure my perspective will be up setting to some, but being a good wife/mother and a “crappy housekeeper” is kind of like being a good doctor that doesn’t bother to use sanitary surgical tools or a good lawyer that looses critical documents, or a great teacher that gives unjust grades. Most every professional has “less liked” tasks that need to be “handled”; should mothers be any different. If the home’s husband works full-time, then frequently the home is “run” by his wife and mother of the children.”

    Kim: if it will help you to understand where we’re coming from on this, I agree that a doctor who doesn’t sanitize his instruments is a bad one. But can you imagine a nice article about how to encourage young people who want to be doctors accompanied mostly by photos of doctors cleaning their instruments? No, because cleaning the instruments is only something that is necessary, but incidental to a doctor’s primary focus, which should be healing his/her patients. Most doctors don’t decide to go into their field because of a great love of sterilization, and most women don’t decide to be mothers because they want to do load upon load of laundry. No, they do the laundry because it needs to be done, and because it’s easier to teach and love your family without a big dirty pile of underwear and smelly socks taking over the house.

  216. June 3, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    Now that I’ve heard the stories of breaded children, I have one more possibility to keep me awake at night. Kingsley, I’m glad you think of enraged women and naked floury toddlers running down the street when you think of motherhood. I’m pretty sure my kids will think of an exasperated woman with tweezers screaming, “Not AGAIN!” as she tries to extract yet more produce from a toddler boy’s nose (the hospital bills are still rolling in from the broccoli incident).

  217. Kingsley
    June 3, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    Allison: “The Broccoli Incident” — how wonderful. Like something from Calvin and Hobbes. You’ll note I said enraged AND laughing; which precisely captures my mother’s attitude toward me. I also can never forget how, when she took me to Wal-Mart for discount nicotine gum, she sat in silence for the longest while, wondering how in the hell did my boy end up like this — & then she began to giggle like a girl, & finally to laugh till the tears came to her eyes, because mothers are as keen as God when it comes to realizing the the ultimate lovableness of their idiotic offspring.

  218. annegb
    June 3, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    I’ve heard that argument before about “I spend my time reading and playing with my kids” from my filthy daughter-in-law. Her kids cry when they have to go home from my house, which is fairly clean, so they must want some level of cleanliness.

    Mothering is a balance. If all you do is play and read to your kids, who cooks? Who cleans? Boy, it piles up pretty fast?

    Don’t buy that “my priorities are my kids, so I don’t clean” idea.

  219. Sue M
    June 3, 2005 at 7:09 pm

    Well, my husband cooks. We share the cleaning, and we also have daily help with the cleaning. We are not filthy. I would say that we are fairly clean. I just don’t obsess over it, for heaven’s sake. Why do people want to demonize those of us who don’t enjoy housework? I work part-time from home, every morning. Through my part-time work, I bring in over 75% of our income, because my husband works in the social services field. I don’t want to spend my non-working time cleaning the house. Why should I have to? Sorry you don’t buy it – just because your DIL is filthy, doesn’t mean that we are. For everyone to continually insist that housework is a vital part of being a good mother is insulting to mothers who work.

    Someday, when we all have robots to do the housework for us, what on earth will you do with your time?

    Kidding. Sort of.

  220. annegb
    June 3, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    Sue: You’re right, I didn’t read your post carefully enough. Sorry.

    I don’t anybody really loves housework, not me, that’s for sure, but my point, way back when, was that I’m not insulted by the housework pictures associated with motherhood. But I am way insulted when men tell me women need to clean.

  221. June 3, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    Kingsley, I was laughing, too, through three different doctors with mirrors and pointy instruments up my son’s nose. I thought the first doctor was going to turn me in for being a complete lunatic, but it was funny, if expensive. Didn’t seem to bother Baby Boy at all; in fact, it’s turned into his favorite pasttime. It’s beginning to not be so funny.

  222. Rosalynde Welch
    June 3, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    There must be something besides a discussion of housework going on here; not even Martha Stewart stays interested in housework for 220 comments!

    I think what we’re seeing here is the enactment of several fairly disparate legitimation strategies for motherhood, which is currently undergoing a severe crisis of legitimacy. Julie and Sue want to separate out what they see as the menial aspects of mothering from its emotional and intellectual aspects, in order to deemphasize the (rather blue-collarish) former and valorize the (decidedly professionalistic) latter; the objective, perhaps, is to make motherhood look and feel more like the modern myth of the self-actualizing, perpetually fulfilling career. (And I still don’t buy this, women, much as I’d like to: the manual simply doesn’t cleave cleanly from the intellectual/emotional, as each necessarily entails and engenders the other–except, perhaps, for very privileged mothers like Sue. This doesn’t make you less of a mother, Sue, but it makes you a much less typical mother.) JKS and others, by contrast, want emphatically to claim and valorize the menial aspects of mothering, making them symbols of the emotional and moral prestige that motherhood still claims; the objective, I think, is to create for domestic scutwork a narrative of moral superiority that compensates for its rather uncontroversial unpleasantness (not that *you’re* claiming to be morally superior, JKS!). I (and nobody else, that I can tell) want to acknowledge the menial aspects as an intrinsic part of mothering, not in order to valorize them but rather to produce a real, warts-and-all account of motherhood that confronts its contradictions; the objective, I tell myself, is to arrive at an understanding of the social conditions of motherhood sufficiently accurate to intelligently and cautiously suggest resolutions to its contradictions.

  223. annegb
    June 3, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, no way do I want to valorize the manual aspect of housekeeping, I think it sucks. I just think it has to be done. If I could afford it, I’d pay somebody. I’d love that.

    But there is a beauty, and a grace, in cleanliness and order, if that’s what a person enjoys. Well, even if you don’t enjoy it. I’d rather stay with somebody who has clean sheets and towels than my now-volunteered-by-me-bad-example-DIL.

    Thomas More talks about comfort in ordinary tasks, there is a dignity there. Oh wait….I’m valorizing. Oh, well.

    Could this be yet another example of a discussion that really at its essence speaks of control and judgement issues? Hmmm??? That would be my bad. Well, not only my, but one of my main bads.

    Getting punch drunk with this subject.

  224. Kingsley
    June 3, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    I’m with you, annegb, re that “beauty, and a grace, in cleanliness and order …” Nicely said. Also re More & the comfort & dignity found in ordinary tasks. On the other hand, one day per week I play with my niece & nephew for two measly hours, & by time I am done there is no possibility of doing a wash, much less really scrubbing something. What I do is, sit on the couch & stare blankly into Infinity.

  225. Kingsley
    June 3, 2005 at 10:07 pm

    “[D]omestic scutwork.”

    AWESOME, in both the Bill & Ted sense of the word & its grander sense, too.

  226. JKS
    June 3, 2005 at 10:31 pm

    As I’ve done various household tasks the past couple days, it made me sad when I thought, “I can’t believe Julie and those others don’t think what I do is important when it is so clearly necessary and there is no one else here to do it. How sexist to not have respect for mothers and the time they spend doing these tasks?”

    But I also imagine what has been going through Julie’s mind as she does her housekeeping, “I can’t believe JKS and those others think that this is so important. I only do it because I have to, it isn’t because I like it. How can she reduce motherhood to mindless tasks?”

    I’m willing to bet that our houses are equally clean/messy, organized/ cluttered……Julie and I have very similar lives from what I can tell…..same aged kids…same priorities in so many ways….even the same first name which can make it a little confusing when I forget that people aren’t talking about me…..

    Maybe when we look at the breakfast dishes we simply motivate ourselves differently. Julie maybe says, “Well, as soon as I get it done I can move on to the important stuff.” Maybe I have to tell myself, “Well, it’s gotta be done” and when its done I pat myself on the back for accomplishing something.

  227. Julie in Austin
    June 3, 2005 at 10:42 pm

    Holy guacamole. I leave for one day and come back to Shake-and-Bake Children, Nasal Broccoli, and, finally, a real live actual thought-provoking comment (no offense [well, OK, maybe a little] intended to posters #1-221 and yes that includes me) from Rosalynde in #222. Thank you, RW, for trying to make some sense out of this.

    I want to talk to you about your assessment, tho. You are right that I find a distinction between the manual and other aspects of motherhood useful. You then write:

    “And I still don’t buy this, women, much as I’d like to: the manual simply doesn’t cleave cleanly from the intellectual/emotional, as each necessarily entails and engenders the other–except, perhaps, for very privileged mothers like Sue. This doesn’t make you less of a mother, Sue, but it makes you a much less typical mother.”

    I’d like you to develop this idea a little more for me, because this is obviously a real point of disagreement between us that I think would be interesting to explore, but I am not clear enough about your position to engage you. I don’t think that my paradigm requires a clean cleaving of events. For example, I (yeah, OK, I’m a geek) sing the Greek alphabet to the baby when I change his poop. There’s a manual element here (and if any of you start waxing on the spiritual values and deep fulfillment you have found in changing poop I will delete your comment. No joke.) and, of course, the emotional/mental element that I enjoy. I don’t need a nice demarcation (first we change poop then we turn the baby into a genius) in order for this to work for me. So I don’t think your argument about the intertwining holds water for me but, again, I’d like you to flesh it out more.

    I, with you, want to *acknowledge* the manual aspects of mothering, I just don’t want them to shove everything else off the stage (as the photos in the Ensign article did), to seem to be as important or more important than the other aspects (as many of our commenters seem to think) or to be considered the defining element of motherhood (again, many commenters seem to think this).

    Sorry if this is incoherent. Long day.

  228. Elisabeth
    June 3, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Those Winter Sundays
    by Robert Hayden

    Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
    from labor in the weekday weather made
    banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

    I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
    When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
    and slowly I would rise and dress,
    fearing the chronic angers of that house,

    speaking indifferently to him,
    who had driven out the cold
    and polished my good shoes as well.
    What did I know, what did I know
    of love’s austere and lonely offices?

  229. CarrieH
    June 3, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    Out of curiosity, have your DIL’s children ever specifically stated that they’re crying because their house is dirty? If my childhood is any indication, I’m guessing they’re crying because you spoil them or you have really cool toys. Unless they’re over, say, 10, I doubt they’re even aware that their house isn’t perfectly clean. I know I never saw a problem with my room when my parents insisted I clean it–even when it was literally impossible to walk across it without first clearing a path. (But then, I am and always have been a slob.)

  230. Todd Hopkinson
    June 3, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    What of the service aspect of homemaking? Have those criticizing the the Ensign’s picture selections for their emphasis on homemaking considered the spiritual benefits and development that comes from service?

    Some of you may not appreciate just how much even our very youngest pick up from us. I speak from first hand experience from my own childhood and how much my mother did for me. Ever since my very early days I’ve had a deep feeling of indebtedness and honor for all that my mother did. I was ever cognizant of it. But there is no way for me to distinguish the physical service from everything else, because it was all intertwined, part of the same whole loving service.

    To see homemaking elements of motherhood diminished as demeaning and destructive is in and of itself demeaning and destructive.

  231. CarrieH
    June 3, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    As to the Ensign article, Julie, I agree that the pictures completely misrepresent the content. I think this was probably an instance of pure laziness on the part of the people in charge of graphics; i.e., the easiest things to depict were the physical acts mentioned by Sister Tanner, so they just opted to use photos of those briefly mentioned and easily pictured items. While people clearly disagree about whether the disconnect between the pictures and message is harmful in this case, I think most people would agree that pictures next to an article should illustrate it to the extent possible. And I don’t see how it could hurt if the Ensign did a better job of this.

    For the record, if it weren’t for this thread, there’s no way I would have read that article. Maybe I’m just destructive and demeaning, but a picture of three females ironing doesn’t make me want to read the words next to it.

  232. Anonymous
    June 3, 2005 at 11:49 pm

    JKS: ?I can?t believe Julie and those others don?t think what I do is important when it is so clearly necessary and there is no one else here to do it. How sexist to not have respect for mothers and the time they spend doing these tasks??

    Todd Hopkinson: To see homemaking elements of motherhood diminished as demeaning and destructive is in and of itself demeaning and destructive.

    Holy Toledo! Julie didn’t say that housekeeping, etc. aren’t important. She didn’t say that the homemaking elements of motherhood are demeaning and destructive. Basically she said two things, that she didn’t like the fact that the pictures next to the article don’t reflect the content of the article (and they should), and that the spiritual/moral aspects of mothering are more important than the physical ones.

    Why do you insist on misrepresenting what she said? Why argue against a straw man that you’ve created? You can disagree with Julie about her second claim. Rosalynde has shown that a few comments ago. People can disagree with her first claim, as a bunch have. But you ought at least to disagree with the claims she makes rather than ones that you put in her post. The things you say about her are unfair and it is morally wrong to accuse her of saying things she didn’t say or taking positions she didn’t take. You probably didn’t mean to be unfair or unkind, but you have been.

  233. James
    June 4, 2005 at 1:07 am

    This has been a very interesting discussion for a relatively new lurker. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Titus 2:3-5 or 1 Tim 5:14. Titus 2:3-5 says, in part, “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” 1 Tim 5:14 likewise encourages young women to “guide the house.” I take these references to mean the wife manages the home, which includes keeping an orderly home. That doesn’t mean she has to be the only one who does it, but it certainly seems to be scriptural instructions to the wife/mother.

  234. James
    June 4, 2005 at 1:12 am

    Sorry about the lengthy bold. How do you turn it “off”? I used the less than sign, a forward slash, the letter b, and a greater than sign, but it didn’t work.

  235. Jack
    June 4, 2005 at 1:54 am

    I didn’t want to post anything on this thread because I have a bad habit of using words a daggers when we start talking about gender issues. But I have to say that I actually agree somewhat with Julie on this one. The pictures are pretty milk-toast if you ask me. Of course, I say this as one who has an interest in the arts as well as the subject at hand. I can’t think of anything that I find very satifying when it comes to church media (with the exception of some of the literature, of course). I think the folks at the Ensign are doing the best they can, but that doesn’t mean we have to prostrate ourselves before the content as if it were an inspired oracle. This IS room for improvement. It would have been nice to see a mother and daughter studying scripture together, or playing a musical number together on two different instruments, or pouring over a great piece of literature, or what have you. But as much of an improvement as these kinds of snap shots would be, they’d still be your run of the mill fuzzy photos. Gag.

  236. Jack
    June 4, 2005 at 1:58 am

    Oops, I meant to say:

    There is room for improvement…

  237. annegb
    June 4, 2005 at 11:22 am

    Carrie: My ex-DIL has had three children by three different fathers, and lived with different men while married to others. Only one of the children was born in wedlock, the one she had with my son. That is only a small aspect of what my grandchildren have to live with.
    While they are eating chips left on the counter, she is outside smoking and talking on the phone about how she would rather spend time with her kids than clean.

    I once made the point to her that the problem was more than spitshining the floors, it was about maturity and class. She has none.

    Although, that is totally off the subject. I do spoil my grandchildren by doing things like feeding and bathing them regularly. They feel really indulged.

    I realize, Carrie and others, that my DIL is an extreme example and I don’t think anybody here is like that. I used her as an example of that “I’d rather spend time with my kids than clean” bias that I own as mine.

  238. Mark B.
    June 4, 2005 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks to Rosalynde for drawing some intelligent conclusions from what will soon be the most-commented-upon post in T&S history. (I won’t even make any snarky comments about any of the words you used to state those conclusions.)

    The reality check we should all take is that every career, no matter how grand and glorious (I just can bring myself to say “self-actualizing”), has its share of scutwork. Think of all those babies to kiss, hands to shake, rubber chickens and diner pancakes to eat that the President has to put up with. For lawyers, its the hours spent doing document review, cite checking, proof-reading, photocopy checking, etc. etc. When I was a young securities lawyer and spent hours at the printer several nights a week, reading page after page of changes to registration statements, making sure that the [expletive deleted] Kidder Peabody ampersand was correct, I’m not sure that the fact that I was wearing a suit and getting paid made the work any more fulfilling, challenging (I went to law school for this?!!) or interesting than the diaper changing, spilled-milk cleaning up, homemaking that my wife was doing.

    Work is not fun, generally. That’s why it’s called work and not play.

  239. Kristine
    June 4, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    Mark, the crucial difference here is that most of the time, people are allowed some choice in which set of unpleasant tasks they take on, based on their assessment of the rewards that go with those tasks. In this case, we’re suggesting that a simple biological fact ought to dictate to half of the people in the church a particular set of thankless tasks. Moreover, we’re telling them that those thankless tasks are part and parcel of God’s highest purpose for them. I might very well choose to be a janitor (I did, for a while, in college) because of the pay, the flexible schedule, etc. that made the basic unpleasantness of the task bearable. But if someone had told me that God designed me specifically so that I could “exult in the smell of a freshly cleaned bathroom,” I’d have punched him in the nose. Amazingly, I don’t feel any differently about cleaning toilets dirtied by my darling offspring. Necessary sacrifice? Of course, and I make it happily. But don’t, DON’T try convincing me that somehow all women should do this job and love it, just by virtue of being female (unless, of course, we’re ready to see articles in the Ensign addressed to YM leaders, about how to teach each and every boy in the church why they should choose the exact same career, and “exult” in the menial and disgusting aspects of it).

  240. Rosalynde Welch
    June 4, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Julie, let me try to work this over a little. First of all, know that I’m not talking about “housework” as it’s depicted in the Ensign article, that is as gratuitous extras like arranging flowers and so forth; I’m talking about the basics, like preparing food, producing clean clothing, maintaining a reasonably organized and safe environment, things like that. For you, these things don’t seem to represent the important parts of motherhood, the parts that nurture and inform our children’s emotions, psyches and minds; that sort of nurturing and teaching, the essence of mothering, for you, seems to occur on the couch reading books, or in the kitchen doing experiments, or in the backyard playing soccer (I think this was Sue’s), or in the mountains hiking (this would be mine). But every one of these “real” mothering moments requires, as an intrinsic (not merely consequential) part of the activity or as a necessary step for it to recur tomorrow, precisely the sorts of organizing, straightening, preparing, cleaning you try to separate out. So the nurturing/teaching activities *require* and *produce* the menial activities. Conversely, and this is really the heart of the argument, it’s my contention that, in fact, it is precisely the menial drudgery—*not* the enjoyable play or learning time—that performs the most fundamental and important kind of nurturing. I think children who are psychologically and emotionally secure, who feel loved and valued and safe, feel that way *not* primarily because their mothers read to them on the couch, play with them in the backyard or sing them the Greek alphabet (love that, by the way!), but because their mothers put food in front of them on the table, ensure that they are clean and safe, produce the objects they need when they need them, reliably supply clean clothing and ensure an organized environment. I’m totally convinced, by personal experience, that children *know* who does the menial housework, they know on whom they can depend most reliably to meet their basic needs; and that the meeting of those basic needs is, in fact, the most important kind of nurturing.

    I have a feeling that our differences may stem from very different ideas of what constitutes “mothering.” I’d guess that for you, perhaps because of your experience with homeschooling, mothering primarily means teaching. For me, though, mothering primarily means *being the (only) one to meet my children’s needs* (obviously, this changes form and intensity as the children grow). Maybe this stems from my intensely difficult but ultimately formative experience with breastfeeding: being the mother, to me, meant at first that *only I* could feed the babies, *I* get up with them in the night, I put them to sleep, dress them, feed them, clean them. I’ve had quite a lot of help with my children as I’ve been in school, but it was always of paramount importance to me that *I* be the one to prepare and feed their meals, put them down to nap, wake with them at night, and do all the real caring tasks. If I could have a mother’s helper who could either prepare and feed the meals while I read to the kids, or who would read to the kids while I prepare and feed the meals, I’d definitely choose to do the cooking and feeding myself and forego the reading (and to understand this you have to realize how much I *hate* cooking, and how much I *love* reading).

    This isn’t a position I’ve reached consciously; it’s simply how I am as a mother to my children. Other mothers are different, and value different things; I get that, and I’m fine with that. In fact, I often wish that I could feel differently, too! The interesting point is that even stay-at-home-mothering, which we tend to treat as a monolithic alternative working-mothering, is itself an enormously variable social practice.

  241. June 4, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    In regards to #238, Mark B:

    I wish someone would do a post on men and whether or not they enjoy their careers/jobs. How many are just working in jobs that they don’t particularly enjoy, to put food on the table?

    I did not want to have to go back to work fulltime. I thought after working for 5 years to put my husband through school, and he had his degree, he’d be able to get a job that would support us well enough that I could stay home with the kids. But it didn’t work out that way–and boy was I upset. His job should pay off in a few years, but for now, I have to work fulltime so we can pay rent. And I’m making about twice as much as he is.

    But you know what? I love my job. I really, really love it. I feel really happy after a day at work. I can’t even really explain it. But so far (it’s been about a month or two) there’s been nothing I haven’t liked about my job. I come home tired, and cranky if the kids haven’t gotten any of their housecleaning chores done, but really happy about what I’ve done at work. I figure it’s God’s way of making the fact that I have to work, at a time when I always considered it important to be home with the kids (they’re ages 11-15), bearable for me.

    Sorry to be so off topic, but it’s something I’d like to hear more about.

  242. Nathan Mark Smith
    June 4, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Susan, that would be a rich topic.

  243. June 4, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    I have some thoughts on this subject, but having just taken about 30 minutes to catch up on this thread, I want to compliment (almost) everyone who has commented, and add that I find this most recent turn (comments #238-241) not only fascinating, but much closer, I think, to the real and complicated social/cultural/economic/gender dynamic which grounds Julie’s original (and very valid) complaint. What does the “work” of child-rearing consist of? Who should do it, and how, and why? Threads that go on this long almost always lose all energy; but these comments suddenly give the thread some fresh air. I hope it’ll continue.

  244. June 4, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Kristine —

    THANK YOU for voicing excatly what I felt when I read this article. I was going to post something earlier in the thread, but I just couldn’t make it sound right. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person who cringed when she read “exulted in a freshly cleaned bathroom” and wondered why there never is any Ensign articles on preparing YM to be dads.

  245. JKS
    June 4, 2005 at 4:49 pm

    RE #240 That is a very interesting post! I’ll definitely be thinking about your ideas for the next few days as I “mother” my children. Thanks.

  246. Mark B.
    June 4, 2005 at 4:52 pm


    I had not intended to suggest that anyone (women or men) should enjoy the menial and monotonous parts of housekeeping, or that something about their sex fits women particularly well to carry out those tasks. My only point (aptly blunted by you, of course) is that careers that we choose outside the home often have as much about them that are repetitive and dull and unchallenging as the most repetitive and dull parts of housework.

    Tossing flour on the carpet would definitely rank up there with looking through the firm directory and making up new firm names from the people listed there–mildly amusing, although an easier cleanup. (Green, Peppers & Karatz was probably the winner, by the way.)

  247. Julie in Austin
    June 4, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    Wow, Rosalynde, I find your comments fascinating because they are so very, very different from my reality. (Not that I think they are in any sense *wrong*, just different.)

    You may have missed a tiny random comment that I directed to you above that I wonder if your view will change as your children age. I meet very, very few of the physical needs of my seven year old. He does his own laundry, makes his own lunch, etc. If I mothered him primarily through physical acts, I’d be done mothering him now! I hate it when people tell me (about any topic) ‘just wait until you _____ and then you’ll understand’, but I wonder if your thinking on mothering will evolve as your children age.

    For what it is worth, here is my Official Hierarchy of What Matters in Mothering:

    –spiritual and moral teaching (formal–FHE, etc.–and informal–what you do when the kids are whacking each other with sticks, and also by example of own behavior)
    –academic teaching (I know this is shaped by homeschooling, of course, but I would hope that other families would delight in learning together, even if that learning is limited to bed time stories and nature hikes on Saturdays)
    –generally, being there (because the above are not going to happen if you aren’t physically there)
    –physical care

    You wrote, “I’m totally convinced, by personal experience, that children *know* who does the menial housework, they know on whom they can depend most reliably to meet their basic needs; and that the meeting of those basic needs is, in fact, the most important kind of nurturing.”

    I just don’t see it. This may be because my house can (and does) go to you-know-where on occasion with no discernable effect on the kids, but you can reverse engineer how much time I have spent on one-on-one time (reading, playing on the floor) especially with my middle boy based on what his behavior is at the moment. (If that wasn’t clear: he doesn’t behave well if he hasn’t been read to and/or played with much, but none of the kids seem affected by the orderliness of the house). I’m not so much saying that you are wrong, Rosalynde, as that, perhaps, different kids are affected differently–maybe, perhaps, because they are responding to their mother’s state of mind.

    You wrote, “The interesting point is that even stay-at-home-mothering, which we tend to treat as a monolithic alternative working-mothering, is itself an enormously variable social practice.”

    (big grin) I’m working up a few book reviews and a post on this very topic.

    MMF wrote, “It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person who cringed when she read “exulted in a freshly cleaned bathroom””

    I know I said I liked the article (and I do), but I cringed at that line as well.

    (At the same time, do you ever clean out a closet or the fridge or something and then go back and open it up several times that same day just for a peek at the orderliness? I do.)

  248. June 4, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I was involved in this topic in the early 100s, but I thought I might add a few thoughts based on its evolved state. I too greatly appreciate Rosalydne’s insights, and I find her comment #140 a great summary of my views.

    It’s interesting how this thread started with the discussion of the pictures in the Ensign, but fairly early on, it diverged from focusing on that. Several comments on the Julie/Sue M side have been interpreted to be dismissing or devaluing the considerable efforts of physical care being provided by mothers who feel physical care is important. Similarly, several comments on the JKS side have been interpreted to be criticizing mothers who aren’t good at or don’t place high importance on physical care.

    Julie, I think I would agree with your Official Hierarchy of What Matters in Mothering. But my view, which is similar to Rosalynde’s recent additions and JKS’s various posts, is that the higher items on the hierarchy can’t be adequately met, or met as effectively, without the lower items being taken care of. Thus physical care is not just something to get out of the way in order to teach academically and spiritually; it is an integral part of a unified mothering process. You keep trying to separate the physical from the spiritual, but I don’t think they can be separated. I agree that we shouldn’t glorify housekeeping as the highest goal of motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we need to say it is demeaning to women to value it as important nonetheless.

    If we look at the two aspects as the classic Mary/Martha split, I think the JKS camp feels like you are trying to say that the Martha components of mothering are not worth valuing and praising, since the Mary components are more important. But while in a direct comparison, the Mary components might be more important, it doesn’t mean that the Martha side isn’t also important. And if it is also important, it can be praised and valued, and its importance can be taught, and that should not cause offense to those who don’t take joy in it.

  249. Julie in Austin
    June 4, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    Jonathan Stone–

    This is what I said originally, “The overemphasis on physical housekeeping as the defining elements of motherhood is demeaning to women and destructive.”

    I did not say that housework was demeaning.
    I did not say that valuing housework was demeaning.
    I said that OVEREMPHASIS on it as the DEFINING ELEMENT of motherhood was demeaning.

    Sorry for yelling, but you are the straw that broke this camel’s back because what I said about what was ‘demeaning’ has been thrown back at me so many times on this thread. Further, the reason it is demeaning is that any one–even a reasonably diligent ten year old–can handle the physical needs of my family as well as I, but no one would meet the mental, spiritual, emotional needs in quite the same way that I do.

    Of course housework is important, of course it needs to be taken care of, of course it is intertwined with other tasks but I (unlike RW, who seems to be the only one to both disagree with me and not misrepresent my position) do not see it as the defining characteristic of motherhood.

  250. June 4, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    Rosalynde, wouldn’t face-time be most important in emotionally connecting with children? I would think it a poor strategy to hire someone to cuddle my kids on the couch while I prepared their dinner out of sight — not because eating doesn’t matter but because, at least in my case, the main reason I knew without doubt that my mother loved me was because she so clearly enjoyed being with me. She epitomized the message of a large cross-stitched poem a friend gave her and she hung in her bedroom (paraphrasing):

    Quiet down cobwebs
    dust go to sleep
    I’m rocking my baby
    and babies don’t keep

    I don’t think kids know who does the menial and essential stuff, and even kids did know who made most of their food and clothing (strangers in China), I don’t think they’d think those were the people who “really” loved them because that’s not how children understand affection.

    I also believe people — especially children — are unlikely to think they’re the motivation for out-of-sight work. My wife spends a lot of time cleaning the house, but I don’t perceive it as a demonstration of love for me because I know she cares a lot more about having a clean house than I do. My guess is that most kids make the same assumption — mom wants a clean house a lot more than they do! (She probably talks about it a lot more!) It’s interpreted like the sports-nut who gives his wife a pair of football tickets for her birthday.

  251. June 4, 2005 at 6:53 pm


    I understand your distinction. I think it is what is between the lines that people are reacting to, not the actual text of your position. I can understand how an “overemphasis on physical housekeeping as the defining elements of motherhood” could be considered destructive to effective mothering, since the spiritual and intellectual aspects could be overlooked.

    But I don’t understand how an “overemphasis on physical housekeeping” could possibly be considered demeaning to women without there being an implied assumption that physical housekeeping is somehow unimportant, a mere task to get out of the way. If you see housework (while difficult, repetitive, and intellectually unfulfilling) as an important task to care for one’s family, as something that invites the spirit into the home, as an expression of love for one’s children, then how could overemphasizing it be demeaning? At best it is a misplacement of priorities, at worst it is dangerous to the children’s eternal welfare.

    But you can only call the overemphasis demeaning if you find something demeaning in the work itself. I believe it is that perceived undercurrent that has caused such powerful reaction in this thread.

    But I don’t think you think that. I think maybe I and others are misinterpreting your comment. Could you clarify how the overemphasis is demeaning while still maintaining that valuing it is not demeaning?

    JKS in comment 226 seems to hit the issue. I think both sides are misunderstanding each other. They are each reacting to a (perceived) slight of something they consider important. Yet I’m not sure that we’re all that far apart from each other when it comes down to it.

  252. Julie in Austin
    June 4, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    “Could you clarify how the overemphasis is demeaning while still maintaining that valuing it is not demeaning?”

    Imagine an alternate universe where the Ensign runs an article on preparing YW to be wives and the entire thing is focused on her sexual relationship with her husband. This would be incredibly demeaning (because it suggests that sex is ‘all she’s good for’ or all that matters) despite the fact that there is nothing inherently demeaning about a married woman’s sex life.


    Imagine that I wrote my husband a sweet little anniversary letter to thank him for all that he does for our family . . . and all I wrote about was the money that he earns. Nothing demeaning in supporting your family, plenty demeaning in suggesting that that is all a husband does.

  253. June 4, 2005 at 7:44 pm


    Thanks. Those were great analogies, and I see your point. In fact, in rereading your previous comments, I’m not sure I disagree with your basic ideas at all, though our perspectives might be a little different. I think some other commenters on the thread have had a more antagonistic approach toward housekeeping that I do disagree with, but your posts have not indicated that.

    I think the confusion is caused by the fact that so many people in modern society are saying that housekeeping is demeaning that when you say an overemphasis on housekeeping is demeaning, some people (myself included) naturally assume that you are implying that housekeeping is inherently demeaning. There is a bit of defensiveness that can easily cause one to be offended by what is implied, not what is explicitly stated..

    Similarly, there are so many women in the church who struggle with housekeeping that when the Ensign runs an article with five out of six photos showing housekeeping, some people naturally assume that the Ensign is implying that housekeeping is the most important part of motherhood. There is a bit of defensiveness that can easily cause one to be offended by what is implied, not what is explicitly stated.

    Yet perhaps in both cases, the offense is unwarranted. Perhaps neither case was actually saying what some people thought it did?

  254. Julie in Austin
    June 4, 2005 at 7:52 pm


    I see your point that others may have overread me; I was making a pretty fine distinction there.

    But then you wrote,

    “some people naturally assume that the Ensign is implying that housekeeping is the most important part of motherhood.”

    I still cannot see this assumption as (over)defensiveness. I stand by my original points that (1) the graphics are misaligned with the article and (2) it matters because the implication that housekeeping is the most important part of motherhood plays right into the adversary’s efforts to demean motherhood.

  255. Kristine
    June 4, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Mark B.,

    I directed my comment at you, because the first sentence was sparked by something you said. But after that, I mostly wasn’t talking to you–sorry you got 200 comments worth of fury with your name attached. I should have been clearer (and probably also less furious ;) ).

  256. Jack
    June 4, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    This thread’ll never break the record if everyone starts agreeing.

  257. June 4, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    In rereading my comment, I realized I wasn’t as explicit as I wanted to be.

    Julie, I was wrongly offended by your comment that overemphasis on housekeeping was demeaning because I wrongly assumed you implied that housekeeping was demeaning. I was wrong to interpret your comment that way, and my offense was unwarranted.

    But I also think that you might have been wrongly offended by the pictures in the Ensign, because you wrongly assumed that the Ensign Graphics Director was implying that housekeeping was the most important aspect of motherhood. Do you really believe that is what the Ensign believes, or even the Ensign Graphics Director? I don’t think so, and the article confirms it. Of all the possible interpretations of the photos and the reasons why they might have been included (JKS in #68 gives some), you chose one that you found demeaning to women. But is that the most accurate and honest interpretation?

    You clearly don’t like being misinterpreted and misrepresented. Do you think the Ensign Graphics Director might feel the same way if he or she read your open letter?

  258. Julie in Austin
    June 4, 2005 at 9:01 pm


    Interesting questions. Here’s another one: Why have 6/8th of the pictures be about housework if the graphics person didn’t think that was the most relevant point? (Seriously. I have no idea.)

    Your middle paragraph has some questionable reasoning: you use the *article* to prove that the *graphics* person didn’t think housework was the focal point. My contention from the beginning has been that the graphics didn’t match the article.

    I thought JKS’s possible interpretations were pretty far-fetched, simply because she plugged in tons of background data that was in no way suggested by the pictures. Taking the pictures together, I think what they suggest is this: the way we strengthen future mothers (this is the title of the article, remember) is by training them to sew, quilt, arrange flowers, grocery shop, iron, and cook (and, to be fair, to prepare FHE lessons and read the Book of Mormon–although where is the mother in that picture?). These activities make the participants smile broadly, but they do not talk while doing these things.

    I don’t know if you have read all of the comments, but early on I discussed with Lyle what I would have liked to see. It would have been nice if the two stories Sr. Tanner told (about the YW driving her brother home and talking with him and the YW being with her non-member family but not swimming on the sabbath) had been depicted. These types of things (being spiritually sensitive to know when someone needs your help and to talk in the first case and making hard, sensitive, relationship-saving-but-commandment-keeping choices in the second) are good representations of what mothers do and what YW should be trained to do.

    Again, I thought the article was spot-on. Too bad the graphics had so little to do with it.

  259. Melissa Madsen Fox
    June 4, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    “Because you wrongly assumed that the Ensign Graphics Director was implying that housekeeping was the most important aspect of motherhood. Do you really believe that is what the Ensign believes, or even the Ensign Graphics Director”

    I don’t believe that Sister Tanner, the Ensign editor, or the graphics director believes that housekeeping is the most important aspect of motherhood. What I do believe is that they believe that these things are an important part of mothehood. What this leads me to believe is that being a good mother is separate from being a good member of the church. Why else all these articles (and there have been quite a few lately) about how to be a “good” mother? Why is it that when we talk about men being “good” fathers it is couched in terms that could be applicable to all members of the church — church attendance, honoring the priesthood, faith, prayer, etc — but when we talk about women being good mothers it has to include something separate and “above” being a good member of the church? Is it really necessary? If it is necessary, then why isn’t it also necessary for men to be told about all the “extra” things beyond being a good member which are necessary to being a good father–like exulting in changing the oil in the car, budgeting, getting up in the middle of the night with the sick child?

    I get put off by articles — and discussions — like this (and I admit this is a personality flaw of mine) because I feel like they are demeaning my personal way of being a mother. Yes, we all have the same “job”. Yes, we all want the same outcome — a believing, faithful, child — but there are so many ways of doing this that it becomes frustrating and counter-productive to talk about them. Admittedly, I have this same problem with magazines like Parenting and Child. I really don’t want to be told that because I’m not doing XYZ, my child won’t turn out the way they are “supposed” to.

    I would appreciate it if the Ensign stopped running articles on how women “must” do certain things, whatever they are, and “must not” do others in order to be good mothers, as if that were something separate from being a good member of the church. I would rather they focused on how we can all be better Christians, Latter-day Saints, and human beings. Then, perhaps we’d all be better mothers and fathers without all the argument and frustration.

  260. Audrey Stone
    June 4, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    I’ve haven’t delved into the bloggernacle in the last week or so, but my husband was giving me play-by-plays of the threads he was blogging on. He asked, “Why does this subject (the role of the mother) illicit such defensiveness in women/mothers?”

    My answer is that we who respond are all generally concerned about being good mothers, and we who are insecure don’t want to hear what we should or shouldn’t be doing because then we might be wrong.

    Though, if I acknowledge that I’m not perfect, and that I’ve never done this mother-thing before, I take all the advice in, keep what is worth keeping and with a shaking breath of spirit-sought-and-induced self-confidence, blow the rest away.

    I think that if I hadn’t read this thread, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the photos accompanying this infamous article other than to think that the Ensign Graphics department was trying to save money on a re-shoot and therefore dredged up some hokey old stock photography. It’s almost like a little Rorschach test. What do you see in these photos?

  261. CarrieH
    June 5, 2005 at 1:50 am

    Matt (#250),
    I completely agree. I’m pretty sure that my mom kept a clean house and cooked most of my meals when I was a child, but I have virtually no memories of any of that (outside of her getting upset when my room was a mess). What mattered to me was having a mother who talked with me one-on-one, played games with me, taught me about the world, helped me with my science projects and dioramas, read to me, took me to museums, encouraged me in my academic pursuits, believed in me, and is still one of my greatest friends. If robots, a 12-year-old, or a dog had done the cooking and cleaning in our house, I doubt that would have made a significant difference to me.

  262. Soyde River
    June 5, 2005 at 4:53 am

    I personally think that if Julie in Austin had said: “I thought the article was great, but they didn’t do a great job with the pictures” the whole thing would have passed as a summer breeze.

    But when she said the pictures made her “heart hurt”, and threw in the pejorative “domestic divas”, she figuratively cried: “Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!”

    Big Enders and Little Enders.

  263. June 5, 2005 at 8:27 am


    You touch on some of Rosalynde’s comments. Obviously when talking about personal experience, there isn’t as much right/wrong as there is difference. You have virtually no memories of your mother’s housekeeping, and to you, that didn’t matter much. I had a very different experience, and one much more like Rosalynde describes.

    When I think back on my childhood and think about how my mother showed me she loved me and took care of me, the fist kinds of experiences that come to mind are things like:
    – She woke up at 5 every morning to make me breakfast before seminary
    – Coming home from kindergarten and talking with her over the lunch she made me
    – Eating the brown-bag lunches she prepared for me every day.
    – The fact that she was always there and approachable when I needed help or to talk, and she wouldn’t judge me
    – Wonderful gospel discussions and the informal bearing of her testimony that came up at random times as a result of other conversations

    So while not all my most immediate and clear memories of her mothering are housekeeping-related, most of them are. Regarding my childhood, Rosalynde was right– I knew who did the menial housework, I knew on whom I could depend most reliably to meet my basic needs; and the meeting of those basic needs was, in fact, the most important kind of nurturing. And don’t suppose that my mother somehow failed in meeting the higher obligations of Julie’s Hierarchy. She did not fail, and I greatly appreciate that. But those physical acts of nurturing are most closely associated in my childhood memories as demonstrations of love and caring.

    Could they have been performed by a robot or a 10-year old? Perhaps. But if they had been, they wouldn’t have remained in my memory as a demonstration of love. They would not have meaning to me even today. My mother did those things, but she was not simulating a robot doing robotic, meaningless acts. She was serving me selflessly, and I remember and appreciate it even today.

  264. annegb
    June 5, 2005 at 10:37 am

    Carrie, I guarantee you that if no one had done those things, if you’d grown up in filth and deprivation, you’d have noticed.

    Your mother deserves a pat on the back for doing so much without you noticing.

  265. Rosalynde
    June 5, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Listen, all, the last thing I want to do is fetishize housework or its performance in any way (and having won Jonathan Stone’s support–which I value!–I’ll probably lose it here). Nurturing work is pretty menial, often boring or unpleasant, it doesn’t require much specialized skill (aside from the mental discipline to choose to keep doing it over and over again), and the stakes of each individual task are generally vanishingly low; and no, it’s not the stuff that usually sticks in kids’ memories, particularly adult kids intent on mythologizing their saintly mothers. But it’s crucially important to the survival of the community, like subsistence farming is in primitive cultures. And, I maintain, it’s this most basic nurturing care, far more than superstructural techniques like reading and soccer and games, that forms, cements and maintains a child’s bond to the primary caregiver that seems to be so crucial to the child’s emotional and psychic health. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective (it would be of central importance for an infant to form the strongest attachment to the adult who most reliably meets her needs), from an historical/cultural perspective (parenting technique varies wildly across time and place, but that the mother meets the child’s essential needs seems constant), and, as I said, from a personal perspective: my mother, whom I love and honor and emulate, didn’t often spend individual one-on-one time with us, didn’t get down on the floor with us, didn’t often get involved in our games or interact intensely, but was a consistent, loving and utterly reliable caregiver—and was to us all that we needed. (In fact, if you go with the theory that it’s intensive face-time that matters in mothering, then mothers of large families would be negligent, since they are able to spend less intensive time with each individual child—and this is a proposition I strongly reject.)

    Matt, obviously the question is not what sweatshop or factory prepared the child’s food or clothing, the question is who does the child go to when he’s hungry, or cold, or hurt, or wants something? For me, being the mother means I’m the person he goes to. And I get to be that person not by reading on the couch or playing soccer with the kid, but by consistently being the one who supplies food, produces a coat, cleans up the vomit, knows where the doll is. I’m in instinctive agreement with Steven Levitt’s position in “Freakonomics” discussed here a few weeks ago: parenting techniques (things like the reading and the soccer) have a far smaller direct influence on children than we like to think. I’ve seen too many kids who turn out great emerge from too wide a spectrum of parenting styles to believe there’s a strong direct correlation.

    Now, I’m not saying that we’re wasting our time doing things like reading on the couch or playing soccer—and if anyone accuses me of saying that, I’ll take it as proof that you’re incapable of complex thought. I’ve argued before that these are worthy and valuable activities, because they can produce a unique family culture and identity that’s at some risk from the decline in patrilineal practices and symbols that once buttressed them. But I don’t think it’s these things that constitute the fundamental bond between mother (or primary caregiver) and child that’s so central to the child’s mental health, and that, in my view, is the defining feature of mothering.

    Neither, however, am I suggesting that all mothers ought always get their children’s lunches, or that nobody could ever possibly take a mother’s place, or that mothering is somehow uniquely outside and above the matrix of other kinds of socially useful work. On the contrary, I almost always get pretty hot when I hear people say things like that: sure, caregiving is important work, and if a mother chooses not to be the primary caregiver to her children, then yeah, there are going to be differences and probably even costs in her relationship to her children. But, to me, the highest compliment you can pay to motherhood and mothers is to look at them rationally, located squarely within the context of socially productive labor, positioned probably pretty near the top in terms of its aggregate importance, but quite variably in terms of its importance in individual circumstances. Yes, there are more important things that *some* women could be doing than being the full-time caregiver to her children: if she were in a position to find a cure for childhood cancer, for example, or exercise a significant influence on the family policies of corporate America, etc etc. The point is, I don’t want to make nurturing work a sort of romanticized ideal outside the purview of rational analysis.

  266. Julie in Austin
    June 5, 2005 at 1:42 pm


    I wonder if you would assent to the idea that some children will bond with their mothers over non-physical care as you feel that you bonded with yours (and your children are bonding with you) over the physical care.

    I wonder if our differences in thought here are coming from:

    (1) your background–your knew your mother loved you despite the fact that a large family meant that there wasn’t a lot of individual floor play or the like. (Coming from a family of two children, things were different at my house. We knew Dad loved us because we were always rolling around on the floor wrestling with him.)

    (2) the fact that your husband’s demanding training means that you are the sole provider of most of your child’ physical care. (I;ve mentioned before that I can count on one hand the number of times I have bathed a child. Or made breakfast for a child. If being sole-provider-of-physical-needs were my definition of motherhood, I wouldn’t be a mother because my husband does so much.)

    (3) I’ve mentioned a few times but you haven’t taken up this idea that things might change as your children age. (Again, I provide for very few of my 7-yo’s physical needs, but still mother him quite a bit.)

    (4) This is also related to (3), but depending on the ages and number of children and your choices in home management, the amount of time one spends on housekeeping varies quite a bit. In my case, it is probably less than two hours per day. So it would be weird to me to allow 2 hours to define who and what I am.

    Just to clarify in case any hostile people are reading this, none of the above is an attack on RW or any of her experiences or anything she represents. We have a real disagreement, neither of us is changing her mind, and I’m working to find and explore the roots of that disagreement in our past and current experiences without making value judgments about them. I’d like to walk away from this thread with the thought that different women might define the essence of motherhood differently, and that we (and, of course, the pictures in the Ensign!) might honor those choices.

  267. annegb
    June 5, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Okay, the truth is I’ve been in a bad mood.

    I actually agree with almost everybody here, I go back and forth. I see the need for order, but I also applaud the mothers who can play with and teach their children to love the world, which my poor picked-on daughter-in-law, despite her many faults, has done in spades with my grandchildren. They are happy and they love each other.

    Julie’s first sentence in her initial post pretty much says everything. Somebody said the graphics director probably was just doing her/his best, probably true, but it wouldn’t hurt to point out that the pictures were offensive to some and could have been more illustrative of mothering (we could put a picture of an exhausted mother, in the middle of a mess, at midnight–“baby blues” the cartoon could have been used).

    Carrie, sorry about the attitude. Sue, I wish I could afford a maid, I’d hire one in a minute. Then I would use my extra time to read.

    Julie’s right. We’re all right. I hope somebody takes note, because obviously women are bowing under the pressure.

  268. June 5, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    I have scrupulously avoided participating in this thread so far for reasons including 1) lack of time to carefully respond to the comments already posted and 2) an inability to return to the thread in a timely manner after I comment. However, since it’s Sunday afternoon and I have a moment, I will succumb (against my better judgment) to respond to the last couple of remarks by RW and Julie in Austin.

    In our home the concept of mothering did not include housework. With the exception of cleaning the grout on the tile kitchen floor (which she hated) as far as I recall my mother never did any specific household chores. Of course, just because I don’t distinctly remember my mother cleaning, doesn’t mean that she didn’t do it. Someone besides us must have done it when we were very small and it was most likely her. The point is that she never acted like housework defined her mothering (or was really even a part of it at all) As far as she was concerned as long as we all lived in the house, housework was everyone’s work.

    On Saturday mornings my parents would hand out assignments and we’d all clean like little worker bees until the house was spotless. We were expected to keep our rooms clean during the week (with our beds made), but other than that during the week there was very little “cleaning” done. We each took a night to do the dinner dishes with the littlest ones paired with an older child (even 6 year olds can load the diswasher and wipe down the table). We kids did our own laundry and my dad made (easy) dinners most of the time. Breakfast was almost always cereal that we got on our own (5 year olds can do this) and we always ate school lunches (gasp!). On Sundays someone (often me) would throw something in the crock pot before church for dinner and we’d all bake something fun together for dessert in the evening or dad would make popcorn. For a few years we even had housekeepers who did almost all of the household work for us.

    In short, I don’t associate ANY household work with my mother—certainly not cooking, cleaning, or sewing. What do I associate with my mother and thus mothering in general? Talking and laughing late into the night, dancing in the kitchen on Sunday afternoons, sitting with her at the piano as I prepared for violin recitals, reading (lots and lots of reading), intense gospel discussions, making up stories together, her patience as she quizzed me for spelling bees three years in a row, meaning-of-the-universe conversations while she rolled my hair in pink curlers at bedtime, singing silly songs in the car, nature walks, her work on my election campaign, birthday parties, sitting with her at the piano as I learned to sing. And did I mention that we talked a lot?

    That was the sort of attention my mother lavished on us—-she didn’t bake cookies and sew us pretty dresses but she talked and played with us often. Still, for some of us it wasn’t enough (a few of my siblings got much, much less attention than I did). I disagree with Rosalynde in that I do think “intensive face-time” matters a great deal to effective mothering. For this reason, it often happens that mothers who have many children are less effective than they could have been with fewer children. I wouldn’t describe them as “negligent” as much as overextended. The children in our family who got the most attention were those who successfully performed and those who really struggled. There were several (middle) children who were almost invisible to my parents because they managed to get along quietly without either marked success or failure. I’m sure that my parents never meant to ignore any of us, but, because they were overextended they necessarily responded to what seemed to be the most pressing things of the moment—rewarding accomplishments and solving problems. But, of course, much more than this is required to parent well. I think individual time is one of those necessary things. This was played out in our family in the great battles among us over who would get to run an errand with my mother ALONE. More than once there was great weeping and gnashing of teeth (always by the middle children) when my mother announced she was pregnant again because there never seemed to be enough of her to go around. As a result I have siblings who do not feel that they were sufficiently mothered and who, as grown-ups, are still chasing that mother-love.

  269. Julie in Austin
    June 5, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Sheesh, Melissa, if your mom was going to pick *one* thing to do, why cleaning the grout? ugh.

    (Note to people with no sense of humor: this was a joke.)

    Thanks for your reflections, Melissa. Very interesting.

  270. Kaimi
    June 5, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    Audrey Stone writes:

    “It’s almost like a little Rorschach test. What do you see in these photos?”

    I agree. They’re clearly saying different things to different people.

    And being different people, it’s probably kind of hard for us to imagine the Rorschach test being read differently by others. You mean they don’t see the little elephant in that inkblot? They thought it was an apple? What are they thinking?!

  271. Soyde River
    June 5, 2005 at 6:30 pm

    Many years ago, while attending BYU, I worked at a gas station (part time during the school year, full time in the summer). Between pumping gas, changing oil and greasing cars (which I shared with the others at a gas station), I maintained an impeccable rest room. When I went on shift, I would take the garden hose in to the rest rooms, and then squeejee down the walls and doors and wipe everything clean. I would continue to maintain it throughout the day while I was there, whenever I had time from the other tasks I had to perform.

    I don’t know why I did this, because I am not a cleanliness freak (although I do like to have things clean), but it became a matter of personal excellence for me. Perhaps because I had heard people comment on the desire to have a clean restroom when they traveled, In the time I was there, I had dozens, perhaps hundreds of people tell me that it was the cleanest restroom they had ever been in.

    To me what is interesting is this: In every context that I have ever told this experience, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I believe it was because I was performing with excellence a job which I was being paid to do. I would like to think that, had I been a gas station attendant for my vocation, that I could have maintained that standard of excellence in everything I did.

    What kind of prideful condescending is it that would think there is something intrinsically better about writing a master’s thesis about the influence of William Shakespeare on Federico Garcia Lorca than in keeping a clean restroom, if that is what one has chosen to do?

  272. VeritasLiberat
    June 5, 2005 at 7:03 pm

    After reading this entire thread, I propose a solution to the Mormon mother problem:

    We should bring back polygamy.

    That way, the children will have a mommy to read to them, another mommy to feed them, another mommy to clean them, another mommy to take them places they need to go, and yet another mommy to play and exercise with them, etc.

    Kids can never have too many mommies!


  273. June 5, 2005 at 7:08 pm


    Thanks for your personal experiences. I think my experiences described earlier, combined with yours, illustrate that because each mother and family is different, each child will come away with different experiences that remain in the memory as symbols and expressions of thier mother’s love. Perhaps what is most important is not that the expression of love is a physical act of nurturing, emotional support given at a time of need, or an intellectual lesson, but that it is a loving act performed to fill a need in the child’s life.

    So depending on the experiences one had with their own mother, they will see certain elements as more important than others. Children who had a lot of one-on-one time and remember it fondly will think that is a key element in effective mothering. Children who had all the physical needs provided by the mother (as opposed to a nanny, a 12-year-old, or a robot) will believe that is a key element in effective mothering. And certainly children whose mother didn’t do one particular thing well, yet they still love her and think she did a wonderful job, will believe that the thing that wasn’t done well probably wasn’t that important anyway, since everything turned out all right in the end. And even in the same family, different children can have different experiences. While I remember the housekeeping, my brothers and sisters might remember other aspects to mothering more strongly.

    I disagree with the line of reasoning that if something can be performed by a maid or a nanny or a child or a robot, it can’t be an important element of motherhood. I can imagine a nanny (or a robot of the future) reading to a child, teaching a child greek, holding a child when he is crying, playing games with a child, or all other manner of activities that aren’t housekeeping. Does that make those activities empty, or rob them of their significance when performed by the mother? I consider my providing support for my family by going to work every day is an important part of fatherhood, and it is an expression of love for my family. Yet if a robot could replace me at my job, that doesn’t mean that going to work is unimportant, or even not very important. I consider providing for my family to be one of the most important parts of being a father. If I do not provide food, clothing, and shelter for my family, then what good is play time with my son? Who cares whether or not a robot could do it!

  274. Julie in Austin
    June 5, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Audrey and Kaimi re the Rorschach test:

    I’m not with you on this. Unlike a Rorschach test, where the point is that there is no objective content to the picture, there very much was a deliberately chosen, intentional content to all of these pictures. They were intended to convey a very specific message. Obviously, there is disagreement about that message (and if that’s all you meant by the comparison to the Rorschach test, then I’m with you), but I don’t think anything useful is accomplished by pretending that you just see what you want to see. The author (artist) intended for us to see a certain thing.

    Soyde asked,

    “What kind of prideful condescending is it that would think there is something intrinsically better about writing a master�s thesis about the influence of William Shakespeare on Federico Garcia Lorca than in keeping a clean restroom, if that is what one has chosen to do?”

    Hideous prideful condescension, I’d reckon, almost as bad as the condescension involved in telling someone that her primary function in life is to clean restrooms.

    VeritasLiberat, almost thou persuadest me . . .

    Jonathan Stone wrote, “I disagree with the line of reasoning that if something can be performed by a maid or a nanny or a child or a robot, it can�t be an important element of motherhood.”

    and I am going to respond to it because it appears to be a bastardized version of what I wrote above. I didn’t say that replaceable elements were NOT important, I said they were LESS important than other things. Especially in the context of this article, let’s remember that the family can still be saved if the flowers go unarranged, the family can still be saved if they have McDonald’s instead of a home-cooked meal, and anyone who wants to learn these things can pick them up from daytime television, but ONLY the Church can teach YW and mothers what their families need for salvation. It would have been nice if the graphics had conveyed this.

  275. Julie in Austin
    June 5, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    . . . and one could even argue that the family will get to heaven quicker (i.e., die) if they ate McDonald’s all the time.

  276. June 5, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    It seems that there is an agreement about terms, if not conclusions, emerging from this latest turn in the discussion. Rosalynde, in positing her view that “mothering” is essentially (if not sufficiently) a matter of maintaining a nurturing presence, and not necessarily engaging in a lot of creative, verbal, face-to-face interactions, suggests that, under the latter model, “mothers of large families would be [considered] negligent, since they are able to spend less intensive time with each individual child.” Melissa, in her recollections of a mother who eschewed a lot of that rudimentary nurturing work (via the employment of domestic help, reliance on school lunches, parceling out cleaning and cooking duties, etc.), and instead defined her role via a lot of loving, one-on-one interactions, allows that “a few of my siblings got much, much less attention than I did.” So what we have here is a consensus on at least of couple of the common benefits and costs which attend two overarching models of mothering. And as Jonathan Stone observes, those two models might well be simultaneously present in a single family, as different children internalize what their mother provided (or didn’t provide) differently.

    (I’m tempted to import some political terminology at this point and label the two models “meritocratic” and “populist.” Wildly incorrect terms, I know, because of all the baggage they carry with them. Still, there are parallels that can be productively explored: the unavoidable despite unintended “ranking” which attends any concerted attempt to engage talents on the one hand; the equally unavoidable “settling” effect that follows from refusing to make distinctions on the other.)

  277. June 5, 2005 at 8:07 pm

    “I can imagine a nanny (or a robot of the future) reading to a child, teaching a child greek, holding a child when he is crying, playing games with a child, or all other manner of activities that aren’t housekeeping. Does that make those activities empty, or rob them of their significance when performed by the mother?”

    This, Jonathan, is, of course, at the heart of another whole debate, one not entirely disconnected to this one–what can be “outsourced” from housekeeping as a field of activity? And what are the consequences of that outsourcing? I had a long argument with a very smart man once, who insisted that there could not be, in the end, any sigificant difference between hiring a housekeeper and hiring a full-time nanny. You get someone who has more time and/or skills than you to clean your house, right? So, get someone who has more time and/or skills than you to tend to your baby. The gulf separating our two perspectives was so enormous as to make any connection almost impossible.

  278. Rosalynde
    June 5, 2005 at 10:19 pm

    Melissa, obviously we had very different experiences growing up in large families, and our mothers managed their time very differently and with very different outcomes: to my knowledge, none of my siblings have adult hang-ups that they attribute to an inaccessible mother, even though she didn’t do late night heart-to-hearts and birthday parties. If I may, though, it’s my observation (and I’ve argued this before on T&S) that whether children come from large or small families, with working or at-home mothers, they will always feel that in some way their mother (or parents) were not fully accessible to them, and many of their adult hang-ups will crystallize around this feeling—whatever the actual provenance of the issue. (With the exception, of course, of the contingent of loyal sons who feel compelled to idealize and idolize their saintly self-sacrificing mothers whenever this topic comes up; please, guys, we know, you don’t need to repeat it.)

    I think I’ve conflated two separate issues here, and that’s contributing to the misunderstanding: on the one hand, I’ve provided a completely descriptive account of what mothering means to me, fully acknowledging that Julie and Melissa’s mom and others will define their mothering in different (and equally valid) ways; on the other hand, I’m suggesting a normative account of how children bond to their mothers (or parent, or primary caregiver; I’m completely comfortable substituting any of those terms for “mother,” since this is not, for me, about essential gender qualities or biological relationships), arguing that it’s the reliable meeting of young children’s basic needs (and this includes social needs like touch, cuddling, gaze and closeness) that constitutes the fundamental bond between mother and child. I stand by this argument. The crucial, identity-constitutive kind of mother-child bonding takes place long before the child is verbal or retains memories, and consists, I’m convinced, almost entirely of the mother reliably meeting the child’s physical needs (and again, this includes touch and cuddling; I’m NOT talking here about scrubbing grout, or other non-essential housecleaning). The kind of thing you’re describing, Melissa, is great, contributes to the family culture and parent-child relationship, should be encouraged, etc etc—but takes place far too late to have a real formative effect on identity or psyche, that most fundamental kind of socialization that society absolutely relies on parents to provide. Again, this doesn’t mean it’s not important, doesn’t convey values and encourage positive choices–yes yes yes to all of that, but it isn’t constitutive of the fundamental identity-forming bond.

    (I’m actually surprised, Melissa, that as the oldest of so many children you aren’t more aware of the countless hours of care-providing that young children require; you may not remember your parents providing it, but if you all survived to adulthood then an awful lot of it took place anyway.)

    Julie, to respond to a few of your points: yes, the age of the child absolutely makes a difference, and yes, the mother provides less physical care as the child ages (though, if I may, your son seems exceptionally independent; I’d hazard a guess, however, that no matter how independently he gets his own lunch or does his laundry, he still knows that you’ve got his back, that *you’re* the one he goes to if he has trouble—that is, you’re still the guarantor that his basic needs will be met). I’d also say, though, that to precisely the degree that the child becomes more independent of the mother’s physical care, the mother becomes a less primary presence in the child’s psyche and experience. This is NOT to say that the mother is no longer important, no longer needed, or anything like that—just that she’s less central to her child’s worldview and identity. This is precisely as it should be, and an important part of growing up.

    Maybe it comes down, essentially, to what we’re defining as “housework”: for me, “housework” *is* providing for the basic needs of my children.

  279. Julie in Austin
    June 5, 2005 at 11:34 pm

    “The crucial, identity-constitutive kind of mother-child bonding takes place long before the child is verbal or retains memories, and consists, I’m convinced, almost entirely of the mother reliably meeting the child’s physical needs (and again, this includes touch and cuddling; I’m NOT talking here about scrubbing grout, or other non-essential housecleaning).”

    I can completely agree with this–but we’re talking about, what, the first year of life? What constitutes the core of mothering after that? And just to keep us on our original focus: note that what RW and I are calling the physical acts of mothering here bares no relation to the physical acts depicted in the Ensign article.

    “I’d also say, though, that to precisely the degree that the child becomes more independent of the mother’s physical care, the mother becomes a less primary presence in the child’s psyche and experience”

    This has been so *not* true for us up to this point; perhaps homeschooling skews it, maybe other mothers can weigh in. But my sense is that as the physical needs decline, the emotional (and, for us, academic) needs more than fill the void. I’m not making his lunch, but I’m helping him navigate his feelings of rage toward his brother, what to expect at scout camp, his sense that Jack and Annie (from the Magic Treehouse) have no business sneaking out without telling their mother, his need to prepare a Primary talk, how to write a thank-you note, and his boredom at stake conference (all these examples are from today).

  280. June 6, 2005 at 12:23 am

    Rosalynde, your positing a universal (all children feel their mothers weren’t sufficiently accessible) despite your admission of exceptions (Matt and the loyal sons who idealize their mothers) suggests that you don’t take seriously my saying that my mom was more accessible than I needed her to be. Are you defining “accessible” as being out of mortal reach? If so, please understand my saying that my mom was more accessible than I needed in the same way you understand my saying her home had more food than I needed. I don’t think you can dismiss that claim with a wink to rose-colored memories.

    “I’m arguing that it’s the reliable meeting of young children’s basic needs (and this includes social needs like touch, cuddling, gaze and closeness) that constitutes the fundamental bond between mother and child.”

    But the bond depends on the child’s *knowing* her mother’s the source of her bounty. A mother could provide for her child’s every need, yet if she did so from behind a curtain the child would have not emotional connection to her. It’s being the person who gives the food — not the person who prepares it — that might matter to a child. Kids don’t look beyond the proximate cause.

  281. Ben H
    June 6, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Rosalynde and Julie, thank you for your so illuminating and yet so concretely first-hand perspective on this.

  282. June 6, 2005 at 12:46 am

    “The crucial, identity-constitutive kind of mother-child bonding takes place long before the child is verbal or retains memories, and consists, I’m convinced, almost entirely of the mother reliably meeting the child’s physical needs.”

    Rosalynde, I simply don’t buy this assertion. Perhaps I missed an earlier comment where you presented an argument for this view? While I do think that some important bonding occurs very early, I am less persuaded by your description of this early bonding as “identity-constitutive.”

    Similarly you write, “The kind of thing you’re describing, Melissa, is great, contributes to the family culture and parent-child relationship, should be encouraged, etc etc—but takes place far too late to have a real formative effect on identity or psyche . . . this doesn’t mean it’s not important . . . but it isn’t constitutive of the fundamental identity-forming bond.”

    Actually, it struck me after I wrote my comment that almost of the things I mentioned were memories of time spent with my mother in my first 10 years. I think it’s interesting that that’s what came streaming out.

    I am curious as to what makes you think that the sort of parent-child dynamic that I sketched is merely representative of “family culture” and why you are so certain that such patterns of interaction in the childhood years wouldn’t have a “real formative effect on identity or psyche.” My initial reaction to this is strong disagreement. I assume, however, that your argument is based on more than the theory of early socialization you outline above since that would lead you in a bit of a circle. My discomfort is exacerbated by the haphazard way you are using the complex concept “identity.” A more careful definition of just what you mean by “identity-constitutive” may help clarify what you mean.

    You write, “I’d also say, though, that to precisely the degree that the child becomes more independent of the mother’s physical care, the mother becomes a less primary presence in the child’s psyche and experience. This is NOT to say that the mother is no longer important, no longer needed, or anything like that—just that she’s less central to her child’s worldview and identity. This is precisely as it should be, and an important part of growing up.”

    I don’t think there is any misunderstanding on this point, just disagreement. I think many mothers remain “central to [their] child’s worldview and identity well into adulthood.

    You remark, “I’m actually surprised, Melissa, that as the oldest of so many children you aren’t more aware of the countless hours of care-providing that young children require; you may not remember your parents providing it, but if you all survived to adulthood then an awful lot of it took place anyway.”

    Oh, if only I were more unaware! In truth I know only too well the many hours infants and toddlers require—-I performed much of that labor myself in our family for the ten children that followed me. You will notice that my comment does not discuss duties like bathing, diaper changing, nursing, feeding, burping and so forth since I don’t (and my mother didn’t) consider these things “housework.” I assume that these are the sorts of things you meant by “care-providing.”

    Lastly, I think you’re right that it is common for children to feel that their mother was not fully accessible to them regardless of the particular situation they were in. For some of my siblings I think those feelings stemmed from the fact that my mother kept having babies even though she felt passionate about continuing to work full time. (And to be entirely fair, none of my adult siblings would say that they have what you describe as “hang-ups”. My comment about those in my family who feel insufficiently mothered is more my observation than anything else).

  283. Jim F.
    June 6, 2005 at 2:07 am

    Rosalynde, I think that Melissa is right to push you on your claims about identity formation. If those claims are right, then adoption without identity problems seems problematic. Yet there is a lot of evidence that adopted children often, though not always, bond with their adoptive families and identify themselves with them–even children who are adopted after the first few weeks or months.

  284. June 6, 2005 at 7:57 am

    Rosalynde, I had never understood your claims about the essence of parenting being bound up in the repetitive, care-giving work that makes a home possible to be restricted solely to early childhood development. I had assumed that what you were talking about was central to the whole sweep of “mothering,” from birth until the child moves out (and maybe beyond). I found myself agreeing with a lot of what you said, partly because (like, I think, you) I don’t really believe intense, interactive, talent-engaging parenting is nearly as “identity-constitutive” (or nearly as accurate a prognosis of a child’s future) as the basic emotional work invested in the maintenance of a home against which such engagement becomes (subsequently) possible. But if you really meant what you said about the force of this relationship of maintenance taking form overwhelmingly in the preverbal years, then I agree with Jim and Melissa; I don’t buy it. Yes, a tremendous amount happens, emotionally and psychologically, in those first two years, but the position you’ve staked out does not stand or fall on that time alone. On the contrary, I think that while the relevant details of home maintenance certain change over the years (changing diapers when the baby is 16 months old, staying up until the child comes home from a date when they are 16 years old), their essential (though, again, not sufficient!) role in shaping the parent-child bond remains a constant throughout.

  285. June 6, 2005 at 8:42 am

    Matt, you and I should probably just leave this thread, since if we give any input on this thread based on personal experience, Rosalynde will dismiss us as “loyal sons who feel compelled to idealize and idolize their saintly self-sacrificing mothers”.

    Everyone has bias based on personal experience. I tried to make that point in #273. But does that mean that sons’ input should be ignored?

    Maybe Rosalynde wasn’t referring to us, but since she keeps bringing up “mythologizing” and “idolizing” when nobody else seems to have mentioned it, I can only assume. Rosalynde, I have heard such idolizing before, but I hardly think anyone in this thread has indulged in it. Why are you making such an issue of it?

  286. Rosalynde Welch
    June 6, 2005 at 9:42 am

    Jonathan and Matt, please forgive the snark about mythologizing; I was thinking about some responses I received on another thread a while back, but to make an issue of that here was uncalled for. I honestly have no doubt that your mothers were great; I only hope I can be like them. (And Matt, I’m in complete agreement with your final paragraph; in fact, being the “proximate cause” is precisely what I mean when I talk about meeting children’s needs.)

    By “identity” I mean “subjectivity.” My understanding of subjectivity and socialization is based on what I know of early childhood pscyhology; I was thinking specifically of Lacan and the mirror stage theory, and of Piaget and his cognitive stages theory. (Also drawing a bit here on Althusser and his vocabulary of interpellation.) I have probably overstated the importance of the earliest childhood bonding a bit–although, Jim, from what I know this kind of bonding is relatively plastic and can occur during the first year(s) or so; futhermore, it’s my understanding that adoptions of older children often tend to be more difficult, in part for this reason. Certainly personality, brain development and self-image remain malleable throughout childhood, though less so as the child ages; and I really do think that after adolescence much of this work is already done (in many cultures post-adolescents marry or leave home for service at this point, leaving the parents’ realm entirely).

    Of course, parents still exercise an important influence on teenage children in monitoring their activities, giving advice, offering reassurance and love, and I don’t want at all to diminish the importance of these—but I think this sort of parenting work is of a different (and less formative) kind than the parenting work that occurs earlier. To me it seems transparently clear that mothers occupy a less central position in their children’s lives as the children age: my 21-month-old, at the height of separation anxiety, literally cannot leave my side without distress, because (as I understand it) his very sense of self is compromised when he’s not with me; my 4-year-old is fine away from me for a few hours a week, but not much more than that; a 7-year-old can generally handle a full school day; a 12-year-old might go away to summer camp; and 18-year-old leaves home (usually!), and so on. In fact, the failure of a child to separate from her parents in this way would constitute a pretty severe developmental disorder, I’d think.

  287. June 6, 2005 at 10:13 am

    Perhaps a satire-laced, yet semi-serious, threadjack is in order? I think the WSJ journal has the same problem that the Ensign does re: its graphics. :)

  288. annegb
    June 6, 2005 at 10:34 am

    I don’t understand all the big terms of the last few posts, but maybe a little.

    I remember being a very anxious little girl, I worried about getting the light bill paid, and food and realized that our house was very dirty. Now, that is an extreme example, but I knew my mother was supposed to take physical care of us and she sure didn’t and I noticed and suffered for it.

    My grandmother, on the other hand, kept a clean house and fed us regularly. We always felt safe at her house and it was home to us.
    Sure, sometimes she played with us, but that didn’t fill our stomachs or keep us from the derision of the other kids because of our stinky clothes.

  289. Sue
    June 6, 2005 at 11:44 am

    I hesitate to jump back into the fray again, but feel compelled to do so anyway. I disagree with many of your points Rosalynde, despite how articulately they are stated.

    “And, I maintain, it’s this most basic nurturing care, far more than superstructural techniques like reading and soccer and games, that forms, cements and maintains a child’s bond to the primary caregiver that seems to be so crucial to the child’s emotional and psychic health.”

    First of all, why would not focusing on housework prevent someone from doing any of these things? If I nurse my baby, change him, burp him, bathe him, rock him to sleep, and someone else does the laundry, will it make a difference? Am I less of a mother? If I read to my toddler, get her dressed every morning, bathe her, soothe her when she is hurt, warm her when she is cold, read to her, play with her, and otherwise engage her, will it matter if someone else sweeps the floor? When I have a school age child, if I am the one to help with homework, the one she eats her meals with, the one who helps with school projects, helps her to solve her problems, helps her to get dressed, makes sure that she has clothes to wear and food to eat, will it matter if I am not the one cooking the meal?

    Of course not.

    If all of these things are an essential part of motherhood, what happens when Dad shares some of these responsibilities. Is he taking away from the bond between mother and child?

    Of course not.

    You said: “In fact, if you go with the theory that it’s intensive face-time that matters in mothering, then mothers of large families would be negligent, since they are able to spend less intensive time with each individual child—and this is a proposition I strongly reject.”

    I will no doubt get flamed for this – but I disagree. I think that they often are unable to attend to the emotional needs of their children. It is simply not practical or possible a great deal of the time. I’m one of nine children, and this was certainly the case in our family. My mother made sure that we were all fed, clothed, cleaned, and scrubbed. She spent a great deal of time on housework, as one would expect. My childhood memories of my mom are all wrapped up in feelings of longing – longing for my mother to notice me, to spend time with me, to have a minute to spend with me. I understand why she could not, but it was difficult for me as a young adult to get past the feelings of sadness and yes, neglect, that I carried throughout my childhood.

    No-one disputes that housework is necessary. I do dispute that it is an aspect that is necessary in order to bond us with our mothers.

  290. June 6, 2005 at 11:57 am

    Rosalynde: “In fact, if you go with the theory that it’s intensive face-time that matters in mothering, then mothers of large families would be negligent, since they are able to spend less intensive time with each individual child—and this is a proposition I strongly reject.”

    Sue: “I will no doubt get flamed for this – but I disagree. I think that they often are unable to attend to the emotional needs of their children.”

    I disagree with you, Sue, but can see your point, and don’t dispute the evidence you bring up in support of it (I just interpret it different than you). Let me ask a tangential question: to the extent that your claim here (which is similar to one Melissa also made) is correct, how does that not become a de facto claim that large families are a bad idea?

  291. Jordan
    June 6, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    By the way, I would like to thank Julie for well-thought out post which, although not everyone agrees with the content, was thought-provoking enough to draw nearly 300 comments now, all roughly related to the original topic!

    This is the reason I read Times and Seasons! Keep it up, people! :)

  292. June 6, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Sue: “No-one disputes that housework is necessary.”

    My mom might, at least to a point! I was raised in a rather dirty house, one that I was reluctant to bring friends to as a teenager, but it was dirty largely because my single mother priortized her time with her seven kids over sparkling floors. Mom did almost all of the laundry — she enjoyed folding clothes — but I’d guess that our chores (which we did as well as kids do when mom doesn’t have time for complete follow-through) accounted for 70+% of the general *cleaning.*

  293. Sue
    June 6, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Matt – I personally applaud your mother for having her priorities straight. My aunt has always been (and will always be) a slob, but her kids seem to love her nevertheless.

    Russell – Difficult question. I think raising a large family is a tricky proposition. My husband and I have chosen a smaller family precisely because we didn’t think we would be able to successfully parent a larger family. Whatever the unique parenting skills are that allow mothers and fathers to produce a large crop of happy, emotionally healthy young adults, despite all of the demands on time and attention – my parents did not model them for me.

  294. JKS
    June 6, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Mothers take care of their children. Whether you go out and work to put food on the table and find a good daycare, or stay home and take care of them, or arrange for a ride to soccer practice or drive, or buy clothes or your husband does, or send them to school, or teach them at home. Whether you make the lunch, or make sure your kid has a lunch ticket (or your husband does) either way, your child’s needs are being met. And kids have to know that someone is looking out for them. If they have a problem, they have someone who CARES and is CAPABLE of taking care of them………..all their problems from hunger to hurt feelings to crisis.
    Kids need a mom that they can count on. Even if she is at work, or doing housework, or asleep, if they feel like mom is available………(but if Dad is there to take care of them Mom HAS taken care of the situation). Does that make sense? Whether food is made or ordered in, dinner is provided. A child needs to be listened to. A child needs discipline and encouragement and love and guidance and fun and a home and opportunities to grow. A mother arranges things so that this happens.
    Even the family that spent only Saturday cleaning, it was the parents that organized it. If not for the parents arranging for cleaning chores, the house would be in chaos.

    Each of us have a different idea on exactly what our kids needs are. And each kid has different needs. And we will ALL of us fail our children in some way…………..because we will have not anticipated all of our childrens’ individual needs.
    I mean, if anyone here actually thinks they are currently a perfect mother………But a good mother? Yes, we are all good mothers.

    How this discussion started involved how you read your inkblot test. You think that someone is trying to tell women that her purpose in life is to do domestic work. I do not get this message from anyone in my life. No one at church tells me this. The Ensign pictures didn’t tell me this. My husband, my children, my parents……..Nowhere do I feel harrassed that domestic work is the pinnacle of womanhood’s acheivement.
    I thought Soyde’s #271 was a very interesting story. But somehow your response “Hideous prideful condescension, I’d reckon, almost as bad as the condescension involved in telling someone that her primary function in life is to clean restrooms” involves a world where there is much pressure to convince your that housework is your purpose in life? Soyde isn’t telling you that. I am not telling you that. Yet your anger at the world is apparent. Who exactly is telling you this?
    Are you a little too sensitive.
    Because I am sure when I read between the lines in your original post, I was a little too sensitive to think you were being anti-woman by attacking traditional feminine duties and calling them a waste of time……(keeping in mind that I am not a domestic diva myself), but my feminism immediately jumped to fighting stance thinking “How dare she say that what I do isn’t very important.” I admit I read between the lines and was sensitive on the subject…..or maybe I was just really ill on Wednesday.
    Anyway, I’m on totally in the Rosalynde camp. My own theory on motherhood means taking care of your children is above.
    But, please consider that some of us don’t feel bad if we don’t have a particular domestic. My mother wasn’t the sewing/quilting/baking type of mom. Yet she still created a home where we were loved and taken care of. She always made it clear that a woman brings her own talents into mothering her children. There was no one set of talents that would make her a better mom. My mother’s vision of being a mother, to me, was being an entreprenuer. You create your own business. You are your own boss. You decide what you are going to create. How you are going to create it. You decide what ingredients to put in your product. How many products to create…………..My mother truly enjoyed being a mother. She was fulfilled as a mother. She loved us and enjoyed us. SHe did it her own unique wonderful way. She is my hero.
    I am so lucky that because she was so happy being a mother who not only took care of us but a mother who discussed religion and politics with us and played games with us made her happy. I don’t feel any pressure to be a mother who quilts, arranges flowers or bakes. Nowhere in all the toilets that she cleaned or had us clean, did she tell me that someone told her it was her purpose in life……..and no one in my life has even hinted that’s the case.

  295. June 6, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    Ugh. I knew if I commented I’d get roped into this thread and I absolutely shouldn’t do this today! Still, Russell’s comment requires me to clarify what I think on this issue lest I’m misunderstood.

    As I mentioned I think parents with large families can get overextended and become less effective as parents than they might have been otherwise. This observation is not, a “de facto claim that large families are a bad idea,” however. I think people vary widely in their dispositions, capacities, talents, strength, health, and so forth—all of which influence one’s ability to parent. While essential parenting attributes like patience can (and should) be cultivated in and through parenting, other important traits are more difficult to develop.

    Perhaps as relevant as these sorts of physical/emotional/psychological limitations to whether parents find it difficult to be attentive to many children are the demands of their work. I think things would have been different (probably better for some of my siblings) in our home if 1) my mother not been a professional woman OR 2) she had continued to pursue her career but had fewer children (like 4 or 5 instead of 11). It was the combination of BOTH a very large family AND the fact that my mother often wanted or needed to be somewhere else that made her seem scarce. I think large families can be wonderful (provided the parents can meet everyone’s emotional and physical needs) but I think in order to parent many children (read—more than 4 or 5 children) well, some hard professional sacrifices will likely need to be made by at least one, but perhaps both parents.

    I’ve said elsewhere (though too briefly) that I think it is possible for both spouses to have rewarding careers and also be good parents. This comment does not represent a change in my earlier stated views. What I am here arguing is very simple and straightforward—– children in very large families may get less attention (which I’ve suggested is an important part of care) if both parents work full-time than they would if either the family was smaller or one or both parent worked less. I assume this is an uncontroversial claim.

    At some point in the future I’ll post about why I think the fragmentary, individualistic state of our society makes it hard to raise large families. If there were many adults in a tight-knit community whose close personal relationships enabled them to give meaningful and consistent “interactive face-time” to other’s children the demands on parents’ time and emotional reserves would decrease dramatically. I think it’s unfortunate that so many people in this country alone while young families struggle to meet needs. The emphasis on the individual and the nuclear family in the US makes childrearing much more difficult than it might be if grandparents or single aunts/uncles lived with or near families.

    But, these are really thoughts for another day . . .

  296. June 6, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    My post should read, “I think it’s unfortunate that so many people LIVE alone while young families . . .

  297. sarah
    June 6, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    I found the comment that “only 1% of non-single Mormon women work outside the home” to be hilarious. I must know that entire 1%, because after having lived in five states and 10 cities (large and very small), I am struggling to think of ANY of my married Mormon female friends who don’t have at least part time jobs. I’m sure there are many of my ward members who are full-time moms, but I really can’t think of any of my married Mormon friends who are full-time stay at home moms (and I don’t just hang out with “liberal” go getters). I do have one friend who is a stay at home father…but he is the only one I can think of who is a full-time parent. Most of my married female Mormon friends are also “professionals” ie: lawyers, doctors, nurses, writers, government workers, professors, neurophychologists, therapists, musicians. Though I consider teachers, secretaries, etc. to be professionals too… Plus, they are all great moms!!

  298. Rosalynde Welch
    June 6, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Sue– Except for the issue about large families, I don’t think we disagree all that much. My point is that, for the vast majority of mothers (who can’t afford to have in-house help and who don’t enjoy a 50/50 housework split), doing precisely the things you talk about requires doing housework. Right, for a mother who has a housekeeper, the mother could plausibly be the one the child goes to for food, warmth, beloved toy, or cuddling even if she wasn’t the one to prepare the food, do the laundry, put away the toys, etc. (Although my experience working as a nanny suggests that the child generally is in fact aware of who is the most reliable source of food, and will go to that caregiver.) But for most mothers who don’t enjoy those privileges, taking care of children means doing housework. (And as I’ve conceded several times: I’m not talking about “housework” as scrubbing grout or arranging flowers.)

  299. June 6, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    “Slacker Mom? It’s Ok” Headline from todays SL Trib.

  300. June 6, 2005 at 3:14 pm


    “I think the fragmentary, individualistic state of our society makes it hard to raise large families. If there were many adults in a tight-knit community whose close personal relationships enabled them to give meaningful and consistent ‘interactive face-time’ to other’s children the demands on parents’ time and emotional reserves would decrease dramatically. I think it’s unfortunate that so many people in this country live alone while young families struggle to meet needs.”

    I think we may have a fairly abstract (possibly philosophical) disagreement on what constitutes parenting, or how it is or should be realized in the context of the home, but I don’t disagree insofar as practice goes with one word of this. Parenting has changed for the worse with the collapse of intimate family networks and the relative decline of self-sufficient, relatively enclosed neighborhoods and communities. If there is one thing which my wife and I have complained about more than anything else in all of our various moves, it has been our frustrating (and, thus far, always frustrated) search for a neighborhood where there are actually enough children around and enough familiarity and reliability between adult neighbors to make it possible for people to depend upon one another for playtime, babysitting, domestic help, major domestic projects, whatever. A ward can be a fairly adequate substitute, but given that most wards (outside Utah or Idaho, that is) are so spread out geographically, even the most loving and responsible ward will be hard-pressed to replicate the important function that a shared immediate environment can make possible.

  301. Lisa B.
    June 6, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks, Julie, for starting this wonderful discussion. Wish I’d gotten in on it sooner. I am one who did not open the Ensign this month because of its cover illustration and article title. My immediate thought was “Why aren’t we teaching our YOUTH to look forward to PARENTHOOD?” Guess I need to pull it out and read it. I hope you will write to the editor.

    I have enjoyed motherhood far more than I thought I would, but I still am not much of a housekeeper or cook. Luckily, my husband is. And I have other strengths. Still, I am sure that some of my defensiveness about the very emphasis on housekeeping for young women comes from my own inadequacies in this department.

    Someone stated something to the effect that no one claims that the physical housekeeping tasks are more important than the spiritual concerns of parenting, but I have begun to wonder. Consider that everyone who lives beyond childhood must learn to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves somehow (even if it is merely fulfilling social obligations required in order to maintain one’s inheritance), but only a small percentage of earth’s inhabitants ever even hear of Christ, let alone have the opportunity to become covenant people while in this life. What does that say about God’s ranking of the importance of housekeeping tasks and general life-sustaining type work? I agree with those who have argued that the spiritual and temporal cannot be separated, though they are often divorced in our heads. And perhaps the whole task is to get beyond the potentially mind-numbing boringness of repetitive work and get something more from it/ something spiritual. I think this is as true of household work as it is of farming work, or computer work, or other work. After all, Jesus donned the garb of a slave and washed his disciples’ feet.

    RE What and how do we teach the YW. In the wards I’ve been in, the YW leaders have most often been single or childless women (including myself when I was in those phases of life), or mothers of very young children. While women without children may have more time available for activities and such, if the GOAL is to encourage more young women to look forward to motherhood, wouldn’t mothers with more experience be better able to prepare YW for motherhood than women who have mothered in other ways than children of their own? Or perhaps that’s been the idea? Keep those who are really in the know AWAY from those young women so they won’t discourage them? Just kidding. :) I’m curious, though, what others’ experiences have been in their wards (which women have most often been called to be YW leaders in your wards and branches).

    Finally (sorry to be so long-winded! But lots to respond to!) Melissa said “What I am here arguing is very simple and straightforward—– children in very large families may get less attention (which I’ve suggested is an important part of care) if both parents work full-time than they would if either the family was smaller or one or both parent worked less. I assume this is an uncontroversial claim.” Sorry, no. I have known very neglectful stay-at-home mothers of large and small families, as well as some very attentive parents who work and/or and large families.

  302. Lisa B.
    June 6, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Sorry–that last line should read “and/or have large families.”

  303. A. Greenwood
    June 6, 2005 at 8:29 pm

    ““What I am here arguing is very simple and straightforward—– children in very large families may get less attention (which I’ve suggested is an important part of care) if both parents work full-time than they would if either the family was smaller or one or both parent worked less. I assume this is an uncontroversial claim.”

    Yes, it’s uncontroversial, assuming (and I hope this is also an uncontroversial claim) you are suggesting a tendency and not an iron-clad rule.

  304. June 6, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    If I picked up the Ensign and read on the cover “Teaching our Young Men to Embrace Fatherhood,” which showed a father and son building a fence or changing the oil, I don’t think it would caused my sexist alarm to go off. Are there any men out there who would refuse to read such an article?

    Melissa, I disagree with you in that a family with two full-time working parents could probably be a more successful family if one of them chose to be a full-time parent.

  305. June 6, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    Good grief. Lisa, not only are there are always individual exceptions to the sort of general statement I made, it is not usually difficult to think of those exceptions because they stand out as being exceptional.

    Of course, women who work outside the home can still be attentive mothers while those who don’t work outside the home can be inattentive mothers. I don’t dispute that. My point was quite different. I was simply voicing (what I thought were the painfully obvious) practical implications of working full-time and having almost a dozen children. There are only so many hours in the day and even if your heart is in the right place, it is very difficult for *anyone* to be available and responsive to a houseful of children (again I’m talking about 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 children here) while advancing professionally at the same time. In such a scenario, it is very likely (although certainly not necessary) that something—or someone will slip through the cracks. Even if that doesn’t happen, the parents in such a circumstance will give less time and attention to their children because they have less of it left to give.

    Adam, if you look again at what I actually wrote you will see nothing that remotely resembles “an iron-clad rule.”

    “Children in very large families MAY get less attention if both parents work full-time than they would if either the family was smaller or one or both parent worked less.”

    Lastly, Audrey, we don’t disagree. Perhaps you misread my comment or I was unclear. While I think it is POSSIBLE for both spouses to be employed and still be good parents (which view I have and will consistently defend) I think in many cases (maybe most) it is PREFERABLE to have a full-time parent. In fact, the bulk of my post was to emphasize this point: children MAY suffer if there are too many competing demands on their parents’ time.

  306. Jack
    June 6, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    “…children MAY suffer if there are too many competing demands on their parents’ time.”

    Gee, I’d never considered that before.

  307. Adam Greenwood
    June 6, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    “Adam, if you look again at what I actually wrote you will see nothing that remotely resembles “an iron-clad rule.””

    Yes, I am aware.

  308. June 7, 2005 at 9:34 am

    Melissa, let me clarify, I believe that MOST of the children of two full-time parents WILL SUFFER in some way (a view I have seen, hold, and will defend). I think that it is RARE for both spouses to be employed full-time and still be good parents. Though, we might have different definitions of what goes into being “good parents”.

  309. annegb
    June 7, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    but–but, who hasn’t suffered in childhood? If you’re an only child, you suffer, if you have 9 siblings, you suffer, if your parents are active Mormons, and your mom stays home, you have something to gripe about. If they’re Jack Mormons, you suffered for it. If your mom is spotless, she probably neglected you emotionally. If she’s a slob, you probably were embarrassed about your house.

    Life is hard. I wish I’d stayed in the spirit world. I think I could be quite happy being a ministering angel for eternity. I’m quite sure I had no clue what I was getting into when I blithely told Heavenly Father “okay, whatever, just so I get a body!” before He hugged me goodbye. What a moron spirit I was.

  310. Lisa B.
    June 7, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    Okay, Melissa, you caught me placing the exception over the rule–for which I have beforetimes faulted others. :-) But I do think exceptions can be instructive, and often make a rule of questioning assumptions.

    As for your particular argument, I dislike when stay at home mothers (and I am one of them) assume that necessarily makes them better mothers. Particularly if they spend a great deal of time on outside activities (hobbies, community service, even church work) or place their young children in full-time preschool so they can have errand time or whatever (my oldest has been in preschool), at the same time that they are decrying women who work (even part time) or claiming that “staying home” is necessarily “better” parenting. I am not saying you did any of these things. I am acknowledging what else out there I was reacting against in my response to you. Overall, I agree that in most cases, attentive parenting is more challenging when parents (one or the other or both) have too many outside commitments or too time consuming commitments, which may be vocational, extended family commitments, hobbies, friends, community or church service, blogging, or even an overemphasis on housekeeping. :-) (How’s that for tying it back into the OP?)

    Annegb, my pb says I didn’t have a full understanding of what I was getting into. :-) Could any of us? But I don’t think the fact of universal human suffering relieves us of the responsibility to do what we can to end unnecessary suffering, particularly suffering WE might cause. If graphics used for an Ensign article meant to inspire and encourage have, even unintentionally, caused hurt feelings, misunderstanding, or even simply improper emphasis, making the Ensign editors aware of that effect could potentially help avoid some hurt. What’s wrong with that?

  311. A. Greenwood
    June 7, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    Well, acknowledging that life is hard and that the Ensign editors are well-intentioned might suggest that publicly calling on them to do their jobs differently because they ‘make your heart hurt’ isn’t the best approach, but tastes apparently differ.

  312. Kingsley
    June 7, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    It seems that one approach could be — the magazine is a little corny, plain & simple — devastation at each new instance of that fact is overkill. You have these very loud voices clamoring that the best thing for a girl is to put on a thong, give the patriarchy the bird, & rush out & make a lot of money — & so the editors of the Ensign try to counteract it with a bunch of corny pictures depicting the opposite. Not a big deal, in the grand scheme etc.

  313. Emily Simmons
    June 7, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    I think a photo like this one would have been appropriate as well as reached a different demographic than what was published?

  314. Emily Simmons
    June 7, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    oops – try this site – they’ll probably change it after today, but it depicts a mother and a daughter in pajamas playing video games and laughing hysterically.

  315. A. Greenwood
    June 7, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Just so, Squire K. We often act as if the Church Was All There Were, so we complain about marginalization of different voices with Mormonism. But the Church is itself a marginal minority in the larger culture. Many Mormon women find fulfillment in running a household but they’re not going to get any plaudits or recognition from Out There. We have to do it ourselves, through voices like the Ensign.

  316. Randy B.
    June 7, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    Emily, if only they were dressed modestly . . . .

  317. Elisabeth
    June 7, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    I’ve encountered many non-Mormon women Out There who take pride in their homes and are fully engaged in their children’s lives, and who are sincerely recognized by others for their sacrifice and their service to their families (“she’s such a great mother”, etc.) I think non-Mormons and Mormons alike snub mothers probably equally when it comes to social recognition. But if you’re talking about messages in the media about SAHMs, I definitely agree with you. And especially if we’re talking about “Desperate Housewives”.

  318. A. Greenwood
    June 7, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    Yes, I should have clarified that I didn’t mean ‘Out There’ geographically. Thanks.

  319. Alison Moore Smith
    July 9, 2005 at 6:05 am

    Tell you what, I’ll dive in, post ONE seemingly endless and rambling post, and the spare you all further blathering posts. Kay?

    Julie M. Smith, I loved your comments. Spot on, sister. No, it’s not life or death. But I was bugged enough by the pictures to ignore the article. Now I’ll go back and read it.

    Randall, I had to laugh at “I would give anything to be able to be home with my children daily.” You might. But you might not like to be told that you HAD to, whether you liked it or not, to be a good Mormon man. I was just months away from college graduation and pregnant with my first baby when President Benson gave “the talk.” I nearly fell out of my chair and was mad for weeks. Finally, but begrudgingly, I decided to follow his counsel when our daughter was born. It was only LATER that I was “converted” when I realized that domestic activities (such as those pictured) were important and valuable, but quite distinct from the job of raising children of God.

    Julie in Austin, you’ve gotta find me the source for the once-per-year craft. I’ve heard that a handful of times, but never seen a source.

    I’m also laughing about how some wards “sneak” in crafts under homemaking skills. Oh, my, no! I am not even serving in Enrichment, but I’m on the RS board and so am on a couple of HFPE email lists. Trust me, many of these women “sneak” crafts in under EVERY topic!! Let’s see:

    Spiritual Development: Embroider a temple envelope
    Homemaking Skills: Super Saturday Craft Marathon
    Marriage and Family Relations: Decorative matting to mount wedding pictures
    Strengthening Relationships: Cross-stitch a pithy, loving saying to hang on the wall
    Self-Reliance: Crochet hot pads
    Service: Make brownies-in-a-jar for the bishopric
    Physical and Emotional Health: Make aromatherapy bath salts
    Personal Development and Education: Toll painting
    Literacy: Pressed flower bookmarks
    Cultural Arts: African beaded necklaces

    You only THINK I’m kidding…

    Brian, funny, both my best friend from high school and my best friend from college are lawyers (the former also a judge pro temp), even though both also chose to stay home with their kids. Another full-time mom is a CPA, another a mechanical engineer, and my sister (at home, ten kids) has a master’s in math. Perhaps you just assume they aren’t as educated because they are home? (Did I mention I live in UTAH COUNTY–not New York?)

    Alas, I only have a bachelor’s degree. My master’s plans were thwarted by “the talk”…see above.

    Todd Hopkinson, I’m rather stunned at your response and admonition to “get wiser.” Could you please point out the (apparently many) posts that called housework unimportant? I’ve already tired of reading just the opposite. FWIW, everyone in my family helps with all the housework (more than any of their peers that I know) and the yardwork and even caring for the younger ones and our home IS very clean and organized…well, accept when my one-year-old gets loose in the markers…Oh, and I’m a nearly 18-year veteran of being home with my kids. But I still found the pictures bizarre and one-sided.

    Lastly to you, let me say:

    It is always a stunning thing to me that people will get so fired up over a small concern here or there and determine that the Julie is on the wrong course. How long does it take to begin finding these kinds of frustrations in the talks of the prophets? Why is it always others that are in the wrong, and not ourselves?

    Is it really so hard to consider that perhaps those that have the problem with Julie’s ideas are needing to change something internal, rather than Julie changing her position? And even if the Julie could have used better analogies, isn’t it possible that there are reasons, unbeknownst to the Todd, as to why those analogies were used?

    Too many are making assumptions. Too many are almost looking to be upset. It seems there are some here that are merely content to be discontent.

    Richard T, that is the oddest post I have ever read. I grew up mostly in Orem, Utah. (My dad is a math professor at BYU.) My home was not elegant, but it was attractive, clean (carpets and all), with two completely matched sets of flatware, three sets of dishes, gorgeous vintage linens (that I still own today), plush towels that matched the decor and were always hung up in thirds, beds with hospital corners and smooth spreads, regulalry oiled furniture, tuned pianos, and a nicely manicured lawn and flower beds. My dad still lives in the same house (my mother died two years ago) just northeast of UVSC. Almost without exception, every home I was EVER in in that modest neighborhood was that way. I don’t disbelieve your post, I just find it SO out of character from my experience in Orem, in Boca Raton, in Eagle Mountain, that it rather astounds me.

    Sara, I too have attended the “family work” session at Education Week by Bahr. Twice! They are wonderful and helpful, but I think the fact that much mothering CAN occur while doing housework isn’t really germane. Much mothering can also take place homeschooling (trust me, I’m doing it with six kids), jogging, packing and shipping hardware, playing Set or Scrabble, rolling on the lawn, rehearsing for a concert, driving to karate, nursing a rejected kitten back to health, working on a Young Women project, hiking, watching a bulldozer, burning weeds, figuring out how to code a web element, reading scriptures, visiting a dying grandma, supporting a sibling in a play or game or concert, taking a ropes course, driving go-carts…need I go on?

    Julie’s point is that the vast majority of the pictures (UNLIKE Sister Tanner’s article) showed only traditional domestic activities–when there are SO many other valuable things that could have at least made a showing.

    I think the complaint would have also been warranted had the photos shown: a woman posting to an email list with her daughter; a woman reading a blog with her daughter; a woman and daughter backing up data; a woman and daughter coding a new web site; a woman crocheting a doily to go under he iMac…even though all but the last are rather accurate representations of MY life with my eldest daughter.

    But I must totally disagree with the idea that, “It’s easier for kids to have conversations while doing dishes or working in the garden than sitting down and having a face-to-face conversation.” I guess I’m just too verbal–as the length of this post might attest. But we talk so much “face-to-face” that it’s comical. When the doctor asked my eldest (at 16) if her mother had talked to her about maturing, sexuality, etc. she rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh, please. She talks TOOO O much about it.” I still chuckle about that, but I can tell you my kids ask me EVERYTHING. Things I would NEVER have brought up with my folks–even though they are awesome parents. It’s actually one of the few parenting things that I actually think I naturally did pretty well.

    JKS, I suppose I completely miss your point in #205. Does the fact that Julie and others do not feel that our MOST SIGNIFICANT work is cooking/cleaning/laundry have ANYTHING remotely to do with saying we didn’t or don’t APPRECIATE such things being provided? Or that anyone thinks them–the word once again–UNimportant? Perhaps I missed some things–this is a really long thread–but I still can’t find anyone who has claimed housework is unimportant. If that’s not a straw man, show me the money.

    Kingsley, your breaded brother’s photo SHOULD have been in the Ensign! Along with my first daughter head entirely covered in purple lipstick; second daughter fast asleep with pull-up on her head (instead of her bottom); third daughter scaring me out of my wits every morning by screaming (two inches from my face), “FOOD!”; fourth daughter coloring with permanent black and red markers all over the back of our new brown leather couch; first son asleep in bed with the remains of an entire box of raisin bran, pack of hot dogs, and packet of crackers; second son (just yesterday, mind you) having de-diapered himself during the night and done really disgusting things all over his formerly mint green linens.

    Allison–loved your comments. Now, if only you spelled your name correctly!!! ;)

    annegb, I wonder why your son married, and fathered a child with, someone you describe as such a total loser.

    Brava Kristine on #239!

    Note to Melissa. In Boca, when most of our home was tiled (as is the South Florida fashion), my kids’ punishment for arguing was to scrub grout around ten of the huge tiles. Kept my knees looking young. ;D

    Jim F. I was adopted and definitely identify with–and bonded to–my REAL family. I’m more like my mother than my sister–who is a bio child.

    Best wishes,


  320. Todd Hopkinson
    July 9, 2005 at 6:46 am

    I hardly think my advice to wisen up should be a stunner. I think we could all use some wisening up. This whole discussion makes my point for me about that matter.

  321. Todd Hopkinson
    July 9, 2005 at 6:47 am

    I mean, it is 321 posts long!!!

  322. Todd Hopkinson
    July 9, 2005 at 6:47 am

    And I’m only adding to it!

  323. annegb
    July 9, 2005 at 10:44 am

    [personal information removed by admin]

    I totally forgot the topic of this thread.

  324. Jack
    July 9, 2005 at 11:21 am

    “It is always a stunning thing to me that people will get so fired up over a small concern here or there and determine that Julie is on the wrong course. How long does it take to begin finding these kinds of frustrations in the talks of the prophets? Why is it always others that are in the wrong, and not ourselves?”

    You’re using THAT example on this thread? One could use the same argument for getting worked up over a few lousy pictures. Of course, I’ve been known to get worked up over some of the silliness produced by the church media–even to the point of involuntary groans or shouts while my children are basking in the “sweetness” of some sickening church video–so I can understand the frustration, whatever the reasoning may be behind it. But lets be fair.

  325. Alison Moore Smith
    July 19, 2005 at 1:17 am

    Heya Todd, you may not be stunned, but I still don’t see backup for your ascertions.

    Jack, you missed the point. Someone DID “use the same argument for getting worked up over a few lousy pictures.” The three paragraphs after “Lastly to you, let me say:” were Todd’s own words to Julie, taking a U-turn, as they seem to apply equally well to HIS argument–or just about any. I realize that I didn’t make that dilineation clear.


  326. Tatiana
    August 6, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    For what it’s worth, I had the exact same feeling as Julie when I saw the pictures in that article. My heart sank. I’m glad to find I’m not the only one.

  327. manaen
    August 6, 2005 at 1:11 pm


    Elisabeth, The “Women” statues at the LA Temple’s Visitor’s Center show women in studiying and being active with children. Didn’t seel one of women cleaning.

  328. Emma
    January 7, 2006 at 12:42 am

    All I can say is I sweated blood for my degree and that there’s no way in the world I’m throwing it away to change diapers and sing Sesame Street songs. My mother chose to have a family, thanks to church/society pressure, and every single day I’ve been alive she’s let me know that her life would be so much happier if she never had kids. (And BTW, she was a fantastic homemaker, and a lousy mother.)

    My husband loves me for the fact that my usefulness is not determined by how many kids my uterus can crank out.
    Articles like this one make me sick.

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