The following appeared in a ward bulletin this past week. It was forwarded to me by a friend. Edited only to remove identifying information.
[The friend noted: the person who wrote it is new and feels very inadequate and would probably feel horrified to know it was being discussed in the public sphere. But, well, it needs to be.]
Thursday, February 14 at 6:30 pm the Relief Society is hosting a Couples Dinner and Fireside. Come enjoy a nice evening with your spouse and gain some insight on how to strengthen your marriage.
We will have dinner and babysitting in your home provided. If you want a babysitter please let Jane Doe know so she can arrange it for you. If you live outside of Kolob and would like to stay the night in Kolob…let Jane Doe know and we can arrange that as well (staying with members, not a hotel ;)).
Can you tell we really want you to come?!
Single sisters, we haven’t forgotten about you. You can support your ward family by letting Jane Doe know if you would like to babysit for a family that evening. Our ward becomes stronger as our families and marriages are strengthened.
A couple’s evening is a great idea! Maybe not on Valentine’s Day — a day when single sisters (and brothers, hello?) might already be feeling alone — but I don’t have a problem with events that are specifically for married couples — or any other group. They have needs that can be served by the church.
But for the love of pete, let’s please not pretend that asking the single sisters (and brothers, hello?) to babysit is actually including them!
(1) This announcement is terribly insensitive and hurtful, but I am certain the writer had the best of intentions and would be surprised to find out how hurtful it was. How can we explain (to someone for whom it is _not_ obvious) what is wrong with this?
(2)Note that the single men were forgotten. (I’m assuming there must be at least one in their ward.)
(3) So what are the acceptable alternatives? Should the organizer had privately contacted single women and asked them to baby-sit for this event and then held a “thank you” lunch for them after? Would that have been OK? What about a separate fireside at the same time with a topic of interest to single, and then inviting them to the dinner? Would that have been OK? What other options might have worked?
(4) Heaven forbid my mistakes in my calling become a topic of a blog post. I don’t think the post was a bad idea (it would have been with names left in the email; I do think it is important to talk about these things), but it is a tough world that we live in where any local mistake can go viral.
Hm. By the time I finished, that became four thoughts.
As a single sister, I think we singles would do well to get our sad faces out of our navels and serve in ways only we can so that some couples could have a nice Valentine’s together. The best cure to loneliness (if we are indeed lonely, and not out on a date) is to roll up our sleeves and serve. Though it is egotistical and thoughtless to ASSUME that we will, there are far more egregious insults we must put up with than being asked to serve.
I’m much more concerned that they scheduled a “marriage-strengthening” class on a night when they should be having some ALONE time, if you get my drift.
I’ve been asked if this really “needs to be” discussed. I think it does.
Just as with women’s issues in general — seeing REAL examples of problems helps us solve them.
Far too often when addressing such issues, people pooh pooh the whole thing. It’s not a big deal. It’s not that bad. It’s not REALLY a problem, you’re just hypersensitive, etc. Can’t we get past this “silly” stuff to more important things. (I’m just waiting for Suleiman to show up so he can tell the single sisters to go home and pray for God to smite the offender.)
In the past I’ve blogged about people being so hypersensitive about Mother’s Day that you can’t even acknowledge it because it will hurt someone’s feelings. I think we need to learn to be happy for others and celebrate their blessings, even when we don’t share them.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t REAL actions — that can easily be avoided — that knock people upside the head. This is one of those, IMO. “Remembering” the singles by NOT inviting them and asking them to take over parenting duties isn’t remembering them.
And I do have to add, as a single sister, that any “topic of interest” to a married can apply equally well to a single. We ARE grown-ups after all, and many/most of us have kids and relationships with the opposite sex, present or future, that can stand strengthening.
Holy cow, I missed that this was _on_ Valentine’s Day. That adds an entire layer of rudeness to asking the single women to babysit: “since we know you don’t have a date or anything . . .”
And Alison, you’re right. Which is why I quietly and kindly point it out to the individuals when they makes such mistakes.
Whew! For a minute I thought it was going to be another case of asking the YW to babysit. I’ve planned a “strengthening” type of activity before around Valentine’s Day, but like SilverRain says in #4, it was expressly planned and geared towards couples and singles. For once I’m glad it wasn’t me committing this faux paus. I am curious to know how the RS is going to provide dinner and babysitting at homes. And arranging for people to stay at members’ homes? Were they really serious or was that tongue in cheek? They must have a sizeable budget for this thing.
I’m confused about the housing arrangements. It’s Valentine’s Day. Why would out-of-town couples want to stay with other ward members? Why would these members WANT to have people staying on their couches? How is that a good idea?
I think the major problem is in its juxtaposition. It reads, “The married folks in the ward are really, really important to us, and, oh yeah, single sisters, you’re really important to us in the way you can support those married people.”
Inappropriate: A mass email: “We haven’t forgotten about you, single sisters! You can volunteer to babysit those more important people’s children!”
Appropriate: An announcement in the local YSA/MSA ward or the proper RS, “Ward Kolob is seeking some assistance. They are in great need of babysitting services on Valentine’s Day. If you are able to help out, please contact Jane Doe. And don’t forget, we have our annual Single’s Dinner & Dance on Friday, the 15th.”
JTG hit the nail on the head. A change of messaging would make this go from terribly offensive to appropriate and reasonable. But we don’t just need to change the wording, we need to change the mindset. I’d love to have them consider how it would sound to ask the married members to watch the children of the single parents so they could go on dates. We’re here to support each other, so why does it end up often going only one way?
Stuff like this is a personal mistake, best dealt with personally, in person. Definitely lots of room for improvement in sensitivity to single members…
Cameron, from the fact that any and all identifying information has been stripped, I suspect that it was, in fact, dealt with personally in person.
That said, it’s a good reminder to all of us to double-check what we’ve written to make sure that we’re actually communicating what we think we’re communicating, and that we’re not inadvertently (or, for that matter, deliberately) insulting our sisters and brothers in what we say.
A regional YSA group hosted a large fireside at our stake center last year, and our ward’s High Priests Group, comprised solely of married men, was asked to set up the chairs. So I and a half-dozen other men from left our wives and children for a half hour so the single twenty-somethings could enjoy their Sunday evening. I don’t recall anyone complaining.
I have other nits to pick, so no comment.
I think the reason the brothers were not invited to help probably relates to the fact that most people would not trust their kids alone with a man. I think it’s actually church policy to not trust men. When I taught primary, my teaching companion did not come a lot, and they were always scrambling to get a sub to sit with me or, worst case scenario, I had to leave the door open. I guess the little window in the door was not considered a sufficient comfort that I would act appropriately.
I feel bad for all effected, though my guess is this was hardest on the author, as most singles are probably jaded by now and simply rolled their eyes at this.
The main takeaway here should not be to criticize the author (and nobody has done so) but simply remind us all to be more sensitive to the various situations that are out there. I always appreciate the reminder.
IDIAT #7, my guess is that the wording is just ambiguous. I think the “at home” applied to babysitting, not dinner.
Amy #8 et al: I don’t know the logistics of it all. I can see it being possible. When I toured with BYU’s A Cappella, we would usually stay with member families who volunteered to host us. Now, it wasn’t on a holiday, but it was still kind of fun, so I can imagine it working with volunteer arrangements.
I suppose the ward council, with its male and female members, unanimously approved the activity. Or maybe since this is a Relief Society activity, it wasn’t discussed in ward council. But understanding some of the concerns which have been raised, which have a good point behind them, I wonder how the discussion occurred in ward council when the activity was planned and approved.
When we allow for and even encourage local activities, there will surely always be selections or arrangements which someone will find problematic or even offensive. This is probably better than no activities at all, or only activities approved by the First Presidency.
At least the single sisters were only invited to babysit by other sisters — they weren’t assigned. That’s good.
Matt Evans #13, it seems as if you didn’t read the entire post or that you don’t understand the situation. ??
There seems to be an enormous qualitative difference between asking MARRIED men to help set up chairs for a YSA night on any old Sunday and announcing a big overnight dinner/conference for marrieds on a particular HOLIDAY, and then telling the unmarrieds we didn’t invite — many of whom we KNOW find the holiday painful — that they are INCLUDED by NOT being included, but by staying home and changing diapers.
We’re all asked to serve others and generally don’t complain. But rather than your example, I think it’s more like asking all the infertile couples to come to the church on Mother’s Day to pass out corsages to the moms. “See, we didn’t forget you!”
The most hard-to-overlook assumption revealed here is the notion that single people have no families. That they must somehow attach themselves to families with children in their wards as the only acceptable way to to (vicariously) experience family relations or to support families. I’d like to see our definition of “family” to expand to include what it really means. Most of us, married, single, with or without children, deal with a host of family relationships beyond spouse and children. I have parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and cousins and in-laws, all of whom deserve my love and service. And all of whom take an enormous amount of prayer, time, energy, and effort (most of it rewarding). Assuming single people’s only access to family relationships is via interaction with their ward’s married couples and children, erases all of the labor and love they consistently put into their families. If we could talk about families in the most expansive language possible – not just as your-part-of-the-ward-family-so-you-can-babysit sort of way – but in the we-all-have-family-members-we-need-to-love-better sort of way, I think it would, overtime, soften the exclusionary language/assumptions we often use when discussing families.
“I’m just waiting for Suleiman to show up so he can tell the single sisters to go home and pray for God to smite the offender.”
Uhhh… I wouldn’t want anyone smitten. But there are loads of scriptures and teachings of the brethren that warn against taking offense, especially when no offense was intended. I suppose we could take this as a Matt 18: 15-17 moment with a modern twist. Skip over the private exchange, if it offends us, we gripe about it on Times and Seasons!
No, I fully appreciate that prefacing a call for volunteers to support an activity for another group with “See, we didn’t forget about you” is ridiculous and clumsy.
Suleiman, now I’m disappointed. I was hoping you’d bring up the “making men offenders at a word” scripture. It’s one of my favorites.
I seriously think most married people in the church are jealous of older singles without kids. It’s clear to me from this email that they are talking about never-marrieds with no children, not single divorcees.
It’s as if they are trying to punish singles for having a life. Maybe if we make them feel miserable for daring to stay single and hold down a job/own a home, they’ll want to be married and suffer like the rest of us.
I have to imagine that no one here will want to know what Unitarians are doing.
But the Salt Lake Unitarian teen group had a Valentine’s babysitting fundraiser. They charged the parents a small amount, which went to youth group activities.
I have to imagine that the boys participated in this, under the supervision of a girl.
Among the many problems I see with this RS announcement is that RS leaders are supposed to plan RS activities for everyone in the organization and that single sisters should always be included not excluded. Apparently, this RS presidency have not read their handbooks.
Wow…. wow wow. This would be hurtful on so many levels. It’s not that most singles oppose serving–it’s that this specific type of service zeroes in on what is often a person’s most profound and personal loss. (I just went back and reread what Alison wrote in #18. The example about infertile couples was perfect.)
In recent years the Brethren have said a husband and wife shouldn’t give the opening and closing prayers in meetings. It can make single members feel inadequate, etc., and lessens opportunities for them to say prayers. Lately in my stake, I’ve seen this pop up again, here and there. I wonder if I should say something to the stake president about it.
It’s not that singles have no families or any other pressing demands on their lives that is troubling about this, it’s that singles of either sex have no value in the church except as potential married people. If you’ve ever been an LDS single, you know what I’m talking about. Honestly, if I hadn’t met my wife and married when I did, I doubt I would be in the church today.
While this is an important issue that needs to be addressed, the manner in which this particular episode has been handled in this forum displays an equally damning degree of insensitivity.
The author of this bulletin announcement, we are told, “is new and feels very inadequate and would probably feel horrified to know it was being discussed in the public sphere.” In other words, there was no malevolence intended on her part; she simply publicized an activity without taking into account the feelings of single adults. Yes, she made a mistake, but it appears to have been unintentional and the product of her inexperience.
Rationalizing the publication on the Internet of her words by saying that all identifying information has been removed is nonsense. Does anyone believe that if she or any member of her ward were to read this redacted version of her words that they would not know who wrote it?!?
Listen, if a General Authority were to have said or written something like this, then I would be all in favor of taking him to the woodshed. But where the author is apparently a new member and, by her own admission, feels inadequate to the task, come on people—cut her some slack, especially if you would like some of measure understanding the next time you say or write something insensitive. The question of Mormon cultural attitudes toward single members can be addressed without publicly humiliating a young, inexperienced new member.
#14: There is an even easier way to not comment!
“No, I fully appreciate that prefacing a call for volunteers to support an activity for another group with ‘See, we didn’t forget about you’ is ridiculous and clumsy.”
Then why present your irrelevant anecdote about chair-setting-up? (SPOILERS: over my life I have helped set up chairs for dozens of church meetings I wasn’t attending. LIKE ALL MORMONS.) OP’s point was obviously not “No single person in the Church should ever be asked to help out any married one!” and none of the comments have suggested this.
It was commonplace to hear such instruction to single women from the pulpit years ago to help married couples with children during church and the week, so although this appeal is outrageous, it does have precedence.
I agree that the biggest problem with the activity is that it is hosted by Relief Society and ALL RS activities are supposed to be available to and support all sisters. Unfortunately this is rarely the case.
I think singles get this with regularity, in print and in person. Not uncommon.
1 – Unawareness is boggling to me. We simply haven’t done a decent job of creating a good conversation with our community.
Requests often come with painful stereotypes attached that require me to step gently around the people to have joy in serving. i.e. “Since you don’t have children, can you help in the kitchen at the RS dinner?” & “Since you aren’t busy with a family, can you (fill in the blank – sub for nursery, take a dinner, babysit etc.)”
2 – I also thanked frequently with sentiments like “Think of all the children in the ward you have touched. If you had your own children, you could never have been that blessing to all of them.” I know that they are attempting great kindness and respect and gratitude so I take it as such, but…. OUCH!
The problem isn’t that they say that stuff with regularity, the problem is that there isn’t widespread awareness that it even might be painful. I’ve never understood that.
As a “single”, I’m somehow an alien AND they with surety KNOW my circumstances, all in the same breath.
And heaven forbid they be curious about my circumstances, attitudes, perspectives, trials, doubts, etc.
No man knows your history unless you’re single and then they seem sure of many assumptions they could be dead wrong about.
2 – #28 – “Singles have no value in the church except as potential marrieds” and a comment in an ABC article on the Jodi Arias murder trial “In Mormonism, if you’re not married, your social capital is largely defined by preserving your virginity”. What???
I suspect that few singles, mormon or not, personally define their value or their social capital by either of these criteria. To ask the right question:
1) What is a single person’s value in the lds church?
PS: It’s not serving or babysitting. Read it again. It’s NOT serving. I’m a serving fanatic but that’s not my value. I’m not “The Help” (see the movie).
2) How does a LDS single define their social capitol?
PS: Also not serving, babysitting, and *nada to do with sexual activity.
(*ok, that could just be me and my several 100 single friends but I guess it’s possible – doesn’t seem a smart way to define social capital in this arena)
“As a ‘single’, I’m somehow an alien AND they with surety KNOW my circumstances, all in the same breath.”
Laura, as a once older single man in the church I think that is the best explanation of an LDS single’s life I’ve ever read.
wow- double, triple wow! Thanks for sharing. I write this as a never married single in my early 40s.
That word choice is painfully unkind. It is so clear the author of that paragraph in the ward bulletin has no concept of the pain that can occur in being single, despite one’s faithfulness over the years or one’s committment to serving others. I can serve people throughout the day and still have tears of lonely pain as I drive home, no one knows but Heavenly Father.
Thank you for sharing, bless the sisters and brothers in that ward who are single. I hope none of them consented to be a free babysitter for that night.
As a single, I’ve done a lot to serve people in my ward. I don’t mind babysitting if I’m available. But in the context in that ward bulletin, I’d be a tad miffed and hurt. All I really ask is a little kindness and respect from my ward.
Like others said, of course we as singles should serve and it is good to try our best to be happy for others in their times of joy and in their happy relationships.
In addition, for that ward to have the dinner on Valentine’s Day when the couples might have other plans, as suggested by an earlier commentor, isn’t that kind either.
A few years ago i worked in activity days in our ward and was asked by young women’s if the activity day girls (w/us leaders supervising) could babysit the children of the YW/YM leaders while they did a special etiquette dinner w/the youth. We did it, the dinner was on a Valentine’s Day. Inititally it sort of hurt but I looked at it as a chance to serve.
I changed my attitude and we had a small party for the babysitting.
Still to be that way to adult women in that RS activity is somewhat condescending.
I love how they missed that some single sisters are mothers.
It’s probably painful, too, to those married sisters whose husbands are inactive or nonmembers. My husband worked third shift for 16 years and evening activities such as this always left me feeling left out, too.
Anyone relating this to young women or young men being asked to babysit, think about the implications of your comparison: you are lumping single adults with young women and young men. This invite is insulting, intended or not. As a single, 34 year old woman, this voices a message I get,’Dear single women, please do not join the other **adults** at the valentines activity. Due to your lack of married status, I am going to lump you in with the young women where you belong. You may be my age, but can’t have sex. You can, however, spend your valentines supervising the fruits of my sex. You’re welcome.’ Writer may not have meant it this way, but trust me, we get these kind of messages all the time
Did anyone ask the kids who they wanted as babysitters?
My kids would have wanted someone who gives Airplane Rides and Horsie Rides and who is aware of the numerous benefits of the All Ice Cream Diet and playing in mud puddles.
Re: #1 comment: Only in the church is babysitting considered “Service.” For my friends who attend other churches, babysitting is an employment opportunity.
What is the acceptable alternative? Expecting the married couples to arrange babysitting on their own, just like Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, or even Atheists do. But perhaps I have non-LDS progressive friends who, when they procreated, accepted the truth that nights out would require babysitting arranged by them, not by their churches.
And as a side note, this whole discussion falls in the same rage category as asking the fathers in Elders Quorum to “babysit” their kids so their wives can attend RS meetings…fathers are not babysitters. They are parents.
Allison, it is your duty to personally talk to the creator of this message, be sharp, then pour on the love.