February 24, 2010

Two kinds of mothers

I've been brainstorming about mothers for the last 10 years. I grew up in one type of parenting scheme, my husband - completely the opposite. Having experienced and observed both , here is something to think about: interesting and curious.

When we lived in UT, if a woman is not married around 21-23 , there is a lot of pressure to do so. And even more so, once the girl is married , is the pressure to have children. Mothers are typically fall somewhere between 22-25 years old for the firstborn, and by 29-30 they are experts at juggling 3+ kids in between the endless laundry, school, shopping, UT church and everything that comes with it - meetings ,etc, etc. Education is promoted, but... I know very few women , that actually DO something with their education. I am very happy to say, that all my friends are exceptionally talented, and are not only amazing mothers, but are fantastic professionals. However... that is more of the exception. Many others go to school... to get married. It is in the lines ofthe mentality of " doing something until the "right guy" comes along and then be a mother". Don't get me wrong - my view is such: Motherhood is an amazing and wonderful thing. Every women must experience it to be complete. And motherhood - when understood and fulfilled - is a job , no, scratch that, it is A LIFE of itself. What I saw in UT, however, was nowhere close. Whether the pressure to comply with the society and tradition, or the age of itself, but many young mothers , while abundantly blessed with children, see it as a "of course. how else would it be" kind of thing. And ...really do not do anything to raise the children. Yes, kids get older, but... there is more to parenting then just feeding, laundry-ing and homework. The mentality "well, everyone survived" is overwhelming. Not all, but in general, there is a massive lack of simple motherly love and CARE. Kids seem to be added to the family , just because they are "supposed to be", or "ready for another one". Result? Worn out mother with a scrunchy, no ( or run-down ) make up, sweats or whatever-was-first-in-the-closet fashion, and ever-so-tired face expression. Yes , motherhood is tiring. There are no magic tricks or shortcuts ( unless you have an extra bank account just for nanny), and there are days when things can get crazy. BUT. When one is ready for the child, it is different. Yes, work and effort, but you WANT to do it. Just the same as you are happy to pick up the socks that the hubby throws all over the place, the same way you are happy to change a stinky diaper, because you LOVE those who you live with and you live FOR THEM because you WANT them in you life.
There is a difference of having a child be a center of one's life because it is desperately WANTED , vs the fact that... one does not know what else to do with life except for cooking both :food and children. It makes me wonder - how much and WHAT can be given to a child in such environment? The exceptions of love , care and unconditional parenting a few and rare.
Is it the age? The environment and social ( and religious) pressure? Both?

On the other hand, here in NYC, and in Europe, where I grew up, I see the opposite. Mothers not even thinking about the first child until 30, with very typical first-born ( if not the only born) at around 36. To that , there needs to be added , that at 38 women here look better then 25 "standard utah age". Motherhood approach differs significantly. There is a completely different outlook on parenthood. While many women had very successful careers before the baby, many devote themselves to one's( many times one and only) child. The interesting observation that came up from talking to other mothers is the fact that ... the reason for many stopping on , let's just say , two children, is not the age, or the finances ( as many are exceptionally stable - which one cannot say about "typical" starting family) , but the reason is this : "have no more energy to play, to run, to teach..." . I see mothers AND fathers running on the playground with the child/children, playing tag, hide-n-seek, etc all over the place. Children are surrounded by love and attention, and definitely know that they are loved and wanted.

In thinking about both types of parenting... my personal preference is a mix. It definitely is easier to recover from the pregnancy with younger body, even simply from physiological point of view. But there must be understanding of responsibility one takes upon him/herself by bringing even one child here, which comes from maturity. On top of everything that children need to learn to be successful in life ( that can only come from a parent who is prepared and willing to do whatever it takes to teach a child) , they most and foremost , need LOVE. The kind that only is possible to give if one is READY to love. Unconditionally and completely. Through tantrums and kisses. Through happy laughs and upset tears. Through cooing and teething. Simply "just because". It is a kind of love that does not require something to love for. You just DO. When "ready" - neither age nor experience matter. And at the same time, when family is created because of "tradition", "supposed to", or social ( and/or family) environment and pressure, there seems to be a need for a "reason" for loving a child. Or better yet - for KEEPING one around. My view : giving birth to 10 kids but living in such mentality does not make one be a good parent no matter what age the parents are. Children are responsibility. From the day they are born, til the day you die. They change your life the way you never thought was possible to live, adding the whole new understanding to happiness. If you decide to have one - give your child more then you have ever thought was possible. This is the only way to repay God for the most miraculous blessing and joy He gifts us: a loving family. And a four toothed bite is really the best body art ever created.

What would YOU rather be? A young parent and learn by mistakes? Learn from experience and apply? A mix ? Or something different? I am interested to hear.


  1. LOL, 4-toothed art, love it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions. I've never looked at it that way until now. I dislike the stereo type Utah has been given, but there is truth to it and I just have to accept it, but I am pleased that I have chosen to be my own agent and make my choices because it is what I want, not because of where I was raised or how I was raised. Maybe its from the life I was given, but I love being a young parent and learn from mistakes, but I also feel that even at a young age I am still able to apply experience. So my answer is, a mix :)Although I'm not the typical Utah girl. I served a mission and was married at 24, had my first at 26. I went to school, not to find my spouse, but because women need an education too. My career plan and choice was and is to be a full time mom, so I got my bachelors in Human Development, family consumer studies. I hope to have many children. Truth be told, we married with the decision that 4 would be a good number for us, but after a distinct feeling, I feel like there is more,whether through me or adoption. I suppose you can say I plan on many kids and be a full time mom through obligation, that's life, that's what I was born for, yet, I want it! If there are children promised to me, I want to give them the best life they can have, then to have them sent to another family that can't offer the same. Finally in all my rambling, I love being a young mother and wife. I love feeling an obligation, a need to my family and being a full time mom, yet I see the need to be more then just a home maker. The dishes can wait, your child feeling loved and the growth and development of their mind, spirit, social skills, and so forth can not wait! I agree, knowing what it feels like to be a mom really completes you!

  2. Katie! Thank you SO MUCH for such a complete comment! I am so very genuinely interested in getting the opinions of everyone and everything.

    While in UT, I've heard the stats of high anti depressants, etc, but didn't take it serious until later.
    I too love a large family. As a matter of fact - you'll laugh - but when we got married, we thought 2 kids. I never EVER Thought I'd breastfeed for more then 3-4 months, and I've NEVER thought I'd have more then 2 kids. I wanted a boy and a girl, and that is what I got in first two. But having kids completely , completely changed everything in my viewing and feeling towards the family , and , particularly, kids, and that is why I started to pay attention to surroundings.

    While there ARE wonderful families, they seem to be more of an exception. I DON'T think that having children early is bad - for as long as it is a conscious choice. HAving 3 kids, and going through pregnancies, I;ve experienced first hand that very true saying of something like " at 20 you can party 6 days and sleep one , at 30 you party one and sleep 6 to recover".

    And yet , being here, and seeing that what is an exception to UT, is a general appearance here ( and assuming else where outside of UT, as what I see in NY is so close to Europe), it makes me wonder WHAT the cause of negative parenthood appearance is. And not just appearance but practice.I've seen too many families described, with mothers just wishing for the day to end, to put kids to sleep as soon as possible, to feed them whatever = as long as they shut up, to shovel them to school, as long as they are away, and when home.... they are glued to whatever TV shows or computer games, just for as long as they don't drive already worked up by all laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc mother. in those situations my question always was : WHY have kids if you obviously overworked by them? Or why have that many?

    And then the schooling ... too many girls that are too busy hunting for boys, majoring in whatever makes it easier to graduate ( if ever) , just as long as it gives enough time to find " the guy".

    BOttom line : I think that whatever a person does ,needs to come from the heart, with a full and complete intention of following through til the end.
    I think that missions are wonderful, if desired, not because the girl didn't get married ( oh! how many of those!). I've been approached SO .MANY.TIMES. with a question if I was going to go on a mission since I am 21 and not married. I'm not even going to go into the whole going through the temple just for myself thing and marriage or mission.

    I completely believe in the WHOLESOME being of a woman, independent existence. And at the same time I am NOT a feminist.I am completely against them :) LOL. Thank you, again, Katie, for such a complete comment!

  3. I thought I had everything planned the right way. I was married at 23 and had my first child at 25. I wanted to have my child at this age because I wanted to be able to enjoy him as an adult and watch him with his children. I wanted to be able to travel with my husband and have a fulfilling retired life. I wanted to have more than one child - maybe 4. But everything came to a screeching halt when I was 28, and my son was diagnosed with autism. My plan to have another child when my first was 2 or 3 changed. I was afraid to have another child because I didn't know if I have the guts to face autism again. When my second child was born, I was 30. I knew, before she was born, that I would not have any more children. I couldn't handle the worry. My retirement plans and funds have changed and have been redirected into a special needs trust. My family of 6 is a family of 4. I work part-time so that I can have a career and be a mom. Life is not what I planned, but because God has been by my side, I'm okay - - we are all okay.

  4. I think that every person just needs to do what they feel is best for them and their own family, and I think that while it may be easy to judge from the outside and say, "Yeah, that's not a good family. That's not a good goal," we can't decide that for other people, we can only decide it for ourselves. Even if we DO have those opinion of what is acceptable/unacceptable, we can only use that to decide what we do with our own lives. I see those people on TV that have 19 kids, and I know that there is no way that I could physically, mentally, or spiritually handle that many kids (obviously I can't even physically manage to have one...).

    I know that even I often poke fun at some of the patterns of life in Utah, but I don't think that we can just assume that people make the choice to marry early and have children early because of cultural pressure, but point-blank, some people just make that choice because that's what they want! And that's okay!

    That said, that's not really my own goal for motherhood/parenthood. I NEVER thought that I would be one of those girls that got married at 20. I wasn't looking for it at all--I wanted to go on a mission (I didn't have the attitude, "Oh, if I'm not married..." When I was 16 I wrote letters to myself to be opened when I was 23 or something (I wonder where those went...?) and I said something to the effect of, "If you're 23, you'd better be back from your mission and you HAD BETTER NOT BE MARRIED!"), I wanted to go to graduate school. I had full faith that my life would work out so that I could do everything I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be.

    Then I met Brent when I was 19, and I realized that among all my plans, the one that I had always taken for granted (someday I'll get married) was on my doorstep, and even though I didn't really want to be MARRIED, I wanted to be married TO HIM (which I think is an important distinction, and one that I always tell my friends to negotiate. Don't get married because you want to be married, get married because you want to be married TO SOMEONE). So, I altered my plans. We got married, and we knew that we wanted to graduate before we even started thinking about having kids.

    Then we graduated, and I knew that I wasn't ready to go to graduate school right away, so we figured that maybe we'd start trying to have a baby. I kept working, and I really like my job.

    Obviously you know how this story continues. Three years, no baby, one house, two dogs, and half a graduate degree later, I'm happy with my life. I know that I'll have kids some day, but I also know that it might be something that we have to save up a lot of money for because in vitro and/or adoption are starting to look more like real options (we still need to do more tests to find out). I'm fairly certain that I want to get a PhD, and I'm almost positive that I want to try to become a tenure-track professor in a media studies program (preferably BYU, but I recognize that our hopes and dreams don't always work out exactly how we plan them).

    I think that each family needs to find their own balance--I think it's completely possible that in the future, I will be the one who works full time and Brent will work part time and be home with the kids, because I like working and he doesn't really. That's not the case for everyone, but it could work for us.

    Obviously I do feel there is more to parenting than laundry and diapers and homework, and I don't think that you can assume that just because someone got married young that they feel that way.

  5. Luci - it seems to be that way : we plan, but God makes it happen. :) And it is all good - just like you said. I can relate.. when I had a preemie, and had to go through all the hopes and difficulties, I was scared to death to have another child. I am so glad you did. And I am glad , I went on too.
    About autism - if you want to, email me. I don't know very much, but maybe there is something different from what you already know. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Erika, thank you for the comment. Although I will have to disagree.
    First : the cultural pressure is there. It's just a fact. A girl , unmarried, without family does not fit well in UT past 27. Period. Married couples without children also do not blend in easily. It is true that SOME people make the conscious choice to marry early, and I have friends that are fabulous at motherhood/marriage when married early. The key word is 'some'. My point - it was a conscious decision. The difference is , though, that majority fall into a certain pattern there , just as majority fall into a pattern here.
    I got married early - extremely early by European standards, not early at all by UT standards. But even being "right on time" and "in check" , and while my family was a conscious choice, there was a constant pressure to continue with a certain way of developing life/family/etc. There isn't too much freedom in such environment. It is not healthy either
    http://www.cdc.gov/prams/PPD.htm is only one of them. The stats are there,. google sensus.

    Working and being a mother is a great thing if one desires it. I've experienced both - choosing to stay with children, and choosing to work : neither one was negative, both ways are wonderful. I completely believe in balancing both. One must stay SELF ( it IS, after all, the whole point of my blog :)), so be healthy, to be productive, and to present good influence on those around you, and particularly, children. I don't believe in 10 kids with full time mom not any more then I don't believe in 1 and only child with 24/7 nanny attached. And I am not talking exceptions where a parent has to work, where circumstances are different. I am talking about the general.

  7. Interesting post - I don't like to stereotype but I get what you mean about "UT moms" and it's not limited to Utah I'm afraid. I am an older mom and feel very blessed to have my son (hoping for one more!). So while I don't agree with the pressure or expectations one might have to do certain things according to some timeline, for myself, I wish I was fortunate to have babies a wee bit younger than now just so I could have a couple more. :) I don't like to live with regret or always wish things could be different but being older I think has made me more appreciative and patient. I cherish every moment no matter what's going on because kids grow so fast! Mistakes abound no matter the age but understand maturity does play a role as well as attitude.

  8. Oh, I'm definitely not denying that there's cultural pressure--it's fairly huge. When I tell people that we've been married four and a half years and we don't have kids yet, I definitely get some looks, but I think that people are getting better at resisting it, and I think that a lot of what gets called a tendency to be judgemental in Utah is simply an open negotiation between different lifeworlds. Yes, it's surprising to some people that I've been married this long and I don't have a child yet, but just because someone is surprised doesn't mean that they don't accept me. I'm just saying that we can't assume (and I know that you don't--we're talking hypotheticals here) that all early marriages/pregnancies are due to cultural pressure.

  9. I suppose I hate the stereo type Utah is given, because it is given because of "Mormons" but I'm not Mormon, I'm Katie,I am a Latter Day Saint that follows the will of the Lord specific for my needs for eternal salvation! I make decision because of what I want and the lords guidance, not because of pressure, or what is expected of me in my religion. I do agree, the pressure is there, the culture is there. Even if no one ever says a thing to you, it is there. You're considered a menace to society if you are 25 and not married. We are created to multiply and replenish the earth. The other reason I cringe at the stereo type is, I was born and raised a "Utah Mormon girl", I am seen as such. But I am not. I am me, living my beliefs in accordance to my faith. I was endowed with out a spouse at 19 because of the Lords will. I nearly turned down my mission call to get married, but the Lord said mission. I never saw that guy again.
    Yes, I dated a guy only if he was a potential spouse, and would end a relationship earlier then norm because I felt he was not marriage material for my needs. I don't know why I am rambling this all off. I did date for the purpose of marriage most likely because of my religious up bring. I feel that I am fulfilling my purpose in life, what God has in store for me. I am grateful that I am. I am grateful for a religion that teaches me this. Yes, I feel that because of my religion, my responsibility in life is eternal marriage and raising children in righteousness, yet I am grateful that I do this out of understanding, love, and desire, not obligation that I feel you are trying to get across with the Utah culture towards family.

    I do have my days where I just want to get through it, this child is driving me crazy(luckily it isn't my child, the one I babysit) but perspectives like yours help bring me back to reality and my purpose in raising children, whether my own or someone else. So thank you for helping me remember that there is more to life then getting through the day!


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