Saturday, August 20, 2016

Guest Post from Richard: “Maybe Equality Needs to Move the Other Way”

As most everyone reading this blog knows, several of our daughters also have blogs—much more popular and well-read than ours.  When you have a public “mommy blog,” there are real trade offs.  On the one hand you may influence others for good, spread good family or marriage or parenting ideas, and give other moms a community where they can commiserate about the ups and downs of raising kids and maybe feel a little less lonely in the process.

But you also open yourself to a lot of criticism and misunderstood motives, and you become subject to “snarking” from those who enjoy judging others and tearing down lifestyles and perspectives that they don’t agree with.

As the husband and dad of family bloggers, I see a lot of this judgment and criticism, both in the comments that sometimes appear on their blogs, and on “snark sites” which are totally devoted to going after bloggers, often with words so rude and so anonymous that they would never be said in person or with a name attached.

I usually ignore these, as do Linda and our daughters, but sometimes, truth be told, I read and even enjoy them because the more intelligent comments can give some new perspectives and make me aware of other viewpoints very different from my own.

I saw a comment the other day though, that just couldn’t be ignored—partly because it gives me reason to say something I’ve been looking for an opportunity to express.  The comment went like this:

“The Eyre's daughters and daughters in law…all seem to be bright, competent women; just think what they could contribute to the larger world if they expanded themselves from being good girls in this family and ventured outside their domestic roles. “

Well, first of all each of our daughters have expanded themselves far beyond our family and their domestic roles in all sorts of ways.  But embodied in this comment, I believe, is a deep misunderstanding of marriage, of parenting, of children, and of life.  The assumption it makes is that the way to gender equality is for for women to live life and play roles more like men. To be equal, the reasoning goes, women must do exactly the same things as men and prioritize the things men have traditionally done in society.

Wait a minute: If equality and sameness were actually synonyms, it would mean that, to be equal, a corporate vice president of marketing would have to do exactly the same things as the corporate vice president of research and development.  This view ignores the fact that very different people, playing very different roles, can be equal in every important respect.

But the problem with this blog comment is even deeper than that.  It assumes that the way to improve a woman’s life—the way for her to find her greatest fulfillment and make her greatest contribution—is to “get out into the world—make money—climb the corporate ladder—succeed professionally.”

What if this was all horribly and totally backwards?  What if the greatest fulfillment and joy and the most important contribution was raising children and developing loving and lasting family relationships? And what if everything else in life was supplemental and supportive of those goals.? What if C. S. Lewis was right when he said, “The homemaker is the ultimate career;  all other careers exist to support that ultimate career”?  What if the more happiness-and-fulfillment-producing thing we could do was not trying to move women toward the traditional roles of man, but to move men toward the traditional roles of women?

I can tell you one thing:  No one, on their deathbed has ever said “Oh, how I wish I had spent a little more time at the office with my co workers.”  The regrets, and we see them all the time with the Baby Boomer generation we work with, are for not devoting enough time and effort and energy to relationships and to family.  For so many, the realization comes too late—that their real legacy is not their professional accomplishments but their familial relationships—their children, their grandchildren, and the time and traditions and love they have built.  How they wish they had understood it sooner and devoted themselves more to it.

One of the great ironies of the women’s movement is that as it has focused on making women more like men, more and more men have begun to realize that they actually want to be more like women in the sense of being heavily involved and invested with their kids, devoting themselves to prioritizing and building a strong family, and understanding that their work and careers are not ends in themselves but the means by which they can obtain and support strong families.

More and more men as well as women today get it that if all their thought and effort goes into their job they are missing not only the most joyous part of life but the most lasting part.  We are figuring out that it makes more sense to work to live than it does to live to work. Careers are important, but they are a means rather than an end.

So when someone says “Too bad your capable daughters haven’t used their smarts and their talents to make a name for themselves or to reach recognized professional success,” I just say thank goodness they knew there was something more important than that—and thank goodness their husbands knew the same thing.  Thank goodness they are trying to work as real partnerships to raise great kids and value their work and careers as the support mechanism for their families.

And by the way, it’s not either-or.  Single parents as well as couples can, if it is their goal, find ways to contribute and make a difference in the broader world even as they put their own family first.  Most readers know of Saydi’s contributions as a Social Worker and she and Shawni’s photography professions; and you know of Charity’s and Saren’s work in education and Saren’s worldwide organization and Power of Mom’s website.  No question they could do more and devote more time and energy to career and profession.  And no question that Linda could have had a much more extensive music career if she had not made the choice to prioritize her children and her family.  And let me go a step further:  Each of their husbands (including me) could have made more money and had more titles if we had been willing to put work above family and to think of family supporting the career rather than the other way around.  But that is just the point.  We choose not to.  And it is a choice more people, men and women are making today than ever before.

Is all this a nostalgia for Ozzie and Harriet, for Leave it to Beaver, for the way life was and the rigid roles of men and women in the 50s?  Of course not.  In a way it is the exact opposite—it is looking to the future rather than to the past—it is recognizing that a type of equal marital partnership, based on commitment and mutual agreement to prioritize children and family solidarity is more possible today than it has ever been before and that the rewards of putting family at the center and seeing all other aspects as support mechanisms are both momentary and long-term.

This is also, by the way, a great framework in which to fit faith.  If we see our families—our marriages, our children, and our extended family relationships as the most important and highest priority of our lives—as the goal or “end” for which we are striving, then we are likely to see all other aspects of our lives as the “means” or the support mechanisms that will get us there.  So not only is career a means, so are our churches, and our communities, and our schools—and even our hobbies and our passions and our sports and our music.

So, with all due respect to those who see things differently, when someone says "Too bad your daughters didn't do all they could for the world," I say "Oh yes they did, and oh yes they are, and oh, if only you knew them!"


Sydney said...

Excellent guest post.

Amanda said...

I think you have misstated a fundamental premise. Equality is *not* that "women must do exactly the same things as men and prioritize the things men have done in society." Equality is that people have the opportunity to choose what they want to achieve based on their own values and strengths, and not based on gender roles. Feminists don't eschew SAHMs. Feminists push back against gendered expectations for what women and men should do or not do based on gender. Pushing back against systems that place a lot of pressure for women to do life a certain way (i.e. the domestic sphere) is not the same as saying that women shouldn't be SAHMs or saying that women must do exactly what men do.

Jenny (also) said...

Yes! Yes! This has nothing to do with women "being like men" or "men being more like women." This has everything to do with each individual having the opportunity to contribute in their best way possible. A cultural/religious/whatever message that there's only one best choice isn't really a choice at all.

Unknown said...

I guess it all depends on how you define eqquality... And for many, many years, women did not have a choice to do what they really wanted to do. Society and family expected them to get married, have kids, stay at home and take care of the kids and the household.
Today, women can achieve a lot in the "career world". When they do, but then decide to get married and stay home with the kids, many people don`t understand this choice and think that achievements in the career world are wasted.
I personally think that men and women are not equal unless they have the same rights and possibilities in every area of life.
This has always been out of question for me. This means that every man and every woman should have the possibilty to live the life they want to live, no matter if they want to get married or not, hae children or not, stay at home or go to work or whatever.

Anonymous said...

I think your daughters do a great job defending themselves or choosing to ignore rude comments. They are often kind even to rude commenters, based on reading their blogs. They apologize when they may have been interpreted the wrong way.

The mere fact that you feel the need to defend the women in your life and to do it on this forum as well as a snark site is for some reason off putting to me. You don't say wether you got your daughters' approval to do so, but I assume you did. Obviously your wife is ok with it.

It feels very disgenuious to me and more of an opportunity you seized to promote your own values and religious beliefs (especially with the idea of a new book coming out). All of this seems so forced and you have opened a wider door for controversy or more disagreeable comments against you and your family.

Scott said...

Well said!! Your daughters are amazing and so inspirational as well as you and your wife. Thank you for raising such wonderful children who know what's most important in life. What an incredible family! It is truly sad that there are some out there who don't understand and criticize things that are good in the world.

Amy said...

I really don't think you get it. The women in LDS don't have a choice. They must have children or feel the judgement and wrath of those around them and be forever questioned as why they are not. This is the fundamental reason why you don't get the equality argument against your family. Who will look after all of these children your family has? The wife. I cannot even imagine the hell that would break lose in your family if Ian were the stay at home dad and charity went back to work because you see it as the women's role to take the household. That is not equality or sameness. What I don't understand is why the girls bother with college when they know they will never use it?

Lisa and Tate said...

Well said Papa Eyre!

Jenny (also) said...

Amy, I totally agree with everything you said until the last line which I very much diagree with. A university education has value on its own without needing to be linked to a career. Just think of all those liberal arts degrees holders who did not go on to careers in sociology (me) or French literature or whatever. Skills developed in college include (but are not limited to) critical thinking, being exposed to great literature and art, learning to write logicaly and persuasively, time management and so much more. All of these things are valuable to adults of any vocation. Educated parents (working for money or not) bring their smarts and experiences to their parenting.

Susan said...

One of the most heartfelt posts I've ever read. Its incredible the respect and love you have for your family and the respect you have for your daughters and wife. Deep devotion to the family and religion. Couldn't agree with you more! I love it!

Andrea said...

Thank you Brother Eyre!! I love your family and admire you all so much!! I cant believe some of what I just read on this post in the comments! I myself am a LDS stay at home mother...who graduated from a 4 year college (so grateful for my education!!), a work at home cosmetologist (trade school) and photographer. My most important role is that of wife and mother though. I wouldnt trade anything for the opportunity to be with my son and helping raise him up to the Lord.
Your family is truly special. Thank you to all the Eyre men and women for their examples!

Love from Mesa,

L3 said...

Amy, you do not speak for women in the LDS faith. Your comment was rude and mean-spirited. What gives YOU the right to judge what may or may not happen in someone else's family? It's beyond arrogant to make up a scenario about any family and what may or may not happen if YOUR scenario played out.

I am LDS and never felt that I didn't have a choice about marrying, having children, not having children, staying home, working, not working, etc. Unfortunately, those who have made different choices, somehow feel the need to denigrate other's decisions. I have lived all over the world, in approximately 18+ wards in my 60+ years, so I do know a little bit about attitudes in the church.

Well said, Bro Eyre. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

charity eyre wright said...

hey amy!

i think there would be very positive responses among my family if ian were to be a stay-at-home dad. we have not chosen that path but certainly are not opposed to it.

not icky has my university education been extremely valuable for my life outside of my career (in the ways jenny has pointed out, among others), but it has also enabled me to contribute to the world through my employment over the past six years. i fully intend to work outside the home again as my children grow up (likely part-time) and when they have left the home (provably full-time). i believe it is very important for me as a human, as a wife, and as a mom to be in the work force in varying capacities throughout my life, and certainly my degree will be put to good use in that regard. my sisters have also used their education in their employment, which i think is much more extensive than many blog readers realize.

i have always felt that i have the choice to be and become whatever i want throughout my upbringing in the lds church. i have also developed a strong conviction that motherhood is my most important role and one i should dedicate the vast majority of my time to (during the years that i have children at home). this is a personal conviction that applies to me and not necessarily all women.

charity eyre wright said...

"icky" should be "only" above ... sorry for the typo - i am writing this one handed while nursing my baby :)

kms said...

Of course there is nothing wrong with a mother being a stay at home parent after education. It just seems in this rather large family and other LDS families, the only compensated work a mother does is something out of the home, at least by the second baby. Perhaps the LDS moms who do work 40 hours a week outside the home while having 2 or more kids are too busy to blog and travel endlessly. To be fair the men in this family have unusually flexible schedules as well. Out of 17 kids and ILs only maybe 5 have a typical shift type job. They make their life's work out telling others how to be family. I'm actually starting to think their work pattern has more to do with having chunks of time to travel than religious philosophy.

Unknown said...

I don't generally comment on blogs, but feel compelled to comment on this. I very much appreciate Mr.Eyre's willingness to put himself out there on his wife's blog and comment on the remarks people make on his children's blogs. I am a single, LDS, working mother and I have never once felt out of place, less than, or looked down upon by any member of my congregation. Ever. On the contrary, I have felt supported in both my circumstances and my own personal choices. I see other accomplished, working women in my church and feel proud of them. And you know what? I also see hard working stay-at-home mothers who I feel so proud, and frankly, envious of. Not because they are doing something more right than I am, but because they have the opportunity to give their children the one thing they really want and need - their time. Childhood is so fleeting. The window of opportunity to be a child is a once in a lifetime opportunity. These children will have a lifetime to be adults, but only a few brief years to be children and then it's over. If these women choose to stay in the home and give their time to their children, how is that a bad thing? These women are accomplished, educated women who are applying their education to their mothering. Alexis de Toqueville mentions this amazing trait of American mothers in Democracy in America as something that makes this county special and great. The fact that anyone has to defend them is so disappointing. I suspect they fully recognize the privilege they have to be able to spend so much time with their children, are very aware of the fact that is not an option for many women both within and out of their church, as well as a choice some chose not to make. I have never read a blog post by these women that outs working mothers down or implies that women who choose to work are making the wrong choice. My hope is that they will continue to be willing to share their mothering experiences and inspire other mothers, like me, to give as much of myself as I can while my daughter really needs it.

Anonymous said...

beautiful! I love thi post!
Man, the world is full of haters......thank you to you and your family for continued blogging- I love it!
Sincerely, a very fulfilled full time mother of four, with a degree, doing my best to matter! :)

Anna said...

Brother Eyre,

I lurk on GOMI from time to time, so I was kind of excited to hear your replies to some of the harder hitting doctrinal questions, and was a little disappointed that those were the ones you chose not to answer. So many of my favorite "Mormon Mommy Bloggers" have left the church over things like the CES Letter, the Essays, the new policy banning kids with gay parents, and so I was looking forward to hearing your take on those more difficult topics. I whole-heartedly believe we can be honest about the shortcomings of the church and still believe! Belief is a choice!

Also, while I agree with most of this post, I do wish people would stop simplifying feminism into "wanting women to be like men". If that is really what you think feminism is, you could stand to learn a little (or a lot) more about it. For any reader who thinks feminism is "evil" or scary, or you just honestly don't know what it's all about, you can start with the feminist works from LDS sources such as Carol Lynne Pearson, or the awesome Joanna Brooks. Read Joanna's blog, google "best feminist books" and get out that library card! You won't agree with everything you read, but shouldn't that be the point of reading! Also, feministmormonhousewives is a fun place to also lurk to expand your understanding of why some LDS women are passionately feminist. You don't have to agree, but we should all try to understand each other!

angie said...

Anna, my opinion is that Mr. Eyre is not your church leader, and has no obligation to respond to or defend any issues that may be controversial or of concern to you and others.
He focuses on the family issues that he is passionate and knowledgeable about, and presumably he feels that this is an area where he can have a positive influence on families and on children's welfare.

Anonymous said...

But, angie, on the GOMI site - HE OFFERED TO RESPOND TO THOSE EXACT THINGS. Promised, even. AND HE DID NOT. So, no - he's not under any obligation to respond - but don't offer to explain some of those things, then instead plug your new book. That was in very bad taste, and he was called on it.

angie said...

I don't even know what the GOMI site is!! I guess I got involved in a conversation I don't know about. Sorry about that!
At any rate, all these viewpoints are very interesting.

Tara said...

This is so great! This should be in the Huffington Post!

Amanda said...

I'm disappointed that there is no response to these comments that have legitimate pushback. Would love to see a comment or a blog post that addresses the substantive feedback about what equality actually means instead of a strawman definition of equality.

Kerstin said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you that your daughters haven't necessarily wasted their potential because they chose to be mainly SAHM (for the time being)[I hope I phrased it correctly that way!). I also agree with the notion about strong families. And because I agree with it, I don't feel like I have to write more about that.

Like other commenters however I feel that you haven't understood feminism. Feminism is not about women being like man. It is about free choices. Plain and simple.

And the fact, that more men want to be involved into raising their children, might not be the irony of feminism, but the result of it. If mothers are free to choose how to raise their children and how to combine kids and work, fathers maybe felt like they're free as well. Also consider the financial aspect: If a mother contributes to the financial needs of the family, the father may work a little less and take a more active role in the upbringing.

Unknown said...

Feminism is different for everyone . For some it may be to be exactly like men and for others it may be the right to choose, and if that is later than why should his family be attacked by anyone on how they choose to live. When commenters attack a blog writter for how they lead there life they are saying you need to live life the way I believe. Where is the choice in that! As an LDS woman who is college educated. I choose to stay home. I work harder than I ever did in the work force. I love it! Why would I want to give the job of raising my children to someone else; however, if I wanted to work outside the home I would be free to do so. Most of the woman in my congregation (ward) work outside the home. They are nurses, executives, business owners, teachers, and do on. Enough is enough! Woman need to stop attacking each other for the choices they make. I know Brother Eyre would be very supportive if all his daughters went back to work . I have never heard a talk at church that suggested that I had no choice and that I should or shouldn't work. I think those who want to find fault with Richard are simply looking to do so regardless. The point of this post wasn't really feminism but that his daughters are choosing to raise their families, but they have made this choice . I personally know one of his daughter-in-laws and she is extremely educated and while she doesn't work outside the home at this moment nothing would stop her from doing so if she wanted.