"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
January 28, 2013
The Missing Children
by Melissa Howell

Where have all the children gone?

I notice their absence especially at the park, on warm summer days, or pleasant days when there is no school. Swings that sit motionless, slides bereft of little bodies happily pulled down the straight planks or curved tubes by gravity. Sometimes, it’s true, there are little bodies running and laughing and playing, but other times there are not, or else there are very few.

I suppose they have gone to day care, or to their other parent’s home, or to a slew of scheduled activities, or the like.

My dear friend has relayed stories about her mother, the quintessential ‘50s housewife, and how she and her friends would get together during the days to fold piles of laundry, laughing and talking while the children ran and played, thus making what is often a mundane chore all the more bearable, even enjoyable.

Call me naïve, but it sounds so simple, so appealing, that I sometimes find myself guilty of daydreaming of a time when more kids were around to just be kids, of the days when the stay-at-home-mom faction was a much stronger, much more prevalent force in our society.

The concept of the 1950s housewife carries such conflicted interpretations: were they really oppressed women who were miserable but nonetheless put on lipstick, heels and a happy face? Or were they happy in their seemingly simplified lives, able to find joy in the journeys they were on?

In past decades, we women have pushed and pushed and pushed, and then pushed some more. In many ways, I am grateful. I cherish my right to vote. I am grateful for my college degree. I love that I had the chance to get started in my chosen career before I became a mother.

But do you ever wonder if sometimes we’ve pushed too far? Or that we have made our lives more complicated than they should be? Or that ultimately, the rising generation is paying the price for the complicated lives we have created?

A recent attempt to invite three of my daughter’s close school friends over during a break netted just one of the girls; one was at her father’s home for the duration of the break, the other was at day care. It’s becoming much more complicated to even schedule what should be a simple play date.

The list of distractions and even possibly detrimental situations today’s children are presented with are many: day care, divorced parents, single parents, custody battles, bouncing from household to household, abandonment, screens that serve as babysitters for hours on end, obesity and rising health concerns, being raised by grandparents because parents are unfit for the job, earlier and increasing exposures to pornography and harmful substances, increased security measures at schools in response to horrific massacres, and that’s just to name a few.

Just typing that list makes me want to return to a simpler time. But really, I have no interest in hauling out my Hoover while wearing heels, and I don’t really have the right shape for those sweet little housedresses.

But does going simpler mean we have to forfeit the rights we as women have attained? We have the right to make choices. My heart’s desire and deepest wish is that more women chose their children, that more of today’s moms were more willing to sacrifice part of themselves for the betterment of those sweet spirits they have brought into the world and are entrusted to raise.

I love the concept of seasons of our lives, and the message President James E. Faust, former second counselor in the First Presidency, gave to his granddaughters on becoming great women: “My dear granddaughters, you cannot do everything well at the same time. You cannot be a 100 percent wife, a 100 percent mother, a 100 percent church worker, a 100 percent career person, and a 100 percent public-service person at the same time.” Doing things sequentially, he said, “gives a woman the opportunity to do each thing well in its time and to fill a variety of roles in her life.”

Margaret Nadauld, former Young Women General President, said, “Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

What I draw from this is the need to simplify our lives, our children’s lives. It’s not the desire to go backwards, but to return to finding more joy in the parenting journey, to weed out the unnecessary and degrading things, to take down a couple of notches the selfish needs and desires that flood our lives.

Clearly, we each have unique situations regarding work, career, marriage, children and the like. Often we find ourselves in circumstances that are beyond our control or fault. Nothing is accomplished by judging another’s choices and situations in these matters. I have mother-friends who stay home and those who work. Those who are married and those who are divorced. I love and respect them equally. But I would challenge more mothers to search and find the things that can be weeded out and find ways to simplify the things we bring into our families.

Ultimately, more children at the park on a weekday afternoon could heal some of our society’s hurts many times over.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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