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July 17, 2013
Raising the Rising Generation
Why We Are Losing Our Boys, Part 3a
by Emily S. Jorgensen

To introduce the final myth I would like to tackle in this series, I will paraphrase (by “mormonizing” it — yes, I made up that word) an old joke.

The joke goes like this:

There was a multilevel shopping center full of men for sale as husbands. Women could go and pick out a husband to take home. But, there was one caveat — you could go up a level, but not down. So, if you didn’t choose a man from the first level, you could go to the second level, but you could not return to the first.

A sign on the first floor boasted men who were good priesthood holders. Some women thought, “Hey, that is exactly what I want in a husband. I’ll find one on this floor.”

Other women thought, “Yeah, that’s good, but I want more. Let’s see what is on the second level.”

The sign on the second level boasted a selection of men that were good priesthood holders and good providers.

Again, some women were happy to select from this type of man, but others were still unsatisfied.

Those who wanted more proceeded up to the third floor. Upon arriving at this floor, most of them were thrilled to find a sign that announced the men on this floor were good priesthood holders, good providers, and even good with kids.

There was one more floor in the building, and a few women thought to themselves, “Wow, I wonder what is on the fourth floor? If the third floor has such great men, surely those on the fourth floor are even better.”

The women who rejected the goods on the third floor continued up to the fourth floor. They encountered a sign which read, “This floor exists simply to prove that women are never satisfied.”

Oops.

The final myth I am including in this series is the Myth of the Ideal Husband.

I am going to tackle this myth in two parts. The first part is Myth 3a: To be an adequate Mormon husband, you should make enough money that your wife can stay home with the kids.

There is tremendous pressure in our culture to be a good provider. The Family: A Proclamation to the World says, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

The idea was once floated in our ward to have a Relief Society extra meeting that focused on job-seeking skills. The idea was rejected by leadership who felt that providing for the family is a priesthood responsibility, and therefore we should not make it seem like we expect women to do this.

We seem to teach these predilections to our youth as well. Sometimes I hear Young Women express their expectations that their future husband must be a good provider.

Indeed, as a teacher, I have heard high school Young Women express their desire to go to BYU not because of the education they can get there but because they want to find a husband that can be a good provider.

These are bright, intelligent young women who want an education — they are not going to college just to get married — but they want the dating pool to be as high-quality as possible. The assumption is that young men who get into BYU are more likely to be financially successful than those at some other schools, since their high school grades must be better.

Putting pressure on our young men to provide in a way that seems to them to be almost impossible (at least early in their career), may lead many of them to decide that taking on the responsibility of a wife and children is so difficult that it isn’t even worth the attempt.

It is true that many times I have wished that I didn’t need to work for income. Many times I have lamented having to place my children with a caregiver. But, I have also been blessed to know that I am doing what the Lord wants me to — and I can see that my children have been blessed in many ways despite (and sometimes because of!) my work schedule.

How tragic it would be if I had rejected my husband because he was not adequately prepared to provide for me when we married. (In fact, all our student loans are mine, because I pretty much paid his way through school.)

Indeed, I am grateful for the following words from the Proclamation: “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

My husband is neither disabled nor dead, but our circumstances were known to the Lord and I feel we have usually done what He wants us to do for providing for our family.

After several years and three children, when my husband and I came to a crossroads where we could decide to live on the bare minimum and have me stop working, we did some long hard thinking and praying.

One of the things we pondered was our parents’ division of labor. My father was the provider. My mother was the steward of the home and children. Their division was very cut-and-dry. To make this work, my father often had to work 60+ hour weeks. I remember wishing many times that he was around more.

My husband also had parents that similarly divided the labor. His father was so tired on weekends that the children were not allowed to make any noise so that Dad could sleep most of the day.

We decided that we would rather be a two-income, two-highly-involved-parent home rather than a one-income, one-highly-involved parent home. We feel good about our choice.

At the end of the day, each couple must decide for themselves, seeking revelation and inspiration together, exactly what their gender roles and division of labor will be.

I think we can prepare our young men to take on the responsibilities of marriage and children by emphasizing the need for constant personal revelation rather than cultural expectations as they make the big choices of early adulthood — schooling, job training, and so on.

Knowing you are doing what the Lord wants you to do is peace-giving. It allows you to trust that the Lord will help you as you strive to live up to the commandments of marriage and family. It makes the prospect of adult responsibilities less scary.

Young women can be taught to have realistic expectations by loving leaders who don’t sugar-coat what their lives are really like — most have not lead the picture-perfect, white-picket fence 50s housewife life that our culture tends to reverence as ideal. So, why would we tell our young women to expect this kind of life?

I do not apologize for being a working mom. I expect my daughters to do well in school and choose a career. I sincerely hope they would always put their children first, ahead of their career, (whatever that means in their individual circumstance) but I never talk about my job as something I learned to do “just in case.”

And if they get to be pure stay-at-home moms, and it is what they want to do, I will be more than thrilled for them. But I think it will only set them up for disappointment, and their future husbands up for failure, if I teach them to expect that.

I hope that we can teach our youth that the most important things to look for in a spouse have more to do with covenant-keeping than income potential. I hope we teach them that personal revelation is a more important yardstick than social norms.

I hope we teach them that an Ideal Mormon Husband is one who loves his family and does his best for them, and that his best is good enough.


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