Sunday, March 1, 2009

Foreword: My Daughter

My life has changed dramatically since last women’s history month. My husband and I finished our graduate degrees, moved to a new city, started working in jobs that are actually in our professions, and I gave birth to our first child last month. I’ve been trying on different roles as a woman, and going through a seemingly constant sense of reevaluation of who I am as a daughter of God and where my worth comes from.
As I look at my daughter, I think a lot about the woman she is. It humbles me to think that behind the uncoordinated movements and the seemingly constant vomit there is a fully developed spirit there, learning about her body and gaining experiences she came here to have. I am amazed by her strength. She is a very gentle creature by nature, but she is no wimp. She just picks her battles, and when she picks them, watch out. I think she will be well served by this – able to roll with the punches, but willing to fight for what matters to her.
I recently had a conversation with a close friend of mine about how limited we as a people can be when we think of the roles of women in the church, and I’ve been thinking about it constantly since then. We define our success as a woman by the roles we pick for ourselves. And then life happens. You picture yourself being a stay at home mom, and then your husband loses his job and you are back in the work force. You picture yourself married, and it doesn’t work out for you. You define yourself as the unstoppable working mom/Relief Society President/PTA president that does it all, then have a child with special needs that requires your constant attention, and you have to cut back. Or you get exactly what you thought you wanted, and it doesn’t turn out to be what you expected it to be. It can be overwhelming to feel like you’ve lost that sense of yourself, and disorienting to find where your worth comes from. But I’m learning that the roles God needs us to fill are much more diverse than we imagine for ourselves and they allow us to discover talents and strengths we didn’t know we have. It enables us to give service we didn’t know we had in ourselves to give.
So I guess my introductory post branches out from my norm. Instead of discussing a woman of the past, I have been considering the women of the future. As I’ve been studying the women I’m featuring this month, I’ve been struck by how expectations for women change over time and cultures, but at its core, it is about being who the Lord needs you to be in the circumstances He puts you in. I think about the world my daughter will be facing, and I hope she will be able to hold on to what matters most to her, but not limit herself in determining where her worth comes from, or what she is capable of becoming when she opens herself to what God has in store for her.


jeans said...

What a beautiful manifesto. I've missed your posts and am glad to hear that you're now a mom of a daughter. She will be fortunate to be raised by someone as caring, thorough, and devoted to women's progress as yourself.

Amanda said...

this is incredible. and so true. even now as i have been completing my master's degree i have been learning that the roles i imagined for myself and the roles heavenly father has planned are sometimes different...and His are always so much closer to what i need. i'm happy to see you writing again. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,
I just happened upon your blog while searching out info on Emmeline Wells, who I have come to LOVE in the last year or two. I want you to know I am grateful for your work on this blog and the beautiful contribution you are making for LDS and non-LDS alike who need a better understanding of what it means to be an LDS woman! Thank you so much! I'm a 25-yr-old female doctoral student, feminist, and devout Mormon, and your own personal insights really resonate with me. I study media representations of women (unattainable beauty ideals from a profit-driven industry), and I speak to women about how to recognize and reject those ideals that keep us from becoming all we are meant to become. On the side, I've begun studying the rich history of LDS women, as you appear to do too, and my testimony of the gospel and the power of Relief Society has only been strengthened. Have you heard about the recent BYU study that found women who were exposed to excerpts from The Woman's Exponent and early RS histories left with strengthened testimonies and commitment to the gospel? I love that and I know it to be true. Your blog only contributes to that - you help others understand the truth about LDS women and our history - and all of our testimonies are strengthened because of it. THANK YOU!!!