My mom has told me that one of the most important things is to get married and start a family. I also want a successful career to feel more fulfilled in life. If men and women are truly equal, why is the stigma that women always have to be the caretakers? Men and women can both have careers, but my mom implied that if I am in college and pursuing a career, that getting married is more important. Shouldn’t I get the best education I can and ensure I can provide if I need to?
Thank you for your question. From what you have shared, it appears that your mother’s concern for you is simply coming from a place of love. I don’t get the sense that your mother is trying to limit your goals or aspirations, but rather trying to help you put them in a holier order with perhaps a clearer eternal perspective in mind.
Life repeatedly presents us with multiple decisions and choices. Some choices may be easily identified as ‘bad’ vs. ‘good’. Others choices we encounter are perhaps more difficult to decide between. Sometimes the choices before us are not between bad or good, but rather options between things that are good, better or the best for us. The ability to see clearly in these instances can, at times, feel harder since each path could lead to a positive and worthwhile endeavor. In these times, when all options up for consideration seem to hold positive value, it is good to turn to the Lord and hear what he has to say on the matter.
Let me answer one of your questions, “If men and women are truly equal, why is the stigma that women always have to be the caretakers?”
Sometimes we confuse the terms “equal” as being the “same”. Men and women are not the same, but rather we are different. In fact, we are different by divine design and have been asked by our Father in Heaven to fulfill different roles. The Lord shares his guidance on these different roles with us in The Proclamation to World where is states:
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. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
We see at the end of the quote, “as equal partners” but before that we see the ‘different’ roles assigned to fathers and mothers. Again, “equal” does not mean the “same”.
Our Father in Heaven has a plan for us. A purpose for which we are here in this mortal probation:
2 Nephi 2:25 …men are, that they might have joy.
Abraham 3:25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
Part of why we are here is to experience true joy and see if we will follow God’s command.
Of all the choices we have, following God’s plan is the “best” choice we can follow. Other choices may be “good”, but they still fall short of the “best” option.
From your question I sense your need to justify your feelings, “Shouldn’t I get the best education I can and ensure I can provide if I need to?”. We should be careful not to place more focus and attention on the possible ‘backup plan’ and miss the mark on actively pursuing the actual ‘divine plan’.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said the following:
In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.
The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. I am grateful that women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. You are as entitled as are men to the Spirit of Christ, which enlightens every man and woman who comes into the world (see D&C 84:46).
You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part. Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family, but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry, or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry. Education will increase your appreciation and refine your talent.
I agree with your mother. More importantly, I agree with your mother because she agrees with our Father in Heaven’s plan. Getting an education is a good goal, perhaps even a great goal. Having a career could be a great goal too. However, fulfilling the divine design of our Father in Heaven’s plan is the best goal you could choose.
If I was your parent, I too would encourage you to focus your efforts on the best goal vs. simply a good goal. If you can find fulfillment in a career, I promise you that can find even more lasting fulfillment in being a righteous mother who nurtures her children. All commandments are designed to elevate us to a higher plain of happiness and lasting true joy. All commandments are intended to help us put others before our own wants or desires.
There are those in this life who may never be offered a hand in marriage do to no fault of their own. Their may also be those who simply can not have children either. For those who are limited temporarily in this life, perhaps education and a career are the best choice for them. I would, however, caution against those who can get married and can have children, but simply elect not to in the pursuit of of their own self gratification.
The choice is obviously yours. May you approach the Lord in fasting and prayer to seek his guidance and direction as you wrestle with some of life’s bigger decisions and try to put them in a holier order for yourself. Thank you again for your question Heidi.
P.S. The Church offers a variety of programs for stay at home parents to continue their education from home if needed. Pathway and BYU Continuing Education systems.