I got into trouble recently. A group of women from my church were having a conversation on work-loads and job-divisions and I decided to bring up the idea of a marriage of uses–a partnership of duties between a husband and wife–as described in Conjugial Love 176. I had only gotten a few sentences into the idea when my comments sparked an explosion from another woman on how women should not be forced to remain at home and how the Heavenly Doctrines are so out of touch with our modern times!
Now I am as conflict-averse a person as they come, so instead of finishing my point or clarifying my idea, I ducked my head and ran away (figuratively).
The scenario bothered me for weeks. Mostly because I knew I had hurt my relationship with a friend but partially because I recognized this as an example of a cultural mindset I battle: everyone is painted as an extremist–no one seems to recognize that a person can agree (and disagree) with multiple “sides” of an issue. One little comment and you are instantly boxed into one of only two possible and incompatible options.
In this case, I could either be boxed into the women-can-do-any-job-men-can-do-just-as-well box or the women-are-only-meant-to-be-at-home box. The reality is that my opinions–and I suspect those of many women– lie somewhere in between.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a relativist. I believe matters of salvation are clear-cut: we need to believe in the The Lord and we need to obey the Ten Commandments– there is no wiggle room. But many of the decisions we make in our lives are not matters of salvation. Using the example from my story, whether or not a woman works outside the home has little-to-no-bearing on whether she goes to Heaven or to Hell.
If given the platform, the space and an audience with nothing better to do than listen to me (wink, wink) I could begin to explain my personal “box” on this issue, but it would take a lot of words…
Yes, I believe that a marriage of uses as described in Conjugial Love 174-176 is the ideal and the reality of Heaven. And Yes, I know women can, want and often need to work outside the home. For me, these two concepts blend easily together; I have no trouble seeking out ways to emulate and apply the ideal while balancing the reality of our society.
I like to look at my life in seasons. In the current season, we are raising a family. Derrick and I strongly believe that this is the highest use we can perform on this earth. So while we have children, we have structured our world around them–creating a partnership similar to what the Heavenly Doctrines describe: wife focused inwards to the home and husband focused outwards towards society. But as my children grow up, I expect to enter a new season of life where I will pick up a new job (it would be nice to be paid for what I do). Then I will consider myself to be focused on helping to fill the domestic role on a larger scale. I’ve observed that many jobs which in previous times occurred mostly within the home now routinely take place outside it. I don’t believe these jobs cease to be domestic just because they changed location and that is enough to make me believe women need to be apart of the modern workforce. Otherwise I would be forcing many domestic jobs to be performed by men, who, I believe, are not equipped to perform them rightly.
Beyond those decidedly domestic roles there are many other jobs that I believe can be performed well by either gender–though I recognize each sex would tackle the job from a different perspective.
And then there are jobs that I believe men alone were designed to perform.
So 350ish words later, you all have a better sense of my current opinion on this matter. But it took 350ish words (and no interrupting questions or counter-arguments) to get you there. Unfortunately, within the medium of daily conversations, we rarely are given the space for that kind of monologue. I’m far more likely to drop a comment or two that is influenced by my perspective than to express my entire view.
Perhaps that is what keeps our culture embracing polarization. It is simpler and faster to listen to a statement or two from a person and box them into one of a few understood perspectives than to allow for a vast spectrum of valid opinions, the complexity of any one of which takes time to understand.
I know I am not alone in my frustrations. I’ve talked to many other people–especially in my generation– who have a similar third-option-mindset. But I’m not sure how to solve this problem. I fear that unless I can sit down with everyone in the world and give them a big long lecture on how it is possible to have opinions outside mainstream ones and beg them to not jump to conclusions about my ideas when they only hear one or two comments from me, I am doomed to be misunderstood and situations like that at my church will continue to occur.
Solutions, sympathy and coping-mechanisms appreciated 🙂