Friday, March 13, 2009

The Case for Conversion

I was once a practicing member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The reason for my conversion was simple. They were the only group I could find that readily embraced and validated my goals. I wanted to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to make a house a home. I wanted to cook dinner and pack nutritious lunches. I wanted to have babies. The problem I ran into is that girls in the church are strongly pushed in this direction. I feel strongly that while this is what I wanted to do, it's not what I wanted to tell my daughters they should do. If Megan wants to stay at home and raise babies, I will fully support her but if she decides that she would like to go to work while her partner stays home or that she wants no part of babies, I will fully support that goal as well. This, along with their position of homosexuality, led to me re-joining the Methodist church.

While we were at the library today, I ran into a woman with a gaggle of children who had kind words for me when I discovered Charlie had managed to wet his pants and underwear AGAIN (how could one sippy cup possibly lead to so much pee!) I sorely wished I could talk with her more but off we went. The characteristic western accent as well as the lifestyle decisions she had made strongly suggested that she was Mormon (if I can make some sweeping assumptions... Through the day, I reflected on how much I miss being Mormon at this stage in my life. Methodists don't really have much in the way of large families. The norm is generally to stick with 2, 3 at the outside. Even then, it seems that, more often than not, those with 3 got there without intending to. When I speak of wanting 4, I'm look at askance. I'm an aberration. To make things worse, I sometimes speak about how difficult it is to be home with young children. I occasionally share my frustrations. I have been known to respond to someone telling me that these years are fleeting with a heartfelt, "Thank God!"

I don't know precisely why I want a larger family. I'm sure it is a convoluted mish-mash of experiences with larger families while growing up, a desire that my children have a happier upbringing than I did (and therefor a different family size), a manifestation of the loneliness I have and do feel at time and a desire to give them a built in social structure. I knew I wanted more than 2 and there seems to be a bit of common wisdom that says that 3 is the hardest hump to get over. So, if we're going to slog through that, we might as well go with 4 to even things up. I'm not sure any of this is a real reason to decide to have more children but it seems as sensible a set of reasons as any. After all, when it comes to it, I have no sensible reason for having had 1 child and certainly nothing of any weight to advocate for a second- Charlie having been anything but an easy baby. I do know that I feel strongly that I would like to have 4. It is the same sort of certainty that came with my feeling that Charlie would be a boy and Megan a girl and that if I am ever due in October, it will be a boy. It's just one of those things in the cosmos that sets itself in your head. If I don't have at least 3, I am quite certain I will always feel something is missing and I may feel someone is missing until we hit 4.

At the same time, I love having 2 children. I love discovering how different they are and marveling that they both came from the same pool of genetic material. I love the way they hold hands in the car. I love watching Megan catch Charlie's eye to exchange smiles.

I also feel like I'm finally getting the hang of things. My second pregnancy was hard in it's own way but so much more manageable. I knew which pants would fit, which tea to drink, which morning sickness medicine that would work. I know even more now. I'm starting to figure out how to make the house at least marginally picked up, how to keep up with laundry, how to juggle 2 children in the grocery store. It seems like such a waste to have finally started getting things figured out, only to leave this stage behind.

Although, that brings me to the other reason I would find having some Mormon mom friends so helpful... These are women who have often come from larger families and are having larger families. I need some mentors. I need some women who can tell me which stores have carts that will hold 3 children. I need some women who can support my assumption that it is hard but it's also worth it; that you don't stop having babies just because the days are very challenging.

I need some women who support the idea that you can choose to have a larger family, not because you are having as many babies as God will give you but that you are actively choosing to have more children. I find the idea of simply "opening yourself to the will of God" to be disingenuous. Having unprotected sex multiple times a month has rather predictable consequences. I don't find this to be an expression of God's intentions so much as a biology experiment. To me, it seems just as spiritual, if not more so, to give a great deal of conscious and unconscious attention to the issue of children and follow a course of action commensurate to how you feel led.

My days of late have been long. I am fighting against a strong tide. My peers say that 2 is more than enough. My husband and I haven't adequately slept in years. My husband's work is pressing hard and isn't the most family friendly. It can get tense. I don't like uncertainty and there are no clear answers in this situation. Maybe my gut is wrong and I should quit while I'm ahead.


suzannah said...

i know several families with four kids, and honestly, those kids are better behaved than most smaller families! the older ones look after the little ones, and they seem to be a lot more focused on love than stuff. anyone who'd judge you for wanting a big family is closed-minded. only you and your husband knows what's best for your family.

thanks for your comments. today was much better. the dog ran away twice, but other than that, golden;)

The Sauls Family said...

(This is Divinemum from LJ)

I guess you could say that I am an "odd" Mormon (hee! aren't we all?) that doesn't have a big family. We have two girls, and that will probably be it. Both the DH and I come from large families- 7 kids on his side, 6 kids on mine.

When we got married, we wanted a large family- around four or so. But it just hasn't happened that way, and we're okay with that. Sometimes we're asked when/if (and most of the time it's 'when') we're going to have another. My answers range between "Oh, we're done" (because we probably are) and "Well, we haven't used any birth control in seven years and it still hasn't happened, so..." ;)

My point is that we are lucky that we have choices as women and mothers. I've never let another Mormon woman guilt me about not having a bigger family, just as I'd never let anyone else guilt me if we *did* have a larger family!

I think if you were to visit an LDS church today, you'd find a lot of varying in the size of families, women who work outside the home vs. those who work exclusively inside the home, and attitudes towad these things in general. As far as the church's position on homosexualitym you'd find a lot of differeing opinnions on *that as well! ;)

I think you would enjoy reading a blog I keep up with- it's called Feminist Mormon Housewives ( and that's only *slightly* tongue-in-cheek. :P It's a huge variety of women (and some men)- Mormon, non-Mormon, former Mormon, etc. A lot of the posts really speak to the things you are feeling and thinking, and you might be able to find some of the support you are looking for.