Monday, October 8, 2007

Do Less?! *% gasp! ^# wheeze! ^@

Did you love listening to General Conference this weekend? Are you excited to hear more from President Eyring in the coming years? Did you shake your head fondly and say "Poor President Hinckley" when he reminded you he's a whopping 97?

And what did you think about the talk by Julie Beck, the new General Relief Society President? Her talk is getting quite a lot of blog buzz:

My feminist sensibilities were not offended, as were those of some bloggers. Partly because I don't go to General Conference looking for feminist affirmation (I get that elsewhere--wua ha ha). Also because I appreciated her guts in affirming (as she did at the General RS meeting) that we believe in getting married, we believe in having children, and we believe in being homemakers. You can't really value motherhood if you don't also value housework.

Now this is the part of her talk that's gotten me thinking. She said:

"Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children, more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time laughing, talking, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."

I think I am a mother who tries to do it all. Yoga, canning, gardening, cardio, karate, piano, finance, foster care, family finances, housecleaning, playdates, preschool, church callings, blogging, starting a new business. I believe it's important not to overschedule children, so we've decided to limit the big kids to Scouts/Young Men's plus one music activity (piano) and one physical activity (karate). I'm here to tell you that even that modest-sounding schedule is quite time-consuming--and expensive, which leads to the finance/business items on the to-do list.

And I have secret plans to add to our family's list. We need more humanitarian service and political awareness around here. Does keeping your focus on the gospel mean being insular and provincial?

I'm a firm believer that one of the biggest blessings of the gospel is that it helps you know which are the most important things, and then supports you in putting your best focus there. As my mom told me, "The most important thing is to remember that the most important thing is the most important thing."

Now here is where you must write a comments. Yes, YOU! I need to know what you think about this: Where is the line? Which things should maybe be given up in order to keep focus on the most important things? Am I kidding myself and my family that I'm a girl who really can do it all?


  1. Admittedly I was frustrated enough to relisten to Sis. Beck's talk(s) again last night to see why I reacted more negatively than positively. It was better the second time, yet I was still annoyed at her overgeneralizations, however maybe thats acceptable in "general" conference. I found myself liking her strong stance and reaffirmations of our role, but there just didn't seem to be any wiggle room for those who decide to spend their time in other pursuits.

    I found myself more negatively reacting to her RS talk. The multiple reminders to be the "best" and that we should have the "best families" in the world made me sad since I do not believe we have a corner on the market in families. I do believe we should work hard to raise good families and have wonderful knowledge to help with it, but I don't know that I am any better than countless other mothers who are not of our faith.

    So putting the two talks together, I wonder if I am supposed to be the "best" there is and a "women who know(s)" better than everyone?

    It's been fun to see that some women I admire love this talk, while others had problems with it. Maybe that's another reason for it, to promote discussion amongst faithful women.

  2. Oh, I didn't really respond to your conclusion. Going back to your schedule post, I really think that is part of the key of doing important things. I pride myself on my scheduling ability and getting things done. I don't do anything perfectly, but I love when I get a lot done including the quality time with kids.
    Not to say I don't have days that are full of frustrations, but I am pretty happy with what I am able to get done on most days. Like you, I would love to add more service outside of church, but I chalk it down to the fact my time in life doesn't really allow much of that (that is to say I can't take my four kids to the red cross very easily). Anyway, just a few thoughts.

  3. I think it's not that your kids need to give up karate. But maybe it's that your kids need to give up spending so much time on karate that they become an expert and it becomes their whole life, etc. Same with piano - they don't need to give it up - but maybe they'll never be famous classical pianists because they choose (or you choose for them) to spread their spare time around more than that.
    I admit that I did not get to fully focus on the talk in general conference - there was a bit of a squabble going on at that moment that required kids being sent to opposite corners - but I did hear her Womens Session talk. I liked it. I don't think she was demeaning any non-member family -just reiterating what we've been told so many time - to seek perfection. We'll never get it - but we still seek it out. Every day. Again and again.

  4. Yes, I've read lots of heated debate about this talk and it makes me sad. I think Elder Oaks' talk about good, better, and best was also a great reminder.

    Angela, I think you are terrific. You don't do it all, but you do a lot. Your kids are learning the gospel, they are learning knowledge and music and sports, you are active and involved in life and in lots of great long as you are comfortable with that equillibrium, you dont need to change anything. I think that quote of Sister Beck's was intended to tell the moms who feel inadequate and feel that they dont do enough that they are doing okay. I think the ones who felt discouraged or guilty felt so because their priorities were askew--I know that's how I felt during Elder Bednar's talk (but I wasn't offended, rather I was compelled to be better).

    Anyway, I wrote a post about it at my blog too. That's where the majority of my soapbox is.

  5. As a soon-to-be-mother, I felt really compelled by Sister Beck's talk. It made me feel that wanting to be just a mom was a worthy goal in life.

    As for being the BEST... I know that I will never be the best mom. But I know that as long as my goals are in line with the Lord's everything will turn out OK. I feel as long as my life and my children are HAPPY, in the eternal sense, I am doing the best I can. So what if my kids don't play the piano? (I don't play the piano even though BOTH of my brothers got lessons and never asked for them, and I asked all the time. I'm NOT bitter, I'm NOT.) I just want to be happy in the end.

  6. I listened to her talk again and I Love it. My mother “knew”. I don't really even know what a feminist is at least not in the context of the church, but if Angela takes that title, I see no conflict with that talk and feminism. I can only hope to be the parent that she and Mark are. To say we should be the best is not to say we are better than anyone else only that we hold our selves to a high standard. Life is about striving for perfection. Life in Mormon doctrine is a step in reaching perfection. Why would our leader tell us anything but to strive for this worthy goal. As for the housework any mother who is only now finding out that there will be some of that involved...

  7. Hey, thanks for your comments, everyone. Everyone raised good points about overgeneralizing, prioritizing, and just chilling out. I do a lot of non-mom stuff, and so I take seriously my responsibility to be careful about what I introduce into my life and how it might detract from my #1 job as a mom. So Sister Beck's talk was a good reminder to me on that.

  8. I know my comment is late, but...
    I think when she was talking about us being the best she was referring to how we, as members of the church, have access to the best tools. We hear the words of the prophets, read the scriptures, attend Enrichment meetings, are surrounded by wonderful examples in our church accquaintances, etc. These are all tools that the rest of the world doesn't have. But we have them, and that means we have a responsibility to use them and pass them on to our children. Just like in a trade, the one with the best tools has an advantage and generally puts forth the best result. However, there are still those with lesser tools that put forth good results, it just isn't as easy.
    As for prioritizing life, I find that if I don't take a break every once in a while I'll go insane. The key is to choose good things for your break. For example I enjoy watching TV, but I also really enjoy reading the Ensign or baking cookies or puttering around rearranging knick nacks, etc. There are a lot of ways to take a break from stressful tasks without completely wasting time. Although I admit I do still sit and watch TV every once in a while...