The "motherhood = happiness" myth

Darth Monson Dec. 2012

Like many women in the church, my wife was raised to believe that motherhood is the highest calling a person can have and that being a mother is the most wonderful, spiritual, and joy inducing experience that a person can have. For some, that may be the case, but NO ONE in the church EVER says, "not everyone is cut out to be a mother."

They NEVER acknowledge that some people, due to their mental status, aren't ready to be parents.

One more [post] and I'll go back to using my usual screen name.

After our child was born, my wife had such severe postpartum depression that she was borderline suicidal for a year. Then, as our child grew older, my wife never connected with the child and she realized that she has no idea how to be a mother. This is likely due to her upbringing, but that is kind of beside the point.

The church screws up people's lives by convincing them that they have serious obligations, but then never doing anything to help people prepare for those obligations (telling people to pay, pray and obey doesn't count as preparation). If the church were true, they would never tell everyone that they are all responsible to go out and have children. They would recognize that some people (due to emotional problems, childhood traumas, irresponsibility/selfishness, mental disorders, etc.) are not cut out to be parents and some of those things DO NOT reflect poorly on the woman.

The way the church tries to apply one-size-fits-all doctrines to people who aren't suited for those policies infuriates me. I'd love to hear anyone else with similar stories or any thoughts on the subject.

I don't normally feel hatred toward the church, but when I discuss this subject, I do.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth

Not just having children, but also they push the importance of getting married period. Before I fully understood I shouldn't be apart of the church any more, I went to a local (non-Utah) singles ward. The ladies in that ward are some wonderful and beautiful people but so so so brain-washed by this crap. Several of them just went back to school to finish degrees or whatever because for a very long time they kept hoping that "this was a year a Mormon boy comes and marries me and I can have my babies like my sisters/friends/cousins ect." For it never to come.

As I left the church all these ideas of having kids or having a husband disappeared. I went to Disney World with my 2 best friends this summer with NO ATTATCHMENTS. It.Was.Beautiful. Wonderful. I get the appeal of wanting to share that with your kids or loved ones but I'd never did anything as a kid. When I mean nothing I mean NOTHING. I didn't go to a zoo untill I was 19, and here I was, 27 FINALLY enjoying something like this. I had the best of both worlds. It was amazing.

Does a part of me think it would be nice to have kids? Maybe. But seriously, I'm not in an emotional, physical, finical, or any kind of state to do so. I'd rather have this chance to explore myself and my REAL wants and desires, not the cookie cutter ones pick out by a cult.

Stray Mutt
This type of thinking got to me rather early.
I used to use the analogy that is was like someone who loves bowling insisting that everyone else must bowl too -- and love it. I thought a lot of Mormonism was just personal preferences of the leaders foisted off as God's Will, Heavenly Father's Plan, the Straight and Narrow Path, or whatever.

In my late teens and young adult years it became very clear there was no place in the One True Church® for people who had no desire to marry and become parents. That's all the church was really about. So if I wanted to keep going down the Good Mormon path, I'd be obliged to do things that would make me miserable, things that I would be bad at and that would mess up the lives of a wife and boatload of kids.

I completely agree!
My entire life, I was taught (brainwashed) to believe I had to become a Mom to have worth. Yes, I do like children and I love my kids, but honestly, I was probably not suited to becoming a Mom and without Mormonism, likely never would have had any. I am upset over this, too.

Re: This type of thinking got to me rather early.
SM, I only wish I had followed my gut instincts, which were similar to yours. Instead, I allowed my TBM family to convince me to try to find a spouse and get kids, only to end up depressed and discouraged while doing so. I wonder where I'd be today if I had not done what I felt "obligated" to do within Mormonism?
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Again, NOT just mormons. Women are told this in society all the time. Even hollywood is in on it. So many movies push motherhood as being the utmost goal for womenhood and the ultimate happiness. How many women have you heard say, "oh yes, of all my accomplishments, having my baby is the best one." Its everywhere you look. Most people don't notice these things unless they don't want to have kids. OP, I feel sorry for you. Your two posts are kinda telling me you wish you hadn't of had kids. I'm sorry you have had parenthood forced on you.
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
One of my ex-LDS friends bought to this particular doctrine hook-line-and-sinker, though she refuses to acknowledge it even now.

She got pregnant, had the baby, was miserable, but still refused to take birth control or use contraceptives to prevent another one. Got pregnant again. And got pregnant a third time.

Her kids are living with her husband because she just can't handle being a mother. I wish she would have realized that earlier. For both her sake and their sake.

the one and only
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
As a woman I felt tremendous pressure to have children. I had a hard time making the switch from being career driven to stay at home mom. I love my kids and want my kids now, but that wasnt always the case.

My mom is extremely technologically advanced. Its ridiculous, I call her to ask questions about how to do tech stuff a lot. She once told me that if she hadent had kids she would have a career in the tech field. At her age and with her ability to understand tech stuff right away im sure she would have been at the top somewhere. Its sad for me to think about what she gave up. Shes a pretty shitty mom, and I know she didnt want to have kids.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Motherhood is very, very difficult. It changes a person forever, sometimes for the better, but not always.

Parenthood is not so traumatic for a man because he usually has a job to get himself out of the house for some relief.

Worse yet, motherhood may not be "you" and yet you love your child. Now you're in a fine kettle of fish, as Ollie used to say.

It helps to understand that society started this whole mother-greatest-calling business because Motherhood is the most thankless job in the world. The hours never end, you never get thanked and there's no tips. The work is endless, immediately undone, and you lose control of your environment and your time. You are always tired. All that you are or ever hoped to be or do is pushed to the side to bring forth new life that will someday hope to be and do and will have that crushed out of her if she is female and esp if she is Mormon.

She will be scrambled and blended and jammed into the same mold as everyone else, trying on wedding dresses at 12.

Fortunately there's hope. She can take medication--and that appears to be what most Utah housewives do. So much for the joys of motherhood or the peace that passeth understanding. It comes in a bottle from Pfizer.

Truth: a person has to be themselves in order to be happy. The more authentically "you" you are in life, the happier you will be.

There are many paths to being authentic. Mormonism is not one of them.


Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
I agree with those observing that LDS Inc. doesn't corner the market on cultural expectations of women (or men, for that matter) having children. However, by placing such important life decisions into a restrictive, destructive, all-or-nothing religious context they pump it up on steroids so that it dwarfs the 'normal' societal expectations.

One of my sisters is TBM, who married another TBM at age 18. She's now 32 with four children. First child was born when she was 19, and she had such severe postpartum depression that she was hospitalized off and on for the first several years of the first child's life. They went on to have two more kids due to typical irresponsible pressure from the TBM in-laws. They were supposed to be "done" after 3 kids due to her depression -- she's been 'maintained' on a cocktail of psychiatric drugs throughout all of her marriage -- but they had an 'oops' about 2 years ago. Her doctors maintained her on psych drugs throughout that pregnancy and her youngest was born with birth defects affecting the heart. I wish I could ask them, "If you were 'done' having kids after the 3rd child, why didn't TBM hubby get snipped?"

Of course I know the answer: because their turbocharged TBM beliefs will not permit them to consider that after all her serious psychiatric issues related to bearing and raising children, the responsible, caring thing to do would be to prevent further children. I also know for a fact that a conversation was had when she was in her early twenties that she would never let her TBM husband get snipped because if she were to die and he remarried, he might want more children and she wouldn't deprive him of that. The mind boggles.

As for the wider societal stigma of being childless by choice, I can personally vouch that it can range from mildly amusing to outright offensive. I've often thought about how I might have approached being a mother. Given my personality, temperament and preferences I'm increasingly grateful DH and I didn't have kids and weren't pressured by family to have them. The older I get, the more I appreciate having extra time, resources and freedoms that would not be remotely possible if we'd had kids. Is that selfish? Sure, but it hurts nobody but myself, assuming that I've somehow "missed out" or harmed myself by not having kids.

Everyone's mileage may vary, of course. It is one of the more offensive and morally bankrupt doctrines of TSCC that they brainwash, pressure, guilt-trip and push people into parenthood who are either not ready, or not suited to the lifestyle.

Stray Mutt
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
anagrammy Wrote:
> Parenthood is not so traumatic for a man because
> he usually has a job to get himself out of the
> house for some relief.

But there can be the crushing feeling of being trapped and responsible, just like with motherhood. It's not hour-to-hour hands-on responsibility, but Big Issue responsibility. Providing material needs and keeping the family situation secure in an uncaring world. Kissing @ss in a job he loathes because he's the breadwinner. Being doubly, quadruply, sextuply anxious about your career going down the tubes. Knowing that if there's a disaster/tragedy/super-serious problem, you have to be the one to deal with it and make everything okay again.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Completely agree, FrogDogs! Am always glad to see other childfree or childless by choice people out there. I always pat myself on the back for not giving in to societal's peer pressure for parenthood, especially now that I'm divorced.

That brings me to another point, a lot of mormon women get married young and have kids thinking they'll stay married forever. Then they don't know what to do when they end up divorced or widowed without any education or job to fall back on to support themselves and their kids. I've seen it way too many times and it depresses me. But makes me glad I dodged that bullet.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
I don't think TSCC gets all the blame. Our post-modern society is fundamentally different than the clannish tribal existence humans followed for thousands of years. Raising children was a shared experience among several tribe members.

The way it's done now with most of the responsibility focused on the mother is very unnatural. It's no wonder nearly every mother feels totally overwhelmed at times.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Before I stopped going to church, I was at a baby shower and I mentioned one child (maybe ONE MORE in like 5 -6 years) was completely enough for me.This was met with looks of disgust and shocked faces. I couldn't imagine having more than one right now. I know I am not cut out to have a lot of children. I have never wanted more than 2 tops.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Good topic of discussion!

The morg is irresponsible in its insisting couples have large families but not teaching them parenting skills and life skills to cope with these large families. Unfortunately, too many people are afraid to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own lives and are happy to just hand it all over to the morg without thinking through the real life repurcussions: stay at home moms who are depressed and having to drug themselves to get through life, never having the chance to know what life could had been for them or who she really is; very young fathers carrying the weight of a family financially because they're producing baby after baby and mom can't work.

Havng more and more babies = eternal happiness but they don't care about the babies once they are born.

Very unrealistic expectations placed on these young people by both church and family.

Sometimes I wonder what choices I would have made had I not felt so much pressure to marry right out of high school and start reproducing. What if I had been encouraged to attend college and pursue my dreams? I lost myself somewhere along the way trying to be a good mom and wife but am still trying to figure out who *I* am without these things.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Oh, and I had a TBM OB who told me that I couldn't pregnant while breastfeeding. Complete and total BS. I got pregnant twice while breastfeeding and had to quit.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Yes. Just once I'd like to see a movie wherein a single woman gets pregnant, decides NOT to have it or adopt it out, but to have an abortion. And then nothing terrible happens to her. The movie ends with her feeling like she made the best decision for herself in a terrible position and the people who love her and are close to her support her decision, even if they don't agree with it.

Because, you know, that actually happens in real life. But you'd never know that if your sole source of information was Hollywood movies.

I am not advocating abortion and I don't mean to start a big hijack; I'm just saying. Decisions like that aren't easy but people make them without regrets. I just hate watching movies where the woman gets pregnant, realizes it isn't a good time or maybe she wouldn't be a good parent, or she's not in a position of having support (or a spouse) so that raising a child would be a really bad idea in her case, at that point in time... and then she winds up having a baby against her better judgment because all the other characters guilted and shamed her into it.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
I agree. One of my biggest problems with the church. When I was growing up, I never was like "Awwww, how cute! I want a baby!" Like all the other girls in YW. I could care less. But in YW we were told we had to be moms to please God, and get married. I got married pretty young (at 20), and I was not sure I wanted to get married, but my bishop said that was Satan putting doubts in my head. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband.

When we got married, his family would always bug me to get pregnant right away, since we were not supossed to put off having kids. My husband wanted kids ASAP. I was still really scared to have kids. Mostly because I was afraid I would end up like my step-mom, or end up getting a divorce (since my parents were divorced three times). I knew my husband was not ready.

I waited three years, and held out against rumors that I couldn't have kids, or that I was sinning because I didn't have any kids, or being selfish. I got pregnant at three years, and I still felt like I wasn't ready, but gave into the pressure from family and my husband really wanted kids. I ended up having a miscarriage at three months, but during that time I finally left the church. I did stuff that I wanted to do with my life, like go to school. Now I'm going to have a boy this month, and I'm not scared any more. I got to make my own decision, instead of feeling like my TBM family or the church telling me when and how to have kids.

I think that Dads can me just as nuturing as a mother. Having a vagina doesn't mean that you are automatically mother material. My husband is much more nuturing than I am. I joke and say that my husband will make a great mom. If he didn't have such a great job, he would stay home with the kids. His TBM family gets pretty pissed when I say that lol

Nancy Rigdon
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Since finding out the truth about TSCC, I can't tell you the number of times I say to myself "I AM SOOOO GLAD I NEVER FELL FOR IT."

For most of my childhood, I was indifferent on motherhood. I didn't buy the predetermined motherhood role TSCC places on EVERY woman, but I didn't exclude the possibility of having kids either. I really hated the OT stories of women moaning and groaning because they were barren. I thought, that will never be me. I won't let my entire sense of self-worth be determined by my ovaries. What does my brain offer the world?

Now, I have an awesome career and a tremendous amount of freedom.

I told my physician a few years ago that I know I should be hearing a biological clock- but I don't. She told me it's because I have found a sense of accomplishment and purpose in life outside of motherhood. She sees it in lots of women. Motherhood isn't the "be all end all" of womanhood.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
The thing that got to me was that they talk about it like it's a holy calling, but when it comes to passing out rewards, Moms get a plastic flower on Mother's day.

Men can advance to positions of power, write books, get noted in major obituaries, promote each other, and generally have all the perks of power and money in the church.

That's all just so they can serve women better.

My God, Mormons just swallow that obvious lie. I always assume the men at the top are laughing at women behind closed doors. We are such fools to believe the talk instead of watching who walks the walk.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
Turns out being 100% responsible for the well being of another human being is hard work! Who knew?

Plenty of people out there believe the rewards (love of your children, legacy of your bloodline, satisfaction, someone to take care of your elderly self, spare organs, what have you) outweigh the hardship (and some may very well be lying to themselves), but it's not exactly something to go into without serious thought.

Then again, when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done, so there's that. Make more tithepayers! Yah!

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
While I agree with this 100% there is an elephant in the room that I would address. How do you know that you wouldn't make a good parent until you are a parent? One could think that they are not made for parenting but find out that they are damn fine parents, and they could think they are going to great parents and end up not being so. In my opinion you must make a decision to have kids, and then even if it isn't the best job fit, you must make it work.

CA girl
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
And not just motherhood = happiness but lots of kids = motherhood. I'm honestly glad I had my children and honestly love being a mother. I enjoyed getting to play like a kid again. But I was only able to have 2 kids because of medical complications with my last pregnancy. I was devastated - I thought I was supposed to have 4-5 kids. I looked into adoption, foster kids etc. and nothing seemed to work out. Fortunately, right after I found out I couldn't get pregnant again, I heard Dr. Laura chewing someone out who was in my same situation, for not being grateful for the kids she had. Dr. Laura asked this mom how she thought it made her two kids feel - didn't she think it made them feel like they weren't enough for their mom that she was so frantic to have more? This made a big impression on me so I always kept my wish for more kids low key - telling them we didn't have a big Mormon family like their friends because we got it right with our first girl and first boy so we didn't need any more.

After I left the church, I realized how very, very lucky I was that I stopped at two. I might have been OK with three but I would have been a terrible mom for lots of kids. Two was just exactly right - just exactly what I could handle and what made me happy. What I would have had if I'd never heard of Mormons. I'm lucky I didn't get my Mormon-wish but my kids are far luckier because they got the best version of my Mommyiness, undiluted by too many brothers and sisters. I know moms who are wonderful with their large broods but I never would have been.

I also want to add that my aunt was one of the best moms ever because when she married my uncle, he had two teenagers from his first marriage. Aunt "Kay" was 26 and knew she never wanted to have kids so she took permanent steps right then and there. She had trouble finding a doctor who would tie the tubes of a 26 year old woman but she never regretted it. I say she's a great mom because she never let anyone pressure her into a job she didn't want and she wasn't a half-@ss mom to kids she never really wanted. Who wants a mom who doesn't want you? Aunt Kay protected her potential children from that fate and I think she's wonderful for standing her ground like she did.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
With respect, taking a gamble of this sort when it involves the welfare of a human being I would be responsible for having brought into existence is not worth it enough to "find out".

I am willing to eat a crunchy grasshopper that some other culture claims is a delicacy to find out if I like it. I am willing to do all sorts of things to find out if practice makes perfect, and I'm talented at x, y or z.

I am not willing to push my luck against what has always felt like a natural disinterest in being a mother, in order to find out if I would surprise myself by being a good mother.

I understand fully the notion of "you don't know until you do it" or "don't knock it till you try it". I've done that a lot, but it typically doesn't involve the creation of another human being whose welfare depends upon my gamble having a positive outcome ("gee, I'm a good mother and feel like doing all these parental things after all!" instead of "my god, what have I done - I don't know if I can do this - Wish I could have some time to myself - wish I had listened to my instincts - oh well, now I've got to do the best I can...")

Once again, I believe it is entirely possible to have enough self-knowledge to trust one's instincts and understand that -- all things considered -- not having children is a wise and perfectly legitimate lifestyle for many of us. By the same token, plenty of people appear to know themselves well enough to want to have children. I am glad for both sides of the coin: people who can be honest with themselves about their motivations, expectations and flexibility, for starters.

I used to work with a woman who clearly resented her 5 year old child. It was ugly to watch, how much her kid needed her for more than food/shelter/basic physical needs (which she provided quite well, along with her husband) and the way she treated the kid as a huge pain in the ass. This was a kindergarten age boy who was clearly very bright. She treated him as an accomplishment and testament to her competence ("look at me, I'm such a good mother!") when the reality was her kid was constantly acting out trying to get her attention.

Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
The problem with not knowing the future is that most all of our decisions are calculated risks. I agree, one ought not be gambling on the future of a child. I also agree that there are far to many horrible parents. I just am not sure that a high level of self awareness about aptitude to be a good parent is possible. There are many things that you can control such as the financial stability, family stability, and support structure. I am just not sure that you can control or even predict emotional stability.
Stray Mutt
Besides that...
...children used to be an asset. More hands to work the land meant you could work more land and produce more surplus to trade/sell. Now, unless your kids are working in the family business, or are entertainers, or you're selling them for adoption or prostitution, they're not materially profitable.
spaghetti oh
Re: The "motherhood = happiness" myth
cfutahn Wrote:

I guess it's different in the US. (Genuine wonder!)

I'm a kid-free, never-religious, Canadian woman. I've never experienced any sort of pressure to have children. My parents never question me about not having any, friends haven't and I don't feel any pressure from society to reproduce. None at all. (Perhaps it's my horns.)

Re: I completely agree!
I totally agree.

While I love and adore my children, if I was not a Mormon I would have chosen differently. I wanted a career where I could travel around the world. For as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, the church came into my life where I was extremely vulnerable and lonely, and the idea of forever families struck a chord in me. I do have to swallow a lump of bitterness everyday.

"Recovery from Mormonism -"