What’s your experience raising daughters and with the Mormon Church? How do you do it? I have a 13 month old daughter. I am struggling with what I will teach her and model for her. Where do you draw the line? How do you say listen to this, not that (when talking about talks given by people in the church)? I am a convert, so I don’t know what is being taught in young womens. I guess I’m just generally not sure how I will convey to her the good things about the Church, but still teach her important things like what feminism promotes.
Well, KB, since my daughters are only 5 and 7 years old, I want to start by professing a big dose of humility with this parenting business. There are wise women and men reading this right now who have years and years more parenting experience. In fact, I want to just hurry up and finish the column so I can scroll down and read their comments right now. I still have a lot of learning to do.
In many respects, I think the Church provides a more favorable environment than the non-LDS mainstream for young women’s development because Mormonism strongly mitigates against the sexualization of young people and prioritizes their spiritual and intellectual development. (After getting letters here at AMG from young women under 18 who’ve felt bruised and battered by their first forays into sexual activity, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s a terrific idea to delay as long as possible. But ECS made a great point here about the dangers of portraying young women’s sexuality as a threat to young men.) Mormonism also taught me to take myself seriously as a reader and a thinker, and it taught me the strength that comes from making difficult but good choices.
In other respects, I do worry about the impacts on my daughters of being raised in an institutional environment where almost all positions of visible congregational authority are reserved to men and where men are designated presiders and providers simply by virtue of having been born male.
Funny thing is, so far, my daughters seem not to notice the whole patriarchy business. One day on our way home from church, I was telling my daughters (in a very even-handed way) about how at times conservative Mormons have promoted the idea that women belong in the home rather than in positions of public leadership. And my then six year-old said, “Are they crazy? Don’t they see that women run everything at church?” And she started naming all her primary teachers and leaders. “They’re not just staying at home,” she said. “They’re in charge!” That’s when I realized that from her perspective as a kid in primary, women did run the church.
My daughter saw her primary class that way in part because she is being raised by a Mormon feminist mom and a Jewish pro-feminist dad in an egalitarian marriage. What we model at home really matters. And especially because I was not a regular church attender for the earliest years of their lives, I have always felt that the responsibility for my daughters’ spiritual education rested primarily with me.
So there has never been a time in my daughters’ life when they have not heard God consistently characterized by both me and my husband as a He and a She, a Mother and a Father. I have also shared with them at home as much Mormon feminist knowledge and outlook as possible to give them resources they may not get in more traditional Mormon settings.
I have tried to talk openly and compassionately about differences among Mormons. This lesson came home to them very early because as pro-LGBT equality Mormons in California, Proposition 8 had a huge impact on our lives. My daughters know that there are conservative Mormons and liberal Mormons, that some of us rooted for Proposition 8 (like Grandma) and some of us rooted against it (like Mommy), but that we are all still Mormons and that we definitely still love Grandma even though we may disagree with her on some things. It is often considered taboo to talk about differences among Mormons, but I am hoping that by modeling an open and respectful attitude towards difference my daughters will understand that they have the support from me they need as they shape their own standpoints and perspectives as well as the right to find a path in Mormonism that works for them.
Finally, I have emphasized prayer and the process of seeking spiritual knowledge, because no Mormon teaching has been more pivotal or revolutionary for me than the belief that each of us can ask God directly and individually for help and direction in any circumstance.
I hope this helps, but I’m ready to shut up and listen. Readers, what wisdom can you add? What else should KB bear in mind as she raises her baby girl, and me as I raise mine? Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.