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Raising Isaac  June 15, 2005

Jenn/Steve — June 15 @ 11:09am

I don’t have much of a job, even though I have a lot of education (if I do say so myself). Sometimes this really bothers me, but most of the time, I am just fine with my lack of a career. Here’s why.

As you can probably tell, I’ve put in my dues: my M.A. was a struggle, and at the time I was so immersed in the art world and art history that I found myself thinking at times that I would make a go of it, work in some auction house, work up to a museum role or a teaching position at a university. Looking back, I know those were pipe dreams, because I don’t really think my career is very important. That sounds terrible, I know, but fundamentally I question the value of a career, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t matter to me.

Miranda will no doubt castigate (new word of the day!) me for this view. I admit it’s not very feminist of me. But spiritually, I feel that my career is, and must be, a secondary priority. I just don’t believe that it is more important than getting married and having children, and I think my position is backed up by the Brethren and the Proclamation on the family. I know that I can (and will!) be a good mother, but if I let my career get too far along and too unwieldy, then when the time comes to let it go, I don’t want it to be a difficult choice.

My thinking is similar to the approach I was counseled as a young woman regarding temptation: don’t put yourself into situations where you know you will be tempted. Decide in advance to be obedient to the commandments. For now, that means working in the support dept., proofreading and photocopying. I’m not in my dream job, that’s for sure, but I’ve chosen to follow a different dream altogether.

Abraham struggled and waited for years before Isaac was born. Then, the Lord tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his child. I struggled to get my degree, and though it is difficult, I’m willing to put my career on the altar of sacrifice in order to have a brighter future remain possible. I just hope that my sacrifice will be acceptable.


  1. Jenn, you can do what ever you wish. And if you think sacrificing your career to some matrimonial god will bring you happiness then go right ahead. I don’t know you, so I can’t be certain (even if I did - I wouldn’t be), but I imagine that you will regret it for the rest of your life. What do think this will give you?

    …and shame on you for getting a masters degree without ever learning the word castigate. ;)

    J. Stapley — June 15, 2005 @ 12:04pm
  2. Sadly, I think a lot of LDS unmarried women have this idea–that they would be prideful, ungrateful or lacking faith if they focused on careers instead of their as-yet-unrealized families.

    It doesn’t help when you have a cover story like this June’s Ensign. I can see why Jenn feels this is a sacrifice, though. Good luck!

    A Reader — June 15, 2005 @ 12:14pm
  3. Jenn, I often feel I’m in the same boat. I recognize that I need something to do until I have children of my own (a) to keep myself from going insane (b) because I like feeling like I’ve accomplished something and let’s not forget (c) because money pays for groceries.

    I have also always felt that my family will be my first priority, not as a result of any “Ensign” articles but simply because motherhood is an important job and I feel called to do it.

    To that end, whenever I have considered a career I have always looked at it carefully to see how it could be made flexible. Does it have telecommutability? Would I be able to freelance? Does it require so much knowledge and training that I’d have to retrain myself when I wanted to rejoin the workforce?

    I’d advise you to talk to other people in your profession for their ideas. Perhaps you could be a freelance evaluator. You could start off working for a company now to build your experience and reputation and go freelance when the time comes to focus on your family.

    It’s important to remember that while your family is important, so are you! Don’t neglect your interests, they can add so much not just to your life but to your family’s. I bet you look forward to taking your children to art museums. Because you have an interest in and knowledge of the field your trips will be much more interesting and informative than mine, since I know squat. :)

    Also, your children aren’t going to need you there 24/7/365 all of their lives. Don’t forget to prepare yourself for the day when all your little birds are flying off in their own directions. They’ll always need their mom but now you’ll have time to do some soaring of your own!

    harpingheather — June 15, 2005 @ 12:53pm
  4. Heather, that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard!! Thanks. Seriously, I appreciate it.

    J.: I know, I know, I may regret it. But what are the alternatives? I feel I need to keep that path open. And I feel bad about castigate — but I am on a constant vocabulary-building quest :)

    Jenn — June 15, 2005 @ 1:00pm
  5. Jenn, if you’re unhappy doing what you’re doing now, you should just stop. It doesn’t make any sense to waste your talents and not pursue your dreams just because you have some idea of what might happen in the future. What makes you doubt your ability to make the right decision in the future (if that decision is to stop working and have a family) if you try to improve your life now? I think you should give yourself more credit. Not that I’m one to speak–I’m working as the office lacky for a law school that I should have just applied to. I’m definitely in a dead-end job. But this is temporary for me–I know I’m going back to school next year. It sounds to me like you’re planning on being miserable until some point in the future when some man solves all your problems. You’re better than that, Jenn.

    Greg Fox — June 15, 2005 @ 1:00pm
  6. Jenn. Clearly you have your priorities straight. But you must consider that fact that prophets have said that not all women will have families in this life. You can only know by revelation if this applies to you. And then act accordingly. Are you just hoping to be married. Or has the Lord told you you will be in this life, through the Holy Ghost directly to you, or in your patriarchal blessing, or in some other blessing.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 15, 2005 @ 1:10pm
  7. Aaron, that’s a little personal (and creepy!), but I strongly feel that I am here to be a mother.

    Jenn — June 15, 2005 @ 1:22pm
  8. Jenn,

    I second the advice of harpingheather. Taking care of your family includes taking care of yourself. Remember, you are every bit a member of your family as anyone else, and your needs are as important as anyone else’s.

    This is a lesson I recently learned. About five weeks ago, I recieved a job offer that was very attractive, and, what seemed more important, was close to my wife’s family. I sought a blessing to help clear my mind in making the decision, and the blessing talked extensively about the needs of the family. But I was also getting the impression from the people making the offer that they didn’t really want me–they only made me the offer because I was the highest-scored applicant.

    What finally made the decision for me was their refusal to negotiate even the smallest issues. When I prayed just before the phone call where I turned down the offer, I got the strongest “NO” answer I have ever had to a prayer. Why? Because I knew I would be miserable in a job where they didn’t want me. The other advantages the job had would be overwhelmed by that misery at work. And my needs as a member of the family are as important as the needs of the rest of the family. I would be miserable, and so my family soon would be too.

    alamojag — June 15, 2005 @ 1:23pm
  9. Kudos to you Jenn. The recent Ensign article talking about YW fearful to state that they want to be mothers is understandably clear. Every tine this is brought up in the Bloggernacle there are people pounding on women to get educated and enjoy work, or as Stapley said above, that you might regret your decision. No wonder people are fearful, when they choose to do what they think is best, pressure is often put on them by their peers, the public, and sometimes even their parents to do something different. But I sometimes wonder how much of a sacrifice it will be to mother your children vs. taking on a career.

    Way to take a stand and may you be blessed in your efforts.

    J. Stapley -
    I am kind of surprised by your comment. Not in the fact you are obviously more for working women, fine, but that happiness can’t come from motherhood and staying home with your children. Or perhaps I read you wrong.

    N Miller — June 15, 2005 @ 1:26pm
  10. Oh, I do so love it when people agree with me! ^_^

    I second the advice of Greg. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing now you should change! Nuture yourself! When you find your partner, do you want to be tired and unhappy? No! You want to be such a strong, interesting, happy person that you’ll just sweep him off his feet! ^_^

    harpingheather — June 15, 2005 @ 1:36pm
  11. N Miller: Hear, hear!

    In regard to the work vs. motherhood issue I think it’s also important to consider that life doesn’ follow a simple path. Your job may be important to your family one day. If you were in a job you liked I think things would be less stressful.

    Happiness and fulfillment for all, whatever their path!

    harpingheather — June 15, 2005 @ 1:42pm
  12. I think some people may have a simple path or at least more simple than others. However, I would say that nobody has the same path. We all have the guiding principles (gospel of Jesus Christ), a mind capable of making decisions (even those we might call handicap even have this to a point), and with the help of the spirit, we will know what we need to do in our own life. If that for Jenn is to stay at home with her children, good for her for following her path without fear of what others will say about her choices.

    N Miller — June 15, 2005 @ 2:02pm
  13. N Miller, I think that we are seeing this from different perspectives. My wife has chosen to be a stay at home mom and I think it is awesome. What I find rather disturbing is this false dichotomy that everyone seems to be implying. Jenn is not currently faced with a choice between having a family and having a career. And I am not engaging that issue. The issue at hand is whether or not being mediocre is laudable. I particularly find the reason for the mediocrity a little creepy (i.e., careers have less inherent value than families). What does that have to do with anything? My relationship with God is paramount so I can be mediocre at averything else and it doesn’t matter?

    Jenn, I appologize for delineating your conddundrum in such stark terminology, but is this not a correct summation?

    J. Stapley — June 15, 2005 @ 2:49pm
  14. I would say don’t give up because you want to sacrifice your career to be a mother (which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon), but definitely do give up if you don’t like what you’re doing. There is a way to have a family and to pursue your own interests, and I think you might regret giving up the option of working part time or being flexible if you throw in the towel now. Not that you are doing this, but I think it’s too easy to say, I only want to be a mother because I hate my job, or I only want to have a career because I don’t want kids, and then end up unhappy because you don’t have flexibility and variety in your life.

    Tess — June 15, 2005 @ 3:03pm
  15. J. Stapley - Thanks for the reply. I went back and reread the post with your view in mind and comprehend your thoughts about mediocrity, and completely agree. I still question if that was the intent of the post, but I now understand. I will say, that although I agree with your post, I don’t believe that we can or should excel in everything we do. Perhaps given the time restraints, knowledge, and talents, we can do the best we can, but that best may be mediocrity because of other things more important to us and more time consuming.

    N Miller — June 15, 2005 @ 3:12pm
  16. That’s how I see it too, J. Stapely. It’s one thing to give up a career or choose not to go further in it IF YOU HAVE IMMEDIATE ALTERNATIVES, but “sacrificing” iy just b/c one day you might be a wife and mother is a little bit odd.

    A Reader — June 15, 2005 @ 3:14pm
  17. J., that’s not correct at all! Mediocrity is not the word for it, because I don’t feel that my talents are going to waste in any meaningful sense of the word. My career isn’t important to me, but I highly value my education. I worked long and hard to get my degree, and even though that’s not my current job, it’s still a major part of my life and one that I cultivate as best I can. That’s part of the reason why I live in New York, to have access to the arts and the opportunities the city provides. Even if that’s not how I make my money, that doesn’t mean that my life is somehow laying fallow. I guess I am troubled that you are equating a mediocre career with a mediocre life. I don’t see things as narrowly as you.

    Sorry for the long and venomous answer! I guess I am not accustomed to discussing these things online and having my life be some open book! :)

    Jenn — June 15, 2005 @ 3:24pm
  18. Many appologies Jenn. I guess I was/am confused by your formalization. Again, I’ll encourage you to do what ever you truely want every time.

    If the formalization was:

    I love what I study
    I don’t like my career
    I want a family

    I would respond: you might try a different career. I hope you find a family to be part of like you want.

    Now, I don’t what to psychoanalyze you, but this is the formalization I got:

    I love what I study
    I want a family
    I choose to minimize my career becasue I don’t want to be so in love with my job that I want it more than an as of yet hypothetical family.

    As I see it, this basically says that you cannot enjoy a career without turning to the dark side or something. To me this is all hypothetical, so I appologize again, as it is not for you. My discussion obviously reflects this disparity.

    J. Stapley — June 15, 2005 @ 3:40pm
  19. I think it is admirable to make career sacrifices for the sake of having a family, but if there is no family then for what is the sacrifice?

    Jordan — June 15, 2005 @ 3:42pm
  20. Jenn, I’m not going to give you advice on what you should do. I assume you already prayed about your decision to get your degrees and were inspired to do what you’ve already done. As long as you trust that Heavenly Father knows you and your talents, and you feel you are doing everything you can to develop them, you’re on the right track. Just stay prayerful when making your decisions and I think you won’t go too far astray.

    I’m very impressed by your vocabulary, by the way. Do you do the Merriam-Webster word of the day? If not, you can have them emailed to you. It’s great!

    Mari — June 15, 2005 @ 4:26pm
  21. And I agree with Mari.

    Jordan — June 15, 2005 @ 4:32pm
  22. Oh, Jenn, the lesson here is the parable of the talents, not Abraham’s sacrifice. Don’t hide your candle under a bushel. You may hate me for saying this, but it’s possible that marriage may not be in the cards. Even if you have to think of it as planning for the worst, you should take the necessary steps to put your career on the right path.

    Miranda PJ — June 15, 2005 @ 4:46pm
  23. One more perspective on the side of doing the best you can at your career. Usually, when people are doing their best, and know they are doing their best, they have a confidence that comes from that knowing. And confidence is sexy.

    alamojag — June 15, 2005 @ 4:55pm
  24. Jenn, you seem like a nice, intelligent girl. I would say that marriage for you is definitely in the cards.

    Eric Russell — June 15, 2005 @ 5:01pm
  25. I don’t know, Jenn. Has it ever occured to you that working hard at a career might make you more appealing and more attractive to the hypothetical man that is most certainly necessary to raise this hypothetical family that you are sacrificing not-so-hypothetical opportunities for now?

    SeptimusH — June 15, 2005 @ 11:56pm
  26. SeptimusH - do you pronounce your name “Septimuss” or “Septimush”?

    Tess — June 16, 2005 @ 8:00am
  27. Sep-Tah-Muss. The H is an initial.

    SeptimusH — June 16, 2005 @ 11:22am
  28. Jenn, in AA, we have a saying, “when wemake plans, the Gods laugh.”

    Life has a way of really surprising us in the way it turns out. I know I’m in shock. The good news is that those same “Gods” are with us all the way and things work out.

    But, you know, since you can’t please everybody, I say please yourself.

    annegb — June 16, 2005 @ 2:59pm
  29. What happens when you have three kids and a husband, but your husband decides that he’s had it with the whole family paradigm; he’s gone, and you’re left working a dead-end job with three mouths to feed. You might think this is not the case, but unfortunately, this type of predicament happens all the time. What would you do? failing to prepare is preparing to fail

    Also, what happens when the kids are all grown up? Then what? Stay at home grandma?

    Just Joe — June 16, 2005 @ 6:40pm
  30. Just Joe,
    Your theory doesn’t work here. Jenn has already recieved a Masters. That mean that, if needed, she could go and find a good job where she could:
    1- support herself

    2- support a family
    3- have a fun and interesting job (interesting to her)

    I think that she should do what she thinks best and follow what the Lord and the Spirit tell her to do. If she feels that she needs to be preparing for when, and I do mean when, she has a family, then she should do that.
    Personally, after looking at her profile I don’t think she will have to much of a problem finding a guy, it’s just finding the right one that could be a problem. I say, Good luck and I hope she does find the right guy to start her family with and to move on with her life the way that she wants it to go.

    jared — June 16, 2005 @ 10:25pm
  31. Jenn, your post has pulled me out of lurking. I’d like to yell, “ARE YOU INSANE?!”, but that’s hardly a nice introduction and I think you’re probably a very nice person. (I am too, but you can’t really tell from the first sentence I wrote.)

    I second everyone’s advice on following what you feel God has prompted you to do. However, I can’t see how holding yourself back from a career that you would love, not to mention have prepared for academically is going to help a future family, especially if you plan to give it up as soon as said family arrives.

    I can see so many ways in which living a fulfiling life and working at a loved-career would both prepare you for a happy marriage and motherhood: happy people tend to be more attractive to others (ie future husbands), being successful at a career of choice is a great example to your children, following a dream –also a good example, making good money -you can save for those children and that cute little house, the money also puts you in a better financial position when you want to become a SAHM, and feeling fulfilled in a career you love doesn’t have to be impossible to give up.

    You’ve already said that you’re prepared to give up whatever you’re doing to stay at home with your children. You can go into any job with that in mind. You will have plenty of opportunities to sacrifice throughout your life. You hardly need to start creating them now.
    Also, there are going to be days with those said children that you will want to look back and remember that you’re still a woman, a human being and capable of being successful. On those said days it will be really helpful to remember the fun business lunches as well as the praise and sense of accomplishment from a job well done.

    Not to say you couldn’t get some of that from your current not-so-thrilled-about-job. It just seems so risky to me to assume everything will go the way you want it too. I know many awesome, talented, beautiful, well-educated single woman. I also know some of the same types of woman who are married (happily) but have not been able to have children or have finally had children after 5 and ten years of trying.

    Even if life turns out the way you planned, sometimes the getting there is different than you imagined it would be. It’s worth your while to engage in somethinig you love, something that will uplift you and (if needed) something that can help carry you through whatever your life brings your way.

    I’m sorry for sermonizing and I hope I wasn’t too offensive. Eveyone got to give their two cents and I wanted to as well. Best of luck to you, whatever you do. Kitti

    Kitti — June 17, 2005 @ 1:47pm
  32. Thanks Kitti! To be honest, I may in fact be insane…. :)

    Jenn — June 17, 2005 @ 2:03pm
  33. I think I’m having writer’s remorse and am so sorry for being rude. Please excuse me.

    Kitti — June 17, 2005 @ 2:10pm
  34. No remorse allowed, Kitti. You may have told Jenn what she needed to hear. And lurk no more.

    SeptimusH — June 17, 2005 @ 2:14pm

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