I've recently been inundated with articles and comments as I scroll through my newsfeed that have opened my eyes to the way we're viewing the role of women. The topic has been consuming my thoughts. You should see the comments of horror when Susan Paton's article about marrying young (i.e. before 30) is posted. Or the feisty comments from both extremes on an article in which one writer criticized the fact we celebrate things like weddings and births, saying, "If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing? I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job--not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance." Because producing and sustaining life is less miraculous than backpacking Asia...and is doing "nothing?" (As Matt Walsh says, "Whatever moms are doing, they ARE something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?")
But I'm actually pretty sure that I will never look back on this period of being single and think....."Wow, those were the days." I'm pretty sure I'll never think that. In fact, I think the best moments are yet to come, when I'm devoted to my own little home. Yes, I'm sure I won't be as appreciated as I wish, it won't be as "fun" as the humanitarian projects and tours, but it will be the best of all. Call it being naive, but I call it having your priorities straight. These years of opportunity and adventure have been important, life-changing, educational, perspective-broadening, testimony-building---yes. But I was created to serve. And the ultimate service is in a family. I didn't come to earth to just build a resume, check off a bucket list, and have adventure. I came here to find true happiness, which is found in the family. I didn't come to earth to see how far I could climb up the corporate ladder, but to see how close I could get to becoming like my Ultimate Example, and I can't imagine a better way to become like the Best Parent than being a parent myself. I didn't come to earth to prepare for an amazing career. I came here to prepare for eternal life, and family life prepares us for eternal life.
Of course, while I hope to have a family and make them my first priority, I don't think a woman's influence is limited to her household. Oh no. Before and during and after the child-raising years, there is much more to be done than sit and wait and assume our only chance to do good is in the home. Yes, it's the most influential and most important place to do good, but it is not the only place. I still plan to be involved in my community, in politics, in public health, in development work of impoverished areas, in local events wherever I may live, and much more. And I believe that if I put my family first, God will bless me with opportunities to serve in many capacities and even develop myself. Marathons, learning to ballroom dance, having my own catering business. There is a time for everything. But if not, there is time for the most important things, which is why I'll put them first.
But as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don't measure my success by how impressive my life looks from a resume stand-point (click here for a great Ted Talk about how to really measure your life). I measure the importance of my priorities by the words of one of our prophets, David O. McKay, who said, "No success can compensate for failure in the home."
Without the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, I wouldn't understand this whole perspective of "the greatest good a woman can do is in the walls of her own home." Without the gospel, I'd probably be planning my next adventure and applying to grad schools--the idea of settling down to get married and have kids would not even be in my peripheral vision. But I have felt and truly believe in the importance of the family. I believe what the prophet has said that, "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." God has so wisely mapped out the best plan for our happiness, and if the family is central to it, who am I to disagree? Who am I to say, "Well, God, I think I'll be happiest if I put my first priority on my personal promotions and plaudits and popularity. Maybe the family thing makes some people feel fulfilled, but it's not for me."
Which is why it makes me so sad to hear Latter-Day Saint young women my age say just that. To hear them want to be like men and focus their priorities on their careers, to hear them look down on stay-at-home moms and consider that old-fashioned. Where is their faith?
I feel like I perfectly understand their point of view. When opportunities for foreign internships or exciting, but long-term-commitment, jobs come along, it's hard to not embark on them. It might not seem that rocking the cradle is the best way to rock the world when exciting new ideas on poverty termination come knocking on your door, pry into your humanitarian heart and tempt your sense of altruism and adventure. At times, being a world-traveling National Geographic photographer seems a lot more impressive and influential than sitting down with the kids to look at the pictures when the National Geographic comes in the mail. But if I took advantage of every golden opportunity that came my way, I'd never be in the same place long enough to be in a relationship and eventually have a family.
If it weren't for the gospel in my life, I could go on for years on my own and think I was taking the "path of resistance" and doing the noblest and most meaningful thing. But if I were to live my life like that, and never put my efforts into building a happy family, I'm afraid I would die with an impressive photo album and many material comforts, but no posterity of my own, and no one to be with in heaven. With the gospel in my life, I feel like I haven't had to learn the lesson that so many learn the hard way, when they get old and think, "I should have spent more time with my family."
It's the eternal perspective that keeps me focused on the truly important things that will bring the truest joys in life. As Alma 39:17 so wisely says in the Book of Mormon, "Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you."
The most important things in life are the spiritual things. The most meaningful things in life really aren't things. They're people. Living life according to that knowledge is success.