18 February 2005

Intelligent Mothers

There is an excellent article in the March Ensign on "staying smart" as a stay-at-home mother (I've never liked that particular term, but it doesn't confuse anyone). Even though the Ensign is an LDS Church publication, most of the suggestions in this article apply to any mother. It is entitled "My Stay-at-home Education" and it is by Katherine Padilla. She says that she decided when her first child was born that she was going to "stay at home and be smart;" she has been a mother for 21 years.

One of the first things the author recommends is to read good books. She says, "Finding time to read has not been difficult for me. I read while I'm watching my children play outside and when I need to unwind... [it] gives my mind something interesting to think about while I'm taking care of the more mundane tasks of life."

She also goes on to suggest developing meaningful hobbies. Another suggestion is to use community resources, such as college classes, book clubs, and correspondence courses. One of the final suggestions, relating specifically to religious women, is to study the scriptures.

These really are simple ideas. Anyone could think of them. Yet they have to be printed in a magazine. I hear many stay-at-home mothers complain that they are bored and all they do is change diapers all day. I would hate it too if all I did was sit around and wait for a diaper to change.

Don't wait. There is plenty of time between changing diapers, giving baths, making peanut butter sandwiches, and playing card games to read, to write, to learn, to think. Hobbies are fun, but choose ones that are worthwhile, ones you can learn from. Take classes. Discuss books with friends who read (they can be hard to find, but they're out there). Learn about something completely new and exciting (like geysers. :)). Don't talk about diapers and body hair or whatever Oprah said yesterday when you could talk about meaningful things. Don't miss out.


  1. It's an issue for the guys, too. I mean, sometimes we get locked in ruts at work and end up brain-dead, too. I can't remember the last time I read a book all the way through to the end just for fun.


  2. Help me understand why I found this article patronizing and annoying when I agreed with everything she said.

  3. Well, she was patronizing. But I can't see how you can tell someone how to improve themselves mentally without having already done so yourself, and without portraying your way as the better way. You either educate yourself or you don't. How could she have worded it differently? I honestly think this is why MFS is always having people gripe at her.

    Maybe I've lived in unusual wards, but I have not met many LDS mothers with small children who are doing much of anything with themselves. Most of them quit school when they got married (after studying elem ed or music) and don't read, don't discuss anything interesting, don't study the scriptures, or even read worthwhile magazines. I have *never* found an LDS women with whom I could discuss international politics outside the internet.

    I honestly think this need to be said, I if some people feel belittled because of it, then they needed to hear it.

    Certainly *your* brain hasn't withered from staying at home. So I guess I don't know why *you* felt patronized. :) Or did you just mean the article was patronizing in general? It was.

    I am feeling just a touch testy today. My children are sick and clingy. So if I said anything offensive myself, just ignore it. :)

  4. I was too hasty in my previous remark. Julie's current post at Times and Seasons shows how a person can show someone a better way without being in the least patronizing. Even though I still like the _Ensign_ article, it probably could have been presented better.

  5. I found it patronizing, too... (I especially cringed at "my hobby is writing novels." Well, thanks for sharing) But I also agreed with everything she said,though I finished with a well, duh.

    There are intelligent mothers out there, Amira. I got into a massive "discussion" during election time with several women in my ward and offended nearly everyone. But the fact was, we were talking about something other than diapers and Oprah. And in our wards in Virginia there were women who were interested and could speak intelligently about international politics as well.

    Perhaps, though, a majority of women in the church need a little kick out of the rut they're in.

  6. Thanks, Melissa. Like I said, I was too hasty. I really shouldn't write anything when I am already cross. I apologize, especially to Julie.

    There *are* many intelligent women around me. I just don't know how to bring up other topics without offending someone, or feeling like I'm trying to talk about something no one else wants to talk about, or without sounding patronizing myself.

    How can I do that?

  7. See? And all this time, I thought they griped at me because they didn't care for my fashion sense. Overalls? Yuck. (*wry grin*) I didn't read the article, but I can offer this much: The difference between patronizing and helpful is slimmer than a sheet of paper. How easy to fall on the side of patronizing.

    Such a worthwhile subject, though. So many of us allow the slip into mediocrity, reasoning (or rationalizing) that there will be time for the "hard" books, the classic films, the art exhibits, and museums, etc. "some day."

    Michael Dirda talks about this middle-aged mindset in the opening of Bound to Please:

    "Now and again, we may feel that just mayb e we've shortchanged our better selves, that we might have listened to great music, contemplated profoundly moving works of art, read books that mattered, but instead we turned away from them because it was time to tune into Law and Order reruns, or jack into a WarCraft game on our home computer, or get back to the the latest made-for-TV bestseller. Sometimes, nonetheless, late at night or when faced with one of life's true crises, we will surprise in ourselves what poet Philip Larkin called the hunger to be more serious."

    Got your email message, Amira. Thank you for making M-mv one of your internet destinations.

    Enjoy this terrific day.


  8. We don't get the Ensign, so I haven't read the article. However, I am glad that this has come out because I too have been looked upon as odd when I have talked about topics other than potty training, Desperate Housewives, and the like.

    There is so much to learn about, and with the internet it seems strange that more mothers aren't out there learning new things. I am not a mother, but I can imagine that once you no longer have an infant, there is time enough for some reading or even just watching PBS, or perhaps even leaving hubby with the kids and taking a community ed. course.

    I hope that the article will inspire, despite the tone, and that more women will open their minds to the world around them.

  9. Thanks MFS and Aimee. I needed to hear that today.