In online discussions about my article “30 Questions Nobody Has Asked My Husband” I noticed a theme in many of the comments: the phrase “you’re choosing to be offended” (or some variation of it) emerged over and over again in response to the article. I found this fascinating because I am not personally offended by the questions; I am, however, very curious about underlying gender assumptions, concerned about the impact of our unexamined perceptions, and I believe that we, as a culture, could greatly benefit from more self-reflection and thoughtful dialogue.
I grew up in contradictory worlds.
I was born and raised in Studio City, California in the heart of the entertainment business. Our neighbor was a makeup artist for movies like “Top Gun.” My extended family had a TV show, and my father, a professional musician, was the musical director on several national television shows when I was a young child. Witnessing this kind of creative expression and visible success, I believed that anything was possible for my life.
“All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be a mother,” she sobbed as she slumped over burying her hands in her face. Through her tears she muttered, “My whole life I’ve been taught that being a mother was the most important role. Now, I’m getting so old that I will never be able to have a child. What meaning is there to my life without the role of mother?”
I’ve heard sentiments like this over and over again in my twenty years of clinical psychotherapy work with LDS (Mormon) women. In our efforts to acknowledge and validate the crucial contribution of mothers are we unintentionally sending a message that women who aren’t able to bear or rear children in this life are somehow less valuable to the Church and to God? A deeper understanding of our doctrine reveals that this is not true; we know that “all are alike unto God” (2nd Nephi 26:33) and that an individual’s worth is not dependent on his/her accomplishments (is there not something strange about considering children an accomplishment?).
There have been a handful of moments in my life when I’ve realized that common words and phrases in LDS culture have become so familiar that they have lost their original meaning. For example, stake center, FHE, and “without a shadow of a doubt” are such common jargon that Latter-day Saints don’t even think twice about them, let alone consider their original context (ie: “Relief Society” isn’t just the hour of the church block where women meet–it’s a society or community that provides relief!).
Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing with Gina Colvin, host of A Thoughtful Faith Podcast. I share my life story growing up in the entertainment business with a professional musician as a father, my development as a performing songwriter, my life choices of marriage and motherhood, my experiences as a Mormon woman and as a therapist for Mormon women for twenty years, and my evolving view of creativity. We also talked about my hopes for cultural transformation in the Mormon church. Gina and I could have talked for hours, but we contained it to only 2 & 1/2 hours (consider yourself warned)! Thank you Gina for a delightful conversation and for helping me to articulate my thoughts, feelings,hopes and dreams.
Links mentioned in podcast:
My open-access journal article outlining my Partnership Model of Family Organization (PMFO): Bringing Partnership Home: A Model of Family Transformation
Music in the episode is from my CD Dive Deep (1999) also on iTunes
Article on Healing Aspirational Shame
Loved sitting down with Jennifer Stagg at the Mormon Channel recently to talk about how to make and keep goals.
We toss around questions like…
Why do we set and achieve goals in the first place?
How can they help us?
Why do people tend to fail at keeping their goals, even those that are vitally important to them?
What advice would you offer to some as they are starting out with a goal?
What spiritual resources can help people in achieving their goals?
How can friends and family get involved to help out?
My quick tip for successful goal setting is to set goals that you WANT to achieve, not that you SHOULD want to achieve. My 2015 New Year’s Resolutions were:
- Embrace my inner night owl by not scheduling commitments before 11am.
- Unsubscribe from all e-mail newsletter lists that I don’t open.
- Use people’s name more often in conversations.
So far I am rocking my resolutions 🙂
Listen to the interview…
What are your tips for making and achieving goals?
I sat down with Richie T for a lively and candid interview about moi! I usually do interviews on a particular topic like burnout, self-care, relationships, but no, the topic was my life story. My 21 year-old daughter said she actually learned some new things about me in this interview. Frankly, I was surprised that she actually listened to it! Enjoy.
For more information on The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women
A concerned therapist’s response to Meridian article “Can we teach our children to choose heterosexuality?”
As a mental health therapist, a wife, mother, a niece, and aunt, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor, and sister in the Gospel I felt a responsibility to respond to the article published yesterday in Meridian Magazine titled written by JeaNette Goates Smith, “Can we teach our children to choose heterosexuality?” Thankfully, Meridian has removed this article from their website.
Who knew modesty was such a controversial issue? I took a lot of heat and criticism about “The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty” article, and even some personal attacks. But those comments were out shadowed by the outpouring of gratitude and appreciating for my willingness to speak up and share my thoughts. I decided to write a follow up article responding to comments, questions, and criticisms, and to provide clarity. Here’s an excerpt from the article…
Thank you to those who posted thoughtful and articulate comments on my article “The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty”. I had no idea that this blog post would spark such intense conversation and elicit so many varied responses and questions. No matter what you thought about the article, I think it is a good thing for us, as individuals and as a group, to reflect on and discuss our approach to teaching modesty.
I’d like to address a few themes and questions that prompted some to (passionately) disagree or take exception to (parts of) the article. It seems that some of you may have misunderstood my intent in writing it. Hopefully I can clarify some of those misunderstandings. The following are questions or concerns gathered from emails, messages, online comments and discussions:
Q: Are you are suggesting something different than the standards in the “For the Strength of Youth” (FTSOY) pamphlet? Are you saying that our girls can wear two-piece bathing suits and not have to worry about it?
Yesterday, Meridian Magazine published my article on the unintentional consequences of narrowly defining modesty and hyperfocusing only on “what girls wear.” I have written many blog posts in the past several years that have been well received, but this one has spread like wildfire. Since it was published, yesterday the article has over 90 comments and has been shared 21,000 times on Facebook! It looks like I’m not the only one who is concerned about the modesty obsession all too common phenomenon in Mormon culture and the pattern of hyperfocusing on what teen girls are wearing.
Here are a few of my concerns:
When we reduce the concept of modesty to what females wear, we are reinforcing the very thing that modesty is supposed to help avoid: the sexual objectification of women’s bodies.
Overemphasizing modesty gives others implicit permission to judge and measure a woman’s dedication to the gospel, or “worthiness,” based on physical appearance.