A couple months ago my brother-in-law forwarded me a link to this article. It’s been mulling around in my mind ever since.  It’s not necessarily the content of the article that has me thinking (although I really thought it was poignant information and I was cheering David Brooks on for writing it down). But what really got me thinking were the comments.

So much so that I just have to write about them.

In the article, Brooks talks all about how he believes people around the world have entered what he calls “the age of possibility” where they have become “intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options.” He kind of translates this to mean that people are gradually closing out the “family option.” He gives statistics of how many single-parent families there are, percentages of how many people all over the world are are trying to keep score when it comes to school, jobs and income.  How many see getting “attached” as a parent or family as a hindrance to getting ahead. He says, “Under the social and economic systems of developed countries, the cost of a child outweighs the child’s usefulness.”


Do we have children because they are “useful?” I loved his concluding remarks:  ”My view is that the age of possibility is based on a misconception. People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice — commitments to family, God, craft and country. “The surest way people bind themselves is through the family. As a practical matter, the traditional family is an effective way to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind…”

I was cheering when I read those paragraphs.

I believe with all my heart that if we don’t take families seriously, our society dies.  Plain and simple. Families are the foundation of society.  In my mind, they are the bedrock.  If we don’t take care of them, life as we know it will crumble. And to take it even one step further, the article made me so grateful for motherhood.  The sacred responsibility we have of nurturing children.  To raise them up as contributing individuals who will some day BE the future.  I quickly scanned the comment section…there were hundreds of them and I figured they would be filled with people applauding and appreciating the words in the article.

But when I read the first one I stopped short. It took me completely off guard.  It was not only not agreeing with David Brooks, it was chastening him {this one is in response to his phrase that people are better off “enshrouded in commitment”}: “Enshrouded” – as in a shroud, such as a burial shroud? “So long as the cultural norms and resulting societal expectations are that women have full responsibility for child-rearing and housekeeping and are defined by their relationship to a man, we have no personal choice. This is what makes the right so fearful of equality for female persons. We may choose to limit the number of children we birth or even – Heaven forefend! – chose not to have any at all. Or, even scarier, we may choose to have them by ourselves -the boogeywoman Murphy Brown is so last century now!
“Get over it. Women in this country are not going back to the traditions that put a shroud on our lives long before we were dead.”

It made me sad.  Really?  Is she relating motherhood to deep, dark traditions that keep us in shackles?  Like making a commitment to a family is going to cut off a limb or something?  And who says just because you are part of a family women have full responsibility for child-rearing and house keeping?  I so rarely see that in today’s society. As I scanned over more of the comments I realized this was person was not isolated in how she felt.

There were hundreds of them there, sneering at me in my apparent little bubble of “families are awesome!” naivety.  Comments from women screaming out for attention and equality and freedom.  They were from people not happy in their “jobs” as parents.  As Mothers.  People who don’t seem to understand the sacredness of parenthood.  Of managing a family.  Of the joy that comes from reaching outside of your own needs to take care of someone else’s.  Of having the opportunity to shape and educate and love the little souls that are the future of our world.  Here’s another one: “Mr. Brooks seems to have problems imagining human species’ existence in any other way than the 20th century model. Marriage with children may have worked well for mostly agricultural centuries of our recent history, but it seems to be not so efficient a system for a large portion of the newer generation. Why should our public policy be skewed to favor an old and increasingly irrelevant institution such as marriage? It would create a class of people unfairly advantaged over others.” Is the “family” old-fashioned now?  Do these people envision themselves in the future happily going to work every day and coming home alone to make a microwave dinner and settle into the couch to catch up on their latest TIVO?  Do they not realize that many of the people doing that right now are dying for a chance to be part of a family? There are so many who yearn with all their hearts for those commitments to “enshroud” themselves in. My Dad brought up an interesting point when he was in town last week:  It is so interesting how the gay and lesbian communities are pleading and begging and lobbying with all their might for the “right” to have that marriage commitment while so much of the rest of world is starting to wave it off with a flick of their wrists in lieu of their so called “freedom.”  Another comment: “If having a child could mean $200,000 for the cost of college, then I would elect not to have one….A life of chronic economic pressure isn’t fun.” It just made me sad.  Are we really inching slowly away from family units?  Are those of us who believe in family dinner and human connections being crazy to want that?  Are we going to just keep going down the path where life becomes so busy that we become completely self-obsessed?

Yes, marriage and family can be difficult.  Children make messes.  Marriage takes work.  putting children through college and just plain life in general can be expensive as all get-out. But have these people ever fallen asleep next to someone they are committed to forever come what may and felt that velvety feeling of safety and commitment right there?  Have these people never nestled a tiny newborn in their neck and drunken in that fresh-from-Heaven smell?  Have they never had the rush that comes from watching a child say their first words or take off on a bike for the first time?  Have they ever heard the laughter and goofy-ness of their children coming muffled through to where they sit and fill their heart til it feels like it’s about to burst with love?  Maybe they have never looked into the eyes of their child and seen part of themselves, but better, and realized right then and there that they would do anything to help that child find joy and happiness in life.

“Motherhood was viewed in advice literature, particularly by the 1890s, as one of the most important contributions women could make to her family and to the nation.” (not sure where I found that quote, but it’s interesting.) What has changed?  Just that we want more “rights” and “equality?”  Do people not realize that the opportunity to be a mother and to be part of a strong family is a “right” beyond any that we can possibly comprehend? Now, I know that there are many mothers who have to work outside the home.  I know there are single-parent families that work their hardest to function.  I know that there are circumstances where mothers cannot be the main nurturers of their children, but most of those mothers I’ve met are no less of “mothers!”  They still wear that motherhood title as a badge of honor and soak up those children of theirs with all they’ve got.  So where in the world did all these commenters come from?  I’d just like to tell them that when I think of being “enshrouded in commitment” I think of this: 488870_Motherhood …and also of this:2011-06-23 anniversary 31299 And I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I get to be in those “shackles” of motherhood.  I get to hear sweet voices calling me “Mama.”  I get to catch Dave’s eye across the table and smile.  And we get to create our own special entity called “our family.”  And we have a stewardship over it that helps us forget ourselves and learn to love in ways we never imagined before. mother and child full and colorfull - perlinger Together we have the power to fill up our children’s [sometimes] angelic heads with knowledge and fill their sensitive hearts with love. I have the power as a mother to make them feel safe.  To make my husband feel safe. To make a family that is a functioning, wonderful building-block for society.  Will it have problems?  Of course.  Will my husband and I get in fights?  Absolutely…we had a wing-dinger one yesterday.  Will I sometimes talk disrespectfully and snappy with my children?  Yes!  But will I still kneel down and pour out gratitude to a wonderful God who gave me these “commitments” every single night?  With all my heart I will. Because I get to be a mother.   And a wife.  And I don’t want to ever take those ”commitments” of mine for granted. How grateful I am to be enshrouded safely with them by my side.

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  1. Thank you for this beautiful post! I too am so grateful to be a Mother, wife and part of a family that loves me! I don't understand how society could possibly think that being part of a family is a hindrance or a burden. What a sad world we live in!I echo your sentiments. How grateful I am to be so burdened!

  2. Thank you for posting this! I have been thinking the same thing for a while now but I could never have said it as beautiful as that! I am always so impressed with how well you put it into words. Motherhood is a wonderful blessing!!

  3. I think sometimes the most beautiful, heartfelt posts come when we are emboldened by someone else's opinion. I love this post. And I love that you are driven and moved by your calling as a mother. Everything you write is inspiring, but especially this. Thank you so much for knowing who you are and not being afraid to testify of it.

  4. Thank you so much for your post! I read your blog everyday and this is the first time I have commented. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in August. I couldnt be more excited to give everything I have and am to this child. I couldn't imagine it any other way. Love your blog!

  5. I know that I have struggled to feel like I had the same mothers heart as so many. I saw others who seemed to have an easier time than I did. I struggled to find the joy in motherhood and felt like something was wrong with me. However, the knowledge that this was a gift, this was a beautiful power and it was divine, only fueled my desire to find what I knew was there.. Joy. I found the joy and testimony of my work by enshrouding myself. I would say that is the problem, we turn away and look other places for the happiness. I wanted to not feel the guilt of not loving the moments. I knew that if I went to the world or anywhere else than the happiness would be given, but it would not be the true peace and happiness I needed not so desperately desired. Thank you for this post and do many others that have guided me to doing just that, like you enshrouding myself with true happiness a family.

  6. Thank you. Your commitment to family is what keeps me coming back to your blog time and time again. I too am deeply saddened by those comments and the disrespect shown to something God made so special. My family has been the most challenging yet rewarding blessing in my life!

  7. The thought of a world "unshackled" by family bonds is chilling. Though many dishonor motherhood (even strip it of dignity!), I see it as a sacred privilege. Motherhood is among life's deepest joys.

  8. Exactly Shawni…I completely agree with you. My one struggle is thinking about raising my daughters. I want them to be educated, have great opportunities, etc. but at times I cringe a little if they say they want to grow up to be a stay-at-home mom. Which deep down I KNOW is the most important job there is but I would still like them to go to college, etc. etc. Any thoughts with how you deal with this while raising daughters??

  9. Yes, yes, yes. I have been disturbed lately with all the percentages and facts and figures I have read lately in relations to home and family and the breakdown thereof. It has made me feel so passionate in defense of what I do as a mother. This brought me to tears as it described all of those tender emotions that I feel described in beautiful words. Thank you!

  10. I agree with you, BUT I think you have to be a regular reader of the NY Times to understand the frustration showing up in those comments.

    David Brooks writes a lot about women. About how single moms are bad for the economy. About how kids are better off with moms who don't work outside the home. About how so many 40-something women look back with regret about their choices (especially if they don't have kids).

    (PS, he doesn't write much about dads..)

    He has written that really, biologically, women should have kids directly after school instead of going off to grad school and/or entering the workforce and having kids when they're "mature". (This is untrue, of course. We'd be better off biologically if we all started off as teen moms. OR, if you want to think this thru, we're far, far better off having few kids later instead of turning the generations over every 20 years. Population-wise.)

    Anyway, all this to say, David Brooks has a lot of opinions about women. My husband has lifted his head from the breakfast table more than once and said, "Does David Brooks understand that single moms are the parents who stick around after they had a baby?"

    (there used to be a funny site called "fact checking david brooks" or something … he can pick very specific and misleading %s in my opinion)

    I've read David Brooks twice a week for a long time now so I get where some of those commenters are coming from. David Brooks on the economy makes me crazier than David Brooks on women, altho I'm always happy the Times — a liberal paper – give such a regular and prominent platform to a conservative voice. THAT I always agree with.

  11. Thank you for standing up for what is right. I'm so grateful to be part of a church that understands the important role of mothers — and teaches that family is the basic unit of society, not self. My goodness — don't the commenters realize that they are here on this earth because of a mother and a father? It makes me wonder if their selfishness comes from a negative family experience. If they came from a family filled with love and kindness, I don't think they would feel this way…It's sad, really. I'm thankful to mothers like you who aren't afraid to say what is true, despite the unpopular opinion (at least in reply to that wonderful article). Thank you for expressing how *I* feel!

  12. Huh…thanks slh for the comment. I do think that is one of the problems with technology…every one can comment on anything but you really don't know where they are coming from…like Lynette mentioned about possibly commenters having a bad experience with family.

    As a very liberal stay-at-home mom I tend to find myself in an unusual situation where I agree with many conservatives but also agree with many liberals. I thought David Brooks article was great but I am sure I would not agree with the majority of his articles. Thanks so much though Shawni for your blog…even though I probably don't agree with you or your readers on most political/social ideas, you are a FANTASTIC model and a great role model for families. I have learned so much from you and will continue reading to see if I can learn any new tips here and there. Keep up the fabulous work! – your faithful liberal blog reader 😉

  13. Shawni, whether it's this particular article or any of the many other like opinions being paraded around our media culture, I too have reacted like you as I watch people respond with selfish shrugging of shoulders. It breaks my heart to see so many people unwilling to commit themselves to family and family values when, ultimately, both hold the keys to the kind of happiness they are trying to seek in different ways. A family is one of the greatest gifts God gives us when we are born, and one of the greatest opportunities we can choose to be a part of. There is so much SACRED that is part of family and that comes out of family when it is treated that way… as sacred, important, worthy.

    Anyway, I love your post, and just wanted to say: YES. I love family too. I believe in family. And motherhood is one of the least understood nobilities on earth. If the world really wanted to understand power and influence, they'd look a little closer at the mothers.

  14. I grew up and still live in an extremely liberal area. I love it here and there are wonderful people, but to peek into your world of neighborhoods and schools and leaders that all believe in the family unit, and treasure motherhood, is a fantasy world that I will never tire of visiting. Thank you for your strength and example!

  15. This is my first comment ever here and first of all, I'll say that I love your blog and I love your family, you really are such an inspiration 🙂
    I do and I do not agree with you and the article. I'm only 19 right now and have 6 years of med school ahead of me before I can even start thinking about starting a family and at the same time I can't wait to have someone who will make me feel like Dave makes you feel and also I can't wait to have children. So I do want this and I know how beautiful having a family is, but I also feel like it's harder for you to understand the point of view of the people who commented since you are a part of a religion that (as I've noticed) emphasises the meaning of family and marriage like no other. So, you were raised in a family, in an environment that made you love family and then want to have your own. But you have to know, that not everyone was raised like you and not everyone grew up in close-to-perfect families. Also, not everyone (even though I can't understand how is this possible) likes children and knows how to be with them. I do agree that family is a very important, but I also think that family should consist of people who want to be a part of a family because of itself, not because of the pressure of society. Families that don't really want to be families are often not very happy and maybe it would be better for everyone if people like this were on their own. I think it's wrong to not want family just to prove some point about women having rights and women wanting career, I think you can have both. But I also think that people should choose what will really make them happy and fulfilled in the end on their own, since happiness can come from more than just one place.

  16. I should note here that I am young (26) and unmarried and I dont often date.

    I have no idea if the right man will ever come along for me, but I 100% know in my heart that I will choose to have a child. I think being a mother and having a family is so important.

    Yes, it will cost me money. God forbid you spend money on something so valuable as a family!! Because when I am 95 years old and on my deathbed, I want to be holding the hands of my family and thanking them for loving me.

    Money cant say "I love you" back.

    I would not feel "shackled" by my family, they would give me something worth living for

  17. I have to agree with Tina. I applaud you for your commitment to children and family. Anyone who has children should feel that way or they should not have them.

    That being said, I don't think that women or couples who DON'T want children should be pressured or shamed into having them. They should not be made to feel like they are less of a man or less of a woman because they choose not to smell the heavenly scent of a baby's neck.

    The children produced by a couple who had them because they felt obligated to, either by their upbringing, their religion, their peers, or whatever, those children will be resented eventually – and kids can definitely sense this.

    So, whether a woman chooses to have kids or not, be a stay-at-home-Mom or not – it should be their personal decision, not a reaction to articles like the one you referenced – that make them feel like they are letting down God and country if they don't have a litter of kids.

  18. Thank you for this post, Shawni! I love reading your blog and this is one of my favorite posts. It makes me sad that people view the family as a burden. I am a young mother of 2 and I wouldn't trade my stay at home position for the highest paid job in the world. I love being with my kids and being the one who influences them and teaches them daily. My job may not be for everyone but it is for me and I am so grateful that I found someone who shares my belief that the family is the most important thing.

  19. oh shawni. my heart breaks when i think of all of the people who view family, marriage, and motherhood as annoying things.
    i've been married to my sweet husband for a few years now, and all we want is to become parents. we are struggling with infertility, and all i can think is how empty my life would be without kids to rear and become friends with. I have a job that can be a career if i chose it to be so, but i want my "career" to really have meaning. I want to teach my kids gospel principles, how to talk to their loving heavenly father and how to listen so they can hear him back. how to be good, kind people to all those they meet, and to stand up for their beliefs in a ever increasingly disbelieving world. Thank you so much for this post…


  20. I'm 23 and personally can't wait to start my family! I mean I can; I wouldn't be ready for that yet, but you know what I mean. I guess I should say I am looking forward to starting my family. I know that my family will look different than the family I grew up in (mostly because I plan on working), but that is okay. I think family is so important, and it makes me sad that so many people look at as something that is holding them back.

  21. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!!! I cannot say it enough! I am right there with you! I am blessed to be a wife and mother and would NOT wish for ANY OTHER TITLE IN ALL OF THIS WORLD!!!!

  22. I am an economics teacher by profession. I think what we have forgotten in the modern world, the one that Brooks talks about in terms of unlimited personal freedom, is opportunity cost. Yes, there are opportunity costs for everything, even staying single, or being a single parent. We've forgotten, and been duped into thinking that the former is a free ride, while the latter is not. That is a wrong mind set to have. What has been the opportunity cost to society for not keeping the family in tact?

  23. Thank you!! While so many are working to get away from traditional values and family – it is music to SO MANY MORE to hear them testified of and seen as a beautiful part of eternity – of the true purpose of why we are here – to learn! It baffles me how the voice of just a few often seem to crowd out the many voices of those quietly working to do what is good and right.

    "…We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." – Marrianne Williamson

    Thank you for liberating those of us who also feel strongly about motherhood and the role women have in the home. It strengthens us to know we are not alone.

  24. I agree with Tina Duh's and TazLady's thoughtful comments. Unfortunately, those on both sides of the debate are using language that is incredibly insulting (e.g., calling commitments such as marriage and kids "shackles" or calling people who don't want to have kids "selfish"). When you are raised in a family-first culture or religion and your own personal happiness has always been defined by family, these values appear self-evident, and it can be very hard to imagine another person's life being happy without those things. The same thing goes for single people who scoff at family, yet have never experienced its joys. Ultimately, we lack the ability to imagine ourselves in someone else's situation.

    Finding happiness and meaning in life is ultimately a deeply personal matter. Until we acknowledge that there are many ways to reach hard-won, thoughtful decisions on these issues, then the two sides of this debate will never understand each other.

  25. Thank you for this. It is perfectly beautiful. I think there are many, many committed and devoted wives and mothers who quietly do what they know to be true and empowering despite what society believes. Motherhood and womanhood is a privilege and an awesome gift that allows me to become more like my Heavenly Father, and happier than I could ever be without it.

  26. Have they never had the rush that comes from watching a child say their first words or take off on a bike for the first time? Have they ever heard the laughter and goofy-ness of their children coming muffled through to where they sit and fill their heart til it feels like it’s about to burst with love?

    In a short answer- no, maybe not. In general (not everyone mind you, but the vast majority) of the women who eschew the traditional family also drop their kids off at daycare all day, so they may very well not be experiencing the positives of motherhood as often as their stay-at-home counterparts. However unpopular it may be, the fact is that the more often you are WITH your kids the more good (and let's face it, bad too!) you experience.

  27. AWESOME!! And YES!! Thank you for writing this piece! Know that there are lots of us that love to be enshrouded in family life.
    I have always loved this quote about marriage and it certainly applies to motherhood and family life:
    "Marriage hath in it less of beauty but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger, it is more merry, and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful." Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1600s)

  28. Amen!!! I am the luckiest girl on earth to be a wife and mother to four beautiful children of God. Fabulous post!


  29. Thank you for your heart rending post! I believe it is easy for us as Members of Christ's church to have a vision of more than this world. I agree with your statement whole hearted-ly and I believe being a mother has given me many joyous experiences that I could not have had any other way.The family is a divine part of our Heavenly Father's plan!
    I also see why and how women can make statements like this. Living in California's Central Valley, I see the lack of support that women get in child-rearing, family activities, and from men (husbands and family) in general. It is a tough world. While things are changing, there are still many chauvinistic men who believe their job is to bring home the bacon and then have a few beers at night while the wife takes care of everything else.And when you are doing it alone, without the knowledge we have been given as members of Christ's church, it can make people, women, feel second class, under-appreciated, and slave like. When you feel that way, you feel like you have no options and you feel very little value in the world. You come to feel as these women–why bother– I don't need anymore heartache. You choose to do something that you feel will bring meaning to you and your life– and motherhood is not one of those choices.
    Obviously this is one reason why the gospel needs to be preached– to change lives; but there's not always a lot of men who are willing/humble enough to accept the challenges and make the world different.
    Just thought I'd offer a little insight. Thank you for your blog!

  30. I think Laura put it so perfectly: "Unfortunately, those on both sides of the debate are using language that is incredibly insulting (e.g., calling commitments such as marriage and kids "shackles" or calling people who don't want to have kids "selfish")."

    I love your blog. Im 27 (28 in a week!), single, and not a member of the LDS church. Im working on a second Master's degree and am a faculty member at a large well-known University. I love my life, single-ness included, though I would love to have a family in the future (whenever God deems it my time). I can appreciate and respect woman for chosing to take a different road in life, marrying young, have children, staying at home. But, it drives me crazy when my life is made to seem less important because Im not a mother. And trust me, single woman are bombarded with that notion all…the….TIME. That being said, no life is worth living without people to love. Children or no children. We have to learn to respect eachother as woman.

  31. So many different views and opinions! I simply wanted to say thank you fro constantly serving as an example and inspiration to me. I know that you're human, and make mistakes, and am grateful that you mention the frustrating moments along with the good. I love that you choose to 'focus' on the good, and make that your worthwhile goal. Thank you for who you are and what you do. It means the world to your family, and to those of us who are trying to accomplish the same goals.

  32. I completely agree with his article, it's becoming an increasing problem in our society. I am a single, independent woman working on a successful career and I still find time to have a serious relationship and I still have always known I will get married and have a family one day. I don't know why it has to be one way or the other.

    All I can say is that maybe when all the single liberals who apparently have shunned marriage and family as a way of life are no longer with us and have not left behind any offspring of their own, then perhaps the more traditional, spiritual, family-oriented children that families like yours (and one day mine hopefully) have left behind will be able to set things right.

  33. Thank you for standing up and writing about this! Great post! <3 I sometimes wonder how those people will feel someday, knowing they gave up love, family and friendship to get ahead. How sad.

  34. Shawni, (long time reader, first time commenter)

    I so love getting a glimpse into your life, and I hope to have a family like yours someday, with a house full of well-loved kids. My husband and I have only been married a month today, and we regularly talk about deliberate parenting and family – often conversation is spurred by things I read on your blog.

    I've always appreciated and admired that you seem to be a person who seeks to understand more than to be understood. You have been an outstanding spokesperson for kindness and for family – because that is the focus of your life.

    Because of your great understanding for others, your response toward the article commenters surprised me. I think the comments are a real reaction by women who don't see the fact that they now have options and can be achievers outside the home as a negative, and certainly not, as Brooks vaguely suggests, the driving force against the downfall of the family. I relate to these women at a time in my life where I want to be responsible, I want to succeed professionally and contribute to the world, and I want to be able to provide for my (hopefully) future children. But all the while I am scared of the lifelong commitment to be the best mother whose children are safe, happy, financially secure, and have every option available to them.

    As always, your perspective has given me a lot to think about. And I have a great deal of respect for the options you have chosen, as well as the very different options other women have chosen for their lives. We all have a lot to learn from each other. All the interesting comments on this post attest to that.

  35. Thank you for this post, drawing attention one of the many growing divides we are facing. I struggle and count my daily blessings as a mother, the best part for me is knowing with certainty at the end of every day that there is no where else I'd rather be.

  36. So well said… And when they have grown and have married – the joy is seeing them become parents and feeling all that we have felt! The quote "First they abhor it, then they tolerate it, then they embrace it." It is so sad that we are seeing the family unit destroying before our eyes!

  37. I've noticed in reading the comments here that "motherhood" and "womanhood" are being used interchangeably. I find this insulting. Would I be less of a woman if I was not a mother? Is Shawni more of a woman than someone who chose to have less than 5 children?

    I think that whatever a person strives to be: a mother, the CEO of a company, an airline pilot – or all of the above – if they get to be those things then that is their blessing.

    Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and fill the earth, which made perfect sense back then because the earth needed populating. The earth is now full. There is no need for women to think it is their God-given obligation to fill it by having more children than they want to have.

  38. Great post Shawni! I think about this topic a lot. We all have different points of views, different backgrounds and circumstances. I feel like we are moving into a society where anything goes, whatever feels good at the moment and people are becoming very selfish. I see a lot of heartache and problems coming along with it. It is sad to me! I want to hold my family tight and help them see the joy in having a family. Yes it is work and sometimes tiring and overwhelming but the joy far out ways the negativity it can bring. It is so nice to have the support system of my family whenever I need them. I don't know what I would do without them at times.
    Thanks for your awesome example and willingness to share your voice. I know you put in a lot of hard work and effort to make your family what it is. It doesn't happen by accident.

  39. I also think that it is presumptuous to assume, as some of the commenters have done, that anyone who chose to have a career instead of children will look back and be oh so sad, and sorry, etc.

    Only if they wanted to have children in the first place. If it was not something they wanted to do, then they won't look back with regret.

    Maybe some of the women here will look back with regret that they didn't have a career or at least the means to support themselves.

    Are they obligated to stay in an unhappy or even dangerous situation with their brood, simply because they are relying on their husband's income?

    That, to me, is sad.

  40. Another first-time commenter here; I've been reading for about a month now. Thank-you for the courage to write this post! I especially loved the images you shared.

    For me, I can see how being "enshrouded" in family responsibilities could be likened to a death of self — even though I'd always planned to be a mother, after my first child was born I felt like a part of me was dying. It was so much harder to have this little person around who was completely dependent on me!

    But, even though a part of myself "died," I think I was "reborn" into someone that is better than who I was before. I am more loving and patient. I understand that the newborn stage is fleeting (a good and bad thing, in my book — because as beautiful as it is, it really is HARD!)

    Now, with three kids (plus another on the way), I find I truly relish the purpose I feel as a mother. I love my kids and it gives me so much joy to watch them develop and grow, to learn to love each other and to love learning and to love God.

    I'm sure other women might feel that same development and sense of purpose in a career. I wholeheartedly agree with the commenters who say that women should be able to make their own choices — motherhood IS a huge and lasting commitment. But I do think too many people only see the difficulties of having children (economic and otherwise) and not the joys. There needs to be more voices out there telling about the joys of family — so thanks for being one such voice.

  41. This mindset (from the comments) is why many countries have declining populations because they are not even replacing them. I believe that in a few generations there will be a much larger lower class of people who have children, maybe many children (with few opportunities) and a upper class who have few to no children with a scant middle class somewhere in between. Some people don't want children because they are a lot of work! No job is as difficult as having children, but nothing is more rewarding or as sweet as parenthood.

  42. Here! Here!
    I read this and couldn't agree with you more.
    I don't feel oppressed by my duties. They are hard but I would not have it any other way.
    Thank you for being a positive voice among all the evil.

  43. What a beautiful post!! I'm 23 and single, but my heart longs to be "enshrouded in commitment". I long to be a wife and mother. It's hard because society tells me I should want "more" …but I can't think of anything better. It's so hard to be patient, to joyfully wait, for the time when I'll get to experience those things. But I am confident that it will all be worth the wait.

  44. I love family too, and I think society is better off when people have commitments to others. Loving others selflessly gives you a small inkling of the love that God has for you! I would not wish loneliness and disconnection on anyone. That's why I feel strongly that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry and form families. This does not only extend to gays and lesbians, but also intersex and transgendered folks. You speak of falling asleep next to someone that you are committed to forever – I want everyone to have that. It is such a miraculous thing to find another person in this whole wide world that you want to share your one life with, and I feel like those commitments should be supported and encouraged.

  45. This is what drew me to your blog in the first place. I KNEW that I needed the influence of people who loved motherhood.

    I recently read an awesome book called Radical Homemakers. It gives a great history of the evolution of the family and why people are ditching high paying jobs and well-to-do lives to go back to the very basics so that their life is centered in family. It dives into farming, canning, homesteading etc… which may not be of interest to some, but is still worth a read.

    Thanks for sharing this article and your thoughts!

    Oh! one last thing. I haven't written on my blog since my son started climbing book cases and pouring syrup on my carpet. But I went back recently to read old post and was glad I had preserved some of my thoughts on motherhood.

  46. I have tears in my eyes and CHILLS from reading this post! THANK YOU!!! Thank you for having the courage to stand up for families, for mothers, for women, for children (born and yet-to-be-born), for God's Plan!!!

    A resounding THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from up here in snowy Utah. Couldn't have said it better and I'm SO grateful you DID say it!

    Though we've never met, you are one of the biggest blessings and voices of reason in my life. I check your blog daily for the incredible yet realistic insights you have on family and motherhood.

    Keep on keeping on, sista!!!

  47. Thank you so much for your beautiful words! I too view motherhood as my most sacred privilege and it has brought me more happiness than I can imagine. Sure, it is hard. But anything worth doing is hard sometimes. I too have four children ranging from 19 down to 10. We have had heartache but also we have had the sweetest joy that makes it all worth it. Thanks again!

  48. I completely agree that motherhood is not truly valued as it should be in today's world, but I don't know that your reaction to the negative comments is completely justified.

    Comments from women screaming out for attention and equality and freedom.

    It bothers me that you write this as if it's a bad thing. Women have throughout history and still do experience very real injustices at the hand of the patriarchy. Are there women and men out there who reject family and commitment because of selfishness? Yes. But there are also people who may be avoiding these things because all they've known of family is abuse and neglect and pain. I'm not justifying that as a reason not to take on commitment, but perhaps it provides some insight into why there has been such a breakdown of the family, especially within the past few decades.

    The bottom line is that Satan is working to make all women (and men too) feel as if they don't matter. Motherhood isn't truly valued as it should be by society, but as RHad mentioned, single women (even outside the Church) are made to feel less for not being wives and mothers. Satan is equal-opportunity in his attempts to devalue us all.

  49. This was amazing. Thank you so much Shawni, for being a voice out there for so many of us.

    I am perplexed when I think that this world thinks of marriage and motherhood as something less than what it is. It is truly the greatest blessing, and I am privileged to be a mother 5 times over. Yes, careers and seeking other joys are wonderful. But there is nothing better than being a mother and a wife.

    In speaking of motherhood, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles) said this "The very fact that you've been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you." Motherhood is indeed an eternal partnership with God.

  50. ChrisKatieKelly, I truly do not mean to antigonize- but can you see why you are perpetuating this Woman-Shaming issue that is becoming far too prevelant lately?

    When people hear things like, "Yes, careers and seeking other joys are wonderful. But there is nothing better than being a mother and a wife." Its hurtful and aggravating. You see, being a mother and a wife is the best for YOU. But that isnt to say that there may be something in another woman's life, whether you agree or not, that is better…for them. You should be saying, "there is nothing better than being a mother and a wife for me." Because its your truth with God. However, it may not be another woman's truth, and that doesnt make their lives any less valuable.

    I am sure that is not at all what you intended in your post. And again, I really dont mean to antagonize or instigate. In fact, I evny your life more than you know. But, I really feel as though this needs to be pointed out. Respecting eachothers choices and loving one another no matter what family dynamic we choose.

  51. I want to start this post by saying two things:
    1. I am not a mother yet
    2. I did not read the original article.

    I want this to be as thoughtful and respectful as Shawni's posts are, so I ask that if I get rambly, y'all bear with me.

    There are many people that love being mothers. I have a dear friend whose greatest joy in life is that she's a Mom. She's one of those women that you see and know that she was born to be a Mom.
    I have another dear friend who is witty, intelligent, and loves her friends fiercely. I doubt she'll ever be a Mom. Not because she wouldn't be good at…she's good at whatever she puts her mind to. Because she doesn't want to be.
    While I agree that families and marriages are deeply important, I think it's as important to realize that not everyone finds that level of comfort and love in marriage or children. There are many people who spend their lives finding fulfillment in other ways–through their jobs or travel or friends. I take some issue with Shawni's comment about "going home to a microwave dinner for one and catching up on Tivo" (parapshed). To my mind, it's a bit snarky and disrespectful. People who are single–or childless–by choice have just as fulfilling a life as people who have children. And even ignoring the respect factor, isn't it better to have children raised by people who desperately desire them? I think we're at a glorious point in our culture that allows women (and men, but it's a bigger issue for women) to make the choice of if they want children or marriage. It allows them to be happy and fulfilled and not feel boxed in by something that many (myself included) would love to be a part of (a marriage and a Mom).
    The biggest problem of today isn't that people are making different life choices or forming new and different family structures*. It's that we're all so busy sitting around judging everyone and being defensive about our own life choices.
    We, as a culture, need to learn to love and respect people for their choices—even when we disagree with them. God gives people as many callings as there are–well–people. Not all of them include children. Or marriage. And there are dozens of people in the Bible who support that statement. Paul, or Mary Magdalene or any of the disciples.
    Finally, a family isn't just people you're married to, related to, or that your children. A family can be made up of just you and your spouse or made up of dozens of friends. Family isn't only blood. I have many friends that are my family. Women that I didn't grow up with who are my sisters and little babies who call me Aunt Sarah. Family can be many things. And we shouldn't disregard someone's family just because it looks different than ours.
    Motherhood is a wonderful, important calling. But it's not everyone's.

  52. Also, in response to Tazlady's comment- "Are they obligated to stay in an unhappy or even dangerous situation with their brood, simply because they are relying on their husband's income?

    That, to me, is sad."

    I am not obligated to stay home with our children, it is a decision that my husband and I made well before we had children. We knew that having their mother in the home with them would be the best possible situation for them. There are times when we struggled, but were always able to provide everything our children needed. In fact we look back and wonder how we were able to do it! But boy are we glad we made sacrifices we did in order to have me stay home. I haven't stepped a foot outside our home for work in close to 9 years since our first daughter was born. It's a commitment we made to each other that we have been able to keep.

    I know others do not have this luxury that would yearn for it. I know there are working mothers and my hat goes off to them!! I don't how they do it all!

    I know others who don't wish this. In fact, my sister is one of those. She has a sweet baby girl who she loves with all her heart, but she needs people interaction. She doesn't know how I stay home all day with my kids haha! She just needs to be around people. She is able to work with others while our other sister watches her baby. She comes home to her baby girl every day and loves her job and what she does. She has said she has the best of both worlds.

  53. In response to ChrisKatieKelly:

    That's awesome that you love being a SAHM! And it's awesome that you view it with such joy and greatfulness. I think RHad's point was that we should (all) try and be purposeful in our phrasing. I.e. saying statements that apply to you not making it sound as if the comment applies to all women.
    Full disclosure: I'm a little prickly about this because I'm another woman who (in all likelihood) could never and will never be a SAHM. I need the purposefulness of outside work. But this goes back to: We all need to stop judging each other.

  54. RHrad- I know you aren't intending to ruffle feathers, no worries. Being a mother and a wife is the best for ME. Yes. I do not look down on others for their choices, that is not what I believe we should do. I apologize if it came out that way. I just don't understand when our society decided that families and motherhood are on the bottom of the totem pole. I am merely stating and agreeing with Shawni that motherhood is just out of this world incredible. 🙂

    Just moments earlier I posted on this blog post that my sister has made a different choice for her and her family. I in no way look down on her for choosing a different family dynamic than I do. It works best for her!

  55. I'm sure most moms have up and down days with motherhood, and the last few days have been my "down". Worrying if I'm doing an ok job, wondering if I am setting the best example that I can, BEATING myself up for the way I handled a situation with my sweet 5 year old. I think I've been turning outward to find the joy in my job, and not looking inward. I'm one of those people who compare their insides to other people’s outsides. This was such a confirmation to why I absolutely love my job as a mother. I am these tinies everything. I am their world, they come to me for everything and it's such a great thing to be able to do that. Thank you so much for writing this, and for your blog!

  56. ChrisKatieKelly – I think you misunderstood my meaning. I realize that you are not obligated to stay home, that is a conscious choice made by you and your obviously loving husband.

    I meant obligated in another way. Example: what if a woman, college educated or not, got married to the sweetest man in the world and they had 4 kids. He worked hard to support them while she was a SAHM. They lived modestly but made it work, and all is well.

    What if over time, and, for whatever reason, that sweet husband had become controlling and verbally even physically abusive. Would that woman feel obligated to stay in that situation, dangerous to both her and her children, because of the financial support of the husband? What if she had no family to live with? Could she get a job, after being out of the workforce for at least a decade, that allowed her family to live in a safe, happy place?

    That's what I meant by "obligated".

  57. Message from France:
    I read your blog everyday for a while now, first time I am commenting though.

    Thank you for putting into wonderful and powerful words what I believe.
    I am a 23 years old women, dreaming about being a SAHM when so many of my friends are dreaming about strong and long carriers.

    I truly believe with all my heart that family is the core of any society.

    Thank you so much for letting what we call in France " the blogosphere" ( meaning the blogging world I guess) how families, motherhood, marriage and commitments are not a burden but a blessing.

  58. Message from France:
    I read your blog everyday for a while now, first time I am commenting though.

    Thank you for putting into wonderful and powerful words what I believe.
    I am a 23 years old women, dreaming about being a SAHM when so many of my friends are dreaming about strong and long carriers.

    I truly believe with all my heart that family is the core of any society.

    Thank you so much for letting what we call in France " the blogosphere" ( meaning the blogging world I guess) how families, motherhood, marriage and commitments are not a burden but a blessing.

  59. I feel so grateful that I love and enjoy motherhood with all my heart. It breaks my heart to hear such negative attitudes about home and family. I do think that motherhood is a spiritual gift in every sense of the word. It is something to be eternally sought after and desired. Some of us have that gift within us already and some need to seek after it a little harder. Thanks for being a great example of noble motherhood.

  60. A bulls-eye post. In Germany the population is dying off due to this way of thinking. The government will actually PAY a monthly sum to encourage people to have children. The ideals of self-fulfillment have indeed shifted.

    What is sad…is many people see family ties as being a burden and an annoyance to deal with…when in fact families are the gateway to a greater understanding of who we are. Consistent family interaction (and the establishment of healthy boundaries if need be) result in the breaking of our egos. (Who else knows us best and is more than willing to call us out on our baloney and selfishness?)

    Through this…we are forced to see ourselves with clarity…which comes from loving in a connected and consistent way as we do in families and marriages. The Growth of the Soul is greatest…when we love the deepest…with those we choose to commit our lives to.

  61. Hi Shawni,

    I love your blog and I love that reading your blog and other Mormon blogs has really opened my eyes to a more family-oriented way of living – a life where parenthood is taken very seriously (with a lot of fun) rather than as a part-time job in addition to a full-time paying job. I was always inclined to stay at home with my children as long as possible, but where I live this is not the norm. So thank you for giving me some of the support & reinforcement I need for my choice!

    In saying that, I do not believe that the whole world also needs to follow the model of married 2 parent family with children. I do not fit into this mode: we are not married. We are a very traditional family in every other respect and unless I told you, you would never guess! Does this make us a less committed family? I do not believe so. We have committed to each other forever in our own way.

    I also believe that there are a lot of people in the world right now and the impact of every additional person in a developed country in terms of emissions, waste etc is huge. So I don't believe that we are in an age where we should be encouraging people who do not want children to have children. I do not begrudge anyone having the number of children they want to have, I just think child-bearing should be left to those who really want to do it.

    While I want to be fully immersed in family & parenthood right now, I certainly don't want a society where anyone feels like they have no other choice. Society has come a long way to get to the point where women are equal and have as many rights & choices as men & I would hate to see this process start reversing! Although I do not think there is any real danger of that.

    I hope you do not see this as criticism as it most certainly isn't. I love your blog. I love that you are a committed mother. I just wanted to put forward a viewpoint from someone who has very similar views but lives maybe in a society where there are more people pursuing other options and where we all live pretty harmoniously together!

    I am loving reading the respectful comments on this and thank you for raising this interesting topic.

    P.S. I think you were a little shocked by the comment from the author about the cost of a child outweighing their usefulness? I took this as a direct comparison of developing countries where more children = more wealth because you have more people to work & contribute to the family; with developed countries where it doesn't work that way because of the costs of education etc. I don't think he was suggesting people actually think about their children in terms of whether they will be useful or not?

  62. I've been reading your blog for some time now and this is my first comment. I love what you posted here!

    I'm 28, a SAHM, pregnant with my second child, a B.S., M.S., and military spouse. I was among the first of my high school and college friends/peers to get married and have children and I am so proud to work at home and openly LOVE my "job."

    I notice that as more of my peers are having children they are making a big stink about their insecurities for returning to work, or staying home -it seems that facebook and their blogs are filled with these whiny insecurities. Complaints upon returning to work, snide comments about how they'd be "bored" at home, fear that they'd waste their valuable education … but reading between the lines all are women who WISH it was more socially acceptable "just" be a mom; who WISH they had more of a choice and less of an expectation to do it all.

    On the flip side, I'm meeting so many women who believe as I do, that being a homemaker is far from boring, incredibly joyous, overwhelming, challenging and purposeful. I believe so many of us believe that our generation "went wrong" with working parents, lack of nurture, and bizarre educational, medical, and societal standards. In turn, we have increased everything – adhd, obesity, depression, divorce rates, and overall lack of virtues.

    I come from a family who believes that working outside the home is very important, and defining for a woman. I'm so thankful to have a husband who supports and agrees on the blessing of our children. I'm never bored, always challenged, and always striving for more on a shoe-string, and a happier and healthier family. It is hard and rewarding. I am incredibly blessed.

    I notice many comments from women with fear about their futures should their marriage fail. My personal opinion is that I am able to commit more of myself to my husband because I'm not juggling motherhood and career. We all know what my priorities are and it's not just luck to have a husband that supports that – we talk about it, we work together, and we're both on board.

    I feel very fortunate for my marriage, family and our choices. I am far from perfect. My house is not always clean, and my lifestyle is far from glamorous, but we're happy. I'm proud to be open about MY job with the people in my life. I'm confident that more women do feel as I do and that the trend is going to reverse. I just do not believe our world can keep going the way it is without self-destructing.

  63. Such a great post. I am 20 year old college student with the whole world in front of her to explore and decide what I want to do with it. I am so lucky to be raised not only in LDS church, but also in a strong family with two very committed parents who love the church more than anything, and also in a very liberal area. I was one of 3 LDS kids in my high school. I have been lucky enough to have parents who let me make my own decisions and loved me always. I love so much that I have been able to come to know for myself how amazing families are and how blessed I am to be a member of church that focuses so much on them. For the youth and young adults in this world, it is scary and hard yet so exciting at the same time. Just like the article said, this world is changing. And there is nothing better that we as young members of it can do than to cling to our families and have that love in our lives. Families are what bond us, no matter if they are our biological families, our best friends, our roommates, or even co-workers. There are all little "families". I am so happy that you wrote this post!!

  64. I agree with all of this, except your quote, "Now, I know that there are many mothers who HAVE to work outside the home." (emphasis added). It seems like you are belittling those mothers who CHOOSE to work outside the home. My mom didn't HAVE to work (financially, that is), but she CHOSE to work (as a lawyer), and she is my biggest hero. In fact, I just became a lawyer myself in October… AND I can't wait to marry my boyfriend, have children, and be "enshrouded" in committment. However, I also cannot wait to have the CHOICE and ABILITY to work outside the home.

  65. Do you remember the talk that Sis. Beck gave a few years back called, "Mothers Who Know"? I remember my heart burning with joy at her courage, and actually standing up in my living room, and clapping at the TV. I feel that same way about how you share your life, and your example of motherhood/family with the world. I also remember the great backlash that she/the talk received from many who were offended by her powerful words. It will always be thus. But truth is truth, no matter who it offends. I applaud your words today, and stand with you as a Mother who knows! Keep sharing the light! It will be greatly needed in the dark days ahead. And regarding any negative comments about your opinions, those who give them are obviously drawn to your blog, and your goodness, and they can't help but watch your motherhood and family life in admiration. 🙂

  66. Your blog is the only blog I read on a consistant basis, and posts like this one are exactly the reason why. You said everything so eloquently and I agree with you 100%. I have three small children and I hope to raise them to be as amazing as your kids are. Thank you(0:

  67. I have never been a "kid person." Even when I was a child I held a certain disdain for most other children. I honestly never wanted children. I was set on it. Then I suffered a miscarriage of a pregancy my husband and I had not "planned." And, I was devastated by it! We decided that if we had another chance we would embrace everything we were given with joy, love and.open arms. 2 kids later they are our #1 priority. We stay active in their school and other activities. We do without somethings so they can have more opportunities and all we are repayed with is unconditional love and finger paintings.Being a parent has been worth more than it could ever possibly cost.

  68. "But have these people ever fallen asleep next to someone they are committed to forever come what may and felt that velvety feeling of safety and commitment right there? Have these people never nestled a tiny newborn in their neck and drunken in that fresh-from-Heaven smell? Have they never had the rush that comes from watching a child say their first words or take off on a bike for the first time? Have they ever heard the laughter and goofy-ness of their children coming muffled through to where they sit and fill their heart til it feels like it’s about to burst with love? Maybe they have never looked into the eyes of their child and seen part of themselves, but better, and realized right then and there that they would do anything to help that child find joy and happiness in life."

    This is the part that gets me… because maybe, for many of the commenters you are criticizing, the answer is "no!" Maybe their experiences with family and children and have been, through no fault of their own, mostly negative and unhappy. Not everyone has a marriage like yours, a happy family, pleasant memories, money, security, love, comfort and a strong family of origin like you certainly have.

    It's obvious why you feel the way you do about motherhood and family, but let's not forget that until we walk in another person's shoes we can't accurately judge why they feel the way they do about things. You never know what experiences they may have had that caused them to arrive at certain conclusions.

    It's just possible that not all, but some of those comments come from a place of deep pain, rather than selfishness.

  69. I will have to say that motherhood from the outside looks horrible. I worked for a pediatrician right after I had kids and it made itv look even worse.
    You don't get it until you have it.
    I don't think this is a societal norm. Just those people have more time to comment.

  70. the only hinderence or burden for me is the things that keep me from my family….work….work…work… I am blessed to have my beautiful, complicated, amazing children. they make my life richer and fuller….

  71. I've been a reader for a while now and agree with many things that you write about. I appreciate the fact that you generally respect other viewpoints and are confident in what you believe is best for your life and family. I too would love to have a family one day and it is something that I dream about. I have to say, however, I was a bit surprised to read this post. It seemed like you were seeing people who don't make the same family decisions as making poor decisions. I agree with what Jill wrote above about not everyone having the same benefits that you have had in your life. Many females (I work with them every day) do not have the luxury or benefit of coming from such a fantastic and strong family as yours. Plenty of people experience a negative family life growing up and why would they want a family when all they have ever known is that family is not always a happy, secure, loving thing? I urge you to think about all the different types of people in this country and that there are as many perspectives on family, children, and marriage as there are people. No one type of life is perfect for everyone, and choosing a different path from that of your own does not mean that they need or want your judgement or pity.

  72. WOW! What an amazing post and what an incredible string of insightful comments that have hopefully helped us all to understand others' views as well as rejoice in the world of good women and committed mothers!

  73. Oh I love this and I love your blog! You are a breath of fresh air, real and honest, but still positive and your love of motherhood just seeps from your words and actions. Thank you for being a great example in this blogging world!

  74. Hi, Shawnie,

    I have never stopped in before, but a friend linked this post to her facebook page and it drew my interest. I stopped reading blogs when I stopped having time for blogs, but I have many times heard of yours from friends and was happy to hear your speak last year at TOFW. This post makes me want to blog again, because like you, I can't read something like that without responding. Especially the comments!

    I think this comes back to the basic lack of understanding of the development from dependence (as we are born–energy is exercised ON you), to independence (youth and adults who can reasonably provide for and care for themselves–energy is exercised BY you), to interdependence (those who are independent but choose to depend on others and allow others to depend on them–energy exercised by both parties together creating synergy). Wikipedia defines synergy as "the working together of two things to produce a result greater than the sum of their individual effects."

    I believe that there are too many people caught up in the pride they feel for growing out of a dependent state to an independent state, which hinders them from further development into the higher state of interdependence. It's true in business, it is true in families, it is true in politics.

    Interdependency is key. If as a society and human populace we accept that there is a higher form of ourselves in something as simple as vulnerability and trust, imagine the good we could do as one becomes two, two becomes three, three becomes 5, 30, 400, and so forth. Working together, helping one another, giving service, allowing service to be given. Interdependency.

  75. As LDS women, isn't it great to know Gods plan for us?! If all women believed what we believe, they would understand just why we place such value on this. But without those same beliefs, it is easy to see why they may not value family the way that we do. And without wonderful examples of womanhood and motherhood in our midst, even those of us who agree with you on this can feel discouraged with our roles sometimes.
    I have not always had the best examples of Christ-like mothering and appreciate so much of what you share on your blog. Many of your posts have given me great ideas and have helped start conversations and even traditions that have brought joy to our family. Thank you for your wonderful example and for helping to show me the way when I need that little inspiration now and then.

  76. On more occasions than I care to count, I find my opinions about motherhood or the role of a mother in a family discounted because of the fact that I am a single working mother. Not by choice, but because of circumstances well beyond my control. Over the last year or so I have been repeatedly presented with what I can only imagine my superiors thing is an irresistible carrot of a career opportunity – and I have repeatedly turned them down. Last week, under a great deal of pressure to reach out and grab what I had "earned" I walked into the office of the director of the company I work for armed with a picture of my four year old daughter. I sat down with him and our HR director and told them that while I appreciate the opportunities that they have given me and their recognition of the caliber of job I do, that this job is not my dream job. In a move that I think many would consider to be career suicide, I pushed that picture, a tangible representation of my whole world, and said that the decisions I make about what opportunities to pursue or not pursue are guided by what is best for her. Period. I expressed, as plainly as I possibly could, my desire to be present for her as much as I possibly can. I articulated the sacrifices that she makes for me to be successful in the workplace, my appreciation for the fact that I get to do something that is challenging and invigorating to my mind when many women in my position are working minimum wage jobs trying to support their children on their own. I noted that as charming as it is that she knows so much at such a young age about the technologies my company develops, the pile of Fischer Price toys under my desk and her self portraits on my white board are to me a sad reminder of her contribution to the organization and that if I accept additional responsibilities that take time away from her, the organization is asking too much. To my great surprise, the director extended his hand and said "I think you and I are on the same page now. I understand you." He said that he had never heard anyone articulate so precisely how their person priorities drive their career choices and he hoped that I would stay true to that. So many people in this world feel that having children is a burden, or that more fulfillment can be found outside the home than in. No success or compliment I have ever experienced in the work place has meant more to me than to hear a teacher tell me how polite my daughter is or what a joy she is to be around. No promotion, position or title could possibly mean more to me than the one she gave me when she made me her mother.

  77. Kudos to Audrey! As working mom of 3 soon to be 4 – I understand how much courage that had to take. Even though I am married, I work not by choice but out of necessity (how so many can afford living on one income has baffled me for years!). It is easy to feel like an outsider to the "SAHM" club -especially when juggling both career and motherhood is so draining at times. The good I have found in my situation is that I do feel that I love being a mom even more than I would have had I gotten my dream of staying home each day. The time away makes you appreciate the time with them even more.
    Whether you are a stay at home mom or not isn't really the point of Shawnies post. The point I believe she is trying to make is that no matter what you choose to do in life, it is sad to see how many people don't value the family unit at all and see it as a responsibility that isn't worth having.

  78. I'm a childless-by-circumstance, non-LDS woman, so I know I was never meant to be your audience. I've been reading for years though. Why? I love the passion you have for your family and for motherhood. Your kids are the bees' knees and you crack me up on a regular basis.

    However, I have to disagree with the war on families/motherhood. There is no war going on toward a family like yours (and many of the commenters I've clicked through last night) — affluent, homeowning, living in a very safe community with one single breadwinner and a mother at home managing the rest.

    Families in the US that don't look like yours, though, have a harder time of it. There are families that cannot afford children. There are single parents without large helpful families who can't afford to put their kids in sports. And there are adults who are so scarred from not being wanted as children themselves (it truly does happen) that they are doing all they can to keep it together day by day. To them, that solo dinner and TIVO in a calm house IS the grand prize in their game of life.

    That's where the war on families and parenthood starts. Who are any of us to call these people selfish? How can we call a couple choosing not to spend $30-$50K *they don't have to begin with* on an adoption process that might fall through selfish, but not do the same for someone who has child number 2 and beyond just because they want to smell another newborn?

    I'll keep reading, as always, because if we had grown up 2800 miles closer, you and I could have a great time sipping hot cocoa/coffee in a Starbucks and talking about your kids and my nutty job and wacky dogs. But I'll affirm to my dying day that I'm not less of a woman — or a more selfish woman — than anyone else here, just because I'm living my life differently.

  79. I agree with choice. I do not want children. I want a family that includes my husband, parents, siblings and nieces/nephews. I like that variety that it gives me. I feel that I have made that choice to maximize what I believe to be important to me. As long as I live in a world where people can choose what family and committing mean to them, I am happy. I fully respect all kinds of families include those that are in relationships, happily single, have large or small amounts of charges or even have fur babies. That is what makes the place we live in so wonderful. Variety.

  80. I think the thing that struck me the most while reading your post (and please note that I did not read the original article) is that yes, the commitment to family has changed. It has become more fleeting and disposable. And I think that maybe it is because not every woman on the planet is designated to be a good mother, yet she feels forced into becoming a mother because that is what is expected of all women- to bear children. I mean, we are given the parts, shouldn't we use them? But seriously, there are so many women I see that should not be mothers. They barely have the capacity to keep themselves functioning. How in the world is it fair to expect them to raise a child and create a happy, healthy home for her family?

    I've always believed that Quality is better than Quantity. Wouldn't it be better to have quality children raised by quality parents instead of the sheer number of children being left, abandoned, raising themselves and perhaps a few siblings? So yes, I can see where it is advantageous for someone to say, 'Hey, I shouldn't have kids.' or 'You know, I probably shouldn't have 4 children when I am living on government food stamps.' or 'I am having trouble with depression and addiction. A child isn't for me.' I think that someone who chooses not to have children isn't going to be sitting at home eating frozen dinners in front of the TV. Perhaps they are volunteering, dining with friends, babysitting the next door neighbor's toddlers to give them a break, or gardening.

    When someone chooses not to have children they have made a conscious decision for a certain reason. They didn't blindly leap into a situation just because they have the organs to do it. Not everyone is mentally and emotionally prepared to be a parent for 18+ years. It takes work, dedication and so much patience. I celebrate families like yours and mine that have that something special to raise strong, confident kids. I also celebrate those couples that decide they don't. It takes all kinds to make the world go around but the world is better off with healthy, loved children. Realize that not every woman is able to provide that.

  81. Kimberly…amen.
    What gets my goat about this topic the most is that some Moms (and I truly hope this wasn't your intention Shawni) believe that women who aren't Moms…for whatever reason…are making the "wrong" choice. Or Moms who work outside the home, by choice, are "bad Moms" because they don't want to stay home with their kids all day. This happens in the church (Non LDS here) so so much. Young women who aren't married or who don't have kids are made to feel like they are less of a woman…less complete because of it. It's so wrong to teach that to our daughters. God's plan is not the same for all of us. We all have our own path to follow and making women feel like they are incomplete without a ring or a baby is kind of like saying that you know better than God.
    "Be kind because everyone you meet is facing a hard battle". I think if we kept this in mind, life would be so much sweeter.
    And I apologize for the soapbox…this topic is a really touchy one for me.

  82. I love your beautiful sentiments, Shawni. And I couldn't agree with you more. I'm so grateful every day for the gift of motherhood & my sweet children in my life, and for a man who is there with me every step of the way. At the same time, I think it's important to remember that you (and I) live very privileged lives as mothers. No matter how hard our days may be, they are nothing like what some face. Many don't have the financial or emotional support they need, whether from a husband or extended families or good friends. Many probably DO feel trapped and desperate and even POWERLESS to be a force for good & change. The support structure in each woman's life is so different, that I would be hesitant to blame or judge others for their attitude toward parenting. Most don't have a fraction of the hope & means we do, and that is tough. I love how you & your family have spent so much times & means to empower & give choices to women & children around the world, because that is the best antidote to these sad & trapped views of motherhood.

  83. Shawni- Thank you for your thoughts. It is difficult to read inaccurate ideas about the family.

    This is the gift of the gospel and having a Prophet who gives us specific guidance concerning the family.

    "…thus on to eternal perfection the honest and faithful will go, while they who regect this glad message shall never such happiness know."

  84. Shawni, I just read this today, and I hope you don't mind me sharing it on facebook. It made me tear up to read your thoughts on motherhood and the family and to feel as if they were coming from my own heart. It makes me so sad for those who cannot understand this. I know that there will come a time for them when they wish they could go back and create the family they bipassed in their younger years. Without my "burdens" as a wife and a mother, I would not be half the person I am today. It is because I get to wear those roles that I grow everyday, that I know better each day who I am and who I can become, and how much my Heavenly Father loves me and this family of mine. Thank you so much for writing this.

  85. p.s. And I have to admit that I've had days, especially when my fourth was a baby, that I felt like I could barely breathe for the stress & constant neediness around me. I often had this image of myself as a little bird, frantically beating her wings & trying to lift up those around me–but not often succeeding. I had access to resources like a cleaner who could take some of the load off, or an evening out with good friends to commiserate. But so many don't have those little reprieves that help us get through the rough patches. So I think eventually they may get hardened & bitter toward this very precious gift. I don't know the best answer.

  86. Thank you for this post! I don't understand why people get so defensive and assume that putting family first means "men earn some money, women make some babies, and never the two shall meet". Family is blessing and despite the fact that I work, they are always my top priority. Thanks also for your ending comments, my mom had to raise my sister and I which meant LOTS of daycare but we were always first in her life and she definitely loved her "baby moments" form the stories she tells!

  87. Thank you for taking a bold stand on this article, Shawni! I, too, was so saddened by the responses from people all over the US. We sure are living in the last days!

  88. Families ARE awesome! No one would disagree with that.

    It's just that when you say "families are awesome"…..many of those people are really hearing "economic dependency doesn't bother me."

    The more jaded listener might infer that you must be well off, that you have a great life insurance policy, and that your parents are probably wealthy.

    Economic dependency is exactly what happens when women choose to conform to gender roles. They forego a career in order to raise the children and keep the household running while the husband becomes the provider.

    Do you see how Brooks' statement that PEOPLE are "better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice" is too broad?

    A MAN with a wife at home raising the children is definitely better off than his unmarried/childless colleagues. He has a rich family life to go home to each night, and has the peace of mind that comes with knowing his children are loved and nurtured.

    Likewise, a WOMAN who is able to pursue a career while her husband stays home and raises her children would ALSO be better off than her so called "childfree" colleagues.

    The problems come when divorce, death, disability, etc come into play. When that happens, the PROVIDER is in a much much better position.

    The NURTURER is in a world of hurt…..she is not "better off" for all the personal sacrifices she made. She has built up a "heavenly reward" no doubt, she has contributed to society in a very meaningful way, but nonetheless she is in grave financial trouble unless she has wealthy parents, expansive life insurance, savings, etc.

    I felt that a few parts of this post were particularly judgemental of women. Women who want "equality" and "rights."

    Please don't lump women who seek financial security in the same group as selfish child-haters.

  89. Also, the reality here is that you have 2 main parties wanting to share their views: 1- women who love motherhood because they've experienced it and 2- Women who, for whatever reason, haven't experienced motherhood, and so they can't relate to it the same way mothers do. So let's be gentle. Let's try to be a little kinder. Let's not take everything quite so personally. We don't need to. Heavenly Father will sort it all out in the end and everything will work out the way it's supposed to. It's okay if others don't share our viewpoints exactly. It's ok if we're misunderstood by other people. Heavenly Father knows our hearts and that's good enough. We just need to worry about how WE as individuals will be able to answer to Him one day, when all is said and done.

  90. I enjoyed both the original NYT article and your post. However, I think many of the original post's comments aren't advocating that we do away with family, rather that we broaden the way we think about family structure. As said the person you quoted, there are a variety of shapes 'family' and 'motherhood' can take; they only become limiting when the heterosexual, nuclear family is judged to be supreme to the exclusion of all others. I aspire to a loving two parent household, which I think is every bit as valid as my sister, who will probably marry a woman (if we can speed this gay marriage thing along) and never have children.
    Love that photo of you and Dave, btw!

  91. Wow…so many great comments on here. I think it's wonderful that you and so many women on here consider motherhood to be such a gift, and I agree that it is.

    But it is not the only gift. Or purpose, or contributing factor towards a life well-lived. And I think that many of the comments on here have made that point so well. When I was (unhappily) single I think it would have made me even more miserable to be surrounded by people who told me that God's plan for all women was marriage and children. My family was very supportive and insisted that this *wasn't* everyone's path, and even that barely assuaged me. So I think it's important to be sensitive to the fact that, unfortunately, no everyone GETS to meet a wonderful man and gets to stay home etc.

    The other thing is that, as slh points out, Times readers really get tired of what they see as David Brooks' hypocrisy. Many people feel that you can't advocate that one party is "pro family" when that party is against policies that support families – such as healthcare, equal pay, family leave, family planning, etc. So I thought a lot of the comments to the article, although vitriolic in some cases, weren't so much anti-motherhood or anti-family as much as they were anti-old-white-guy-telling-us-how-to-live.

    I thought this was a great and thought-provoking post!

  92. You are a wonderful example to me. I love being a mom, and as a young mom of a 2 1/2 year old and 5 month old and the wife of a pre-med student that always seems to be in school or studying… your inspirational posts and your mother's books on motherhood have helped me feel comforted in humor in the hard days. I cant tell you how much you and your parents have inspired and motivated me to become my best self as a mother, wife, and person. I know this sounds crazy but I just love you guys! 🙂 You really have had a great impact on me and my family for the better. And although its clear the world and society are going an increasingly different direction than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, my husband and I have committed not to get bogged down and depressed by it, but rather "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ with a perfect brightness of HOPE!" And made Moroni 7:19 our family motto for this year, trying to focus on the good things in life. Great examples of motherhood like you really do make a difference for good so keep it up and dont get bogged down by the naysayers! 🙂 Thanks for all you do.

  93. I LOVED Kimberly's comment (I'm a childless-by-circumstance, non-LDS woman)! I think I'm enjoying the comments on this post more than the actual post (although I did enjoy your post) 🙂 Its been so interesting to read such valid, yet respectful thought provoking points of view!

  94. (Good Job Audrey!) I especially love this post and the passionate feelings you have for the family. I too have those feelings. I studied the family in college, training to become a marriage therapist, and have taught several communication and divorce prevention courses. In every case, I have to say that the contributions that a man and a woman bring to the family are different from each other. That is only one small reason why I feel like the nuclear family in traditional heterosexual marriages is the best option for success and for raising healthy kids. It doesn't mean that family isn't painful for people, and it doesn't mean that an atypical family structure couldn't be successful. What it does mean is that if we are to attempt to make laws about what kind of family structures should be supported by the government, we would be wise to choose the traditional family structure. It's our best chance for a successful society. At the same time, my heart breaks for those who've seen the most terrible parts of a failed nuclear family. Kudos to those who keep on going and trying to live healthy lives. That goes for those who aren't given the option of marriage or who have had destroyed marriages. I come from divorce, and see the ill effects it has on all involved. Even at that, as ugly as selfishness can make it, it still is the best hope we have for happiness as individuals and groups. And in my personal life, it has been that, despite my background. Thank you, Shaunie for defending motherhood and the nuclear family.

  95. This is a wonderful, wonderful post and I agree so much. I have had similar thoughts swimming in my head for a while and I love the way you addressed them in such a beautiful way here. – Amy

  96. I grew up in a family with a very emotionally abusive father and a mother who perpetuated the abuse simply by never correcting his attacks on me even when we were in private. My family upbringing was unpleasant at best and I learned to truly hate men and to hate God.

    When I first met my husband I had no intention of ever marrying let alone having children. I didn't like kids and I definitely didn't like men. By this standard there is a large amount of commenters who would feel that I should most definitely not participate in either of those events.

    My husband knew my anger going into our marriage, and he even made it clear that he wanted a large family. Today I'm still not sure why I married him, but I did and I can't begin to express my happiness that I did. He saw goodness in me that I had never known was there and he fought to help that goodness emerge.

    It took years. YEARS, before I could begin to trust him. And yet, he loved God enough to trust in Him to help my heart to heal. I was told early on in our marriage that due to some health issues I would never carry a child full-term and I was happy to hear that my body was basically it's own birth-control.

    A year later I found out I was pregnant. I didn't worry too much, assuming I would miscarry as I had many other times, but this baby was a fighter. She held on despite the many times my body tried to evict her. She was born healthy, quite small, but healthy. We named her Cadence. At the time my husband offered the name I simply liked it, having a musical background, but over the first year of her life I began to realize that he was inspired. When that child was born I decided she would not know the heartache that I had felt. She would know she was special. Even if I was not yet capable of feeling love, I would give her all that I could give and I would protect her. This sweet Cadence changed me. She changed my rhythm, I went from focusing on my past and on who I was and where I was going to how I could help, how I could contribute, how I could comfort.

    We had another child, a colicky little thing that put me in such a deep depression that I prayed for death for months. And yet there were glimpses, small at first, but so tender and beautiful that I began to understand that God must truly be a God of good, even while we can be surrounded by evil.

    As a parent I began to learn that as much as we would like to we simply are not able to make each choice for our children. And then I began to understand how God could allow evil to exist. He is not a God of ignorance, He is a parent, trying to teach us how to treat each other, how to grow into the best that we can. Unfortunately teaching works best when mistakes can be made, and unfortunately mistakes bring unwanted consequences with them.

    Part 2….

  97. Part 2…

    I was done having children. I was sure of it. I felt like I was truly generous to my husband as I had said I wanted nothing of the sort and he was warned. Two children was clearly very giving of me.

    God had a different plan. A few years later we found out that I again had a fighter inside me. And this baby, oh this sweet baby, he has been a gift straight from God. During my pregnancy with him my husband treated me with such tenderness that I was FINALLY able to see goodness in him. I was able to open my heart to him and boy oh boy did love flood in.

    When that sweet baby was placed in my arms I FINALLY learned the joy of motherhood I FINALLY learned how to open my heart to a child. I was completely 'enshrouded' in the most beautiful empowering and loving tenderness that could possibly exist.

    I wanted to share my story to show a different side than what has been spoken. I came from the heartache, I thought I had found fulfillment in a life without marriage or children. The simple truth is is that a family is the greatest gift that God gives us on this earth. It is a cheering squad, a support team, a service experience, and the most tender of all love. It is meant to be successful. It is meant to fulfill. It is meant to create joy, not just happiness. That's not to say that it always does, but any ill effects are the consequences of selfish choices made, not the result of a faulty practice.

    I'm sure my comment will anger some and offend others, that is most definitely NOT my intent. But my heart is so utterly confident in it's understanding that a family is what this life is truly about that I can not sit idly by while there are people stating that marriage and motherhood is not a good fit for everyone. Yes it is, it is designed by a perfect being for that very purpose.

    Do not allow selfish proclivities to dissuade you from experiencing joy. It takes work and commitment for that joy to surface, from all parties, but it can be attained. We need to trust and persevere.

    And of course, for those who do not have the opportunities for marriage or children who do want them, I can not for one second believe that a God who so clearly tenderly and protectively healed me from my hurts, would ever deny you that joy. It may not happen here on earth but I am utterly positive that He will provide it in an even more perfect form for you in Heaven.

  98. I can't imagine my life alone, never having had a husband or children. I know many who crave this blessing and don't have it. How sad to want to be without family.
    And China is dealing (and will be dealing) with a demographic of too many young men with none of the family ties to bind them. This creates a very unstable community.

    I read over some of the comments on the original article, and I agree, who are all these people? I just don't understand a world where loneliness on purpose is glorified. I dread the day when all the children have left home. I don't like quiet houses. I like them full of life.

  99. Bless you love, the world hasn't given up on families 🙂 Most of us in this world don't have the same kind of wealth that middle class Americans enjoy. We have to delay / limit our families so that we can properly support them. That doesn't mean we love our little ones any the less. And in my country anyway, divorce rates are falling sharply;, parents are spending more time with their kids; and and most teenagers rate their family as one of the most important things in their lives…

  100. I can see both sides here.

    I am married with an 18 month old son. Before I had my son I wanted at least 2 children. Ever since he was born my heart as been set on just one child. I think large families are amazing, and I just wish I had the deep down desire for another child like I had before my son was born, but I don't, and therefore I will not be having anymore children just because it is what society expects.

    I know a lot of people who are choosing to have no children at all. People are doing what makes them happy whether that is raising a family or not, and if that's what they want then that's great! Sure being a mother is very hard work, but I wouldn't trade my son for the world!

    I love your big family and the way you raise your children and I love following your blog!

  101. I can see both sides here.

    I am married with an 18 month old son. Before I had my son I wanted at least 2 children. Ever since he was born my heart as been set on just one child. I think large families are amazing, and I just wish I had the deep down desire for another child like I had before my son was born, but I don't, and therefore I will not be having anymore children just because it is what society expects.

    I know a lot of people who are choosing to have no children at all. People are doing what makes them happy whether that is raising a family or not, and if that's what they want then that's great! Sure being a mother is very hard work, but I wouldn't trade my son for the world!

    I love your big family and the way you raise your children and I love following your blog!

  102. loud applause coming from my electronic device to yours & may i add that I agree with absolutely every word you have written on this post! perfect!

  103. It's really sad but it's just that so many people do not have love in their families, real love, they have selfish love and don't understand why they should have a family when it's already so hard with just the two of them. I cannot tell you how often I see this with so many of my friends, and I can't help but feel like if they only had a relationship with God, they would know it's not just about them. That this life is not just all about them, but that it's only one part of a larger picture. It's really sad but … I dunno… you said it all so beautifully and I completely agree with you, but having so many friends on the other side…. I feel like all these comments are so typical of what I hear from them and don't really surprise me at all. In fact, it just reminds me of everything I should be so dang grateful for. Anyway, well said and loved it.

  104. Thank you Shawni, we're here to grow, and I can't think of a better place to do that than in a family. Especially as a mother and wife committed to something much bigger than myself, but something that stretches behind and in front of me for generations. This isn't about me at all, it's about us.

  105. Tears streaming down my face…at work no less, because this post struck a chord. I find it so terribly sad that anyone would believe that marriage and children are a "shackle". I would be dishonest if I said that everyday were a walk in the park, it's not. Or that my children were as easy as pie, they're not. Or that I only ever spoke words of love to my husband, I don't. But in the grand scheme of life, despite all of the "things" that are hard about motherhood and marriage, there is so much joy that comes from it. The kind of joy that makes it all worth while. My children are tangible gifts from God. I still stand amazed that my Heavenly Father saw so much more in me than I even see in myself, and entrusted me with my four precious children.

    I won't apologize for my feelings about family, children or marriage. They are mine. I know that not every women will marry or make the choice to have children, and I respect that choice even though I don’t fully understand it. I will say this though…I don't think that a woman who makes the choice to not marry or not have children can fully speak about what a "burden or financial strain" it is, because they don't walk in those shoes, there perspective is from the outside looking in. But having a been a single woman without children, I can say that my life was not what it is today, and I am so very grateful for that.

    Thanks Shawni for being so willing to share your heart. I learn so much from you.

  106. This was beautiful. You literally brought tears to my eyes (my husband and I just had a "wing-dinger" of a fight before he left for work tonight, and I needed this reminder right now). I am so saddened by those commenters who support the "who-needs-a-family" view, and I notice that none of them has a family. Once you have children, you can't even ask the question, "Are they worth it?" The thought of looking into my children's beautiful, innocent eyes, and snuggling my little baby girl and smelling the sweet scent of her neck…and wondering if they are even worth it. It makes me shudder. You just don't know what eternity means until you see it in your children's innocent eyes.

  107. This was beautiful. You literally brought tears to my eyes (my husband and I just had a "wing-dinger" of a fight before he left for work tonight, and I needed this reminder right now). I am so saddened by those commenters who support the "who-needs-a-family" view, and I notice that none of them has a family. Once you have children, you can't even ask the question, "Are they worth it?" The thought of looking into my children's beautiful, innocent eyes, and snuggling my little baby girl and smelling the sweet scent of her neck…and wondering if they are even worth it. It makes me shudder. You just don't know what eternity means until you see it in your children's innocent eyes.

  108. Here is a quote you can appreciate: "you need a license to drive a car or even catch a fish but any idiot can have a kid". Its so sad how many people don't cherish motherhood or take it seriously. I'm so happy that you do!

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