being a byu alum, i get the byu magazine every so often. sometimes i pick it up and peruse it. occasionally i read an article or two. usually it just sits in my pile of mail until it gets thrown away. tonight i started sorting through my pile of mail (i always have a pile of mail; i hate mail; i wish people would just not send me stuff; unless they're people i know and love; then they can send me stuff) and ran across the byu magazine. and when i read the cover blurb 'jane clayson lands her dream job: mother,' some sick masochistic part of me turned to page 22 to read the article.
it's all about jane clayson who becomes jane johnson. perhaps that's reductive, but the article's attempt to represent rhetorically the shift from single to married by referring to the single jane as clayson and the married jane as johnson does call attention to that shift. it was a bizarre editorial decision--one that caused more confusion than anything. and it made the difference between unmarried and married sound almost jekyll-and-hyde.
anyway. back to the regularly scheduled programming. here's the reader's digest version: jane goes to byu expecting to graduate and get married. jane graduates but doesn't get married. jane becomes award-winning, nationally known television journalist. jane realizes that 'real life' has begun, even though she's not married. jane gets married. jane quits working. jane has babies. jane has epiphany: 'mothers matter.' (yes, that's the epiphany: 'mothers matter.')
it's a lovely story. really. i'm happy that this talented woman had the opportunity not only to find such professional success but also to fall in love and marry and have children.
but dammit. don't tell me i'm a mother simply by virtue of the fact that i have breasts, a vagina, a uterus, and ovaries. i am a woman. i am not a mother. and i don't care how much mental gymnastics you do, you're not going to convince me otherwise. but clayson (or should it be johnson?) tries: 'i want every woman to feel in her soul that among the many important things that women do, mothering is the most important thing, whether a woman biologically bears a child or not.'
i appreciate the sentiment. i feel all warm and fuzzy that jane (and sherri dew and numerous others like them) recognizes that the church's emphasis on motherhood for women leaves single and childless women feeling inadequate on some level. but has it ever occurred to them that perhaps the answer is to authenticate other life paths for women? to acknowledge that women have incredible contributions to make outside of motherhood?
i am a nurturer. i love children. i'm patient and kind and loving towards all of my nieces and nephews. i adore them. but i spend very little time with them. and while i know for a fact that they love me and that i have helped shape their characters in some ways, i also know that i'm not much of a presence in their lives. am i to understand that mothering is the most important work i do, when easily 90% of my time is spent completely apart from children? what does that mean about the rest of my time? is it really all that much to ask that the value of my work and life be acknowledged without trying to shove it through a mother-shaped hole?
please, jane clayson johnson (and anyone else who's made the error of trying to convince themselves and others that every woman is a mother)--please have enough decency to honor all the work women do, not just the work they do as mothers. don't tell me i am a mother in some misguided effort to make me feel better about the fact that i'm unmarried and childless. instead, look me in the eye and see me for who and what i am: a woman of god who is using the gifts she's been given to make as much beauty and goodness as she can.