This month, Naomi Watkins, founder of Aspiring Mormon Women, has been running a social media campaign called #EmbraceYourAND, born out of her sense that too many LDS women see family and career as an either-or proposition.
As she explains in this guest post, it can be “both-and” — women can unapologetically and proudly embrace both roles. — JKR
By Naomi Watkins
Even though I had a profound spiritual experience at the age of 25 propelling me into a doctoral program, I gave pause to whether or not such a pursuit really jived with being a wife and mother, two roles that were then possibilities and are still not yet realities in my life.
This line of thinking was an impetus behind the creation of Aspiring Mormon Women, a non-profit that supports the educational and professional endeavors of LDS women. I wanted a supportive space for LDS women (regardless of their church activity level) who were pursuing ambitious, worthwhile endeavors and who were fiercely dedicated to their families.
As we created this community, I’ve discovered that this either/or mindset is a norm for many LDS women, particularly those living in Utah. Susan Madsen’s work at the Utah Women and Education Initiative examined why Utah women (primarily LDS women in her study sample) were not graduating from college. Her research found that these young women:
“Cannot envision a life of integration…or cannot imagine being simultaneously married, having children, and continuing college…
Some believe that women need to ‘give up’ or ‘sacrifice’ college for their husbands/families. Several participants said it was their ‘duty’ to drop out of school.”
Much could be (and has been) written about the reasons and causes for this lack of vision, but I want to focus on one specific reason: few visible models of LDS women who live in what we at Aspiring Mormon Women are calling the “AND life.”
- Meet the Mormon Celtic Woman
- Great Advice for Mormon Sister Missionaries
- How Many Mormon Women Work Outside the Home?
Those models were what I most wanted to see when I returned to graduate school. I and the other Aspiring Mormon Women are dedicated to providing these models to LDS women through our #EmbraceYourAND campaign.
This campaign is not about telling women they can “have it all.” There’s a significant difference between “#EmbracetheAND” vs “#EmbraceYourAND.” Changing out “the” for “your” places emphasis on the fact that the specifics of a woman’s multifaceted and integrated life–the pursuits she seeks, the roles she fills—will all depend on that individual woman.
It’s about believing that God does not place limits on our possibilities and our influence. Living an AND life is about embracing a life of abundance rather than living with a scarcity mindset. It’s about asking God, “And now, what would you have me do?”
It’s about embracing the answers that come as a result of asking this question. Living this type of life requires a great deal of confidence in God, His capabilities, and His knowledge of us as individuals. Sometimes the answers require us to expand the ANDs in our lives, sometimes they necessitate a change in direction, and other times, they compel us to focus more on the quality of our ANDs than the quantity.
It’s about recognizing our capacities, but believing that we can be more with God’s help.
It’s about letting go of specific timelines and realizing that we have a long time to be and do many things.
It’s about expanding the notions of womanhood beyond only wifehood and motherhood—and knowing that this expansion does not mean we are deserting our families.
It’s believing that fixating on any one thing—be it family, church, work, exercise, etc.—at the cost of other areas of our lives is a falsehood that is perpetuated by culture and not by God.
It’s accepting that another’s ANDs do not detract from our own. It’s about recognizing the divinity and possibility within us. It’s about supporting and honoring the unique paths of others.
Naomi Watkins is a co-founder of Aspiring Mormon Women and an educational and instructional leader who worked as a university professor in the Greater Los Angeles prior to her new position as an instructional coach at a Title I high school in the Salt Lake City area.
She earned her B.A. in English Education from Brigham Young University, a M.Ed. in Language and Literacy from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning with a literacy emphasis from the University of Utah.
She is an active Mormon who most recently served as the Gospel Doctrine teacher in her ward.