Last month my little sister got married.  She married a great guy, and they seem to have had a happy first few weeks. However, I’ve noticed what seems to me to be a strange change in my sister.  She’s always been very academic and right before she started dating her husband she was telling me about her plans to live in Russia for a while to improve her grasp of the language, maybe getting an MBA or going on a mission, and all the other exciting things she wanted to do.  Well, she got married, and we talked again about her plans.  Now, she’s excited to stay home and cook and clean.  She maybe hopes to be a secretary.

Maybe I have a warped sense of gender roles because I have a wife who’s smarter than I am, who has a better advanced degree than I do, and who I followed to California for her career, but it kind of makes me sad that my sister has seemed to abandon her educational and career goals.

Some say it is LDS doctrine that women should stay home.  President Hinckley has been clear that “no worldly thing you will ever acquire will be worth so much as the love of your children.”  Does this mean that women shouldn’t work?  Does that mean it is LDS doctrine that a priesthood holder bears all the financial burdens of a family?  Talks to the women of the church emphasize their role in the home.   Is that supposed to mean that the only correct choice for a woman is to stay at home?  I don’t think so.  The proclamation to the world on the family is LDS doctrine, and it says,

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

What does it mean to be an equal partner?  How is my sister going to be an equal partner with her husband in “providing for the necessities of life,” by cooking and cleaning?   That makes things nice at home, but it doesn’t help provide money for buying food or clothing or pay the mortgage. 

President Hinckley spoke to the Relief Society in General Conference last fall and said,

“It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities. It will provide her with marketable skills in case she needs them.” 

So women are encouraged by the prophet to have marketable skills.  What are marketable skills?  What does “in case she needs them,” mean?  Only if her husband dies and she is facing bankruptcy, or if she is an equal partner in providing for the family? 

What does it mean to be an equal partner for men nurturing their children?  I remember a Sacrament meeting talk on mother’s day and the man was talking about how much he appreciates his wife and how he figures it out when he has to babysit his kids and doesn’t know how to take care of them like she can.  Do equal partners feel like they are “babysitting” their own children? 

I need to put in the disclaimer that I am not saying that this is black and white and that there is one right way.  I am honestly asking these questions because our culture is set up so that when we arrived to our new ward, everyone asked me what job brought me here, while ignoring my wife who had the fabulous job opportunity that moved us across the country.