I have been really inspired by Lynnette's post at Zelophehad's Daughters, and Galdralag's post that I wanted to add my own contribution to the series. Like both Lynnette and Galdralag, I feel that elements of feminist thought have always been part of my life. Much of it, especially the early thoughts, focused a lot on the way the Mormon Church framed the role of motherhood and my own struggles in whether I wanted to take on that role or not.
I grew up in Orem, Utah as the second daughter in a family of nine children. Both of my parents were and are strong believers and practicers of Mormonism. It is interesting to me that even now I have a hard time articulating where exactly my parents' beliefs and practices are on the spectrum from being very orthodox to very liberal. As I read about other people's experiences I can see examples of both parents who were more conservative and more liberal than my parents. However, since there are a million small ways that parents can interpret and put into practice the doctrines of Mormonism in their own home, I am not sure that we can exactly quantify these things. But what is also interesting to me is that when I was young I didn't see there really being any differences from person to person or family to family. I assumed that everyone at church and everyone in our neighborhood (which were essentially the same thing) shared the same beliefs and behaviors.
One thing that my parents felt very strongly about was the importance of having as many children as possible and the mother staying home with those children. I remember specific comments that were made during family home evening lessons in which my parents would state that they were very grateful that they didn't try to limit their family. Obviously as an older child of a large family, I took on a lot of childcare responsibilities. Part of me really sought out and enjoyed those responsibilities. There is vacation photo after vacation photo of me walking on a playground with one of my younger siblings holding my hand. I would often work on forming a special connection with one or more of my younger siblings at different times in their development and I did enjoyment these special bonds.
However, part of me also resented that responsibility. Growing up, I was very shy and would often form friendships with one or two other people during the school year, but would just play with my siblings during the summer months. I rarely went to friend's houses to play. If I wanted social interaction, my siblings were there, and when I wanted to be alone I would read in my bedroom. I have always been a very introspective person and I adored reading and thinking about things. Near the end of high school, I started wanting to interact with people outside of the family a bit more. I remember that there was a girl from my Laurel's class who was a year or so older than me. One day, she invited me to come to her house after school and I was very excited to go. We were watching a movie and talking and I told her that I better call my mom to let her know where I was. When I talked to my mom on the phone, my mom told me that she really needed me to come home right then. I agreed to come home, but I was very disappointed. I don't remember what was going on at home that day, but the message I got was that my responsibilities at home came before my friendships.
Although I didn't notice differences in beliefs and practices between different families in my neighborhood, per se, I did at times notice differences in childcare expectations. I was a bit surprised to learn that one of the young women who lived around the block from us often had to make dinner for her family because her mother would get depressed and have a hard time taking care of things. In my mind, the demands placed on her seemed a lot more difficult than the demands placed on me. Although I did have a lot of demands at home, my parents did encourage and support social activities. I went to a number of school dances, and my mom supported me and my sister when we ran with the cross-country team even though it was difficult for her to do without our help after school.
When it came the time to apply for schools I only applied to BYU. Honestly, I wasn't thinking much about the spiritual or social aspects of BYU. It just seemed like an obvious next step in moving from grade school, to junior high, to high school since it was so close by. Also, it was relatively inexpensive education and it was also prestigious in that you had to have high grades to get in. I had always been a really dedicated student and looked forward to the opportunity to continue learning and developing my intellectual abilities. Even though many of my high school friends lived at home and attended BYU, my parents encouraged all of us to move out of the house and live in the dorms so we could have the experience of living on our own.
To be continued....