I bought the propaganda to start a family right after marriage hook, line and sinker. Married at 22 and 19 respectively (me/wife), we had our first kid 9 months later. 2 kids and 7.5 years later we left the church. Both as Mormons and now as ex-Mormons, we had kids according to the church's schedule and commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth. My wife and I have both expressed that we pretty much only had kids because that is what you do as Mormons. I can't remember who said it during a conference talk but I believe it was in the past decade, but paraphrasing I remember the LDS speaker saying, "Some outsiders have commented on our lack of family planning or planned parenthood. Our response to them is that our family planning is simple. We plan to have families". (If you remember who said this I'd appreciate the reference).
Having kids more or less out of mandated obligation can make for resentful, resistant, or apathetic parents. Don't get me wrong here. We love and adore our children. However, having them so early due to "God's commandment", neither of us find parenting coming naturally to us, nor finding it all that easy to be engaged parents. I think that had children come when we both genuinely wanted them and when we could have more easily afforded and provided for them, out attitude and commitment to parenting would be much more natural and positive.
Has anyone else felt this way about parenting initiated while Mormon and now still parenting as an ex-Mormon? Have you found helpful coping mechanisms that help accepting or engaging as a parent easier? What other thoughts or suggestions does anyone have?
I don't fault you at all for feeling less than enthusiastic toward all the pressure to be the "happy to have kids" type. You're right, being engaged is hard. Kids are hard, and a pain in the ass.
I wish every day that family planning had been part of my upbringing in my mormon family. I was so sheltered from proper responsible sex education that I had 2 daughters before I was married... much to my mothers shock and embarrassment. I married the 2nd childs father and had 3 more, UGH. We are still married, happily even, no thanks to the church on that for sure ;). Left the church about 7 years ago and haven't looked back. But I am grateful for my husband. We still date and I have to admit, the dating gets more attention sometimes than the kids. Our oldest is 20, then 17, 12, and our youngest are 10 yr old twins (all girls) & it sounds horrible to admit... but I am sooo DONE with kids. I know it's not fair to them, they didn't choose to be born, but sometimes I do feel resentful. Of course I would never say any of this to them, all my girls are very loved and very well taken care of. I'm just saying that I am with ya... apathetic, resistant, and all!
I have felt this way, in a different form. Because I was raised to believe that my highest achievement would be to become a mother, when I achieved that--at 21--I could not understand why I felt I was still missing something. And now, after 3 miscarriage in a year (and just barely leaving the church), I feel like I need to find a new path. I love school and want to work, but am unsure of how to get into the workplace! It's a tough place to be, assuredly. On top of that, my mother often insinuates that because I left the church, I am a horrible mother. That my kids will never be happy and I will never be satisfied. Talk about gut-wrenching!
And that is a tangent that basically says yes, I have experienced that. At the same time, I wouldn't have changed when I had kids. I would just have done things differently, like continued on with my education and got my Master's degree while I had the chance and funding.
Great thread Mike. I'm sure many people feel the same as you in one way or another.
This brings up so many issues and thoughts for me. We have two children, 21 and 19. They are wonderful and I'm actually glad I had them so young, to be honest. I'm 41 now, and having the time of my life! :) But I do see where it changed who I became as an individual. It was always in me to be a mom and I adore children, so this is one non-regret for me. However....here is where that "multiply and replenish the earth" policy affected me in a negative way....
I had my children in my first marriage. So after divorcing and being a single mom for a couple of years, I married my current husband. Being in the church and trying to "obey" the commandments, I spent 11 years actively trying to have another baby. We went through every fertility treatment with no success. As you can imagine, I was completely defeated and depressed. It was my "calling" as a woman to be a mom. The most important thing I would ever do and the only one that would matter, right? Or so I thought! And that line of thinking led to depression and low self esteem and so much unhappiness. And I always thought there was something I wasn't doing right spiritually...or something I still needed to do before "God" would grant me this! It was torture. Since we left the church two years ago, I have been able to release all that. For the first time in this marriage, my husband and I realize that we have so much more to live for! I recently had a full hysterectomy, and I'm so thankful to be okay with it! If I had been in the church, I would have forced myself to keep trying and put myself, and my husband, through much more pain and sorrow.
And now....it's tough as a parent being an ex mormon. My son just turned 19, and as you would expect, I had a little anger inside of me. Anger because my whole world was revolving around this age and him going on a mission. I felt a tinge of sadness that I couldn't explain. Not sadness at leaving the church...i am so happy we did that...but sadness that I spent so many years preparing him for that. So many years NOT telling him everything else he could be working towards. So many years NOT letting him form his own ideas and thoughts. I also feel sadness for all of his friends who are off on missions. They write him and share their testimonies and follow their robotic routines. They no longer have the personalities we saw them grow up with. So sad.
It's so hard on both of my kids since leaving the church. They don't quite "fit in" anywhere. They have those outgoing mormon personalities...which tend to be a bit immature compared to others their ages I've noticed....and they can't quite find their niche. It's painful to watch at times. They are happier as individual since leaving...they don't have all the guilt and expectations...but socially, it's tough. They still long for those single adult silly activities. They were fun. And it was what they knew. And now...they try to adjust to a whole different world. But I'm sure it will lead to happiness. I'm sure it will because now they are choosing what THEY want out of life. Now they have the freedom to be who they truly are. :)
Thank you for your post and encouragement. I'm glad you kids did leave with you as old as they were when you all left. That doesn't always happen.
YES! I've TOTALLY felt that way. We have 4 kids Bridgette (born in 2004); Anya (born in 2005); Leilani (born in 2007); and Deaton (born in 2010). To say I'm overwhelmed with my kids at times it probably the understatement of the year. My eldest has High Functioning autism. Anya is in speech therapy (at school) because she can't say f/th/s and w/l/r and ch/sh differently like she should (we should be getting medical care for it too, but we're fighting the insurance for it right now). Leilani has silent seizures that can happen at any time, and are medically undiagnosed b/c she's never seized up while hooked up on the machine. They are brief but still I wonder how much damage they are doing. The doctors have no explanation, on all her EEG's and MRI's it looks normal. Deaton has gross motor delays. 3/4 of my kids also have hypotonia (low muscle tone) which I believe is at least partially genetic (I also have hypotonia). Basically it means they will have to work extra hard the rest of their lives to make any muscle tone which is REALLY hard because the muscles get tired more quickly. I work hard with all of them. Well, I do my best anyhow. I love my kids- they are amazing, wonderful, sweet children. But had I known all the medical (exhausting) problems they would have had (and not been pressured by the LDS church to "go forth and replenish the earth") we would have had fewer kids. And waited longer to have kids. I had my first baby at 22. I would have rather that I got my education first (I have my associate's) but I followed the brethren's council it was better to have a family (because that was my purpose in life). And now I just feel like I'm at this wall. I love my children and I don't regret any of them (because honestly who wouldn't I have had?) but yet I do because I wonder how on earth I can handle of of this! And they are still little. I'm not in denial that life will get busier, crazier as they get older... not less crazy. My husband is a very engaged parent. He does a lot to help out. I am quasi-engaged because truth is, I get tired. But then there is always more expected of me. Not because of church. But because of teachers, doctors. Sometimes it just sends my head spinning. How to I help them all at the same time while keeping my sanity?
I should mention too my kids have transitioned FANTASTICALLY out of the Mormon church. I was really worried that Bridgette wouldn't like the the change b/c of her autism. We are going to a local methodist church. All of my kids LOVE it. No more fighting!
Wow! you have your hands full. I have a 14 yr old daughter with Aspergers, and two very active younger daughters so I understand how it demanding it is to parent one special needs child, let alone 4. Managing my oldest's doctor's/therapy/IE/PSchool appointments is a part-time job in it's self. I don't know how you do it. My only advice in a nutshell is to take whatever respite you can get and to make as much time for your self as possible. For me networking with other parents of special needs children and taking classes from support organizations was the key to getting the best services for my daughter. Feel free to pm me if you want to vent or need some advice.
Thanks. I just keep going, fighting. I try to work hard and not get too down on myself when everything doesn't go exactly how I'd like it to. Good advice though. Good to have someone in my corner, thanks!
You have a way of putting things Mike that really resonates with me. So much of how I feel about the church you put into words and describe it so well. This is one of those categories. My ex-husband and I should never have married but he joined the church as a result of 'seeing the light' or better said seeing a young naive girl who would might go along with his crap.
My family completely abandoned me because we didn't get married in the temple, although my ex joined the church and we were going to get to the temple with in a year, their was so much pressure and prodding from the wise council of church leaders so we caved in an got married.
So after getting married at a ridiculous age, 21 I had my first daughter at 23. If I had been taught a little beyond 'sex before marriage is the kiss of death' and perhaps taught realistically about birth control and family planning maybe I wouldn't have ended up scraping by trying to finish college while I was pregnant. Its a lousy story all around..
My daughter had bipolar disorder from the day she was born. She exhibited signs within hours of her birth. Come to find out years later when she was finally diagnosed, that her father was also bipolar - not a huge shock!
Anyway, I think back now before my daughter was diagnosed and treated and the nightmare it was to raise my bipolar daughter amidst a divorce, single parenting, remarriage, etc and I try to block those years. The older I get the more I am appalled that anyone thinks having children before the age of 25 is even marginally acceptable. I was still very much a child when I had my daughter and a naive one at that thanks to my fabulous LDS upbringing.
At this point in life at 36 years old I look back at the church culture as I see my sisters and sister in-laws giving up their identities to conform to the 'crank out the kids' mandate and it is so pathetic.
I actually think my life worked out to my advantage in the sense that I had my daughter very young but them I had several years on my own, she was still around but I learned to ignore her rages, and I got the chance to catch up and get in touch with reality. I dated non-mormon guys, worked with some great people who taught me even more about reality, joined the military and got a better understanding of reality, etc and then married my wonderful husband who was also raised TBM.
To your question of having had a child so young did it make me a resentful, resistant parent, absolutely. I did a damn good job of raising a nightmare of a child with my first daughter but I can honestly say I absolutely hated her at times. I never did anything I regret, but do I ever resent the ideas that were pounded into me that it was my calling in life to have children so young. Parenting is so difficult and the MOST taxing and draining job on the earth, even more so when you are trying to navigate life and finish raising yourself and get away from the psycho ward (pun intended!)
I had my two other children with my current husband after I turned 30. They were both very wanted and hoped for and parenting them has been a COMPLETELY different story than raising my first child.
As far as thoughts or suggestions about how to be more engaged I honestly feel that taking good care of ourselves is the best way to be a better parent. When we are in a good place by ourselves it is inevitable that we'll be able to give our kids all that we have to give.
Thanks for the comment Sari! Parenting IS the most difficult job I think we will ever do in life, which just makes it so ironic that Mormons essentially peddle eternal parenting as some kind of celestial reward. Sounds more like HELL to me.
You and I both know the reason they push marriage and babies is so that women won't go around starting to be independent and do ridiculous things like prolong child birthing which guarantees that the number of auto-members (those born in without a choice) will continue to grow therefore increasing tithing, etc and ultimately the grip the LDS has over the TBM family's entire existence.
Haven't read the replies yet. I just wanted to say I feel the same way. Except that my husband is still in the church, and I have 5 girls after 9 3/4 years of marriage. My oldest will be 9 in a month (I got pregnant 3 weeks after our wedding day) and my youngest is only 7 months old. Being a Mom has caused me so much depression, especially having them so close in age (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years apart each) and having so many of them. I just kept feeling like if this is what I'm supposed to be doing and I don't enjoy it, then there must be something wrong with me. I kept having more, feeling like I didn't have a choice and that I'd learn to be good at it. I also really wanted a boy. Now that I've left the church I'm kind of angry. Not that I don't love my girls, or feel the need to continue raising them, but it's partly out of obligation. I feel like I made a commitment to them. And since I'm so upset about it all I want them as far away from the church and it's teachings as I can get them, so they don't end up feeling like I do one day. But unfortunately I still have my husband and his parents still shoving the church down their throat, and I still let them attend at least every other week. I'm still trying to figure out how to end the brainwashing. Just this morning I was thinking about how I feel like I'm failing them as a parent because I'm so hands off. I'm glad they are close in age for the reason that they entertain, help, and teach one another. I really want them to grow up as intelligent, skilled, independent women. I've decided to start slowly teaching them the way things really are...I've been teaching them about evolution lately by letting them watching movies on Netflix with me. I have plans to go back to college when my youngest is in school and my husband is done with college himself and has landed a good job. That probably won't be for 5 or more years. But I've been thinking it will be just as important for me to do this to be an example to them, as it will be for me to have a career for myself. Plus it will only help to have the extra income from me working to help put them through college. I'm just not sure how I will balance being a mother and eventually grandmother while having a job. Anyways, I've just been ranting and none of this is helping to answer any of your questions, since I don't have any of that figured out. I'm just hoping they have some great teachers and role models along the way to make up where my husband and I don't meet the mark.
My TBM sister is expecting her 5th girl and her oldest is only 7. Her 2nd pregnancy was twin girls. She doesn't work and they are crammed into a 900 Sq ft twin home they bought at the height of the housing bubble before it burst in 2007/2008. I don't know if she feels depressed, but her facebook status updates are often laden with the difficulties of parenting, teaching sunbeams, and not getting enough breaks and such. I wish I could get her to see how she doesn't need to keep popping out kids, especially when they don't have room for them and when they get older, continually be more expensive to feed, clothe and educate on one income. I feel for you with 5 of your own girls all under 10 years old. DW hopes to go back to school or get a job when our youngest starts Kindergarten this fall or enters 1st grade a year from then. Had we stayed in the church, we likely would have 4 kids instead of our 3.