If we allow the family to continue to deteriorate, so will democracy, capitalism, and freedom.

“All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother, ” are the famous words of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was one of the great men of our time who truly deserves to be called great.  Surely, he was one of the most positively influential men in the history of the United States and he attributed all that he was to his upbringing.

It is my cherished belief that happiness and success start at home.  Improving  family life will promote both the well being of the individual and the betterment of the societies in which we live. To explain this thought, I would like to examine the words of Clayton Chistensen, Harvard Business Professor and author, from a commencement address he gave at Southern New Hampshire University. Christensen discussed some searching questions, the likes of which Lincoln, Washington, and other great defenders of democracy were well acquainted with. He asks; is there a situation where democracy will not work?  Yes, absolutely.  Democracy can only function in a society where most people, most of the time, voluntarily obey laws.  Otherwise, people will commit crimes much faster than a democratic legal system can handle.  Without willing compliance, there would not be enough policemen to uphold order and democracy would fail.  The same can be said of capitalism.  An advanced economy can function only if people can expect that when they sign contracts, the other party will voluntarily uphold their obligations.  Free markets only work when people willingly keep their promises.

Having explained that, Christensen then poses what I think is the question of our time, and one that makes our discussion on founding fathers and free markets pertinent to the subject at hand.  He asks, “Because democracy is possible only when most people most of the time voluntarily obey the laws, what institutions can we rely upon to inculcate this instinct amongst the American people? And how can we strengthen those institutions, so that they do this better?” (1). What institutions, indeed?  Where are citizens taught to be honest, law abiding, truthful and good? How does an entire nation come to the collective conviction that all men are created equal, that freedom, liberty and justice are for all?  It must be taught.  But who can be relied upon to teach such essential, transcending truths? Should we trust the survival of our nation’s ideals to daycare employees?  Are our children’s schoolteachers responsible for their moral conviction?  Perhaps this chore is for Sunday school instructors who in one-half hour per week should be expected to instill nobility and integrity in our youth before they arrive in executive positions and on Wall Street.

Now, I know all thoughtful parents out there bristle at these provocative suggestions. Knowing, as you do, that it is the mandate and privilege of the parent to teach good character to their own child.  But I wonder, if parenting is so important to the survival of our society, why does society look down on the woman who is “just a housewife”?  Why instead do we idolize women who are merely famous and beautiful, but who show no moral fervor? Why does society blindly praise the businessman who excels in the marketplace but neglects his family relationships? The value of the family, of parenthood and marriage, are being forgotten, it would seem.

Sure, the tired parent may be thinking, but no individual family meal is really that meaningful. Getting through a pile of laundry or doing the dishes at night, these seemingly endless tasks are usually menial at best.  No one gets a Nobel Peace Prize for wiping a tear or changing a diaper, you’re lucky if you even get a nap.  Pep talks rarely come out eloquently. Teaching moments happen subtly; change and progression are slow to bloom. Usually family vacations are a lot of hard work and family fun isn’t complete until someone is crying. It seems ironically true that every teenager goes through a phase where mom’s very presence is painful.  Being a parent is often a thankless job.  Although in an abstract way we all know the importance of family life, sometimes it is difficult to see the forest from the trees.

That being said, I would like to diverge into a discussion of sociological research and findings about the family.  Specifically, we will look at family meals and fatherlessness, since there seems to be an abundance of research on these topics. However, I feel that could accurate research be found on a multitude of other family functions, the results would be similar. The facts are these:
Children who come from homes where time is dedicated to eating family meals together have been shown to have fewer behavioral problems and higher achievement scores (2). There is a strong association between regular family meals and lower rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior, suicidal risk, and eating disorders among teens (3).

Not surprisingly, almost the complete opposite is true when the father is not present in the home.  Fatherless households have been shown to produce more children who suffer academically, have a greater tendency to commit crimes, and engage in early sexual behavior.  Not to mention that one-half of single parent, mother-headed families live below the poverty line. In fact, researchers believe that “absent or inadequate fathering is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation, and the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society,” (4 and 5).

Ironically, any child can tell you what these experts and educated sociologists have painstakingly proven, that their mother and father are the most important people in their world. A child’s wisdom makes these findings superfluous, though reassuring. Real conviction on the importance of the family comes from experience.  Those who like Lincoln have experienced home at its best can attest to the priceless value of good parenting. Perhaps raising a child is a thankless job.  Perhaps we have allowed the roles of father and mother to be trivialized and undervalued in the popular public opinion. But the facts and findings are a powerful reminder of what we are giving up when we undervalue the home.

We cannot undervalue the father, mother and home without simultaneously jeopardizing our great heritage as Americans. The family is where democracy is upheld and defended.  The family is where free markets flourish.  The family is where the conviction to value honesty and integrity and to respect other people’s rights and property are born.  The family is the guardian of freedom, including the freedom from want and the freedom to be employed which are brought to the forefront of our collective concern today.

We improve society by improving the home.

Can we do better for our children?  Can we restore honor and respect for traditional values? As I have shown, I have a lot of questions about the modern home and family in America. Despite these questions, I feel that the majority of parents are responsible, thoughtful and worthy of their charge.  Although popular culture may not accurately represent the nobility of mother and father, I praise the many educated, talented, successful women who are choosing to be at home and raise their own children.  I applaud the good men who put family first because they recognize that it’s worth the sacrifice.  This post is for you, in celebration of you, and designed to uplift you in your work, both the monumental and simple.

Resources:
(1) Clayton M. Christensen, “The Importance of Asking the Right Questions” (commencement speech, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, N.H., May 16, 2009).
(2) Hofferth, S. L. “Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997.” University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Center Survey, January 1999. National probability samples of American families with children ages 0-12, using time diary data from 1981 and 1997. Findings on how time use is associated with children’s well-being are reported in Hofferth, S. L. (2001). How American Children Spend Their Time. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 295-308. Also: Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster. Putnam reports on the decline in dinners, using national probability samples of married couple households.
(3) Council of Economic Advisers to the President. (2000). “Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: An Examination of Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement.” Report released May 2000. Analysis of the Adolescent Health Study, using a national probability sample of adolescents and parents.
(4) Blankenhorn, D. (1995). Fatherless America: Confronting our most urgent social problem. New York: Basic Books.
(5) Popenoe, D. (1996). Life without father. New York: Free Press.

This is the story of how God heard my prayer, got my husband a job, and proved it was all His doing on an uneventful international flight.

When my husband chose to study engineering, graduates from the field had their pick of jobs.  An engineering education was considered an automatic in.  However, six years later when he graduated with his Masters, we knew other grads who had been looking for work for over a year, the effects of the economic downturn were apparent.  So, we started looking for openings but we weren’t encouraged by what we saw. The engineering career fairs, which in previous years had been packed with prospective employers, were empty. We sent out resumes, contacted friends and neighbors for recommendations, called in favors wherever we could, and still nothing.  Like so many other Americans, my husband took a job unrelated to his field while we continued our search.

As the months ticked away, it was horrible to stand by and watch the pressure mount on my husbands shoulders.  Also, I felt helpless, like a spectator of my own life, waiting on the decisions of others.  Feeling humbled by our circumstances, I prayed for help. I prayed with the honesty of one who has exhausted every other resource. I prayed with conviction fueled by desperation, knowing that if we were going to find a good job when so many others were out of work too, it would have to be a miracle.

I knew my husband was doing all he could. I wanted to know how I could help. As I continued praying, a sense of empowerment began to well up in my heart. My thoughts became more positive. I asked for inspiration, and it came! Like a fresh breeze in a stifling room, ideas and excitement began to flow. I had a plan!

I made a resume website for him.  Using, as a theme, some ridiculous (but very funny) photos we had taken of him looking remarkably like Napoleon Dynamite. The catch phrase was, “Engineering Resume; where it’s cool to be a nerd.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.13.51 AM

The site had a very quirky feel, with links to funny YouTube videos about interviewing and the like, but it also housed the bulk of his resume.  I put our personal profiles on there too, so employers could get to know our family.  Then, I made him 50 business cards for the site featuring the picture of him dressed up as a nerd.  It took a few days  to pull it together and I worried that I was wasting my time.

Was this really going to help? I thought the idea was inspired, but was it really?

I showed the site and the cards to my husband. To my dismay, he was reluctant to use them, explaining that all his career advisors had warned against this type of thing.  Engineering companies, he said, wanted to see serious and professional applicants.  However, when I explained that I felt the idea was an answer to my prayers, he agreed to try it.

A little later, a friend recommended my husband to the ExxonMobil  recruiters.  They were recruiting for a  very few available openings, and preferred to hire former interns, so the odds were against us.  The recruiters were helpful, but honestly said there wouldn’t be many new hires this year. However, they encouraged my husband to go to the BYU career fair that week and meet the head recruiter if possible.

In order to make it there after a hectic day at work, my husband had to go straight from work to the campus.  This meant that he was still dressed in dirty work clothes, boots and hard hat.  Also, he had no printed resumes with him.  We both wondered if it was even worth going unprepared like he was.

However, when my husband walked into the career fair, he held his head high.  The ExxonMobil head recruiter had been swamped with hopefuls all day, especially since they were one of the only  companies at the fair accepting applications. My husband introduced himself and they had a chuckle over his getup. Instead of being embarrassed, he used his attire as a conversation piece.  It seemed like the meeting  was going well until the recruiter asked for a resume. My husband informed him that he had sent one in online, but didn’t have any on hand.  The recruiter was disappointed, asking how he was supposed to remember him  without it.

That’s when my husband recalled his nerdy business card!

He reached for his card, apologized for it being a bit unorthodox, and handed it to the recruiter.  All my husband’s apprehension flew out the window when the recruiter took one look at the card and threw back his head, laughing. He loved it.  This was the coolest thing he had seen all day.  He confided that my husband was at the top of his list and would make a great addition at Exxon.

Exultant, my husband came home to share the unexpectedly happy news.  He was thrilled with the way things went. His quirky business card had been just the ticket.

The interviewing process with Exxon was quite extensive.  He had five meetings altogether. During the weeks of interviews, we saw a spike of hits on his resume blog as well. Finally, after a three-month-long process, he was offered a coveted ExxonMobil position.

My husband gave me the credit saying it was all because of my idea to make a quirky site and card.  There were a lot of factors though, and of course the card would have been useless if he wasn’t also a good candidate for the company.  We still didn’t know what really got him the job, but we definitely felt blessed to get it.  I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for answering our prayers.

Several months later, our aunt and uncle were taking an international flight and started up a conversation with their seat-mate.  When they heard he worked for ExxonMobil they excitedly explained that their nephew, my husband, was just starting a new job with Exxon.  Incredibly, it turned out that they were seated by the head recruiter who met my husband at the career fair.  Of all the hopeful applicants he had met throughout the course of his job, he remembered my husband.  He laughed as he explained to our aunt and uncle about the business card and website and how that won my husband the interview opportunity.

Now, some people would call that a coincidence.  Some people would call my idea just the result of positive thinking.  But to me, that’s more far-fetched than acknowledging that God answered my prayers.  It was simply a miracle.

God didn’t just make it happen without effort on our part, that’s not how He works, but he made our efforts efficient and successful when the odds were totally against us.

Not only did the Lord inspire me with the desire to be proactive, He showed me the avenue to take.  He helped me design a mini marketing campaign with the right tone and media.  All those little circumstances came together for the business card to be received at the right moment. And then, He even made plain His miracle with the serendipitous meeting on the plane.

I asked for help, I felt the inspiration flow and knew the Lord was there for me.  Then, I watched the miracle unfold with beautiful simplicity.  Perhaps it’s difficult to have faith in the miracle unless you also felt the hopeless reality of our long and unsuccessful job search before we sought out God’s help.  We felt a real difference.  Maybe that’s why we each need to pray and experience faith for ourselves.

I have had many experiences like this throughout my life.  I know that God hears and answers prayers.  I know that He is aware of us and waits on us to ask, seek and knock, as the bible says.  Matt 7:8- For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. This is my personal experience of testing that promise.  I have found it to be amazingly, miraculously, exhilaratingly true.

On women in society at large: Perhaps we’ve climbed from inferior to identical but the equality we’re looking for is still ahead.  It is something that we need to give to ourselves by valuing and claiming our divine roles as women.

As a Latter-day Saint, I believe that God designed the family to begin with a father, whose role is to provide, and a mother, whose role is to nurture.

I am 26 and I’ve been married for five years. Recently, I made the transition into motherhood.  My son is Six-months old. I am my child’s full-time care-giver.  My business is just a side job.

It is sometimes difficult to live by my belief that a mother’s role is in the home.  Being “just” a stay-at-home mom has a negative connotation in our competitive society.  The culture seems to say, “Really?  How back-woodsey could you get? You’re being oppressed by your husband and belittled by the menial tasks of child-care.  Don’t you have any self-respect, intelligence or resources?  You’re wasting your youth trapped behind a pile of dirty diapers.  Don’t you know there’s a big world out there, brimming with opportunities, and that you could really be someone?”

It’s frustrating that my opinion of women’s roles is not widely understood or valued.  But I have a strong conviction.  My mother taught me that being a stay-at-home mom is a privilege.  I was also taught that my education was of equal value, if not exceeding the value of my husbands’ education, and this not despite the fact that I would be staying home with the kids, but because of it.  I was taught to be a strong woman and to expect equality.

Equality is a concept that we hear a lot about with reference to women’s roles.  Women have fought for equal rights as voters, in the workplace, in the political arena, and in the home.  This is rightly so, for women have suffered through centuries of oppression and belittlement.  However, could it be that we’ve gone so far in our fight for equality that we’ve belittled ourselves and minimized our roles as women?

I think so. Let me explain. Women have fought to gain equal standing with men, but in order to be equal, we’ve attempted to become identical.  Sixty plus years ago little girls were taught to marry doctors and lawyers. Instead, they grew up and became doctors and lawyers.  There was a definite sense of wanting to prove ourselves; prove that we are as capable, as driven, as talented as any man. Tired of being told that we were not able to meet the challenges of the workplace, we rose up and rushed into the workforce with a resounding, “we can do it!”

We can.  We have.  But what has happened to the role that women traditionally filled of being mothers, homemakers and nurturers? Did men suddenly evolve and begin bearing children?   Well, no.  Women still do that.  Was there an equal movement for men to prove that they could be stay-at-home-dads?  Well a little, but generally no, men still work too.  In fact, research indicates that working mothers contribute around 40 hours/week to housekeeping, childcare and homemaking—on top of their full-time work schedules.  Dads have stepped it up too, helping around the house more but statistically the bulk of these domestic responsibilities are still performed by women.

So, women are doing double duty, working outside the home while also bearing children and keeping house.  This leads me to wonder, have we achieved equality? Because it seems like women are working harder and receiving less of the richness of life; creating children but not having the pleasure of raising them, trusting their little ones to day-care providers. Likewise, we’ve proven that we can replace men in the workforce.  However, perhaps the more important truth is that we cannot be replaced as mothers in the home.

We have effectually sold our birthright in order to prove that we are mans equal.  But why do we have to perform identical roles in order to feel equally valued?  Women can be esteemed equally without behaving identically or interchangeably with men. So, Perhaps we’ve climbed from inferior to identical but the equality we’re looking for is still ahead.  It is something that we need to give to ourselves by valuing and claiming our divine roles as women.

One thing that I love about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the tremendous respect given to the role of women and motherhood.   The church teaches that mothers are irreplaceable and that motherhood is a crowning privilege and a gift from God.  In a society where stay-at-home moms are looked down on I greatly appreciate the LDS Church’s affirmation that motherhood is beautiful and worthwhile, that our children are worth being home for, and that women do not need to forgo motherhood in order to be someone.