Thursday, September 17, 2015

Being a Woman in the Family Proclamation by CaMarie Hoffman

“I enjoy being a girl!” I sang out the Broadway hit by Rogers and Hammerstein. As I sang my voice cracked, my confidence wavered, and I didn’t get into the high school musical that year. Perhaps that song overall is a misinterpretation of the real role of a woman and of what makes me LOVE being a girl so much, but I’ve never forgotten how happy I was to find that one little phrase in music! That one little sentence reflected my heart. I admit I was a little embarrassed to sing it, thought then that maybe I would be looked at as awkward and weird that I felt this way - to rejoice over being a girl! But I am glad to report since that time my confidence and joy in being a girl and in becoming a woman has grown as well as my understanding of what it means to be a woman and how I can rejoice more fully in my role! I sing out more jubilantly and boldly than ever: Hurray! I get to be a GIRL! 

my sister-in-law, my sister, my Mom, me, my daughter, my niece, more of my beautiful daughters - what a special gift to be girls!
My sister-in-law, my sister, my Mom, me, my daughter, my niece, a couple more of my daughters - enjoying being girls together last mother's day! 

I have learned now through my own life experiences and those of my sisters (both by birth and by friendship), through becoming a wife, through becoming a mother (to one son and nine girls!) that being a girl isn’t about soft pink, and lace and flowers (though I personally really like those things!), it’s not defined by what I wear, how I do my hair, the stereo-typically feminine fads that come and go, it's not defined by "fascinating womanhood", my own or anyone else's personal and varied interests, or by anything else like that! 

That is the so-short-sighted and limiting definition that our culture and we often sometimes use to define womanhood! The role of being a woman is MUCH LESS ARTIFICIAL and MUCH MORE SIMPLE, BROAD, EVERLASTING, and MEANINGFUL than all that. 

Most often I feel we as women do not even fully appreciate or value or cherish our God-given role as women. Time and experience has helped me understand and appreciate just a little more the amazing blessing of being a woman, and the wise, incredible, eternal blessing of God giving us the absolutely indispensable and completely intertwined roles of men and women. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states…"ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” I LOVE that. 

my daughter enjoying her new little cousin
Our daughter enjoying her new little cousin

Having obtained a college degree in Family and Human Development at Utah State University I was well-versed in the ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument going on in the “developmental” world. Do our children become who they are because we nurture them that way? Or do they just…well… come who they are? 

Having witnessed the birth and development of my own 10 children and lots of nieces and nephews and other little friends now, I have a firm opinion, they come who they are…and then they get to choose who they become. 

When we had our first, our son Isaac, we were so so thrilled with him! Though, being a girl, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would raise a boy! It turns out I just loved him and nurtured him and watched in amazement as he became, or began to demonstrate who he already was, well both. 

Next we had identical twin girls. I, who had learned so much in college about NOT stereotyping children, who had been reminded time and again to offer a broad range of 'male' and 'female' experiences to both my son and my daughters, learned as a mother that some things are just part of who they are. I observed first hand how they are already wired for their future roles as men and women AND as individuals! Even as tiny, little babies with the same DNA, Emily and Anna began to show their similarities with and differences from each other and their big brother! 

Mike and I & our 1st 3 babies
Mike and I and our 3 under 2! July 1996

For example, Isaac was fascinated by objects and how things worked from the tiniest age. I could hand him a baby doll and he would look at it for 3 seconds with an expression of ‘that’s nice’ and then throw it on the ground and get busy with something else. Very soon we handed him his baby sisters - he would want to hold them - for about 10 seconds - and then he would start looking very uncomfortable and wiggle out from under them and need to go attend to other things, like his cars and action figures. 

Emily and Anna, our twins, on the other hand, from the tiniest age mostly played babies - with their dolls and even with each other! (Our other twins, now 2, were playing baby with each other just this week, trading who was the Mom and who was the baby every now and then.) 

I was very accustomed to finding my little baby doll pre-grandbabies left in long rows around the house, an indication of the special care they were receiving. When my own little ones were finally tucked into bed, I would come into another room to find a row of even tinier tots, 5 or 6 or 10 baby dolls, waiting for another day of nurturing by their practicing mothers, one of which was very planned out, methodical, logical, step-by-step in her development and nurture and the other who just believed in the cause and without thought or fore-planning plunged forward into whatever stage of life she approached - her will would carry her through! 

It makes me smile even now. I have seen time and again each of my girls attend to their baby dolls, their stuffed animals, their little sisters, to each other, or to the neighbor children or even the baby in the waiting room at the doctor's office, with unending attention and devotion; like my little Clara, who, when she was 9 months old, was introduced to her brand-new baby cousin Camden, and was never found without a baby doll in her tiny arms again! Camden and Clara grew into “Best Cousins”, a perfectly compatible little duo who adored one another, but it would always make his mom and I giggle to see them greet each other. Camden’s boyish boisterousness, sporadic sound effects, and spontaneous battle moves would find Clara being cautious until she was sure she could handle his happy hug hello. (Here's a few pics of our nurture-prone daughters!)

I am so grateful to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I’ve always felt celebrated, appreciated, even revered, in my role as a woman! 

Here I do not feel I have to be more like a man to be a good woman. Here I feel my unique gifts and traits as a girl are actually appreciated, valued, even treasured. I feel supported and encouraged in my role as a woman, in becoming all my heart hopes to be! I feel my role as a woman is recognized and I am strengthened and lifted up, reaching little by little, line upon line, my full potential as… a WOMAN! Every woman and man is different, yes, and each of us has been blessed with different interests, skills, aptitudes and desires of the heart, we each have our own mission to fulfill in life, but I feel as women these 3 roles are of utmost importance to us and our identity. I feel to uphold them and to protect them for women's sake, for men's sake, especially for our children's sake, even for the future of the world. These are 3 distinct and vitally important roles we play as women that we can celebrate and seek to strengthen each day!
  1. The role of Nurturer:
The Family: A Proclamation to the World, written by modern day prophets and apostles, reads: “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 nurture? Definition: nur·ture Verb 1. care for and encourage the growth or development of. Noun 1. the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something. (synonyms: encouragement, promotion, fostering, development, cultivation) I thrill at this role! We as women have the main responsibility of encouraging, promoting, developing, cultivating, fostering, these little beings who come completely dependent upon our care, of preparing people! We get to care for and encourage the growth of future generations by tending so lovingly, so carefully, so diligently to this one! Whether it is the baby you tend for the tired mother, the preschooler you are teacher to, the teenager you mentor, or the children God gave you to bear and raise up, we as women are the mothers and co-creators of the future! 


I love this quote: "When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullibies?"  

I have come to the conclusion as a wife, a mother, an aunt, neighbor and friend that I just want to love and embrace the great differences between every person, especially the differences that are innate within us as women and men

 Just as our identical twin daughters, who share the same DNA, (both sets!) are absolutely different from one another, every single person is unique and has something important to contribute. 

our identical twin daughters with our identical twin daughters.
Our 2 sets of identical twins thoroughly enjoying each other, differences and all!

These differences become even more pronounced and are even more necessary for our full contribution when we are considering our roles as women and men

It is obvious we as men and women have different physical features, it is even more obvious to me that we have different spiritual strengths that complement and complete one another, making one great whole when we work together. I have observed that no matter how stereo-typically masculine a role a woman has been assigned or takes on, she performs it with that nurturing feminine touch. And yet I have seen men in stereo-typically feminine roles handle them “like a man”- a different approach, but of great benefit to those they are serving because they are bringing their strengths to the job. 

Both women and men bring their gifts to offer in a world that needs each one. The gifts of nurturing in women along with that undeniably amazing ability to carry and bear children, and the gift and desire that is so inherent in men to protect, provide for, and carefully watch over, even guide to safety, these women and children, are just beautiful! Let's rejoice over our inherent roles! These differences create an awesome and powerful force for good in our own little worlds and in this big one! 

When we recognize, value, and support one another in our various strengths and differences we help each other reach our fullest potential and we really bless this world! 

2. The role of WIFE: The Family: A Proclamation to the World states "THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan." It also makes clear "HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children". In other words, being a wife is an essential part of the plan of happiness for us as women, just as being a husband is for men. 1 Corinthians 11:11 "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." In fact we aren't even whole without one another! (I know those of you who are single feel that and continuously hope and pray for a companion! Remember we each have a different road map to a similar destination!

My husband gave me a beautiful gift when we were married. He had created it himself. A matted picture of Christ with a scripture beneath it, his promise to me, Ephesians 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." My Michael has kept that promise. I have witnessed him constantly giving of himself in kind, thoughtful, tender ways to me and our children. He works long and hard for us and he comes home and asks what he can do for us and then continues on and does what we ask and much more, many times at personal cost to himself. He is constantly thoughtful of my needs and always watchful of our children's wants. It wasn't until years later that I came to hear and understand (well still learning) the counsel in Ephesians 5:33, "...and the wife see that she reverence her husband." I've thought a lot on that term, reverence. The noun means "deep respect for someone or something" and the verb means "to regard or treat with deep respect." Some synonyms are high esteem, high regard, admiration, appreciation, estimation, favor. I started asking myself "do I treat my husband with reverence?" I believe ALL of us could do better. The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled women of the Church to “concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in their husbands; … that we should arm and sustain them with our prayers” (History of the Church, 4:604–5). His wife Emma received special counsel we can all take on being a wife. She was instructed to walk in virtue before the Lord and to be a comfort to her husband, to sustain and assist him. I want to be that kind of wife. I hope we as women will cherish this role and strive to be wonderful wives
my husband and I on our 21st anniversary
my husband and I on our 21st anniversary

3. The role of MOTHER From The Family: A Proclamation to the World we also read, "THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." and from that same sacred document: “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. Yes, from the very beginning we were instructed to be parents, mothers and fathers. Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth..." Perhaps the Lord was talking about more than having children when He said from the very beginning 'be fruitful', perhaps He was also referring to being good stewards, as well as bringing forth 'good fruit' through His gospel - as it says in scripture anyone who doesn't will be cut off and burned - but I believe with all my heart having children was the most important part of this commandment, without it human life would not continue. And we could not have a fullness of joy. 

 I recently rode next to a surgeon on an airplane trip home. He had married a doctor also. She had seen her parents divorce, experienced much misery from it, and had determined not to have children but after several years of success together they started feeling that natural desire for a baby. After much consideration they decided to welcome children of their own to the world. After their first little one was born his wife tried going back to work but felt the pain and frustration too deeply, she told him, "Here I have been a doctor and served so many children and families, but I have never felt so fulfilled, so much purpose and meaning, so much joy as I have already as a mother". She wanted to be a full-time mother. They determined together that she would resign from her job and sacrifice her income so she could stay home with her little one. They eventually had 2 more children.

 It was really wonderful for me to hear the activities his children, now nearly grown, were involved in and of the support their Mom still gave them and to see the joy and satisfaction on his face as he spoke of each one! It brought me joy just to hear about their family! And yes, I wish this joy for everyone. No, not everyone can conceive and bear their own children in this life but everyone can support and strengthen the idea of motherhood, and help and sustain and assist mothers and their little ones. We can choose joy and life and strengthen our future, our world!

“In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship.” (D. Todd Christofferson, The Moral Force of Women) And to you mothers, and grandmothers, and friends helping mothers... “You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well.” "Because she is a Mother", Jeffrey R. Holland [gallery type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="2977,2982"]   These are 3 roles that are inherent and eternally important to women!

It seems lately, or maybe for quite a long while, there have been women who want to usurp a man’s role, take it over for themselves. Whether it is a wish to act like a man, be treated like a man, or coveting his role of being a Priesthood holder, or to administer in Priesthood offices, for various reasons they seem to feel unsatisfied, unrecognized, unimportant, just plain unhappy with their beautiful and divine role as a woman.

 I feel deep sorrow for these women. While I am grateful for women and men all over the world who are striving to see that men and women be recognized as equals, each in their distinct and equally important roles, I do not want the role of women to be short-changed or adapted to be the same as a man's.

 I do not want to have to be more of a man to be valued as a woman, in fact it could never work that way. Long ago President Brigham Young said, (and it is still applicable today): “Priesthood is to be used for the benefit of the entire human family, for the upbuilding of men, women, and children alike. There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ. … Men have their work to do and their powers to exercise for the benefit of all the members of the Church. … So with woman: Her special gifts are to be exercised for the benefit and uplift of the race” (quoted by John A. Widtsoe, comp., in Priesthood and Church Government, rev. ed. [1954], 92–93). "Men and women have different but equally important responsibilities in the home and the Church."

I hope we as women will celebrate and treasure our divine roles as nurturers, wives, and mothers! I hope women everywhere can come to sing with great confidence and joy, "I enjoy being a girl!" I hope husbands, all men, can come to better understand and deeply appreciate our role as women also, but we cannot expect that if we do not recognize and respect their indispensable and forever valuable roles as men! Let's rejoice in our divinely assigned roles, value our roles, seek to support, strengthen, sustain, and respect the inherent and important roles of others and together we will all reach our fullest potential and find our greatest joys!

In addition to being a fabulous wife and mother, CaMarie blogs at All Boys But 9. You can also follow their Youtube Channel which focuses on the joy of family!

Please feel free to leave a little comment love for CaMarie on this post and share this post on Facebook. Or share your OWN love of family with a photo using the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation! 

And be sure to check out the other host blogs today for more wonderful posts and testimonies about family.

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1 comment:

  1. Love this. I remember the first few times I really studied the Proclamation (in college) I always skipped over the line about gender with the passing thought, "why is this even in here? Everyone knows that...). In the last couple years, I've really come to understand that I am no where near understanding all the implications of gender. And in the last year, I've seen the world fall flat on it's face as it has completely rejected the eternal nature of gender. Sometimes, I don't enjoy being a girl and I'm scared. But every so often, Heavenly Father will give me a glimpse of His purposes and a glimmer of understanding that I am and always have and always will be female and that is awesome. The complementary nature of male and female is something that continues to amaze me.