Interview by Emilia Bingham with her Grandma, Genie Pope

 

grandma pictureJust to start out, do you want to tell me a little bit about where and when you were born?

I was born in Sacramento county California, on March 5th, 1947.

And you are the oldest, right?

Yes.

Tell me a little bit about your parents, what you remember about them from when you were a kid?

I remember that daddy was never home. He worked, and worked, and worked. He had his own business. He was a truck driver, and they transported crops from the field to the granaries. He hauled grains, and tomatoes, and peaches. Mostly grain. He hauled wheat, and barley, and rice. Sunflower… not sunflower… milo. But like I said, he did do some tomatoes. When I was really young he did hay. And they would haul hay to the coast, and that’s how he got over to Fort Bragg. They would take a load of hay and sell it to the co-op there that sold hay to the local dairies, but then he also had some that he would take out to the farms. He wouldn’t sell a whole load to one person, but like, every two weeks he would make a trip to the coast, and he’d be gone for the better part of a week delivering there. So he was gone a lot. I don’t remember seeing him except at the hay stack where he was loading up another load, and that was a big deal because we would have a picnic, and lemonade, and stuff in the heat of the summer. And that’s when we would see him, because he worked so much that we would get up in the morning and my mother would say, “your dad was home last night,” and I didn’t ever believe her until I saw the dirty clothes.

So, you were raised with mostly just your mom in the house?

When I was really young. When I got to be, oh maybe third grade, fourth, fifth grade, most of his jobs transitioned to being all more in local crops, and not so much over to the coast. I guess it just wasn’t profitable. I don’t know why he quit hauling the hay, but then we saw more of him. And that was really kind of an adjustment because we weren’t used to having him around. And, you know, Daddy was kind of gruff. You know, so it was different, but then, you know, you work into it. Then as I became a teenager he was home all the time because they were hauling local. He still worked long hours, but, um, he was home. And most nights he was home for dinner, and that was kind of cool. Yeah, that was kind of cool.

Ok, so that’s a lot about your dad, what about your mom?

Um, she was, not an easy person to live with. It was really hard to do anything to please her. She was very critical. Especially of me, because I didn’t meet her stereotype of what a girl’s body should be like. And she did all of the sewing, she did my clothes in the store, but she did a lot of sewing, and because of my body shape I was difficult to sew for. And she let me know it. I don’t have a lot of good memories of her growing up. When I go to look at positive things the things that I find are that she was always there, and she, in her own way, cared. She always made Halloween was a big thing, and I hated it because I never liked to dress up, but Halloween was a big thing when I was growing up. She always made the most special treats of any mother on the block. I kind of think it was a competition thing, I can’t say for sure. She would work for days decorating marshmallows and apples. I don’t remember her ever so much baking, but making special treats that involved time, and putting them on a tray to serve to the kids when they came trick-or-treating. If there was ever a need at the school she was the first one to volunteer. She was always the room mother. We didn’t do a lot of field trips back then because we walked or rode our bikes everywhere, and were in a small community, but if there was a need for a parent to be there, a mother, because dads worked, mothers stayed home in those days. You know, the economy was such that mothers didn’t need to work. But anyways, she was always there, and that says a lot about her. But, she always was, till the day she died, a very negative person. And, um, that’s something that I’ve had to try to really overcome and live with. You become it. I don’t remember, I don’t remember her teaching me how, you know, saying this is how you do this, or this is how you do that. I just remember that we had chores and we learned that way.

What about when you started school? What was that experience like for you?

Oh, it was exciting. Exciting! I was a big girl (laughs). I loved school. I loved school, and I had an aunt that would come and visit, my grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, and Aunt Helen would come to visit. She would always read to us. Bring us Golden Books and comic books. She was always reading to us, and I couldn’t wait to get to school and learn to read. And when I got there I realized that I already knew how to read. And that was so exciting to me. They gave us Dick and Jane. “Look, Dick, look, Jane, see Spot run.” And I thought it was so stupid. But no, school was exciting to me. I never wanted to miss. I loved everything about school, just about. Yup.

That’s awesome. What kinds of interests did you have as you grew up, maybe around the time you were becoming a teenager?

Um, music. I played the flute and the piccolo. And I loved music, all kinds of music. Still do. Hobbies. Because we were two girls in the family I became my dad’s only son, and I did all kinds of things with him. And I loved it. I loved going hunting with him. Not so much the fishing, but I did it because it gave me alone time with him. And I, um, like I say, I didn’t really have any hobbies. I just didn’t, as I remember. I wanted to be a teacher. I remember that. I wanted to teach fifth grade because that was US history, and I loved us history. I had a fifth grade teacher that was the ultimate example, and I wanted to be just like Mrs. Mitches. And, um, that never happened because dad didn’t believe in girls going to college. It was like flushing money down the toilet. And so, he would not allow me, in high school, to take college credit classes, and set me up in a business class because I could always find a job. And so, I always wanted that teaching, but it came in other ways after I joined the church, and had church jobs and stuff. But hobbies, no, I don’t know. Don’t remember ever having any.

You mentioned that expectation that women don’t go to college. What other expectations did you find from teachers, or from other family members?

Well you respected your elders. Always, always, always. You didn’t bad mouth. You didn’t have an opinion because you weren’t an adult. I look back on that and I think hmmmmmmm. But, you were compared a lot. You couldn’t just be you. I have a cousin that I’m really close to, and he’s about nine weeks older than me, and we were always being compared. He was a year ahead of me in school, and if Jim got straight A’s on his report card I was expected to get straight A’s. There were a lot of expectations of being proper, and being good. If mom and dad said, “don’t cross the street without coming in the house and getting one of us to walk you across the street,” even if you’re ten years old, that’s what you did. You didn’t question the rules. And if your parents didn’t enforce them, the neighbors did. If you did something that wasn’t right, you know, Sandy’s mom was going to spank me as much as my mom was. You’d get it twice. So yeah, there were rules, and you just really didn’t even question them. That’s the way it was, so. Is that what you wanted?

Lots of the things you talk about- how you liked to go hunting with your dad, how you were often compared to your cousin, Jim, but there was also this expectation to be proper and everything- did you ever find that your interests were more tom-boyish but you were still expected to be very feminine and proper in that way?

Absolutely. Oh yeah.

How did you deal with that?

It was just the way it was. I never wanted to be a boy, I liked being a girl because I liked dresses. And I liked fixing my hair, and everything, but I also liked doing the things that my dad did, and I was a better shot than most of the men we went hunting with. And they respected that.

That’s pretty cool.

Yeah, yeah, um, but those were things that I enjoyed doing. You know, I bit my finger nails. I didn’t care about fingernail polish. But yeah, you know, when it came time to go to a school dance, I wanted a pretty dress. I wanted to look nice. We wore dresses to school back then, we didn’t wear pants. And I wanted to look the best I could look every day I walked out the door, but when I got home, I wanted to put on my pants and go out and see what daddy was doing out at the truck shop. We lived on where his trucks were after I was like, in the seventh grade, so I could go out there every day and see what he was doing. I never wanted to get greasy and learn how to fix the engines or work on the trucks or anything like that, but I wanted to know what was going on. It was mostly the hunting because I loved to shoot, whether it was a bow and arrow, or a rifle, or a pistole, it’s just, those where things that I really enjoyed doing, and I did them well.

Ok, I want to start talking about high school, and when you were starting to look toward your future. What kinds of dreams did you have for yourself when you were a teenager or young adult?

Well like I say, I wanted to be a teacher, but when that couldn’t happen I started looking more at business. I never really thought that I would work as many years as I did because I hoped that someday I would get married and have a family. I expected that I would be like my mother and stay home and raise kids, and my husband would work. And so, I really didn’t think far ahead like you do now, and I don’t know how much of that was influenced by not being able to go to college. Now if I had been able to go to college and knew that I could be a teacher I probably would have thought I would do that, even after I was married and had children. Because some of the teachers that I had, most of them were older and their kids were grown, but a couple of them weren’t, and teachers the were starting to get younger. I could see that if there was any way that I ever could have become a teacher I would have been able to do it and have a family too, but because I wasn’t I didn’t even think beyond graduating from high school, in the sense of finding a career that would last me my life time. I just knew that I was gonna marry your grandfather and that I would work until the babies came.

How did you meet grandpa?

At school. In high school.

Were you in the same grade?

No, he was two years ahead of me. He was dating a girl that I kind of ran around with, and behind his back she was dating his best friend.

Oh no!

And of course, everybody but grandpa knew it. He had a cool car, and I didn’t know him real well, but I knew who he was. The A&W was the hang out place and we would go cruising at night, and go cruise through the A&W and stop and have a root beer maybe. But I knew that she was seeing Bill. She lived out of town, you know, it was easy for her to see someone else. And I just kept waiting for him to find out. And when he did, he’d always come over and talk to me and my friends when we parked having our root beer, but it was after they broke up that, um, yeah, that summer.

And when you decided to get married, how old were you, what was that like, what did your parents think? Tell me about that.

I was sixteen when we started to date. I was seventeen when we got engaged. And it was again, one of those, not expected but this is going to happen. It was not unusual. Some of the girls in my graduating class were married before we even graduated. Some of them were expecting babies and got married, some of them just got married. Aunt Gail got married in January, and she was so excited the day we graduated because she just found out she was pregnant with their first baby. So she was married six months before we graduated. It was not unusual for girls to just get married, finish their senior year, and go off and raise their families. Gotta realize I was raised in a small farming community. I don’t know what was going on in the big cities then because I didn’t know anybody that lived there. But because we had dated for a couple of years it was just kind of the conclusion that we would get married. So, you know, they liked him and thought he was an ok guy, so they were fine with it.

What do you think, if getting married young was the norm then, and now things are moving towards the other extreme of people getting married older, what do you think of that, and what do you see as pros and cons of the different situations?

I never had a chance to grow as a person because I went from my parent’s home, to my home. I graduated on the eleventh of June, and got married on the seventeenth of July. I had no time to really grow into myself. Um, I didn’t have any experience, well I shouldn’t say any, but I had very little experience in making major decisions on my own, because decisions had been made for me. And I think, you know, now, you’ve made a whole lot more decisions in your life since you graduated from high school than I probably made in the first ten years I was married. I think that it gives you a better advantage to, um, making tougher choices more wisely, and yet, I see some going to the extreme of, like you say, not getting married until later, sometimes that’s their choice, sometimes it’s a matter of circumstance, and um, I don’t know. It was the way it was. You’re probably more equipped to deal with some of those first few years of marriage challenges than I was, but you stumble through it.

When did you start to feel like you were entering adulthood?

Oh, probably about the time I was fourteen. Being large for my age, that means height, weight, everything, and being the oldest, I was mature. I was mature, and I was not afraid to do things by myself, in the security of my, um, neighborhood so to speak. But, um, I felt like I was prepared to get married at eighteen, and I felt like I was an adult. Seriously. I really felt at different times that I should have been given more freedom than what I was. And that was in high school. So, I guess that was the time, you’re 14 when you go into high school, and I felt like that was about the time I was going towards adulthood.

You joined the church right around the same time you were getting married, right?

Yes.

Do you want to tell me a little bit about how that was for you?

Ok, yeah, I had been baptized into another church when I was, I think it was 12. I’m not sure. It was called the Christian church, and that’s where I had gone all of my life. Mom always took us to church, that was another good thing about her, she always took us to church. Daddy didn’t go. He was raised in a- his mother’s family was catholic, and his dad’s family did not have a practicing religion that I’m aware of. And his mom and dad got divorced and that influenced him a lot about religion because, first of all his catholic mother married a non-Catholic, and then got divorced, and that was just taboo. And then he saw her being treated unkindly by her church. So when Mother would take us to church and there would be a program or something Daddy always would be sure that he had a drink of alcohol before it was time to leave to go to the church so that Mother would tell him to stay home because she didn’t want to take him to church with alcohol on his breath. So, you know, she was really good about church. When I was 14 I was really excited because there was a returned missionary coming back, and he had been in Africa. Everyone was excited about Elden coming home and telling us about all of his experiences and everything. He came and he was a nice looking young man, and he was called to be the Sunday school teacher for my Sunday school class, and it was about this time of the year, Easter time, and we were, you know, having a discussion on Easter, and the resurrection, and everything, and he said some things that I didn’t believe. And you know, he’s a returned missionary, he knows, but I somehow got the courage to tell him that what he was saying was wrong, and he said no, that I was wrong, and one thing led to another, and I told him that I knew that I was right and he was wrong, and that I couldn’t sit in a class where the teacher was teaching lies. I got up and left. And I wonder now where I got the courage to do that. But Heavenly Father was guiding me. And for the next four years, three years, I went to every church in town, with every friend that I had, looking for a place where, and I loved going to church. I loved going to worship services, and Sunday school, and I was looking for how I had felt there before he disillusioned me. And everywhere I went, I just didn’t feel right. It just didn’t feel right. And then, when your grandfather and I started to date, um, his family was inactive, and he hadn’t been to church for a really long time. But he told me a little bit about his church, why he didn’t want me smoking in his car, and why he didn’t drink ice tea, and that kind of stuff. And I said, “well you know, I like to go to church, I just haven’t found any place where I really feel, you know, comfortable.” After we dated for a year, on our anniversary weekend our one year anniversary, he said “will you go to church with me?” and I got really excited and I said yes. And so, we went to sacrament meeting that Sunday. And when I walked into the church I felt like I had come home. There was just the spirit there, that I hadn’t felt for almost four years. And we went to church, not every Sunday, but most Sundays, for, well, from July until January, and when we got engaged in January then we started talking about me joining the church. That’s when I started taking the missionary discussions. And because I was not eighteen, mom and dad would have had to signed permission for me to join the church, and neither one of them believed as we do. They didn’t know what we know, and I didn’t want to make- ask them- to give me permission to do something that they didn’t believe in. And so I told the missionaries when they asked me about baptism, I said yes, that I knew it was true, I had a testimony, but that I couldn’t do it until I was eighteen, because when I turned eighteen I was legally an adult in California, and that I could do it on my own. And they respected that, so I turned eighteen on the fifth of March, and I was baptized the next Saturday, the thirteenth, and did not need their permission to do it.

Thank you for sharing that. And so, you got married, and then when did kids start to come along, and how was that to go from being a wife to then a wife and a mother?

Oh, I loved it. Except that he didn’t sleep! Um yeah, we were married for over two years when Michael was born, and I just couldn’t believe that this beautiful baby was mine!  I never, wanted to put him down. He’d go to sleep, and I’d lay him in my lap, and just sit there and look at him! I was excited to be a mom, but I had worked for two years, and I loved my job, and people at work made me feel good and made me feel important, and I didn’t want to give that up. I went back to work when he was three months old. Back then the doctors didn’t teach you, or tell you, about, you know, putting the child on a schedule or anything like that. It was feed them when they cry and they’re hungry. There was no, direction given as far as training a child to go to bed at a certain time and things like that. And so, I really struggled because every three hours that baby wanted to be fed, and that didn’t give me much sleep, because it wasn’t three hours from the time he got up and wanted a dry diaper and a bottle it was three hours from the time he had gotten up to begin with. Yeah, so, that was really hard, and what was even harder was going back to work, and realizing that I couldn’t do it. And giving up that praise. “You’re good.” Getting patted on the back, you know, after being raised with such a negative mother, I mean, it felt like, it was night and day being told you were good. You know, that you were doing wonderful things, and so it was very very difficult for me to say, “I can’t do this. First of all, I can’t afford to pay the babysitter what I’m having to pay, and secondly, all I do, I don’t get anything done at home, because I’m tired all the time. I can’t do it.” And so I had to quit. And that was really tough. That was really tough. But once I got into it and everything then I was happy I didn’t have to get up and put on my nylons and high heels and go to work, and so, it was a really growing experience for me. You know, after Michael was born. But nobody loved a baby as much as I loved him.

What did Grandpa think of you going to work, and then quitting to take care of Michael?

I don’t remember, um, I honestly don’t remember ever discussing it. That was one of those decisions that I made. And it was, it was hard financially because we had grown to rely on that paycheck that I brought in, and so I did other things. I baby sat. Like I said, I don’t remember really ever discussing that that was what I was going to do, I just knew that I couldn’t do it anymore, you know with him and everything, so I just, I did it.

Ok. The next question I wanted to ask is about my mom, because she came along and then you had a daughter. How do you think her experience growing up was different from yours? Based primarily on how you treated her, if you were the same or different than your parents had been in regard to raising a daughter.

I think I tried to be positive. I don’t know that I was very good at letting her do things when she thought she was ready to do them. I think, you know, with both of the kids, that I still kind of tended to raise them the way that I had been raised with expectations of doing what you were told and that kind of thing. But your mother was always very independent. And I tell the story, and this is literally true, that when she was three months old, she stood up in her crib, she stomped her foot, and she wanted to hold the bottle herself. She didn’t want me to hold it and feed it to her. Being the second child and seeing an older brother running around your mother walked at a very, very young age. Part of that was because of medical things. When she was born, she was born pigeon toed. We had to use medical devices to get her legs straight, and the things that were used gave her a sense of balance. She was small, she was very small. She was crawling and pulling herself up, and she was literally walking by herself I think when she was seven and a half months old.

Oh wow.

Yeah, she’s got her baby books, you could verify that time line. But she was a very independent spirit, and um, somedays that was good and other days it caused conflict. And um, it took me a while, and all mothers have to learn that somethings you have to learn by failing. And she didn’t fail very often, but when she did you know, she’s like the rest of us, she learned from it. But it was hard for me to realize that she was ready to do things before I thought she should be even thinking about them. Sometimes it was just easier to let her do it. She wanted to learn to play the piano, and I said “well you can’t learn to play the piano until you’re this old,” and she said “why not?” and I said “well because you can’t play the piano until you know fractions, and you don’t learn that until you’re in the third grade.” And it was “then teach me.” And it was the same way with cooking. She wanted to cook, she wanted to bake. “Well you can’t until you know fractions because when you measure.” “Well then teach me.” And so I taught her. She was wanting to do things maybe before I was ready for her to be doing them. Now she might tell you that I held back, and I probably did in a lot of things. But I think that I learned. I hope I learned that she was ready. I think that she had as many challenges growing up as a girl as I had simply because I was learning right along with her.

I guess just final question, what would you tell me now that I’m kind of in a transitioning into adulthood period of my life? What wisdom would you want to pass on to me, or to others like me?

Stay close to Heavenly Father. Listen to the spirit. And His plan isn’t always ours. But He knows more. That’s the hardest thing because we decide like I did, I wanted to be a teacher, but that didn’t work, so what do I do? You know, don’t get so focused on worldly things that you’re not doing what He has in mind for you. He gave you a brain, a very good one. And um, set you goals. Work towards them. But when Mr. wonderful comes along don’t put that off to go and do things that maybe aren’t going to be best in the eternal plan.

Advertisements

Interview with my mom (Cathy Ringwood)

TJP_RingwoodWed-1045.jpgInterview by Stephanie Ringwood
3/7/17

  1. Basic background information: Where
    were you born? When? Etc.

    1. I was born in 1957 in SLC, Utah. I was raised in the city and spent my whole life in the city. I was the youngest of 5 children and was born to anchor babies – my mother was of German descent, her name was Dorothy Sophie Kreutzer. My father was of Yugoslavian descent – his name was Stephen James Vranes and he actually made up his middle name because everyone had a middle name back then. And, all four of my grandparents were immigrants to this country in the early part of the 20th
  2. Did your mom work? If so, where? Did your dad work?
    1. My mother did work growing up; she started working when her sons started going on missions in order to provide for the family, particularly insurance, and so it was necessary for her to work. She actually started working when I was about 5. She was an office worker at Deseret Book and she rose to become Office Manager, and so she worked her way up but it was difficult for her with young children at home.
    2. Yes my dad worked, he was a self educated man – neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college because they were raised during the depression and came from families that were not able to provide any educational opportunities for them. And so he worked for a while in the mine, and then he went and had his own car lot that he gave up to pursue other interests. He struggled providing.
  3. Ok that was going to be my next question, how much education did your parents receive?
    1. Yeah, just high school. And, at the time it was only two years of high school for my mom. She told me they only went to two years of high school because they didn’t have a senior year.
  4. Did your parents push you to do well in school?
    1. My father’s mother – his father died when he was about 7 so he was raised by his mother – didn’t ever learn to read, write or speak English. And so my father had a difficult time reading and a difficult time actually writing, like his penmanship, and so he struggled. But my mother was raised by her mother who loved to read and so that was passed on to us as siblings and we were expected, well it was kind of what my parents wanted for their children because they never got the opportunity to go to college, which we all did.
  5. How important is education to you?
    1. Oh it’s incredible. It’s very important to me and I’ve made it very important to my children because it opens up the world, it helps you to see things in the world differently, and helps you to appreciate life. We kind of had a little motto growing up and when I was raising my kids: love The Lord, love life, and love learning. That was kind of my personal thing and the main thing I wanted to accomplish when I was raising my children.
  6. How does the Gospel play a role in your views towards education?
    1. Very strongly. My father was a convert to the church when he was 35 and so my brother and I were basically raised in the church, but my other siblings weren’t and so it was difficult for them. But the Gospel gives you a different perspective, and helps you see the bigger picture and see how important it is to learn all you can. It makes such a difference in your life, and I could see the difference in my dad who had a mother who couldn’t even read and signed her name with an ‘X’ on her marriage license, and yet she still had to get supplemental money as a young widow. You need education.
  7. What did you major in? What influenced this decision?
    1. I actually started out wanting to major in English but then I decided that I would minor in English. I always kind of liked the media per say, and so I went into communications because I thought that’s what I wanted to pursue, so that’s what made me decide that.
  8. What were your hobbies growing up?
    1. Wow what were my hobbies? I played the piano, and I remember I liked to play Hop Scotch, which was an old game and we spent hours and hours playing that – oh, and read. I guess not much else.
  9. I know you were a cheerleader in high school, would you have chosen something different if it were offered?
    1. Oh yeah, big time. That’s why I steered all my children away from cheerleading and actually I kind of kept it a secret – not that it’s bad – but I would have rather done something else. I didn’t go to a high school where a lot of my friends went on to college. In fact there was probably just a handful that went to college, so we didn’t have many options at my school.
  10. In your youth did you ever feel inhibited as a woman?
    1. No you know what I didn’t really because my mom worked, but I did see how hard she worked even when she was home. In those days we had a wringer washer and so every Saturday she would do the wash with a wringer washer and that was hard. I’d watch her and she was up at the crack of dawn putting washing through the wringer washer and then hanging it out on the line outside until we got a dryer and it revolutionized. But I don’t think I felt inhibited, I don’t know why, maybe because my dad was really supportive and paid a lot of attention to me and I had older brothers who were very encouraging to me. I think maybe had my family make up been a little different I would have, and I was really shy so maybe that had a lot to do with it too.
  11. How did you meet your husband? How soon after did you start dating?
    1. I met my husband actually through a friend in the 9th grade, he introduced me at a baseball game he was playing in, and that was the first time I met him. And then we probably went to a dance maybe, I have to think that one through, maybe at the end of my sophomore year. I also had him in a class and that’s where I started to get to know him after I met him that initial time.
  12. What was your experience with sending your husband on a mission? Did you know you wanted to marry him?
    1. You know I wrote quite steadily the first year to him and then not so much the last year. I dated people but there wasn’t ever anybody, and I knew that he was somebody that I could marry because he was the type of person I wanted to marry. But, you know, two years is a long time so you never know.
  13. Did you enjoy getting married young? Was that the norm? Did you feel pressure to start a family right away?
    1. Actually I was probably older, my mother got married when she was 19 and I was almost 22 by the time I got married so that was considered older. I was probably the last one of my friends to get married. No I didn’t feel pressure, and actually when I first got married I thought I was going to work and not start a family for awhile.
  14. So what influenced your decision to be a stay at home mom?
    1. Probably a couple of things. I saw how hard my mom worked and she didn’t have a choice. I thought that must have been difficult for her because I did go to a baby sitter when I was young and I know that it was hard for her to not always be there. It was also hard for me to not always have someone be there when I would come home and that did affect my security when I was younger.
  15. What was your experience with your dad passing away? How old were you? Where were you? Etc.
    1. I was probably married a little over a year and the best description for me was it pulled the rug right out from under me. It was a really big shock and it was pretty well known among my siblings that I was a daddy’s girl and that I was spoiled by my dad. He was really good to me. It was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever gone through in my life, and it was also a very profoundly teaching experience in my life. It taught me to depend on the Lord at a young age and I’m very grateful for that.
  16. How was your family influenced by this sudden change? Particularly, how did your mom’s life change?
    1. That was really difficult for me to see because my mother didn’t even know how to put gas in her car, and so I had to teach her. That was something my dad always did for her, he always drove her to work and picked her up. Even though she worked there were a lot of things she didn’t know how to do because he would always do them for her. I remember that I felt a significant amount of pressure to take care of my mom after he died because my sister and three brothers all lived out of state and so that left a lot of pressure on me to go through all of his papers and things. As I look back I felt like the first 6 months were very difficult for me, I had to go see a doctor because I couldn’t sleep at night and I took a pill for 6 months to try to help it. I eventually went to my stake patriarch because I felt like having your father taken makes you feel like you had lost the patriarchal order in your home and I was very troubled by that. So I went to see my stake patriarch and he gave me a blessing and it was really good advice that I really took to heart. After those 6 months I seemed to be ok to deal with it and your dad was very helpful to me. I don’t think I could have ever done it without him. Then by the time I felt like I would be ok, even as painful as it was, my mom fell apart. So it was like my mom was strong for me because she knew how hard it was for me and then she fell apart and so I helped her and then once she reached the year point I knew she was going to be ok.
  17. When did you end up having your mom move in with you? What was your experience with having her live with you?
    1. This is interesting because at the time I was just getting ready to graduate for college and so I was going to come up here and get another job because your dad had a year left of his undergraduate. So we were going to move up here and at the time we were moved in with my mom and dad until I found a job and then we were going to get an apartment. So then a month and three weeks after we moved in – I still hadn’t found a job – he died. So we were living there with her at the time and so we just stayed with her until I got a job because nobody was there and she was alone. Then my sister moved back home, then my brother moved back home, and so that’s when I moved to California. I felt ok leaving my mom when my two siblings had moved back and they would take care of her.
  18. How did you feel after having your first child?
    1. My mom was a great help after I had Emily, and that was when I decided that there was no way I could work. I felt really strongly that I wanted to be the one to raise her and not somebody else.
  19. What was it like raising your kids while your husband was in law school?
    1. Well, I had some infertility issues and I thought that Emily was going to be my only child and I was going to go back to school once your dad finished law school. But, then we had Bryceson and so with two kids I thought it would be more difficult with him gone so much. If I could do it again I probably would have pursued my Master’s degree while I still could because all the sudden I had four children in 7 years and then there was no time to do that.
  20. What was your experience with your miscarriages?
    1. Miscarriages are interesting because you don’t really know what it’s like until you’ve had one. They are more psychology difficult then you think, at least for me because they were back to back. I was about 10 weeks along for both of them and my doctor told me if I had one more I would have to go in for infertility so I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t have anymore children. But I always thought that at least I had one, so I was grateful for that opportunity and always thought that I would be ok because some people don’t have any.
  21. What was the hardest part about being a mom?
    1. I enjoyed being with my kids and I enjoyed taking my kids everywhere and experiencing things with them. I wasn’t one of those moms that didn’t take them anywhere because I loved being out and about with my kids, as embarrassing it was for them because there were so many of them, but it was great. But it is 24/7 so it was the definitely the hardest job I had ever had because there is no clocking in and out.
  22. What was the most rewarding part?
    1. Just the relationships that you have with your children as they grow and develop and become humans. I think that is really worth every sacrifice that you make.
  23. How did you feel after losing both of your parents?
    1. I felt like an orphan. I did feel grateful that because I didn’t work I was able to take care of my mother and I felt like because my children never knew my dad that it was a way for them to really have a relationship with my mom when she lived here with me. I felt like I got robbed of my dad, but it was a little bit of an evening out by being able to have my mom live with me and my kids.
  24. How did their parenting influence your parenting?
    1. I think my mom’s experiences influenced me because she came from a father who was an alcoholic and so she shared a lot of experiences with me about that. My dad also shared experiences with me about being raised with no father and an uneducated mother, and I think those experiences really helped me to raise my kids. My mom always said that every generation is better than the one before so I tried to do a little better than my parents did, and I’m hoping my kids will do better than I did by learning from my mistakes and experiences.
  25. Are there any women in your life that mentored you?
    1. I spent a lot of time with my grandma Kreutzer, and she was influential in helping me to stay a little bit balanced. I also didn’t like school when I was really young because I had separation anxiety and so I had a couple of really good teachers that took me under their wing and helped me a lot. I also had a really good young women’s leader and piano teacher that influenced me.

Interview with Kathleen Webb by Mary Webb

mary-webb

Let’s start off with some basic historical information. Where were you born and all that?

I was born October 9, 1951. Harry Truman was president. I was in the baby boomer generation. My parents were Lee and Donna Smith. They were married when they were just 18 and 19 years old.

 

Did your mom train you to become a homemaker?

 

Mom would always have us clean the house first thing in the morning. Once the house was clean, she saw no reason for us to be inside. So she kind of banned us from being inside for the rest of the day. So in part, that’s the way life was, chores and then the reward of being outside. My mom was a very traditional homemaker. The economy allowed my dad to be the only income provider. So she stayed at home and raised us. That’s how it was. She didn’t teach us how to cook a lot, but she taught us how to nurture. She had a great garden, and we were always required to help out with it.

 

Did your dad help with raising you?

 

Dad was always the fun one. He would come home from work and play 500 with us by the lake. He was very active in the parenting process; he taught how to do yard work too. He was also the punisher; we were terrified of his lickings, a big spank on the butt. We were to absolutely silent when he and his guy friends were playing Canasta. Everybody smoked, there were always pipes going. It was the most beautiful thing to see it swirling in the air. My grandfather would blow smoke rings, and all the kids thought it was the coolest things in the world. But we didn’t dare cough or sneeze when the adults were playing their game. We were to be silent, but we loved watching them play and learning the game.

 

Were you a girly girl or a tom boy?

 

I was definitely a tom boy. I didn’t want to be a woman; I wanted to be a man. We watched the woman wait on the men, they did the laundry. The men seemed to be the privileged ones. I spent a lot of time with my young uncles who influenced me.

 

What were your hobbies growing up?

 

There used to be a pony ring when we used to go grocery shopping, and I remember my mom letting me get on the ponies every single time they were there. My dream (of becoming a horse trainer) was a little out there, a little different (for the time period). People always told me it wasn’t realistic, they downplayed my dream. Maybe that’s where my rebellion and drive came from, when people told me I couldn’t do it, I just wanted to more. My best friend Sonya had horses, and she had an Arabian horse farm. I spent a lot of time with her riding horses. I got to train two little horses that her dad gave me, and I learned how just from books. Being on a horse is like being on top of the world. You are controlling 1,200 pounds of flesh beneath you. It was a sense of accomplishment. I took a palomino named Gypsy tamed her. That feeling of being able to tame her was amazing. The horse loved and trusted me; she learned people weren’t going to hurt her. When we returned her to her owners, she wouldn’t come. But when I called her, she came running. It gave me a great deal of self-esteem and confidence.

 

What was your experience with puberty?

 

Starting my period was more of an annoyance than anything. I was mad I wasn’t a man so I didn’t have to deal it. You didn’t have a tampon, so you had to wear a belt around your waist that you would clip to the pad and hold it in place. Riding a horse while you were on your period was the worst. Mom had given me the talk in preparation to becoming a woman and a mother. She told me how to take care of myself and how to stay hygienic. My little sister didn’t get the talk in time and I had to calm her down when she started hers and bring her to mom for the talk. I hated having my period. I figured it was the worst thing I could ever imagine God could curse women with. I was fully developed in 6th grade. I was huge, I had a perfect figure. I was way taller than anyone in my class. That’s probably why my crush liked me back. I was kind of everyone’s idol because I had the boobs. Nobody has boobs in 6th grade. I always thought what’s wrong with me? I’m a freak! But everyone used to pester me with questions since all the girls were inexperienced with periods and all that.

 

What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent while growing up?

 

One of the things I did from a very young age was managing households. I babysat from the time I was 9 or 10, I was there from 7 in the morning until 5 at night. I was really quite independent. That prepared me for adulthood.

 

Tell me about some of the highlights from your school experiences.

 

I graduated in 1970, so most of my schooling happened in the 60’s. Once a semester they had slack day. It was a highlight; we were so excited when that happened. It had to be polyester or some nice material, not denim.

 

I didn’t date at all in high school. Kids were pairing off but not anything like they do now. It wasn’t half as popular as it is now. I never even went to high school dances or anything like that. There were a few of my friends who lost their virginity in high school but drugs weren’t a thing yet really. There was a group of kids who were rebels but I didn’t know them very well. Birth control still wasn’t readily available to kids who wanted it.

 

There were no girl sports at all, only cheerleading. The only thing I could have participated in was co-ed sports. My swimming P.E teacher wanted me on the swim team, but I couldn’t because my family only had one car and there were no activity buses or anything like that. Plus, I was so involved with my horses I didn’t really care about anything else.

 

There was a college-based path or a career-based path. The career center was right next to the Jr. High School and kids would graduate ready to work in their chosen field. Like being a carpenter or metalworker. I chose to be on a secretarial/accounting path. I took classes in shorthand, bookkeeping, accounting, and typing. But in my heart I wanted to be a horse trainer, so school was just a path to get me to my true goal. I wrote a paper that horse training was a real career pursuit. My high school counselor was hell bent from me becoming one. He tried to convince me that it wasn’t a real goal. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever just want to have a family and do nothing else. I was definitely going to be a career person and a horse trainer. Most of my heroes were male figures especially the ones that helped me with horses. There were a lot of girls who were really independent in my day. We were all kind of trying to make our way in life. We all wanted to go help save the world. At one time I really wanted to be in peace core… it was really popular to do at that time. I was too practical though and that didn’t last long. I wanted to pursue my own selfish pursuits.

 

What happened after you graduated?

 

When I was 18 I didn’t want to go to college, so I got a job at the Minnesota Learning Center. I worked as a psychologist’s assistant. I did some statistician work, and I would help evaluate kids who had been kicked out of school for behavior problems. We would try to modify their behavior by putting them on programs to decrease bad behaviors.

 

How did you feel having your first job?

I felt very empowered having my own job. I moved out of the house right away and moved into an 80 acre little ranch house. I paid 55$ a month for rent. My younger sister moved in with me soon after, and we trained horses on the side for extra money. I had my own car and I was free to do whatever I wanted.

 

How did your parents feel about your quick transition to adulthood?

 

Not a lot of people prolonged their entry into adulthood back in those days. I mean my mom and dad got married when they were 18 and 19. So, it was pretty typical to be mature by then.

 

What was your first romantic experience?

 

I had my first kiss from a kid at work. I am even ashamed to admit it. He was 17, so he was just a year younger than me. It was a really stupid thing to do, I probably could have gotten fired. He wasn’t a real behavior problem case, he just came from a bad home and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t even remember his name. It just happened a couple times. He would sneak in my office and come on to me really hard. It was the first time I had heart palpitations for somebody.

 

Tell me more about the dating scene during the 70’s.

 

I was very attractive and I wouldn’t say I was provocative but I was flirty. When two married guys I worked with found out my sister and I lived on a ranch all alone, they got plastered drunk and rode snowmobiles out to our house in the middle of the night and expected to get some free loving. After they got the idea we weren’t going to open the doors for them, they left. But I still had to work with them every day. I stopped flirting so much, needless to say.

 

Playboy was pretty popular by that time. Women were getting promiscuous because birth control was becoming more popular with the invention of the pill. No one was worried about getting pregnant anymore. Everyone was sleeping around, even married people, because of that. The whole generation was about free love. I remember one of the married guys who had come to my house and propositioned me brought me a play girl and put it on my desk and winked. It was kind of a big joke, but now I realize it was kind of horrible.

 

Catcalling and whistle calling was really common in those days. Men were always trying to shack up with somebody. Because I dressed in style with form fitting clothes it apparently invited people to treat me that way. I loved the attention though, except from the ones I didn’t think were cute. Then, I didn’t like it. One huge thing was to go braless… bras were considered a restraint. I wore one to work but other than I didn’t. I actually had a guy stop me one time and ask to take a picture with me, but then he took a picture of my boobs.

 

How did you meet your husband?

 

Rich was a man who I met through horses. We did a lot of trail riding together. We used to take big trips with 20-30 other people. He was kinda shy and a sweet, gentle man. We got set up by my horse mentor. We dated for about a year, and we danced a lot. I was not super serious about Rich, and then he asked me to meet his parents. He used to throw around permanent plans and that’s when I backed off. I started to avoid making plans with Rich to give him the idea I wasn’t interested in marrying him. We were exclusive and then I started weaning him off me. During that time I met a cowboy at a laundry matt named Mark. He came and talked to me in the laundry matt, and he asked for my number. He called me as soon as I got home the same day and he called me and we talked for 40 minutes. He asked me for a date but I had to work the next day. But he came and took me out on my lunch break and he bought me a pair of leather gloves. They were so nice and so unexpected. and I invited him over to my horse stable. We went out a few times and Mark knew about Rich but Rich didn’t know about Mark. One day Mark went up to Rich when he met him, shook his hand and said “all is fair in love and war.” That’s when Rich realized he had all but lost me.

 

I started to really like Mark. One time he snuck me onto his National Guard base, he like hid me in the back of his car, I should not have trusted him but I did for some reason. One day I realized he had a ring on his finger, and I about died. He never told me he was married. His divorce was in the process; his wife had cheated on him multiple times and it was over. But I couldn’t listen to his excuses at first and I just bawled the whole way home. I told him to go back to Illinois and call me when he figured his crap out. I cried for a whole weekend when I realized I fell in love with that stupid man. When he got home he called me every night and we got to know each other over the phone. He came up a few weekends later to touch base and I went down a month later to meet his family in Illinois. And that’s when we started talking about our lives together. We were actually together in person less than a week before we were engaged. We got to know each other completely over the phone.

 

We were outside under the night sky when he proposed. It was simple but the words he said were very romantic. I didn’t pick out my ring but it was significant for him in some way. I think his mom had rubies or something. The ring had six rubies and he told me it was for our six kids. I laughed and told him not in a million years. He was an insatiable romantic. I told him I didn’t want kids but he was convinced he could change my mind. He had always wanted a family. I didn’t. I really believed the scientists saying that the world was getting overpopulated and the world would implode if everyone kept breeding like rabbits. It was selfish, I guess.

 

We wanted to get married right away but I wanted to get married by a preacher. No one would marry him though because he was divorced. Divorce was a big stigma in those days. So we were going to have to get married in a courthouse. At that same time my hero, my horse trainer mentor left his wife for a younger woman. I postponed my own wedding because it shattered my world. If my perfect couple couldn’t stay together, I didn’t believe in marriage anymore. Everyone was just living together those days but Mark pressured me to do it right and actually get married because he knew I was a good girl and I deserved it.

 

That’s when you went on your horse trip across the United States right?

 

The idea originated when I was 15 or 16. It was kind of common in the 60’s; people would just pick up and go on trips for months along the pacific trails, exploring. They would bike it, or walk it, or ride horses. Every once in a while you would see an article in a newspaper or magazine. There were people who rode horses all the way from New York to California. The 60’s was the era of doing your own thing. They wanted to break out of the mold of just getting married and having a bunch of kids. The economy was prosperous, so people didn’t have to worry about money just to feed themselves. My parents’ generation quit school just to be able to put food on the table. The world was becoming more aware because of TV and we knew what was going in the world. You don’t even know how crazy it is to me that I can go on the internet and find any information I want anytime now. It’s a totally different world.

 

The seed for the trip was planted from a magazine article in the Western Horseman. My sister and I decided we need to do this before we got married because it will never happen after. My younger sister and I got engaged within a month of each in the winter of 1974. We decided to go on the trip the summer of 1974. It was our last fling

 

I guess you could call it one long bachelorette party.

 

We each had savings accounts – it ended up costing like less than 600$. It was ridiculously cheap. Because we wrote ahead to a lot of horse associations, city parks, and fair grounds telling them we were coming. We had a tent, but individual people found out that we were coming and put us up free. So, a lot of the times we didn’t have to pay for board for us or our horses or even food. People were waiting for us. People were very good to us.

 

My parents were pretty traumatized. They asked us if we are sure we wanted to do this. They were worried our safety and all that.

Our fiancés were not very happy about it, but they understood. They wanted to get married. They were kind cool with it, I mean they were marrying celebrities. I think they were sort of proud of it. They gave us our rings and made us promise to come back.

 

We would wake up before sunrise and get the majority of our riding done before 1 or 2 in the afternoon. It was summer and we wanted to avoid riding in the hot parts of the day.

 

One of the things that was kind of interesting was, we would have our fiancé’s write letters to us. We had reserved post office boxes at certain hundred mile checkpoints and they would send letters the whole week it would take us to get to that checkpoint. It was kind of like a running journal. We rode along highway 2.

 

We kind of had a dangerous situation when we were on a Blackfoot reservation and we were staying in someone’s barn and a bunch of drunk Indians came around the barn and tried to get at us. It was really scary but nothing happened.

 

We probably ran into 50-100 bikers who were on their way to the World’s fair in Spokane Washington. They would always complain to us about their butts having blisters from sitting on the bikes all day and they asked us how we could bear it on horseback. We would just laugh and say we have been doing this since was are 10. We were fine. We went to the world’s fair too. It was the first time they had panoramic screens and 3D. They had a movie of a plane and it was in the Grand Canyon and it was like we were in the plane. It was so different from the photography of our time. It was very new age.

 

The whole trip took us 3 months and a couple days and we followed along Highway 2.

 

One time we got so lost. It’s a miracle we survived. It took us 3 days to get out of there when it should have been a 1 day trip. We found an abandoned cabin up there but there were pack rats who kept stealing our stuff while we were trying to sleep. We decided to sleep in the rain with the horses and we put up our tent outside. It was kind of rough but it was the only really bad weather experience we ran into.

 

We followed the Lewis and Clark trail so we would occasionally go out of the way to see a historical landmark, but when you are on horseback for 25 miles straight you tend to want to take the shortest route. Since we usually got to our next family’s place to stay the night pretty early they would take us to the local sites sometimes in the afternoon.

 

Our end of our trip was the Puget Sound. We ended at Kayak Point Park in Marysville Washington. We rode our horses into the Pacific Ocean. It was too expensive to ship our horses home after the trip so we tried to sell our horses. People had been following our trip so we had buyers in as soon as 2 or 3 days. Then we used that money to buy a plane ticket home.

 

I felt really empowered because I was actually doing something that most people only dreamed about doing. I definitely felt independent, even though we were probably naïve. Both my sister and I weren’t huge cultural and social people; we wanted to be alone and on our own. We wanted to make our own mark. We realized how many people in the world are just basically good. Everyone we met wanted to help and encourage us. I learned that people are basically good. It changed my perspective on human beings. I liked them a lot more afterwards.

 

When you got home from the trip, you got married. Tell me the story of your wedding day.

 

I went straight from my horseback trip to Illinois where we got married. Sharon Baker and Jack Teeters were our witnesses; they were my bosses at the Fountain Bleu Nursing Center. Mark had gotten me a job while I was gone; he was in business for himself and was doing all the plumbing at the nursing center. He had written me a letter and asked if I wanted a secretary job at this new center his was working on. I did all the billing, receiving, and I got to call people when their parents passed away. I sometimes got to hire people. My boss was having affairs. He was literally sleeping with eight other women. It was horrible. I had to figure out whose voice was on the phone when they answered and said “Tell Jack it’s me.” I hardly knew the couple at all who stood up for us. I was literally getting off work at 4:30, and Jack said he knew a judge, let me ask him if he can get you married tonight. He called and Judge Brown said yes, but we had to be there before 6. So we had to run home, get cleaned up and then run back to town. Jack and Sharon met us there and we got married. I wore a hot little mini dress to my wedding. I didn’t dare bend over or my bottom would’ve shown. We went to Jack’s house afterward and had margaritas. He called the sheriff to bring us dinner because we didn’t want to drive since we were tipsy. So the sheriff brought us burger king and brought it to us with his lights and siren on in celebration of our wedding. It was pretty funny. Afterwards I had a few more margaritas and then passed out. So I don’t remember anything from my wedding night at all.

 

Did you go see your parents after you got married?

 

We went to visit my family because my sister got married a few days after I did. My parents insisted that we sleep in their bed. Mark got really choked up because it was a big gesture to do that. We had only been married 4 or 5 days. I thought it was so weird. I was so uncomfortable. But we did it anyway.

 

How were the early years of your marriage?

 

One of the things that happened right away when we got married was Mark’s brother Brad lived with us for 7 months. Brad fell in love with me a little bit, like he really wanted what Mark had. He wanted the 5 acres, the wife, and the barn we were building. He started sleeping with one of my best friends. He had so many girls over and we would often wake up with a stranger in our house in his bed. Free love made everybody miserable. The sign of the times was that and it was sad. Brad started telling people that it was his house and his property. This drove Mark crazy and he kicked his brother out of his house. We weren’t into that rough hippy scene like Brad was.

 

What else happened in those early years?

 

We worked 80 hour works trying to build up our business Kankakee Piping Systems. Mark had gone into business when he was still an apprentice. He was only like 24 when he started the business. We made big money the first few years. Mark really wanted to have a family so he convinced me to go off the pill. I was pretty excited when I found out I was pregnant the first time. We weren’t expecting it to happen so fast. It happened within a month of two.

 

How was your first labor?

 

I was at work, training the new secretary and panicked because she wasn’t trained to take my place while I was on maternity leave. So even though my water had broken, I was giving her last minute training. Finally we called the doctor and told him I was in labor and he yelled at me that I would get an infection, so we finally went to the hospital and I had my baby. Right to the last minute I was a working woman. Labor was worse than I thought it would be. You realize as soon as it’s done that it’s amazing because you made a baby. I couldn’t walk for about 10 days afterward I was so sore. You have natural instincts that kick in to become a mother. But my 1st baby didn’t sleep really well so I just took her everywhere I went because I was still really active at work.It was pretty common to be a working mom. People were at the point where everyone wanted to do everything. It was kind of looked down upon to be a stay at home mom.

 

I didn’t want my first born to be alone so we had a second baby so I got pregnant 4 months after I had my first baby. Once she was born I decided I was done and I was for sure not having any more kids. I didn’t want to overpopulate the world.

 

I’ll tell you one thing though. When you have a baby you for sure appreciate your own mother more. My mom had 4 babies all a year apart. I don’t know how she did it without indoor plumbing or anything like that.

 

I started to fall back into a more traditional mom and family life, but Mark was still working a ton in his business. So I started to feel like we began to grow apart, I remember praying that we could become more family-orientated. I was satisfied with the life we had but Mark wanted a leer jet and all the money he could make.

 

Tell me about your conversion to the LDS church.

 

The missionaries walked up our driveway in November of 1981. They walked up a 600 foot-long driveway to talk to us. They had left their car a mile away in order to save miles and were tracting to look for a family. One of the elders, Elder Speth had been fasting and praying for a golden family because he hadn’t baptized a single person on his mission. Their approach was, “We are missionaries from Christ’s true church and we are here to share a message about how families can be together forever.” When I found out that they were Mormon, all I knew about them was they had multiple wives. Mark’s grandpa had had multiple wives so that’s why we were curious to get them in the door. They came back a few days later and shared their message. The first discussion included a story of the Lion laying down with the Lamb. It happened to be a story that Mark’s mother had told him when she put him to bed. She had died and it was like a conduit to heaven for him to her. I don’t know if that’s when he was sold, but we invited them back because of that reason.

 

They came back a week later and the second lesson is when I became way more interested because of the story of the Restoration. I knew the young boys believed it and I was blown away by the Spirit that was in our house. If it was true I wanted to know because I was in the wrong church. We were okay with the church we were attending, but we were just okay. It wasn’t meeting our spiritual needs. They assigned us to pray and read 3 Nephi 11 and we both just really felt that it was true. Mark and I were really into American Indian lore and it just made sense. They talked about the white god coming and so when we found the book of Mormon it all really just made sense.

 

When the elders were in our home there was a really special spirit, and I realized that’s what our family needs. This is what I want. They had invited us to be baptized into this new church on the second visit and Mark said yes right away if we received a witness it was true. But I was concerned about all the friends I would leave at our current church. But after I knew it was true it wasn’t even a problem.

 

When they taught us the word of wisdom, we really didn’t have any problems. I had given up drinking a year ago when I had my head in the toilet after drinking too much wine at dinner. I remembered a pledge I made in high school and vowed to never drink again.

 

When they taught us the law of tithing they actually had the bishop come all the way to the house. He promised us to be blessed both temporally and spiritually, and that we would never go without. And we agreed.

 

Then came the issue of trying to get us to church. One of my girls got sick and then we had so many snowstorms we couldn’t go for the next 4 weeks. When we finally got there for the first time it was a fast and testimony meeting. Someone bore their testimony about seeing a vision of her grandfather after doing his temple work, I thought it was very different, but there was a good feeling in the room.

 

They baptized us after church the 2nd Sunday we came to church.

 

My testimony of priesthood power and of a prophet on the earth came later. I was kind of confused why my young daughters couldn’t be baptized but I took it on faith. The only thing I was really sure of was the first vision so I based my whole decision around that.

 

Three months later I was mowing the lawn in a little yellow polka dot bikini, and an older missionary couple came to visit the new converts. I was really comfortable with my body and didn’t even think about modesty because it hadn’t been taught to us yet. So the elder man gave me a little talk about modesty that day. I thought Oh dang, I really like being in a swimsuit. I felt kinda restricted. It was really difficult to think about giving that up.

 

When did you decide you wanted to have more than two kids?

 

The church definitely helped learning about the divinity of motherhood. But I was convinced that I wasn’t having any more kids. On the way to our sealing a year or so after we were baptized, I was so pissed off at Mark because I was annoyed by every little thing he did. I also kept thinking these Mormons have a lot of kids. I hope they don’t expect that of me. We were sealed in the Washington DC temple a little over a year after being baptized. The spirit was so strong in the sealing room, and when they told us to multiply and replenish the earth, I felt the spirits of my kids around me and I knew I needed to have more kids. Mark was all about having more kids. So we had 4 more.

 

The first year after our sealing, I was so happy because I kept thinking this is so good for Mark. He really embraced the gospel and became a better father and better husband. Money stopped being the center of his life. Mark had a violent temper sometimes. But after he joined the church he was 95% better. I can’t imagine if he hadn’t joined the church. He would have been very hard to deal with.

 

The church totally rearranged my priorities. Before I wanted to be a woman of the world and receive its affirmation. I wanted my own paycheck and be the owner of the company. The church helped me see there was way more to this life than the praise of the world. The sealing words still pierce my soul. Looking back it’s the only thing that matters now, the people and friendships and family.

 

Was it satisfying to raise your kids in the church?

 

Yeah, very much so. The biggest thing is you have a whole network of people helping you raise your kids. There is an African Proverb; it takes a whole village to raise a child. I mean having these people at church that loved my kids as much as I did was an indispensable blessing. It was empowering to have people who had the same beliefs and the same situations at my back no matter what.

 

It helps to know that my kids have gotten married and raised their kids in the church and gone on missions of their own. It makes it gratifying to see the church make changes in their lives too.

 

What was the hardest part about being a mom?

 

When you have as many little ones as I did, it’s very physically exhausting. You are constantly awake changing them, or feeding them. When they are teenagers or even young adults, its an emotional exhaustion. They are going through hard things, but you have to let them learn for themselves. But it doesn’t even compare the joy and energy you get from being a parent that counterbalances the physical and emotional challenges it gives you. It helps you become an unselfish person. All you want is what is best for you children. Having my youngest my youngest baby when I was at 41, keeps me in a much younger mentality than other people my age. What they say if you aren’t liberal when you’re younger you are heartless, if you’re not conservative when you’re older you are brainless.

 

How do you feel about abortion now that you are a mom?

 

My experience with abortion happened when I was in my 30’s or 40’s. I do know someone who had multiple abortions and when she wanted to have kids she couldn’t because she was so scarred from the procedures. Then she pretty much became an alcoholic the rest of her life because of that in part.

 

I wasn’t exposed to abortions much other than that before I joined the church, I didn’t have any issues or any talks about. People kept it on the hush hush if anyone had one. But now I think people see abortion as birth control because it became less expensive than the pill. And people use it as such. I know there are groups that have recovery meetings because they are so full of regret and grief from the experience.

 

How did you educate your children about sex?

 

When the kids were of age like 9 or 10, I took them on a date and told the girls about periods. Probably not with the younger ones because they learned it from their older siblings. I think I made it such a big deal it traumatized the older ones. So if I could change something, I would refer to it as a more natural, normal thing. I referred to it more in terms of hygiene not in religious or cultural significance. My mom had a little pamphlet she gave us and then she would explain things. We had a movie at school in 5th grade and they separated boys from girls and they took care of educating us. Then we would come back and go to our parents with any questions we had.

 

I actually went in front of the school board and presented an abstinence-based program when my kids were in school. It showed pictures of STDs and explained that abstinence is the best way to avoid getting them. And we actually won against a Planned Parenthood program.

 

What was it like to see your daughters get married?

 

I remember getting married was part of the happiest times of my life, when you fall in love and are exploring each other’s bodies. So I was excited for my daughters but it was scary because there are really bad people in this world who are abusive. I was protective and almost to the point where I am sometime wanted to be involved in choosing their future spouses. You look at how his husband treats his mother, that’s what I always said.

 

What was it like to have you daughters have kids?

 

Oh my gosh it was awesome. It was amazing. You know what a struggle it is for you kids and you worry about them. But you know the hardships and the joys they are going to go through. One thing I’ve been really blessed to do is being able to help my girls raise their kids. My mom didn’t have the chance to do that since she was still raising kids of her own since I was the oldest. I feel like I’ve really gotten to bond with my grandkids.

 

Your husband died unexpectedly when you were only in your 50’s. What was the hardest part?

 

It was really, really hard. Not having someone to sleep with was the hardest part. Not having someone to lay there and share stories about the kids, not having someone who you are really close to, it’s just not the same. The social aspect of it was really hard; people in the church do things as couples these days, so all of a sudden without intending to, I wasn’t invited to couple things anymore. That part of it was a huge shock.

 

You took care of dad a lot because of his diabetes and he was sick. What did you do becoming an independent woman with free time again?

 

The Lord knows I like to be busy, so he gave me a lot of grandkids. So I really didn’t have a lot of down time. We got ready for a few weddings. We really just filled up our time; we had a full year immediately following dad’s death.

 

You decided to go on a mission. What influenced that decision?

 

It was really bittersweet to serve a mission by myself. Mark and I had always planned on serving a couple’s mission, but I decided to go on one by myself at the same time my youngest daughter went on hers, about a year after he died. They had lowered the mission age for sister missionaries so could go when she was 19, so I was also presented with this opportunity to go when she went. I felt very empowered when I was called to be in a pilot program to build up women in the area that I served. Plus, I got to be a proselyting missionary, an opportunity that is pretty rare for senior sister missionaries. It was really hard to learn to get along with a companion with these other single women. I had learned how to be a wife, but getting a new companion was like being a newlywed all over again.

 

We worked with a lot of single adult women. There are so many single adult women in this church, a huge population of them whose social needs are looked over. We don’t have as many relief society activities anymore and they are very lonely, widows and divorced women. I am very happy and upbeat and I like to talk about my family, but some women are struggling with those issues. It was so painful to these women’s splintered relationships, and it made me want to spend the rest of my life helping those people and making them feel like they were worthwhile.

 

There is a metaphoric story about taking a coal from the furnace. When the coal is taken away from the others, it goes cold really fast. It’s the same with people and their feelings of acceptance and social support. When we are together we strengthen each other, while when we isolate ourselves we become cold and lonely. I really do enjoy my down time to watch television. I could go to the library every day and read books, or I could pitter around the house making it pretty. I could easily become a hermit. I can see my mom doing that a little bit since she lost her husband. But I really force myself to be social because I notice I am much more happy when I am a social creature. We need to have gregarious people around us.

 

What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

 

I really want to go on another mission. I think it’s the most helpful way to make the world a better place.

 

I have no desire to be married again. I want to be independent. I like not worrying about not making decisions with another person at this point. I can pick up and leave and travel whenever I want to. I honestly barely think about it. A lot of people told me the first year after that Mark died that I was young and I’d get married again. But I honestly never really felt lonely. I didn’t like going to movies by myself but everything else was fine.

 

I kind of want to write. I think telling my family’s stories is my main goal, but I wouldn’t mind writing some children’s books. I don’t want to go back and get a degree, but I wouldn’t mind refining my writing schools.

 

Do you have any final thoughts about any feminist issues?

 

I do actually, about women in the workplace. I grew up in a time that women stayed at home and men went to work. When women were able to be in the workplace it totally changed things. One of the wonderful advantages is it made women independent and gave them the opportunity to make as much money as men. And this was great for the women who wanted all those things. They could choose whatever lifestyle they wanted. But one of the perils, or the collateral damages, is I saw a lot of women falling in love with men at the workplace and took down families by screwing around with other people’s husbands that they shouldn’t have been. It made me really sad, and I had some personal experiences with it.

 

What are you concerned about for this next generation?

 

It’s hard to say because the people I associate with are good church going people. So I have a lot of confidence in the girls of the future. I have seen more empowerment and respect for women now than in any other time of my life. I’m sad for women these days who think motherhood isn’t a great goal; it is where I found the most joy in my life. Girls take motherhood too lightly or start families too late.

 

Most marriages break up because of financial issues. So I fully support women who work and help supplement the family’s income.

Maegan Gogarty’s Interview with her Mother: Keli Gogarty

 I know that you’ve told me a bit about your home life growing up. Were there specific experiences in your life have made you feel like you were entering womanhood when you were a teenager/young adult? What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent?

After my father left the family and announced to a court room that he no longer wanted anything to do with us, there was a shift in my family. I guess I never really embraced womanhood growing up because I never saw my mother embrace it. She was so focused on acting as both a mother and father to five children that I didn’t really think of her as a “woman.” That was just kind of the feeling when I was a child: women didn’t work as hard as she did. Women didn’t swear as much as she did. Women didn’t spank as much as she did. When my father left, I definitely noticed my siblings enter adulthood early on. Pretty much immediately, actually. But I was still the youngest, and so I know that I definitely had to do more things on my own than other kids my age, but I never felt necessarily like an “adult.” I felt more like a kid playing dress up.

Can you explain that a little more?

When you actually enter adulthood, I don’t think it hits you as hard. You’re kind of thrown into it at any age, and you don’t really notice that you’re acting like an adult until it’s been going on for a little while. When I was younger and doing these small tasks or habits that made me more independent or made me seem more mature than other children my age, I was proud of it. I felt cool. When you actually become an adult, it’s much scarier than that.

What do you think made you define yourself specifically as a woman in this time of growing up?

Like I said, I never really looked to my mother as a role model of being a “woman.” She didn’t fit those stereotypes in my mind of what a woman was meant to act like: non-religious, never re-married, swore like a sailor, and she never sat down. So I don’t think I necessarily ever thought of myself as a “woman” either. My goal in school was to keep up with the boys in all of the sports and clubs, and to be as busy and accomplished. It was really until I started college that I started caring about what boys thought of me and how I dressed or acted. Not that I really changed those things, but I just started noticing them more. I guess my definition of womanhood was more about what you did rather than how feminine you were.

Do you think that’s a very common definition of womanhood in today’s society?

Today I think it is. It didn’t really used to be that way, and in some places it still isn’t. But I definitely think that women today more than ever before are publicized in their accomplishments and in the fact that they don’t ever “sit down.” True, women are still looked at in terms of femininity in a lot of ways, but I think they also get more famous when they do something. That’s not really something that’s ever happened before.

Did you get married when you were a young adult? Why did you make this decision?

I got married when I was younger, yes. We were both 21. I don’t necessarily think it was a conscious thought of mine that I was getting married “young.” I just found my best friend at that time in my life and I didn’t want to wait anymore. We knew each other for a long time, and we fell in love writing each other on his mission. We used to send cassette tapes with recordings of our “letters” so that we wouldn’t have to take as long writing them. After he got home from his mission, we were married very quickly. I already had my dress ordered when he stepped off the plane. I knew we were both the youngest siblings in our families, and that we would be pretty much screwed when it came to raising children, but I loved him. It was one of those “when you know you know” things. I don’t think anyone should have to wait to spend eternity with their best friend.

Are there things you regret about marrying so soon?

I don’t regret things. Are there things that I wish I had known about my husband before marrying him? Yes. Would those things have changed my decision? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that I don’t regret marrying him. I don’t regret having our children and our family. And I don’t think that our age really factored into that at all.

Did being married make you feel like you became more of a woman in some ways?

Weddings in general make a woman feel more feminine. I had the 1980s puffy sleeves and a flower crown, I wore makeup for the first time pretty much ever, and I felt beautiful. Once you enter a marriage after a wedding, you kind of feel inclined to fit those husband and wife roles; you want to learn how to cook and clean and decorate and look nice. I wanted those things. I wanted him to come home and not be stressed or unhappy. I don’t know if that makes me more of a woman or more of a wife.

What is the difference between those things for you?

A woman is a woman. A wife is a woman that is a best friend, a future mother, a support to rely on, that sort of thing.

Did becoming a wife so young take away from how you identified as a woman?

Not at all. In fact, like I said, I didn’t really identify much as a woman before I was married. But when I got married, I suddenly realized how powerful women are and how much we have to do to keep the world spinning. I had always seen my mother being so busy growing up that I thought she just enjoyed work, but it was really because she had to work to keep our family going. And even though I didn’t get a very useful education and I don’t work a fancy job, there have still been many years where I have had to keep my family going through my own strength with the help of God. I’ve had to do things I never thought I was capable of in marriage, and make sacrifices I don’t think I would have ever been willing to make when I was younger. Becoming a wife and a mother has made me recognize that women are really crucial to this world and that we have a great deal of potential, which is something I never truly appreciated as a single young woman.

 

Interview with Janelle Hillyer

Submission by: Sara Hillyer

janelle-hillyer-photo

  1. Did you have any dreams growing up? What were they – besides being a mother? Did you fulfill them?

I wasn’t very ambitious. People would ask “Oh what do you want to be when you grow up”. And I never knew anything I wanted to be and I just knew I wanted to be a mom.

  1. What did you imagine your life would be like when you were a teenager/young adult?

I guess I had hopes that I would get married and have a family, and I suppose I had hopes of being rich! And to be honest, I am very grateful for what I have and for the many opportunities that we got. I imagined my life would be like this, to be honest.

The way I imagined motherhood didn’t start out the way I imagine it now. The way I imagined motherhood would be is how it is now – it’s doing stuff. But when I first became a mother, it was all about babies and toddlers. And wow I did not know.

  1. Do you ever wish you could do more than you’ve done during your life? Was motherhood something that inhibited you or encouraged you? Or do you wish you could have done more with your life?

Well, I think I probably didn’t have a lot of ambitions maybe because I was scared to try new things. And so I never felt like it got in the way so to speak. I remember turning 30, and being like “oh, my young life is over, and I was a mom for like all of that, and it was really hard!” And I’m like “oh, my life is over.” I wanted to have fun again, like a girl in her 20s should have. But I got over that really quick, and it was okay. But I, honestly now, I still feel like I have the best part of my life ahead of me, and if I want to accomplish something, I can, and I don’t feel like my motherhood is getting in the way of things I want to do now.

  1. Lots of people say that it’s important to travel the world as a young adult. What do you think?

Um, I did do some traveling just before I got married, and that was really a lot of fun. But it wasn’t necessary, and it was just more of an opportunity that happened to come up. I don’t think it’s necessary, I think that I travelled after I was married too, and I can’t imagine that being more fun had I been single and a young adult. I got to share those traveling’s with my best friend [husband]!

  1. How important is the stage between graduating high school and getting married? Do you think girls should get married as quick as possible, or take time to grow and explore before getting married?

That’s an interesting question because I think it’s different for everybody. [Getting married quickly after high school] was the right path for me, and it was the right time for us. But I had graduated college by then and I had worked and lived on my own, and was supporting myself, so I mean, it’s not like I left my parents home and went straight to a marriage home, I was on my own for a while and that was really, I think it was a really good experience. I think that most girls would have that experience of kind of living on their own and exploring their young adult life, which I feel like I did. And really, when you find the right person to marry, then the timing is just for you, and really I feel like that timing is different for every person.

  1. How important is it to love yourself first before going into a marriage?

It is important to be an independent person, and to love yourself independently of other people and that is important for a marriage. I have to say it’s not a requirement, because you can grow after you’re married. You can grow into a person that can do that [love yourself] after you’re married too. I think it is important, that time of being a single young adult, to grow yourself, but again it’s not absolutely necessary.

  1. Confidence and self-love are so important for women. Are you confident/do you have self-esteem? Where did your confidence come from/at what age did you love yourself? Did you love yourself before loving your husband?

I feel like I have always been a confident person in, I guess, loving myself. But I feel like you have kind of different stages of that, and different learning, like I had a few issues I’ve had to deal with, and it wasn’t until my thirties that I really really accepted the love of God in my life, and therefore accepted myself. And I think that love is not like something you have that one day and now you’ve got it forever; I think it’s a continual thing, and so loving yourself as a teenager is different than loving yourself as an adult. And I think it’s part of growing and maturing, and having different stages of loving yourself. I’ve had times where I’ve had to love myself, and it’s been many different times in my life where I’ve had to have the reminder: “oh yeah, I am okay.” It’s not like you learn it once and it’s learned it forever, I think you continue to learn it throughout your life. And yeah, I remember specific instances that God gave me the gift of love, of loving me, and me understanding that he loves me no matter what. And that was so important for me accepting myself, and loving myself. And that is the biggest thing. God loves me unconditionally and that gives me the power to love myself unconditionally. I think that if you are getting married to feel accepted or loves by someone, you might be blinded as to if that is a good marriage or not. It is important to have self-worth when you’re looking for a mate.

  1. At what age did you get married? What are the pros and cons of getting married at that time of life?

Oh yeah, okay! I got married when I was 20, and Bob was 21. And looking back, I’m like “we were just babies!” And we were! But we were best friends, and we knew it was right, and we were committed to each other, we grew up together. We navigated university life, and we navigated life together. We grew together, we kind of grew up together. And that’s been good for us, that’s been a good thing for us! I sometimes imagine if I was to get married like now, I’d probably have a hard time because I’m way more opinionated and I don’t put up with stuff. But by being young people, we kind of made opinions together, and kind of navigated everything together, and I think that’s a plus. I mean for Bob and I that was a plus. I think sometimes other people with other personalities, that might be a little harder. But for us it was okay. I mean sometimes I feel like people maybe need to be a little more mature when they get married. But again, like it goes back to if it’s the right person and the right time, it’ll work out! That’s different for everybody.

  1. What were your insecurities growing up? Specifically about your looks, personality, or how worthy you were of love/relationships.

I didn’t think I was ugly or anything like that, but I was one of the bigger kids in the class, I wasn’t a skinny person. But yeah, my thighs. When you’re sitting down, your thighs spread out and look really big sometimes! So yeah, I had insecurities about my size, I always thought I was big, but then you go back and look at pictures of yourself when you’re younger and you’re like “I’m so skinny! Why did I complain!” I think every girl kind of has that. My personality? I dunno, thought it was always pretty okay, and yeah I felt I was worthy of love. Yes, I always wanted somebody to love me. Sometimes I’d wonder maybe why they weren’t. I was young, I’m glad nobody did, I didn’t need that.

  1. How was your dad involved with you growing up? How did he treat women? What did he teach you? What was he like in his role as father?

He was nice! And he treated people kindly, and he treated my mom nicely. It was very much a traditional role in which my mom had certain roles and my dad had certain roles. Yeah, he watched TV at the end of the night, but that was after he did work. Like he would pay bills, look at mail, do work outside. He was definitely working around the house and stuff. It’s not like he expected to be served, or didn’t feel like he had to do stuff around the house. They had their own work and their own roles and it worked for them! They made their roles and how they ran their household work really well, and they did a really great job at it.

  1. How has the example of your parents influence how you did your parenting?

There was stuff I wanted to do different and did. That’s an interesting question because I spent a lot of my life trying to be the kind of mom my mother was. She was a very good mom. But I am not my mother. I had to learn how to mother the way I mother, and be okay with it. I had to change my expectations from how my mother did it to how I do it, which is different, just cause I’m a different person, and my kids need something different, and Bob’s different. Bob and I had to find a way to make our household work, which is different than the way my mom and dad did it. On the other hand, they are very very good example of how to work together and how to treat each other, and other examples of how to keep the gospel in our home and how to follow the church and what things they teach us about doing stuff in our home like scripture study, and family home evening, and prayer; there are many good things that they taught us, and continue to do as parents. But I’ve had to learn also that I’m not going to put on three meals a day with the table set with plates and knives and forks. My mom was a master at that, and I just am not that person! I do good at getting one meal on the table usually, and the kids kind of scrounge for the other two, and that’s okay! I suggest stuff for lunch, and I try to have stuff around you know? But I had to learn to be okay with being the mother I am, and not my mother. And that’s not a put down to her, it’s just me being my own person.

  1. How did you and dad fulfil your roles as husband and wife? Was it an expected thing, or did you have to discuss it? How did you split your responsibilities?

I don’t really remember talking about it. I mean I kind of expected the way I should be because of the house I grew up in and the house Bob grew up in; usually the woman does the cooking and cleaning, and the man goes out to work, and I don’t know what he does at home! I guess we’ve just worked together, and have said “hey this needs doing, whos going to do this thing” or “hey I want to grow a garden”. And so we work together on doing a garden. Or “hey this kid needs help with homework, I don’t do math. Can you help them? You’re a really good math guy.”

I always knew I’d be the one at home, and I was okay with that, I was happy with that. There wasn’t anything I was dying to do out of the home. Sometimes I think about getting a job and wondering what kind of job I would get, and then I think “nah, I’ll just stay here at home!” And I’m okay with it. Maybe sometime I’ll get a job at a decorating store and have fun with that. But it’s just for fun, it’s not something ambitious.

  1. What paying jobs have you held?

McDonalds, daycare, I sold scentsy for a little while and made some money. I haven’t had a lot of paying jobs.

  1. What was it like to be a girl/woman in high school? Have you ever faced discrimination because you are a woman?

Well, I always felt worthy; I didn’t ever feel unworthy. High school was pretty good, I mean sometimes I would be like “why aren’t there girls on the football team?” But I mean, there was a girl on the football team for a little while, so it’s not like it couldn’t happen. The thing where I felt it went unfair, well, I’m very hesitant to talk about it, but it was scouting. The scout troop would do amazing fantastical camps, like biking, road trips, and going on sailing trips on the ocean; like crazy things! Horseback riding on a camp. Seriously! And our girls camps where nothing like that. There’s a really big gap there, but you know what I don’t know if it was just that group of boys, I don’t know if every scouting troop does that all the time. But I always felt like there was a bit of inequality there. But now as a woman, looking back I’m like “ok, if I’m a young women’s leader planning a camp, I’m going to have a hard time with doing big adventurous stuff like that because I don’t know how to do that stuff, and I don’t know how to plan that stuff” and so, I mean I get why it’s that way, but I don’t really know how to solve that problem necessarily.

  1. How were the science, or home ec courses distributed among girls and boys? Were there any problems?

Some of our smartest kids in the high school were girls. No, boys were in my home ec class.

  1. What are your views on the female role, and being a girl?

I think there’s a reason that roles are stereotypical. I mean girls really do like crafts! And some girls don’t; some girls are sporty. I think it’s individualized. I do think that as a female there are internal things that are there, and that is to nurture. And there are many ways to nurture children, people, adults, anybody. I think that we can’t ignore the fact that it is ingrained within ourselves to be nurturers. And however you do that, whether its being the sporty mom, or the crafty mom, it doesn’t really matter. Or even not a mom! There are many women out there who are not moms who help nurture people.

  1. What expectations did you face growing up?

I suppose. I think it was somewhat a thing – to get married. That’s what I wanted, so it wasn’t a stress for me. People didn’t put that expectation on me, it was just there. But I also knew that I could do other things. I wasn’t limited, I knew I could do other things; I just didn’t want to.

  1. What were you interests and hobbies as a young adult?

I liked being with friends! I loved going out, being with friends. I liked shopping. I liked going around here or there just to hang out like to Waterton and spend the day in the mountains. I liked being out! I liked exploring.

  1. Is there anything you wished you could do when you were younger but didn’t do because of societal expectations and the role of women at that time? Is there anything you didn’t do just because you didn’t get around to it?

No, I really was not very ambitious. But I also didn’t feel limited. I think there’s lots of stuff I didn’t do, but it’s just because I didn’t make it happen.

  1. I’m worried about getting married. What advice do you have? How did you make your marriage work?

My advice is to pick the right person. That’s really extremely important, and basically when you pick the right person, you just make it work. Marriage is only drama if you make it drama. But you do have to learn to disagree with each other, and how to come up with the right decisions when you disagree. And you learn to fight, because you’re not going to agree one hundred percent of the time. To make a marriage work, is work. You have to work at it. But when Bob and I have disagreements where we’re disagreeing, we have to stop sometimes and think “hey I really love you, and this isn’t going to change that I love you”. You just gotta work through it. When you are united in purpose, then disagreements that happened along the way don’t change that ultimate purpose. You will have disagreements where you actually do have to work though an issue more than just maybe ignoring annoying things. One day I said to Bob “I love you because I married you”. It’s a choice. Love is a choice. Because I married him, I choose to love him. It’s not like love is something you can fall in and out of. It’s something you work on to make stronger, or if you don’t work on it, it may get weaker. You have to choose to love that person. That’s how you make your marriage work. It means choosing every day to make your marriage work by loving that person and working together.

It’s so much fun being with your best friend all the time. It’s way better! If you marry the right person, it can come very naturally, and it is wonderful, and I wouldn’t choose to not be married.

  1. What is one of the most important things you can teach me (or girls in general) about being a woman? What advice would you give?

To not underestimate your power and role in this life, and the role of motherhood. That is not an insignificant thing. However, you get there is different for everybody. You may be an educated mother, you may be a mother that just didn’t do much schooling but is still a mother. All the stuff behind there doesn’t matter. Whatever kind of mother you are, it doesn’t matter because the role of mother, the role of influencing people and making this world a better place through nurturing is what this world needs. Don’t underestimate that as a woman. A woman is specifically built to do that. Things are so controversial, harsh, and sad. Women in many different roles can bring softness, nurturing, kindness, service, help, happiness to this world, which can be done in many different ways, and should not be underestimated. It is vital, and extremely important. There any many ways to accomplish that role. Nurture in your sphere of influence. We don’t have to be like men, we don’t have to judge ourselves according to men or what the world thinks, we just need to be okay with our roles as women and know that that comes in many different ways. It is vital to society what women do, and it is vital to fulfil your role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Marianne Schimanski

Submission by Sara Hillyer

marianne-schimanski-photo

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were in school? What were your dreams and goals as a young girl, and young woman?

When I was first young, in the first ten years or so, I remember I wanted to be a model, or an actress. So I was into doing that. It was kind of a fun thing to do. But my father wasn’t into us play acting too much, he figured we had enough work to do! I remember having my younger sisters pretend to take pictures of me while I was doing different poses, or hanging off a tree, or those kind of things. That’s what I first wanted to be, and then I grew up and I figured that wasn’t what I wanted to do! I didn’t like housekeeping or any of those things, I kind of liked hanging out with the boys, so I kind of liked working in the fields, so I always thought I’d want to get an outside job! Like a gardener, or do the lawn, that kind of stuff, because I liked working outside. But the older I got, the harder the work became working outside, so I decided I didn’t want to marry a farmer, because I would have to do all this outside work! It wasn’t until I got to university where I decided that I enjoyed taking psychology so much that I wanted to become a psychologist.

  1. Did you go to college? What did you study? Did you finish?

I went to school for one and a half years, three semesters. Then I got married, and decided to get my education that way. It was a good education! I did like university, I did like psychology lots. I really enjoyed that. I was taking a number of courses, some 3000 level courses. I figured it would always be good in my life to understand myself and to understand people.

  1. Do you ever wish you could go back to school to keep learning about that?

No, actually. I found that what you learn in a book, what you learn in a university, is good to get a foundation in it. But taking child psychology and being a mother is not the same at all! The longer I lived, I realized the education you get through your own life with the things you read and stuff is a more diverse education than you would get in getting a degree in psychology.

  1. How important is education to you?

I think it’s very important, I definitely supported Grandpa going to get his master’s degree, and if he wanted to get a doctorate, I would get him to do that too. I figured for people that are in the field doing those kind of jobs, they should be very well educated. It’s a good grounding; and I think mothers who are home should have a good education too because they can help their children learn, they can be better helpers in the community. I like to learn things; I learned things quite a bit now! Luckily for our day right now where we can go on the internet. I’ve learned lots of different things on the internet, I’ve learned lots of different things reading. I like to read. I’ve been able to learn lots of different things that are interesting to me. We’ve had books, we’ve had encyclopedias when our kids were young, and they could see that the money we spent was on educational things. We bought books, we bought good music, and we bought computers. We were the first family in Stirling to get computers, those like of things.

My father wanted us to be educated. He was a big push in his part, and so it was something I grew up thinking was important. And, well, grandpa here was definitely educated, at the top of his line of importance. We are happy that our kids would go and get their education in no matter what field!

I really believe that making your brain work, and being aware of all sorts of different issues – know about politics, know about different cultures, learn about history, those things are all very important for everybody to learn because they can be better people, and not make the same mistakes other people made.

  1. What were your interests and hobbies as a young adult or a child?

Reading! I actually started reading when I was about grade 9. Grade 9 was when I started to read. The English teacher asked all the students how many of them had ever seen their parents read, and I put up my hand because I saw my father read all the time! She asked “how many of you have seen your parents read every month” and some hands went down. And then every week. And some hands went down. Then every day, and I was one of the few people in the class who had my father read every day! And my father came from Germany and he had to teach himself to speak English and read English. Yet he was one of the best-read men in that class. He read classics like War and Peace, and all those things, and he read the newspaper in German, and he read the newspaper in English. He was just really really well-read. And so then I decided at that moment that I should be a better reader, and after that I read all the time! I read two or three books a week. So reading was something that I really enjoyed. It was giving experience that you wouldn’t get when you were stuck on a farm. So I really enjoyed that.

I enjoyed working on the land to watch the things grow, and the harvest season that showed you all the hard work; it was really educational.

We didn’t hang out with friends, cause we lived on a farm away from people, and so we found really early that your brothers and sisters were your best friends! And all of our play, all of our work, all of our joy was all centered around family. That was a very good thing.

I did play basketball once. Not because I liked it or wanted to do it. There was an award called the most valuable student award and I wanted to do that, I wanted to be that student. Everybody else on that list played basketball, and we were just a small school, so I thought I guess I just have to play basketball! I talked my father into letting me play basketball. My brother would actually pick me up after school, or take me to the games sometimes. It was amazing! I wasn’t a very good player – most the time I stayed on the bench. The one time they let me go on, I made a three pointer from midfield, but only because I couldn’t see anybody to pass to, so I said “what the heck, I’ll throw it toward the basket”, and it went in and shocked all of us! But the good thing about that is I was able to do it, and I still don’t know how I got my family into doing it because we were too busy in the fall to do that. We weren’t too into school activities, we had enough to do at home. But I made my mind up that I was going to do that, and I was brave enough to my father to do that. It was quite amazing! But yeah, we did a lot of things together. We played basketball, we played baseball in the field; we didn’t play football, we didn’t have the equipment. Mostly we’d play baseball in the field, and soccer, all of us kids together. And I had nephews and nieces that were a little older, but we would play with them too, so we actually had enough people to do some of that stuff at times where we weren’t too busy on the farm. Mostly we learned to work on a farm.

  1. You mentioned that you didn’t like to do the housekeeping things. How did you handle that when you became a mother? What was that like for you?

My mother figured I was totally useless, in fact she was quite happy that I worked in the fields with the boys because I hated anything housekeeping. I didn’t like babysitting, I didn’t like cooking, I didn’t like cleaning or the regular household activities. I preferred to ho in the beet fields, I preferred to bring in the cows, I preferred to pick up the bails. I’d rather dig up the garden than do any of the home keeping. It was just not my joy at all. I had to do a bit of babysitting when I was 10; 5 kids, and I babysat them for two months while their mother hoed sugar beets for us. They didn’t have a babysitter and she lived close by, half a mile away. And I would go over there and I would have to take care of them and there was no running water, and there was an outhouse, and there was a wood stove. It was really hard. The two boys were very ADHD, they were like raising Ben and Dave [two of her sons] when I was 10 instead of when I was 40! It was very difficult, and I did not find any joy in that, I saw it to be a very difficult thing and so I just really never looked forward to being a mother. I thought “this is too hard, I’d just rather be out with the boys doing the easier part!”

It was just really interesting because as soon as I got married, I wanted to have a family right away. It was just immediate that I wanted to do that. I just felt that was a call I just needed to do, I just needed to be a mom. And so then, well, you love your kids a lot more than you like the kids you babysit. Other people’s kids just never was something that I really was into. But my own kids were a different ball game! And so all those things my mother tried to teach me that I wasn’t into doing, I knew how to do. So I was able to do it at home, and doing it for your own family and the people that you love, it just is such a different job all together. The first year we didn’t have a garden because we were living in an apartment, but the second year we already had a garden, so I had a place to go to feel like I was outdoors, and feel like I was a part of the farming end of things with our little garden. And so dad helped me there. I found that even though I never did any crafty kind of things – I wasn’t into those things – I learned to do it after. I learned to cut hair, because we had 4 little boys and it cost too much to take them out. They were teaching a haircutting course at the community, and I went to that and learned how to cut hair and most my things were like that. I continued to take courses on other stuff that I didn’t know. My mother cut her hair but she didn’t teach us how to cut hair so I learned how to do that. I learned how to sew. I didn’t like sewing very much, I thought it was very stressful and I learned to sew because it was a way to cut costs. And so I when I needed a maternity dress and they were expensive, and so I said I guess I’m going to have to sew it! And so that’s how I learned how to sew.

It’s totally different [with your own kids]. Totally different! And I would say that had I been raised in this time now, as much of a tom boy I was, I was a tom boy like crazy! I hung out with the boys, the neighbour boys would come over sometimes and help us herd the cows and stuff like that. He and I were friends, and we’d to lots of things together. I was content gathering frogs, and I would like to work with the boys, that’s what I really liked, I liked working with the boys more than I liked working with girls. I found that I was such a tomboy that if I was being raised in this day and age, I probably would be mixed up! Because I would have wondered, okay, am I the wrong gender, because here I am, comfortable with the boys, and I don’t want to do the girl things, I want to do the boy things. My friends were boys, the people I worked with were boys, and that’s where my comfort was. I just figured I was a tomboy. I think in this day and age I would be a little mixed up! So I’m very grateful I was raised then. I just didn’t like housekeeping, and then I found that when it’s your own house, it’s a whole different story! I guess I didn’t like being told how to do things, I liked to be the boss rather than being bossed! I always felt my sister was very frustrated, that she would feel like I wasn’t doing enough. She made me feel like I was lazy cause I didn’t do everything she wanted me to do, and I thought at the time that I just had this spot that I was just such a lazy kid. My mother was never happy with me when I was home, because I just felt like I would just rather be working outside. I could work hard outside, I just didn’t enjoy the inside stuff and so I really didn’t have a positive attitude towards the home thing, there was never a reward kind of for it. But there are rewards for doing that kind of stuff with your family, being the one who makes sure that the food is there, being the one that cleans up after and organizes and does those things. And just before my mother died, she said to me that he biggest surprise was the fact that I ended up turning out more like her than any of the other kids did. I think she liked working outside too! And she did, she worked in the fields in the summer and stuff like that, but she was more useful at home. But we did have to do those kinds of things [housework] too before I was old enough to work in the fields. We did do housekeeping, but we also had to do the chores like getting water from the cistern, and chopping wood and we would get supper started and that kind of stuff, so I had to do all those things, but it was never my favourite part. And I see that in my family! I see the kids that would rather do the inside work while others do the outside work. And it’s always good to have one of each! So I was pretty versatile by the time I was done because I’d learned to do so many inside things. I never wanted to marry a farmer because the farmer’s wife would have to do the outside stuff but you’d also have to do all the inside stuff.

I’ve always wanted a big garden, I found it was very therapeutic and so I would have been happy to have a bunch of animals and that kind of stuff. Not having to butcher them, we had to butcher them, and I never was into that. I never had to help with the butchering because I was useless at that. That was not something I liked. I would just get sick to my stomach! So I got out of that, so there you go!

  1. What are your views on the female role, and being a girl?

I think that’s so diversified, depending on the scenario. If you’re lucky enough like I was, to have somebody that was making enough money to make ends meet, I think it’s wonderful to be able to stay home and raise the kids and work hard yourself to be able to live within that income, by learning how to bake, how to cook, how to sew, how to work really really hard to I didn’t have to go out to make money. I worked really really hard to save money so I could stay home and take care of the kids. For me, I think it’s a great blessing for the kids to have a mom that’s home all the time. I think even my married kids especially loved the fact that they could come, and I’d be home! Because they can still ask questions, and I could still be accessible to them. I’m very grateful for that! I think that if I’d only been able to have a few children, I think that I would’ve done more maybe community service or those kinds of things. But I had enough in my home to keep me busy. But I was the PTA president, so I guess there was some things that I was involved in. But I never looked for opportunities to be out there doing things, I felt like I needed to be in [the home] for my kids because when you have this many kids, it’s hard enough to give your own kids enough attention, let alone the rest of the community. I wanted our kids to feel like they were the top priority. They are more important than stuff, they’re more important than time, they’re more important than my freedom. Well, I was free. I was free to do what I wanted to do, I just chose to do this instead of something that would be less meaningful.

  1. How did you and grandpa fulfil your roles as husband and wife? Was it an expected thing, or did you have to discuss it? How did you split your responsibilities?

We just went in knowing that he would be the one working, and I would be the one staying home. Grandma Hillyer started working selling Tupperware and stuff like that. But [grandpa] noticed that as soon as she was out of the home, the kids got into much more trouble and stuff. If you want your kids to have supervision, you have to be home. You might be lucky to have kids who aren’t too troublesome, but the genetics on grandpa’s side was such that they had some trouble! So I decided I should be a mom at home. And they were good, they ended up being good. We were lucky that he worked, and I would stay home and I was very very very content with that. I never felt that was a burden to me, I never felt I was missing out, I always felt like I had the best deal. I always felt that he was missing out, not me! I got to see them grow up, I got to hear their first words, I got to see what their life is, and I got to be part of all their different things. I was there to watch them. So that was good! Having a large family like we did, I think everyone probably felt like they didn’t get enough of my attention, because you always have little ones that demand quite a bit of attention. And I grew up like that too, and I think that even if my parents weren’t good at interacting with us so much, well my mother taught us how to cook and my father was very interested in our education, but they didn’t know who our friends were, they didn’t know our interests or any of those kinds of things. But they were always there, and I think being always there is very stabilizing for a child. I think they know that there’s somebody there for them all the time. They can come home and they know that there is somebody there. In fact, Becca [daughter] says too that, and all of them say that when they came home and I wasn’t home, they would be like “where’s mom?”. And yet, if I was home, nobody even most the time said hi! They just came up for dinner or lunch and eat, and away they went. But when I wasn’t home, the whole tone of the house was changed. But if you’re there, then all is well! It’s the feeling of all is well. Dad’s at work, and Mom’s at home, and all is well.

  1. Have you ever held any paying jobs?

When I was going to university, I did some babysitting, and that was not my favourite job! And then I was a penny meter, where at Christmastime, an association hired people to put pennies in parking meters, pennies or nickels or dimes or quarters, and they would give me a bunch pf pennies, and I would go around and put pennies in all the meters so that the people could continue shopping. I would go up and down block after block in the wintertime, it was a Christmas thing so people could do their Christmas shopping. So I did that for Christmastime. And then after Christmas, the university had a switchboard. So I was an evening switchboard lady. So after everybody went home, I ran the switchboard until ten o’clock at night. I got to do that! I think it was only for a semester. And then by the next year, they automated that.

  1. Where did you go to university?

The University of Lethbridge. That’s where dad and I met!

  1. Have you ever faced discrimination or unfairness because you are a woman?

My father taught the boys how to drive, but he didn’t teach the girls how to drive! He tried to teach my mother how to drive, and that didn’t work out very well. I think it was probably more his teaching than my mother. But anyway, the girls didn’t need to drive. We had the boys drive, they drove the equipment more than the girls, and so there was a little bit of it that way. So I guess there was some discrimination. We had to learn how to drive after we left home rather than at home.

But no, really I don’t [face discrimination]. I found that when I was in high school, I was right up there with the boys. I was one of the top students, and my friends were those top students and so we didn’t feel any discrimination. The teachers treated me very very good. The profs at university, I had three or four of them come to my wedding. So there wasn’t any discrimination there, even though I was getting married, and I might not be coming back, they were really very supportive. We’ve had a lot of respect from guys. I think a lot of it was because I grew up with brothers, and so I was never intimidated by my brothers. I was intimidated by my father, but so were my brothers! We were all intimidated by my father. But I wasn’t intimidated by boys because I grew up with boys, and was part of that. So I was never intimidated by that, I’ve always been treated as an equal in the groups that we grew up in. I lived a pretty sheltered life so I wasn’t out there in the places where they could discriminate against me.

Yeah, we’ve had negative reactions to us having such a large family, we had that. So we did run into the prejudice that people thought I was being dominated by that. But we were having kids because I wanted them! So nope! Nobody talked me into it. I was responsible for that. It wasn’t his duty to tell me how many kids to have, luckily, we just both agreed all the time! It was basically a blessing in our lives, so we always felt like having another blessing. So we were pretty lucky that way. I think if I was out in the public more, which I wasn’t, I would probably have gotten more criticism. But I was pretty happy to be home being the person taking care of the family. I continued my education; I learned do to a lot of things. I’ve learned to paint. I did some painting. I definitely learned to do sewing, I learned how to cook – we all did some cooking at home. I learned to be a very good cook. I was the one who drew up the plans for the additions to our house. And grandpa just happened to be going to summer school in Calgary the first time we added an addition on, and we had 5 little kids, we were expecting our 6th, and I was also selling fruit by the truck load. A guy from the states would come with this big heavy truck full of food, and I would get a bunch of in the community to sign up and have them call me two or three times a week with what fruit they wanted. And I was able to get all the fruit I wanted. So I would have to order all the food and did all the banking that was necessary.

So when we first bought our house, it was in need of repairs and so I helped put on all the siding, and I moved every bit of dirt on the property from the house, and pulled the latter around myself, and moved all the dirt so it was packed down, and all the gravel that needed to be shoveled I shoveled. When we were married, grandpa had only a couple years of university, and we ended up having 7 by the time we were done, so he did all that part time during the summer. And so I learned how to do all of the heavy work, I had to do all the finances, I had to do all the tax stuff. I learned how to do all those things from having a large family, and supporting an education so that we could have more money to raise a bigger family. So that was very very educational.

And the biggest education we got in parenting came from Ben and Dave, so there you go. That was a very good education in children who were mentally disabled. And what’s interesting about that is that for every child I had, my prayer was that they would not have a disability. I had so much already, so I was just really worried, I couldn’t deal with that and all the things you had to do with a disabled child. So what do we do? We adopt three of them! But they came later when we had older kids who were old enough to help out, so they were able to help and take care of them a little bit. But it was very difficult! But heavenly father showed me that I could. But I learned lots about parenting. I learned way more than any psychology class could teach me. I learned more about teenage behavior than any college degree would do. I’ve read quite a few books on parenting by people who’ve had two kids, and it always would make me laugh because they would have all the answers because their two kids worked out just fine by using this technique. But my first two kids worked out way different. I learned more about unconditional love, I’ve learned more about having to deal with every person uniquely, I learned that if you want to have good behavior from your children, you pray for them and don’t criticize them, if you see the best in them, they try out for the best, and if you want to see what’s wrong with your kids, they’ll show you what’s wrong. But my challenge growing up was how my mother and father dealt with criticism. We were seldom praised. Mostly they thought we would do better though criticism, and I learned from that experience that I knew I didn’t like that. It was hard, it is something that’s kind of engrained in my mind pretty quick – that criticism doesn’t work with kids. Whereas if you praise them, they try hard to be better. So it was a good education. I don’t think that I’m uneducated! I got a degree in survival!

And another thing is that some people say that you sacrifice your life for your kids – it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was my life. You’re not sacrificing for your family by being home and taking care of them. It doesn’t matter! It’s your life, it’s a blessing – you get way more out of it than you give. It’s like you can’t sacrifice to the lord, because the lord gives you more and more. No matter what you give, you get more out. So we were very blessed. So I never sacrificed my life for my kids. There were frustrations when I found that dad would go out and be in plays and all those kinds of things. But I never wanted to be in a play anyway! So why was I complaining? And I could have done any of those things, I would have been supported if I did those things, but there just wasn’t anything out there that was worth me leaving my kids and getting a babysitter while I go do other things. We were able to work it out okay. Definitely hard, not easy, but working outside of the home is not easy either.

  1. When did you get married? Do you think getting married at that time and in those circumstances was the right thing?

I was married when I was 19 and a half. I was just started the fourth semester. And in the eyes of the world it was crazy, but it was the right thing to do. I knew this was the person who I was supposed to marry. I had confirmation through the spirit that this was who I was supposed to marry. And if you know that this is the person who you’re supposed to marry, why do you have to be apart? So don’t you need to spend time together first to get to know each other? Well, I know this is the person I’m supposed to marry, so get married and know them then! So that’s what my philosophy is you seem to know them a lot better when you’re together all the time – then you get to know them way better and so what you learn beforehand is more likely to be embellished anyway. Whereas if you’re living together day and night, you get to see the real person pretty quick. And you already made the commitment, because you know that’s the person who you’re supposed to marry. If you don’t have that testimony that this is the right one, then I would definitely say wait until you get it. Get that testimony, and get married as soon as your parents will let you! We gave my mother 6 weeks notice. Some of our kids gave us a little more, but not much. Tom told us after he was married, so they kind of eloped, and it was okay! So to me, the time to get married is when you’ve met the right person and you know this is the right person.

  1. I’m worried about getting married. What advice do you have?

If you’re worried about getting married, you haven’t met him yet. It changes immediately. I told that to Kati [daughter] just recently too. You know what? I was too, I didn’t think it was going to happen, and then all of a sudden, being in the right spot at the right time and you meet the right person, and all the fear, and all the doubt and all the wonders pretty much go out the window. And when it does, you say “okay, this is the right guy!”.

  1. Marriage seems like a chore – why would I want to get involved in something that is so hard?

Well, school is hard – what you’re going through right now is really really hard. It’s still right. You know why you’re doing it, you know the end result’s going to be okay.

Playing the piano is very very hard. You have to put lots and lots into it, and sometimes you figure you’ll never learn that piece, and you thought for sure you’re never going to get any better, you’re as good as it gets. But you really enjoy your abilities to play, it bring you great joy and great happiness! So you find a new piece to play, and get frustrated again because it’s not working the way you figured it would. And it’s the same with marriage. It is wonderful, it is great, it is the best thing you could ever do, but it’s also the hardest thing you’ll ever do. And the two go together with everything. Having kids is the best thing you could do, but it’s also the hardest thing you can do. The two go together. Along with the sorrow and the grief come the joy and the happiness – the two go hand in hand. Living with your siblings isn’t always easy, and it’s the same thing with your parents. You don’t want to live with them forever. But when you get married, you do have to live with them forever. You still have the normal situations of learning and growing and developing and living together. It’s actually a very teaching and growing moment.

So yeah, it is, it’s a very hard thing. It’s hard because, you know, you figure a guy and a girl living together is hard, but you know what, living with two girls is hard too. Roommates at college, or mission companions, you know how hard that is to deal with. You’ve always got challenges, no matter who you live with, and so in a marriage you know that this is it. You got your testimony, you went to the temple, now you make it work. And it is work. And it is also the most wonderful thing! It’s service, and it’s giving, and it’s loving. And it’s worth it!

We’ll be married 45 years in February, and it’s been mostly good. And one thing you will find is that when you’re having a hard time and things are rough, you’ll think it’s always been hard, it’s always been rough, you won’t know how the heck you ever figured this was the right person, how could you have a testimony of this marriage? Look how hard it is. But, when things are going good, you won’t remember any of the bad! You’ll think that everything has always been good. You’ll think you’re so lucky, and so blessed. It all depends on what is happening at the moment, and if you can keep that in perspective realizing that, you know, of course everything stinks, because we went through this bad thing, but pretty soon we can work this out and we won’t even remember this, we won’t even remember what we were fighting about, we’ll just think, boy have we been blessed with such a wonderful marriage.

Grandpa and I have so many different ideas, it’s amazing that we’ve survived because we are way different. He is so outgoing, and I am so not adventuresome. But we survived because we knew we were different. And you just learn how to adapt and how to communicate. Communication is so important. The biggest thing is to choose the right person. If you don’t have the testimony that this is the right person, then you definitely don’t go through with it. And if you do get that testimony that yes you’re supposed to get married, then that carries you through the rough spots. You’ll have times when you don’t even like each other, but you know that you’ve made that commitment, and you’re going to like each other again.

  1. What advice would you give the girls in your life? What is one of the most important things you can teach me about being a woman?

We are co partners with God in creation. Only He can possibly love them more. If we focus on making sure our family feels unconditionally loved it will not only help them do great and wonderful things but that loving is what completes you. God is love. Do not spend so much time looking for love , look for ways to make others feel loved. Start by loving them as they are. If they feel God’s love through you they will change through God’s grace.

  1. Do you have any final thoughts?

I spent about 15 years learning about self esteem. I came to the conclusion that it can only come from self. Once you admit to yourself that only doing your best will make you feel your best then do the best you can at any given time but make sure it is your best. Then you will esteem yourself. Others can not praise you enough to raise your self esteem if you know inside you are just riding along. Self esteem takes a lot of work, forgiving and loving.

“I was one of the best”

Interview with Shelly Annette Steoger and daughter 

shay

Did you attend school, and explain what the expectations for your education were and why you had those expectations for yourself.

Yes, I attended school- elementary through high school, and graduated a year early from high school. Then I went to a technology school so that I could get my dental assisting certification. That took a year and a half, so I did that my whole senior year, and some, and then I started work at a dental office and immediately also started college at a university. I was able to get my associates degree from the university. My expectation was that I would start out with dental assisting to hopefully have a better shot at getting into dental hygiene school, without having to reapply every year so that I could take care of myself and my child independently. However, I did not get into the hygiene program after the first year, even with my dental assisting experience and references, so then I stopped going.

You stopped school after getting an associate’s degree because of that reason or because you felt like you had enough education up until that point?

It was mostly because I got married and I decided I wanted more kids. If I had been accepted into the hygiene program, I would have kept going. Because I hadn’t been accepted I felt like I didn’t have time to waste reapplying every year because you only get to apply once a year. So I decided to stop school and help my husband get through his schooling.

Now that your kids are out of the house mostly because they are all in school and eventually will all be out of the house, do you ever wish you had gotten more education or do you still feel like your level of education is sufficient for any future opportunities you might seek?

The only education I have that I feel like could actually help me is my dental assisting, but I do not feel like I could go back to doing dental assisting because of my MS (multiple sclerosis). I would be too worried about dropping an instrument and being a liability to a dental office. So no, I don’t feel like my education can help me right now, but I don’t really have a desire to do much either.

Explain why you chose to work and how you were treated when you first entered a profession, referring back to when you were younger, specifically as a woman and young single mom.

I chose to work because I had to because I was a single mom, and I wanted to be self-sufficient. The further along I could get in life the more independence I knew I could have away from government help and the the stigma of being a single mom. I did not want to be dependent on family anymore, mainly my grandma. I was really good at my job and it gave me a lot of self-confidence. I remember in my interview with the dentist, him saying “Tell me a little about yourself.” I told him that I had a three-year-old daughter and him saying “Whoa! Started young didn’t we?” Nowadays he could totally get in trouble for saying such a thing like that, like I could sue him! I just sucked it up and dealt with it because that was how everybody treated me. I dealt with it. I remember on my 18th birthday, I had been working at the dental office for one month. I didn’t hand one of the dentist’s the right instrument for a root canal and he started yelling at me in front of everybody, including the patient. It was my birthday and I remember I went into one of the back rooms and started crying privately because I didn’t want anyone to see. The other assistants knew it was my birthday so they went and told him and they kind of got mad at him and he felt really bad. It only took 6 months before I proved to them that I wasn’t some stupid teenage mom. I was really good and I had a lot of potential and within a year the dentists were actually fighting over who got me as their assistant because I was one of the best. It took time even for them to get over the stigma of what a teenage mom typically represents.

Why have you chosen to work since getting married and having kids?

Only because I recently thought that if I wasn’t at home it would help me forget how I don’t feel good with MS and that I could through my day easier. It actually was harder on my body physically to start working again, so I have come to peace that it is best for me not to work physically.

Did you get married at an age that is considered young, and why did you make that decision?

I would consider myself young; I was almost 21. I made the decision because I didn’t want my daughter to not have a family. Some of my friends had come from really great families with a mom and a dad and they were getting married themselves to really great guys. I wanted that for my daughter and that’s why I chose to get married.

If you hadn’t had a daughter would you have gotten married at an older age, maybe pursuing a career?

Yes. Absolutely.

Did you have more children and what made you want to have children?

Yes, I have children. I had one at a very young age. I would say that before having that child I had never wanted children, and probably never would have had children. I never babysat, I had never spent time with kids, it just wasn’t my thing. Because I had my daughter and then got married, I wanted my daughter to have a sibling. I didn’t want her to be spoiled, selfish, or self-centered, so I felt like a sibling would help with that. When my husband and I first got married we actually talked about just having one more together so it would just be my daughter and one child, but once we had our first child together it was such a happy environment and so much easier and more loving because it was a family scenario. I wanted more and so I had four kids total, and I would have liked more.

How were you treated as a young mother, (aside from your work experience you told), in general? During what moments have you felt most like a mother?

With my first child, I was treated pretty judgmentally and I was frowned upon. I would say that I got lots of stares and lots of glances. I was often treated like I was dumb but I often proved people wrong very quickly so they moved on. I also had a lot of really good friends and a lot of people that were really nice to me so it was half and half. When I had my first child with my husband it was great. People were really nice to me and I can’t comment much more about it because it was easy and normal and great. I had moments where I felt like a mom with my daughter. Although, because I was constantly going to school and working to try to better our lives, I didn’t get to have those same motherly moments with her, that I had with my other three children. I would say that I really didn’t feel like a mother until I had my first son with my husband. It is because I was able to stay home with him and actually see the progression of his entire life. I missed a lot of that with my daughter because I was so busy working to try to provide for us.

Interview With a Hommemaker

Submitted by: Amy Zortman

An interview with my mother, a homemaker, primary care provider, and superhuman

mommy

What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent?

Umm..I’d probably go back to the time when I was younger.  When I was a kid, my parents let us try anything we wanted to try at least once.  So I tried piano lessons and violin lessons and gymnastics and soccer and basketball and volleyball and tried out for cheerleading.  I just knew that I could do whatever I wanted to do.  My dad always said “You can do whatever you want!”  So I had the confidence to just do everything.  I seriously believe in one point of my life that I was going to be the first female pro soccer player.  That made me feel independent.  When I was 12, my parents had some financial troubles, and we were required to buy our own clothing.  We had to work to earn extra money.  So for the first four hours every month, we got $5 an hour, which was a lot!  So the first $20 was great, and after that we switched down to minimum wage which was $2 or something.  So I worked.  I had to buy my own shampoo, toothpaste, tampons, clothes, and everything.  So that made me become really really independent and capable, I guess.  I was kind of living up to the way my mom and dad had taught me.  And I loved leaving for college and feeling really grown up and getting my own landline.  We didn’t have cell phones; we had a to have a landline.  So my name was on all the bills in the apartment  for the electric, the phone–everything!  It was all under my name, so that made me feel independent.  My favorite experience was in my upper-young adulthood when I went to Europe and went backpacking for three weeks with my mom and Tracy.  It just felt super empowering, independent, and brave to do something hard.  We didn’t have cell phones or debit cards or anything.  So we were just carrying around cash and were on our own, just winging it and hoping we can make it.  Well, we weren’t totally winging it; we had a plan.  But also just being able to say “Hey, we’re going to stay here for a while,” and we just did!

 

Who instilled your values?

I would say my parents, going to church, young women leaders and really, a lot of my closest friends.  Joy and Shelley were really good examples to me of living a life with high standards and high goals.  And I guess, reinforced by what they did.  I had a lot of good friends and examples.

 

What does education mean to you?

As a woman and as a mother, an education means I changed my life and generations after me.  I have the blessing of having my mom get a college degree; she changed generations as well.  I hope to perpetuate that.  Education is always trying to learn; it’s not necessarily in a classroom though.  Sometimes, it’s like when I was walking along the streets of San Francisco last week and I saw so many homeless people.  To me, knowing they were all God’s children–that was an educational experience for me.  We were there two days, and on the second day when I was saying my morning prayer, I just really prayed that I would see all the people I saw as God’s children.  I think sometimes education comes while walking along the streets, sometimes it’s in a classroom when it’s formal, but I think you need to be always striving to learn, no matter where you are, from the experiences you have.  You need to not be afraid to be humble and learn from somebody who’s younger than you or is maybe from a different socioeconomic class or especially when it’s something you need to learn that you kind of were corrected on.  Does that make sense?  Learning from that experience is part of your education as well.

 

What does education mean for your posterity?

It opens up doors for everybody!  As a mom, when you can help your kids with homework–knowing that my children will be able to help their children and grandchildren with homework, knowing that they can read them a story is so important.  Some people are, sadly, still illiterate.  It’s kind of hard to believe that there are people who can’t read their child a book.  Knowing that you guys will be able to read to your children and help them with their math (unlike your mom *laughs* I can’t help with math!  I can help with everything else–not math!), knowing that it will be opening up doors for my grandchildren as they’re educated makes me feel fulfilled.  But I also hope you guys learn the same kinds of things outside the classroom that we taught you through example.

 

Now that education is so vital in society today, what advice do you have for women who are trying to choose between a career and a family?

A lot of women don’t have to choose.  A lot of women feel like they can have both.  I have one friend who I went to high school with who says, “I’m a better mom because I have a career.”  It would drive her crazy to be a stay-at-home mom.  So she feels like when she comes home after work, she can be a better mom.  So she is doing both.  There are many many women who are able to do both.  Some have stay-at-home dads, and that’s fine too.  For me, it was important to get my education.  It probably goes back to my dad telling me I could do whatever I wanted and my mom too–my dad verbalized it more and my mom showed it more, though.  “ You can do whatever you want!”  I think it was important for me to know that I got my degree, I was able to work in the field I’d chosen, and then be a mom.  So I didn’t have to choose either–I got to do both.  I think it’s–I don’t know.  The best advice I could give is that you need to pray about it if you don’t know.  You might be a career person for 10 years and realize that you’ve got to be a full-time mom.  Some want to start a career after they’re done raising children; I don’t have any desire to do that.  The best advice I can give is that you should pray about it, and you’ll know what the right thing is.

 

Did you work as a teenager?  A young adult?  An adult?

My first job was working for my parents at their gun show, and we would check people in, we would label tables, and I probably started doing that when I was about ten, so before I was a teenager.  And then, as I got a little bit older and was able to do more things, and we had more things that we could do.  So I worked for my parents first.  You know kind of the things you need to do at the show as a teenager–labeling tables, helping solve problems, and just being a face of positivity and being a point of contact for exhibitors and people coming to the show.  I also worked as a teenager for Truman Carver in his portrait studio in Kaysville.  In his portrait studio, we would put together dance pictures of high school dances.  So sometimes on Saturday nights, we would go to the other schools and take their dance pictures.  So I would be the person who signed them in, and when their pictures were all developed, we would stuff them into their packets and into the frames and bags and files.  Then I did some sports team pictures for him.  The biggest thing was during the summer when I worked for him at Lagoon in PV Photo.  We would take pictures of people all dressed up in old western costumes or other things like that.  I took money, signed people in, dressed them in costumes, cleaned costumes, took pictures, developed pictures.  I was the assistant manager and then the manager my last year.  My last year, he had a new thing set up; it was a magazine cover where you could take a picture of your face on a magazine cover.  So I have a picture of myself in a hunting magazine in my camo, and I’ve got dirt all smeared on my face–that kind of thing.  So that’s what I did as a teenager.  I think those are my only jobs as a youth and as a teenager… As a young adult, I worked at Sears Tele Catalog in Provo–i don’t even know if it’s still there.  But, I was hired at first just to take orders on the phone.  I learned a lot from that job because Sears has a good ethic that they teach their employees that the customer comes first.  And so I worked–nobody ever saw me except those who worked in the cubicle around me–but, I had to wear a skirt and nylons.  And I had to work there in the summer! *laughs* They knew that by dressing that way, we would behave a different way.  So, right now, you see that I’m in a t-shirt and running shorts and I’m totally laid back and whatever.  But you’d never do that when you were wearing a skirt.  So I was just taking orders for a while and then I was a supervisor who would take phone calls whenever there was a problem with somebody’s order or they were just being belligerent or whatever so I was kind of being a problem solver.  So I worked there and at the gunshows as a young adult.  I would say that when I was teaching, I was still a young adult.  I mean, I was 20, 21, 22 and I turned 23 when I was done teaching because I was going to be a mom.  So, as far as making money, I did that as a young adult and adult.  I tried to do some gunshow things after Kyle was born–just counting tickets and things like that.  But then I was like “I don’t even want to do this!  I just want to play with my baby.  I don’t care about making extra money.  I just want to play with my baby boy–he’s so cute!”  Then, I think that I’ve worked a ton as an adult, but none of them are paid positions.  I’ve done a ton of volunteer work at elementary school, middle school, high school, coaching soccer in the community, and in the church doing a ton of service with callings.  So I work a ton, but none of it’s paid. *laughs* Oh!  And I got a paycheck from the Institute last spring when I taught some classes! *laughs* But no, most of my employment as an adult have been volunteer positions that are unpaid.  But they’re as rewarding, or even more fulfilling as a paid job.

 

How did your various work experiences influence your life today?

I don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t work hard.  I don’t have a lot of patience for people who look for ways to not work rather than to work.  That was something that, as a young teenager, I would have to do as a manager.  We didn’t have cell phones; we had one phone in the closet at PV Photo.  It was literally smaller than our pantry closet.  Friends or boyfriends would call.  As the manager, I would answer the phone and they would say “Is so and so there?” and I would say “Yes, but she’s working.  She can call you on her break.”  So, that was a huge thing for me–seeing people who were sitting, getting paid, and not working.  It bugged me like no other!  Like, get to work!  When everything’s clean, you can take a break.  It’s kind of like what Chelsey and Kyle learned at Maggie Moo’s: if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.  There’s always something you can do.  So that influenced me to always want to do my best because it irritated me when people weren’t doing their best.  I want people to know that I’m giving them my all.  If I’m working and getting a paycheck, if I’m volunteering to do something, I want to do my best and put forth my best effort because it’s a reflection on whoever you work for, who you are as a person, and your family.

 

What helped you make the decision to get married?

Well, I always wanted to get married.  I was never one of those girls who was uncertain.  I just always knew.  My parents have a good marriage.  Watching them was a good influence on me.  My mom and dad are a good team.  My dad has good ideas, and my mom has more follow-through; my dad’s a little ADD *laughs*.  My mom is able to help him complete his dreams.  So watching them was a good example to me.  And I just knew that I wanted to be married because that was how I could reach my highest potential in the Celestial Kingdom.  To be exalted, you have to have a spouse.  For some people, that doesn’t happen in this life.

So, I think I lucked out because some of the guys I dated were not—you know–*laughs*–like whoo!  Dodged that bullet!  I knew I wanted to marry your dad because I knew that he could get me where I wanted to go eternally.  I had that missionary that I liked, and I knew that he was a hard worker, and he was a good money maker.  But I didn’t know if he’d be able to get me where I needed to be on an eternal scale.  So, I kind of, marvel with dad frequently now, telling him that I really thought that I’d be poor and happy.  We were financially poor for a long time!  If we wouldn’t have started our family, we wouldn’t have been as poor, but we definitely wouldn’t have been as happy either.  And now we’re very wealthy and very very happy.  I feel like he helps me achieve my eternal goals and not just my mortal goals.  Anyways, that helped me decide to get married to your dad.

 

How did your religion influence your relationship with your husband?

I couldn’t marry somebody who wasn’t an active member of the church; that would be really hard.  I couldn’t even imagine going to church by myself.  That would be crazy and so so hard.  I think it would be easy to maybe not go.  It would definitely be harder to go to church by myself.  Just knowing that he is such a spiritual giant makes me want to be by his side.  Sometimes I lift him, and more often than not, he’s lifting me spiritually.  That was a huge influence in my decision.

 

What made you want to have children?

*laughs* You know, I did not like babysitting when I was a kid–hated it.  Hated it!  I didn’t get paid very well, and it was just—I don’t know–I didn’t not like kids; I didn’t like babysitting kids.  I didn’t like the responsibility.  And I didn’t like, more than anything else, not getting paid a lot of money.  I could earn a lot more money working for my parents! *laughs*  So, I didn’t babysit very much which made me wonder about the education path I chose, wanting to be a teacher.  But I loved those kids when I was teaching, and I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  My mom’s biggest goal was that she just wanted to be a good mom.  My mom’s mom had some mental illness so she wasn’t able to be a good mom.  So, my mom kind of stepped in as the mother figure to her younger siblings because she’s the oldest child.  So, I watched my mom being a mom.  She really was a great mom and continues to be a great mom and grandmother.  She’s fantastic.  So watching my mom and seeing how much joy she had as a mom was a big influence on me.  Part of wanting to be a mom is wanting to see what your babies will look like and who they’ll be.  Like, “Will my babies be smart?  Will they be cute?”  And yes, they’re all both! *laughs*

Thanks, mom.

There are a lot of people who say that they want to be a mom but they don’t want to have a lot of kids because they want to make sure they have enough love for the one or two kids that they choose to have.  And I don’t disrespect anybody who has 20 kids or one kid or no kid.  I have respect for whatever choices people make.  But I don’t think you lose any amount of love becoming a mom.  You just get more and more.  It just grows!  You don’t get just this much to share that gets divided up.  No!  It just gets bigger and more!  Each kid just brought a new personality and a new excitement to our family.  Being a mom is fun; it’s challenging, and sad sometimes, and the hardest thing you’ll ever do.  But mostly just joyful!

 

At what point in time did you feel like a mother?

I felt like a mother when I was a teacher.  I got called “mom” all the time, which was fun.  I was a mom to those kids for a good portion of the day.  So it felt good being a mom.  But I guess when I first got pregnant, I felt like I was a mom.

 

How did you feel you were treated as a young mother?

Mostly with respect, especially by the most important person in my life: your dad.  He respected me as a mom and the challenges of having a first baby.  There’s a huge adjustment in your life and you are never free; everything you do is for your baby.  Dad was really good about that.  Sometimes, he would come home from work and I’d be like, “I brushed my teeth before noon!  I showered today!”  Having a baby in Provo is not unique, so I wasn’t disrespected or anything like that.  I felt like I was very accepted.  In other places, having five kids, people would say things like, “You must’ve started having kids when you were 12!”  And I’m like, “Nooooo, I was 23.”  So some people are skeptical that you can have that much love or that you can treat all those kids the way they should be treated or that you can give them all those opportunities they should be given.  Most of the time–like 95% of the time–people have respect for my choices as a mom.

 

How did your religion influence how you mothered?

You guys would have a totally different upbringing.  I cannot even imagine trying to raise children without the gospel and the standards that it has.  It was a huge influence on the books we read to you, the songs that we sang.  Religion was a part of our routine as my children grew up.  From the time Kyle was an infant, we read scriptures together as a family.  So he was younger than one when we started to read scriptures together as a family.  We play, we clean up, we take a bath, we read scriptures, we say a prayer, and we go to bed.  It was a huge thing.  Also, knowing that we are all God’s children.  But He entrusted me to raise some of His children as my children.  I want to do everything I can for them, so I try to provide opportunities for them.  The gospel even influenced the activities that you guys did after school!  I can’t separate being religious from being a mom.  I think Kyle has said, “I want to raise my kids exactly how you guys did, but just without the gospel.”  I don’t even know where you can draw the line between; it’s just in everything we do–everything!  There’s no raising children without religion in my eyes because it’s everything I did and still do.

 

Do you think it’s necessary to shelter your kids?

Yes and no.  I think it’s important that they be sheltered from some of the worldly things that are poisoning and damaging.  Like language and media–there’s a ton of media that they should not be exposed to and that they should be sheltered from.  I remember going to Arizona on spring break, and Kyle was two and a half.  Uncle Todd was putting in Jurassic Park.  And I was like, “For a two and a half year old, that would be terrifying, I mean terrifying!”  So I was like, “Umm, we’re going to go for a little walk!”  But a movie like that is different when you’re eight; it might still be scary, but it’s definitely more appropriate.  So, you need to shelter children form some things and you need to teach them to make their own decisions so when they have choices to make it the future about what book to read or movie to watch.  They need to be sheltered.  I went to a huge meeting in Maryland once about this book they were going to have 8th graders read and it was wildly inappropriate.  Well, it was certainly not appropriate for my 8th grade child to read; it might be appropriate for other people’s children to read.  Certainly not mine, though.  It’s important to not judge people based on what they judge to be appropriate or not.  But it’s also important to see how other people make their choices so you can make an informed decision.  Like not watching a certain movie because it has too much violence or scariness for your certain age.  You have to shelter your kids to a certain degree, and you have to teach them the appropriate decision-making skills, especially listening to the Spirit.  They need to be able to make decisions when they’re on their own.  Sheltering, yes!  But also exposing them to different perspectives, like going different places and experiencing different cultures.  That is a great way to not let your kids be sheltered.  Watching how other people live lets them see how many blessings they have.  Recognizing that we have so many amazing material things helps your children learn to appreciate things.

 

Is it necessary for your kids to travel?

Yes, absolutely! *laughs* I think it’s important to see how other people live.  Even now, I still love travelling and learning.  You can travel on ‘The L’, which is the subway train in Chicago, and drive through so many different neighborhoods, cultures, and socioeconomic boundaries from one stop to another.  It’s fascinating for me to see how different people live, and I think it’s important for my children to see how different people live as well.  If they were born and raised in Cedar City, they would probably want to stay here forever.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  Cedar City is a great place!  But I think it’s a great idea for everyone to leave where they grew up and experience a new place, even if it’s an hour away.  Live somewhere else and then decide if you want to come back.  You’ve seen other things and how many other people live.  Now you are able to make a choice of where you actually want to live.  I love to travel!  I think I’ve instilled in all my children the desire to travel as well.  It really helps you appreciate what you have.

 

INTERVIEW WITH KAREN SOUTHWORTH BY HER DAUGHTER, EMILY SOUTHWORTH

20161023_164253-1-1Karen Southworth was born on May 11, 1962 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Esther and Merril Dyches. She is the oldest of 5 girls and grew up in Farmington, Utah. She attended Davis High School from 1976-1980, where she was student body secretary. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

 

She met her husband, Steven Southworth, at a young single adult ski trip and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 6, 1992. They have 3 children: Emily (23), Aimee (22), and Blake (16). Karen’s greatest joy in life is her family and children.

 

October 15, 2016

 

What specific experiences in your life have made you feel like you were entering womanhood when you were a teenager/young adult?

I would say when I got my first period. I was about 14 at the time. I remember I started getting really moody and had horrible cramps. I was getting upset at the smallest things and I had no idea why! Once the period came, everything made more sense and I felt much more grown up than my younger sisters. However, after the second time I wished I could go back to not having a period. Also, I felt more grown up after I went on my first date. It was to the homecoming dance my junior year. It was awkward for me because it was so different from what I normally did. Most of my friends were girls and I had never really hung out with boys before that. I didn’t really like the boy that much, but I felt like I had to go because he had asked me.

What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent?

I was my mom’s appointed babysitter from the time I was 11 and all through junior high and high school. I was the oldest, so I was usually in charge of all my younger sisters. I was responsible for watching over them and making sure they didn’t get into too much trouble. Getting my first job at the Kaysville drugstore was a big deal for me. I saved the entire summer to buy a camera. I felt like an adult because it was my first time buying something with my own money. Also, after I got my driver’s license I had a greater sense of independence because I could drive places by myself.

What are some of your passions/interests/hobbies? How did you get interested in them?

I love to read. I read my first Agatha Christie murder mystery when I was about 12, and I was hooked. I think I probably liked reading more than boys when I was that age. I have loved whodunnit mysteries every since. I typically read at least one mystery book a week. Also, I started playing the piano when I was 5, in kindergarten. I really loved that because it came naturally to me and I was good at it. I was especially good at sight reading, so I could play almost anything. I started playing the organ at church when I was about 14. I have always had a talent for sight reading music and have played the piano and organ in church callings ever since.

What were your relationships with your mother and/or other older women? How did they influence you?

I had a close relationship with my mom for sure. In my mind, my mom was pretty much close to perfect. She was my example of being a kind person and putting other people first. Some advice she gave me as a young adult was to marry someone who would be a strong priesthood leader in the home. She was especially concerned about this because my dad wasn’t really into church/spiritual things and she struggled because of that. Since he wasn’t a strong spiritual leader in our family, she had to step into that role. Every week she took us kids to church by herself and she alone provided for the family’s spiritual needs. I think that really wore her down over the years. I also had a young women’s leader named Sister Pierce that I admired a lot. Her husband had died in the Vietnam War and she raised her daughter alone as a widow. I just thought a lot of her and admired how she was so strong and had done everything on her own to raise her daughter. Anyways, she was just someone I looked up to.

What expectations were placed on women when you were growing up? Did your mother conform to or resist these expectations?

I think the main expectations were to be a good mother and raise your children well. It was assumed that women should marry and have children fairly soon after graduating high school. Women were expected to learn homemaking skills such as cooking, sewing, and canning food. Women were not really encouraged to go to work or be the breadwinner–that was the men’s responsibility. For the most part, my mom conformed to these standards. She never attended college and she never worked outside the home. She stayed at home and raised us. I think that was more prevalent back then.

How was housework and childcare divided up between your parents? How does this compare to the division of labor between you and your husband?

My mom did all of the housework and my dad was in charge of the outside stuff like yard work and cars. My dad wasn’t really that involved in childcare. It was almost always my mom who played with us and cared for us. Like I said, that’s just the way it was back then. In our house, I do most of the inside work like cleaning and laundry. Dad takes care of the outside work and the cars. He’s very knowledgeable about cars, and I appreciate him taking care of that for us. However, Dad was much more involved in child care than my dad for sure. When you and your sister were little and I was working at the bank, he would stay home and take care of you guys all day.

Did your parents encourage you to pursue an education? Explain a story that highlights the expectations for your education.

Yes they did. Although my mom didn’t go to college, both my parents wanted me to get an education. My freshman year, my mom went up to Weber State with me to help me register for classes. Since I was the oldest and the first girl in my family to attend college, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Back then, you had to go to the ballroom and get a punch card from the professor for the class you wanted before they were all taken. My mom came with me and helped me figure everything out. We really were clueless about how to go about it. My parents also encouraged me to apply for scholarships. As a freshman, I applied for and received a full ride academic scholarship. I didn’t realize you had to reapply every year though, so my second year of college I didn’t have a scholarship.

How important was getting an education to you personally?

Getting an education was very important to me. Ever since I was a young girl, I had always done well in school and I liked going. In those days it was a normal thing for girls to go to college, but they were mostly in the home economics majors. Not many girls graduated in the sciences or other technical fields. I didn’t want to get a degree for the purpose of getting a specific job or to have a career or anything like that. It was more because it was just an accomplishment I wanted to have. I wanted to be able to say that I went to college got a degree.

Did you get married when you were a young adult? Why did you make this decision?

I was almost 30 when I got married, so no I was not a young adult. It just took me a little bit longer to find the right person. Also, Dad was not ready to get married yet so I ended up marrying later than most of my sisters and friends. When he was young, Dad went through a nasty divorce with his parents, so he was very cautious about marriage. We dated on and off for about two years before he finally felt ready to make that commitment. I got married because I wanted to have a family and I found the right person to do that with. My main motivation was that I wanted to have kids, be a mom, and have my own family.

Did you have children? What made you want to have children? When did you feel like a mother?

Yes I wanted to have children. Like I said, I wanted the experience of being a mom and creating my own family. I had you about 12 months after we got married. We were so happy to be getting a beautiful baby girl! Right after you were born I felt like a mother. Having children was one of the most sacred experiences of my life. I thought it would be weird to have another person in our house because it had just been the two of us, but after we brought you home it just felt so right and normal. That’s the way it felt with every child we had, but after you have another baby you just feel like that’s how it should be. Also, when Blake was born dad was really happy to get a boy.

Why did you choose to work outside the home?

The main reason was that we needed more money. We needed two incomes in order to buy a house and provide for our children. I didn’t love working and I still don’t. I never aspired to work or have a career other than being a mom. If Dad had been making more money, I probably would have stayed home.

Describe your experience of being a working mother. Was it ever difficult to balance your work responsibilities with your role as a mother? Would you recommend work outside the home for other young mothers?

No, I would not recommend it. The hardest thing for me was finding someone that I trusted to watch my kids during the day while I was at work. I had your grandma do it until she passed away, and then it was really hard. I just worked part-time, so as far as taking care of the house it wasn’t really that much of a struggle. It was also hard for me because I didn’t want to miss any memorable moments of your childhood. I wanted to be home with you all the time.

Were you religious? How did you decide upon religion in your young adulthood?

In the beginning I just followed my mom, I guess. She was very dedicated to the LDS church and since I wanted to be like her, I wanted to be that way too. As I got older and gained me own testimony, I decided on my own that I really believed in it. I decided that I wanted to raise my kids in the LDS religion because of the good, wholesome values it has. I served for 18 months as a sister missionary in South Korea, which strengthened my testimony even more. Also, I married someone that has the same values and the religion as I do, so that made the decision easier.

How has your religion shaped your understanding of women’s roles in home, society, and within the religion itself?

Well I know that all women are daughters of God, and so because of that alone we are of great value to God and an important part of His plan. Knowing this helps me to have good self-esteem and feel better about myself, especially about my worth and skills as a mother. Plus, all of the values that are part of the LDS religion–the Word of Wisdom, the law of chastity…all of that–is part of being a woman and a daughter of God. The church teaches that both men and women must respect women’s bodies because they are precious and sacred. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, being promiscuous, etc. defiles our bodies and undermines our worth as daughters of God. My religion also teaches me that I’m an equal partner in my marriage with my husband. I know both of us together are equally responsible for helping our family become an eternal family. Since raising a family is the most important God-given responsibility we have as citizens, women are an essential part of society and equal partners with men in raising a family as a unit in society.

In what ways has your religion been empowering for you as a woman?

Kind of like I said before, knowing that I’m a daughter of God empowers me because it gives me a strong sense of self-worth. I know that no matter what happens in this crazy life, my Savior and my Father in heaven will always love me and They will always be there for me. I know I have a divine origin and destiny. It makes me feel like I can do anything and it makes me want to be the best person I can possibly be. It reminds me that I should feel proud to be a woman because God loves and values His daughters equally to His sons.

How have women’s roles in home, society, etc. changed from when you were growing up? Do you think women are in a better or worse position now compared to then? Why or why not?

These days, I think women are more respected for the abilities they have outside of being a mother. However, I don’t think they’re sufficiently compensated yet since women in the workplace still earn less than men for the same amount of work. I also think that people have more admiration and respect for all the work women do in the home than they did back in the 60s. There are a lot more women in politics which I think is good progress. When I was young, I don’t think there was a single woman in office–at least not that I could think of. I mean we’re probably going to have a woman president, so what more can you say? There are also a lot more women going into engineering and more technical fields. When I was in college, most women either studied to become a teacher or went into home economics. Overall, I think women are better off than they were, although there is still a lot to be done.

If you could give young women growing up in today’s world one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would say the same advice my mom gave me: find the right person to marry and have a family with. Make sure that you are compatible and that you find a man who isn’t too domineering. You need someone who will treat you as an equal partner. Find someone that you can live a happy life with–and if it’s not the right person, don’t get married to them! Continuing God’s family is the most important part of His plan, so preparing to become a wife and mother is the most important thing young women should be focusing on.

Interview with Kaylene Ashton by Kelsey Ashton

Kaylene Ashton

Kaylene G Ashton was born February 5, 1946 in Provo, Utah to Elaine Kuhni and Rulon Johnson. Elaine and her husband Grant Gray raised her. She is the oldest of 5 girls. She attended Grandview, Provost, Wasatch elementary schools in Provo and Farrer Junior High School in Provo. She attended Provo High School from 1961-1964 where she was a cheerleader. She also met her sweetheart, Paul Ashton, and was engaged to him in December of her senior year.

Paul and Kaylene were married in the Salt Lake City Temple August 27, 1964. They have 6 children, 5 of which are living. On April 15, 1980 Kaylene gave birth to her fifth child, Amy Marie Ashton. On April 16, 1980 Amy passed away. Paul and Kaylene have 13 grandchildren, with one due later this year.

April 3,2016

What specific experiences in your teenage/ young adult years have made you feel like you were entering womanhood?

Well, probably the fact that I got boobs. Because I was little and small they kind of dominated. So I think maybe I thought, “wow” because guys noticed them and some of the more inappropriate ones would say things like “Oh, we voted you in as a cheerleader because you had boobs,” or some silly things like that. I think maybe sometimes because I worked for my uncles and I was down there a lot, I noticed that they started treating me a little differently. Although my aunts and uncles were almost like siblings to me, I felt that they treated me like a sister and they would say things. I remember once when my uncle said to me, and I had never worn very much make-up, but he said, “Why do you want to wear that make-up? You don’t need it.” I said, “Well I don’t wear very much, but I do it just so I fit in” I only did eyelashes and things like that. But then he talked to me about it and so to me, that was my “Oh! I’m growing up,” and maybe he didn’t want me to grow up. Maybe he wanted me to stay a little girl.

What role did the men in your life play into you feeling like you were entering womanhood?

This one bothers me in that I had a stepfather and he would make comments. He would try to hug me and kiss me, things that I don’t remember him doing earlier in my life. But as I was starting to grow up I thought, “Hmm, why is he doing this? Why is he taking such a notice?”

What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent?

I think the one that sticks out to me the most was that my mother had a baby when I was a senior in high school. She was born on Christmas day. My mother had gone to the hospital earlier on Christmas Eve, but then was sent home. So I stayed up and helped her get ready for Christmas. When we woke up Christmas morning she was gone. We waited all day long to find out about this baby. It just seemed like it took forever and ever. I had a boyfriend, and he was asking me to marry him. He kept waiting and waiting to ask me to marry him all day because he didn’t want to take away from the excitement of the new baby. It ended up being nine or ten o’ clock at night before he was able to give me this diamond ring and ask me to marry him. I think this gave me the responsibility because I became her mother. My mother had a lot of complications after the pregnancy and Paul and I became this little babies parents. On the days I was off work I would go get her, and I would have her all day long. Sometimes I would go get her the night before and she would stay the night with us. I had a lot of responsibility at home because I was eight years older than the next child. I just was kind of a mother figure it seemed like. This helped me to grow up and become independent because I had responsibilities and I took these responsibilities seriously.

Did you attend school? What does education mean to you? What does education for your posterity mean to you?

Now this is where I can look back and think, “wow.” I was never taught or talked to about college or you need to work to do this. That was never even brought up. To me I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and I was perfectly happy. I didn’t think of education as a big thing. I know some of my friends left and went away to college, but I didn’t have that experience. I didn’t even think about having that experience. My biggest thing was I would get married and I would have a family and that was my goal in life.

As far as for my children, I think we made education very important for them because neither my husband nor I had that education and had something to fall back on. It was very important for us, and our oldest son was helping to manage our business and going to school. It was very difficult for him. My husband always says I chased my sons away from being in business because I wanted them to have an education and have a choice. So education is very, very important.

Did you work as a teenager? Young adult? Adult?

Yes, I did. I worked my sophomore year through the summer into my junior year. I worked for my uncles off and on, but I got a job from them before I graduated high school. That changed my ideas and career choices I had in mind. In high school though, I worked at the High Spot. We always called it the fly spot. It was a fast food, hamburger, malt, shake, and fries, that kind of place. When I worked there I learned a very valuable lesson and thanks to my uncle. He taught me well. I didn’t think much about it, but it helped me to be a better person and more honest person. One night my uncle came fairly late, and it stayed open pretty late. I didn’t get home most nights until midnight. My uncle came and he wanted a drink. That’s back when drinks didn’t cost that much, maybe 25 cents for a soda. He ordered one and gave me a dollar. I gave him change back, but I gave him a dollar worth of change back. He handed it back and said, “I think you have made a mistake here.” I was thinking, “Oh, 25 cents, my employer isn’t going to miss that.” I really didn’t think of it as being a dishonest thing. I was very grateful to my uncle for pointing that out to me and for expecting me to give him the correct change back. He taught me that I was working for someone else, and I couldn’t just freely give him a drink.

So yes, I did work and it was a good learning experience for me.

What helped you make the decision to marry? What role did your parents play in this decision?

I would say that the decision, I don’t know that my parents made the big difference for me. Like I said, my mother remarried when I was young and I did not have a real good relationship with my stepfather or his family for that matter. I think my biggest role model was my grandmother. She had eight children. She was always in the home and didn’t have to work outside the home. She was always there and she cooked big huge meals. I think this is where I learned and where I got my background from that I wanted a family. This was the most important thing. I loved little kids. I think this is where the decision came from. I didn’t think about going to school. I just wanted to be married and I just wanted to be a mom.

What made you want to have children? When did you feel like a mother? How did you feel you were treated as a young mother?

As I said before, my experience of having a little sister born when I was a senior of high school. I would come home from school, bathe her and dress her all up. I would take her to play practices or cheerleading practice or whatever was going on. I would take her with me. I think just having that responsibility at home of having younger siblings. I used to play school with them and I would be the teacher. I would make little things for them to work on and we would study our colors and the alphabet. I just always wanted to be a mom. I enjoyed it. We were married almost three years before I had my own child and it was a wonderful experience. I loved it. I think people treated me fine as a young mother. They probably looked at me and thought, “My goodness she has a baby!” Although I was twenty-one when our first child was born, I did look like I was sixteen.

How did your religion influence how you mothered? How did your religion influence your relationship with your husband?

I don’t know that I had a really good example to fall back on as far as my mother and stepfather. But I had family that was strong in the gospel. Being a member of the church was everything to me. I remember watching my grandma and grandpa, and even though I was really young I remember watching them cuddle, and show such love and respect for one another. I think that was a good example to me. I had people around me, my aunts and uncles, and others that were married and they would always take me with them with their families. Church was very important to me and I learned this from the examples in my life, but mostly from my grandmother. Watching her and the respect she had and the love she had. I loved going to relief society meetings and laying on the floor underneath the quilts they were working on and just being involved in all the church things my grandma was involved in. It was very important to me that I was married in the temple. I wanted to wear those special garments that my grandmother wore and was so respectful of. She would never throw them on the floor. She would always take them off, and lay them carefully on a chair. She would never be without them.

I remember when I was at church and I first felt that maybe I needed to stand and bear my testimony. It was so frightening to me. I knew what I wanted to say. This was when you would stand up in the audience, and I remember the people looking at me. I just dissolved into tears. Thank goodness my uncle took me to church that day and hugged me. Afterwards he talked to me about it. I have always felt that I have had a guardian angel and the church has always been important to me. I have loved that in meetings I was taught to be a good parent and was taught to do it the right way.

What was your relationship with older women? How did they mentor or advise you in times of struggle?

I love older women. I have always gravitated to older women. Maybe that was because of my grandmother. I was able to be around her friends, be to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneer meetings and all of those things. It seemed like I grew up in a more adult world because I was the only child for a long, long time. I just gravitated to older women. I always looked up to them and I enjoy being around them. In my relationships in the church it has always seemed that I have had a relationship with the older women in the ward and neighborhood. I have had such good examples of older women in my life, teachers and neighbor. I learned from them and I looked up to them.