Friday, October 16, 2009

Titles are severely overrated

So I joined the PTO.

I was a little nervous at my first meeting. I didn't know anyone else there; I was late, and I realized upon arriving that everyone else seemed to have some kind of chique-y planner. Black. With nice, organized side tabs. While I brought my full-on 12-month wall calendar with a different beach featured every month and scribbled all over the place with multi-colored crayons. (Because pens in my house are a legend.)

So we all went around and introduced ourselves, most everyone cracking some joke or making a witty comment. Somehow my Clever Quota seemed to have been met that day, and I was coming up dry. Then the lady before me introduced herself.

"Hey, everyone, I'm _____ ______. I'm soooo not your typical PTO Mom. I don't bake or scrapbook or do any kinds of crafts. But hey, I'm here!"

Everyone laughed appreciatively and there were several shouts of "me, neither!" and "I must be in the right place!" and "if that were a requirement, I don't think anyone would be here!"

This plunged me into at least several minutes of deep thought, since I'm sitting here in front of the computer typing about it.

Cuz here's the thing. I scrapbook. I craft. I even bake bread.

So ... what does THAT mean?

Deep Thought Scenario #2: I was visit taught last week. I really like the two ladies who share the prophet's message with me every month. This month the message is on Raising the Divine Generation (or something to that effect.) But one sister, after giving her heartfelt testimony, made some derogatory remarks about "those perfect ladies who somehow manage to read scriptures every day and actually do Family Home Evening."

I read my scriptures every day. And we have FHE every week.

So ... what?

A "Molly Mormon" is an uncomplimentary term given to Latter-day Saint women who seemingly "do it all." A Molly bakes. Scrapbooks. Studies her scriptures. Never forgets FHE or family scripture study. Writes in her journal. Does her visiting teaching on time. Has ten children. Never gossips or swears. Cleans her house regularly. Attends all church meetings. Rotates mattresses. Memorizes General Conference talks. Fixes toilets. Etc., etc. Essentially, she's perfect. Shoo-in celestial material.

(Really, she's what we all WANT TO BE. It's true.)

Most importantly, a Molly Mormon
embodies the cheery, chipper and domesticated female in Latter-day Saint culture.
(That's from, the fountain of all truth. They even have definitions for Mormon slang now. Dang.)

I don't really consider myself a Molly (mostly because of the cheerful requirement), but I've been called a Molly plenty of times. And usually in a disparaging tone: "Oh, whatever, Becky, we know you're a total Molly and can't identify with us."

[clears throat .... gears for soapbox ....]

Here's the thing. The point. Where I'm Going With All This.

I'm trying to be as Christ-like as possible. That has nothing to do, however, with quilting. (Pretty sure the Lord doesn't quilt.) I quilt because I like to. I scrapbook because I enjoy it. Not because I'm trying to fit a stereotype or feel obligated to be crafty by my church leaders. (Pretty sure none of them do, either.)

I'm trying to model my life after His, and yet there are times I get made fun of for remembering to pray first thing in the morning.

But listen. While I have a very firm testimony of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - of its plan of happiness - and that that plan of happiness WORKS - I also have a very firm testimony that YOU CAN BE DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS AND STILL BE IN A TOTAL FUNK.

(When I speak in all capitols, I must be serious.)

If life were perfect every time we remembered to do all the "right things" (scripture study, prayer, church attendance, service with a smile, etc.) then EVERYONE would do the right things. Instead, we can be doing everything right and still have everything go wrong.

That's what faith is all about.

Everyone - the Molliest of Mollies or the Jackest of Jack Mormons - feels the full range of emotions and must be subject to opposition. Without sad times and trials, there is no growth.

So what if I am a Molly. It's not a bad thing. It doesn't mean I don't have shortcomings and weaknesses and (gasp!) sins. I do. A lot of them. It also doesn't mean I don't have bad days. And I do. A lot of them.

I kind of want to make a new bumper sticker.

"I'm a Molly Mormon - WHAT'S IT TO YOU?!"

But maybe that would be counterproductive.


Head Nurse or Patient- you be the judge said...

I dream of being a Molly- but I don't think badly of those who are farther along the trail than I am. I also can bake bread, I could scrapbook if that was my thing- it isn't- but boy I take lots of pictures. I can sew, and clean, and cook. I mostly fail on the most important parts. I do a lot better than I used to so I am making progress. Oh- and I don't have 10 kids. I was lucky to get 4 here any way I could. I don't think the Lord looks down on me for that, seeing as how he sent them in the first place.

You can be proud to be Molly. It is a desirable thing.

Katy said...

You go girl. Well said.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

Bravo, Molly...I mean, Becky!

Lara said...

I guess people try to make themselves feel better for not doing all the things they know they should be doing by making fun of those who do. Because they're jealous. They want to be you.

You rock. I loved this post.

Fig said...

You're a great Molly.

And sometimes other Mollys are hard on us not-quite-theres ... so maybe some of us are a little defensive? Not that that's an excuse, but maybe an explanation for the bad behavior?

I hope they didn't hurt your feelings. I admire your Mollyness!

Mrs. M said...

You're great!

Sharon said...

I hated being identified as a Molly Mormon growing up. Let me tell you, a rep like that doesn't do much for your dating calendar.

Now, however, I realize what a huge blessing it was in my life. I was a good girl! I was making good choices! I now have a 15 year old daughter that is also considered by many to be a Molly (I know - what a blessing), and she actually embraces it and lives her life without shame. I am following her brave example!

janel said...

Perhaps the bumper sticker would, by definition, make the sticker untrue (the "cheery, chipper" part). Why do people need to poke fun at Molly Mormons? I think that attitude indicates a total lack of understanding of the "be ye perfect" commandment. It doesn't apply to crafting. It applies to you doing your best at your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Who may or may not quilt. : )

Kimberly said...

I just LOVE that you wrote about this because I've seen this so many times, both in and out of the church. That deragatory attitude towards mothers who seem to "do it all." It's just insecurity and feelings of inadequacy turned nasty. It's what we do when we can't find the sincerity to say "I wish I did that" or "That's something I struggle with still."

I wish we were all better than that. I wish we could look at other women and admire more than we envy, and be inspired more than we're made afraid by. Other women's successes are meant as a criticism of our lives, they should uplift and encourage us.

My name is Kimberly, and I am horrible at remembering to read my scriptures and I want to be more like Becky who rocks at it. But I make awesome cookies and I sing primary songs all the way to church and I'm teaching my children to be loving!

Thanks for writing this post - you're awesome!

Kimberly said...

are meant = aren't meant


DeNae said...

I've been thinking lately about how the world takes pride in wickedness. "Bad boys" or "Bad girls" are actually perverse forms of compliment.

And I believe we are guilty of doing that, too. We buy into the cachet of "not being like those perfect Mormons" in a twisted combination of false modesty and the desire to opt out of our responsibilities.

I'm proud to know you, Rebecca, and as a fellow "Molly" - i.e. someone who embraces her duties and the joys of a life in the gospel, let me stamp a big ol' VALIDATED on your forehead.

(Although I do have to admit to an extreme shortcoming in the domestic arts. But I can do music, love the scriptures, and am a pretty good teacher. So I'm still eligible for Molly-hood.)

charrette said...

This is a great post! You know, it's funny...I love to bake, have kind of given up scrapbooking in favor of blogging, and never miss a day of scripture study (and try never to miss FHE) and yet I have never thought of myself as a Molly Mormon. Not ever.

I like your bumper sticker idea, in a way. Because I think what makes you Molly or not Molly is your attitude. And you've got it in spades!

Actually, to me, I think there's something shallow about that label -- about ANY label, really, and that one in particular -- and anyone with depth and originality operates outside of those confines.

Hahaha -- Oh my gosh, the word verification is "haters". Yikes!

Melanie J said...

Yeah, everyone has kind of said it all already. For me, I'd say a Molly in my mind is someone who isn't real. They're all those things and none of the human stuff. But you've never come across that way. So I think if someone bags on you for being a Molly, you should punch them in the mouth.

charrette said...

p.s. I'm so glad I caught this today. I don't post (or make my reading rounds) very often, and for some reason I keep missing yours in particular. But I wanted you to know it's not intentional. I consider myself a loyal follower...even though my commenting is sporadic.

Becca said...

I remember growing up thinking Molly Mormon was a nickname for the girl in the corner that was obsessed with (insert random LDS author/series) and her only aspiration in life was to get married and have children.

I was not that girl.

Yet here I am. A self proclaimed feminist that celebrates Mocktail parties when friends (or their younger siblings) turn 21 who also happens to be a stay at home mom. Lets just say that my own mother-in-law does not understand why I would want to be a stay at home mom. But to her and the rest of the naysayers I must say 'to every thing there is a season.' In 20 years my life will be totally different. I might not have 3 callings anymore, I might work 50 hours a week, I might even get all sorts of higher education. But right now its just the beginning of this season. And, I am happy with it.

Julia said...

***standing to applaud********

This month my new VT's came and started making comments about how my house is decorated for halloween and how they never have the time or desire to do it. The thing that bothered me was the total derogatory (sp??) tone that they were using. They made me feel stupid for decorating. Then they saw a quilt I had made hanging on my couch and said "You quilt too? Let me guess... you scrapbook and like to cook too?" Well yes thank you I do. I hated how it made me feel. I definatly agree... WHAT"S IT TO YOU?!

Riddlez said...

I stopped over from MMB. I was reading about Lehi's dream (gasp! I read my scriptures) and was pondering the group mocking the righteous. As I was thinking this over, I realized that the group mocking those holding to the rod could very well be other members.

We all do it or have done it. Poke a little fun at the person we feel is too righteous or perfect or whatever. And it's a shame. There are those who seem to be perfect and come across as judgmental and you don't want that either, right? But, to go about your business and do what the prophets and Lord have told us to do to get to eternity should never be up for fodder. A person shouldn't be made feel bad for working hard at something good.

This was a great post. I say keep it up.

Melissa P said...

I wish I could say I was more of a molly. I think that is great that you take the time to do all those things.

Kazzy said...

You go, girl. Keep reading and FHEing. I am actually always a little surprised at how many of my LDS friends don't do FHE.

Danielle said...

I think women (esp. mothers) have a lot of pressure on themselves today to wear many hats, play many roles, or whatever metaphor you prefer. Not only do they have to follow all of the rules of their religion, they have to be good, doting, attentive mothers, good wives, take care of the bills (I'm getting the impression that most of the women do this, even if the husband brings in all or part of the money! It's the women who make sure things are paid on time and in order) and many of them work. So they probably feel like they're failing sometimes and need to relate to other women who also get behind sometimes. The side effect of this "I can't do EVERYTHING" bonding is that those who can become outcasts.

Unfortunately, the result is that you have to kind of compartmentalize (sp?) friendships. Bond with the friends that scrapbook over scrapbooking, but maybe don't mention how yes, you DO have family night every night. etc.

I don't know why I made this whole thing in the third person plural instead of the first person singular. I'm a woman, too. I don't have kids and for a long time I thought I never would, but my husband is trying to convince me it's not the worst idea in the world. But I hope that when I do, I can be as good of a mother as you are. Reading your blog always inspires me and I'm really impressed with how much you do for your family. I also used to think that I would NEVER be a mother that stayed at home and didn't work (mostly because the idea of depending on a man scared me) but your stories about your day-to-day life show me how rewarding it can be. I have a lot of plans career-wise but deep down I know that once the babies come, there's no way I'm gonna be able to leave them with someone else. (Plus, I LOVE scrapbooking and all the other things you mentioned, too, and having more time to do that would be great!) Also, my husband's finishing medical school right now. So that helps.

Anyway, babbling as usual, email me if you want, but the point is, keep up the good work, and maybe sympathizing with the nay-sayers on a more abstract level (everyone's got problems, just different ones) might help.

Have a good weekend!

Jennie said...

Thank you for this post! Made my day!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This, my dear, is an excellent post.

I think there is a general societal trend (prophesied of in scripture) to belittle goodness and honor wickedness. And sometimes, even well-meaning people discount another person's excellence as a threat to their mediocrity. But there is no sin in shining and no shame in doing good-- especially if you ask the One true Judge. Keep it up.

wonder woman said...

I just read a post on Segullah written by someone who is not a memeber of our faith. She was highly complimentary, but asked at the end if the pressure to be perfect was too much.

Honestly, I don't feel the overwhelming pressure to be perfect. But I do feel a daily desire to do better, and be better than the day before. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes......not so much.

This is a fantastic post. And you're right -- titles are completely overrated.

Happy Mom said...

Oh, you wonderful lady, you!!!

I, too am often seen as a Molly Mormon (although I don't have a clean house and I don't quilt)

You have captured my exact feelings on the subject!!! I love it when I learn that others feel the same as me!!! It's a lot less lonely!

InkMom said...

Excellent, bravo, fantastic.

I think the labeling thing is pretty shallow. How can anyone possibly know how good or not good you are about doing the things they say define you as Molly or not Molly? I'd wager people would be surprised sometimes about the disparity between what a person projects outwardly and what's really going on behind the scenes -- and that can go both ways. And booh! to them for passing any kind of judgment -- especially "against" the kinds of things we're supposed to be working towards.

I have noticed lately, in General Conference, a trend away from proscribed formulas for success in the Gospel, and more of an emphasis on personal revelation, and developing a firm grasp of Gospel principles. If those things are in line -- if you have a personal relationship with your Savior, and if you diligently study the commandments and doctrines of the Gospel, and prayerfully consider how best to apply those principles in your life, and if that makes you a "Molly", then SO BE IT.

You go, my friend. Molly it all the way home. I'll be right there with you!

Melissa Bastow said...

I think the Mormon culture labeling systems needs rebuffed. Mostly because I'm bored with those labels and the meanings behind them (I'm not much a fan for any labels really.) But if we came up with new names then I guess someone would have to update Wikipedia, which would be a total pain, I'm sure.

So my word verification for this comment is "hopit." My brain is trying to decide if it wants to think of bunnies or short hairy people living in the Shire of Tolkien-ville...

Anonymous said...

I'm one, too. I do all those things and my house is always immaculate, too. And I don't do it to live up to some weird standard - it's just how I do things! Loved your post :)

Danya said...

To me, a Molly is a woman who wants to give the appearance of being perfect. She does the right things for the wrong reasons. She prays first thing in the morning, keeps a clean house, and sews to demonstrate what a great mormon she is to any member in view, not because in her heart she is trying to live as Christ would or because these activities are in line with her true values. I always thought of a Molly as being insincere in her kindness--a woman who treats nonmembers differently than church members. A Molly also conveys the facade that she is perfect, her husband is perfect, and she never feels a second of unhappiness. In a word, a Molly to me is insincere. And I do not see you as any of those things.

Rachel Sue said...

I like it. I really like it. And I think that Lara is right. People are jealous. They see others doing all of the things that they know THEY should be doing, and so rather than say, "good for them," they designate them Molly.

It's funny because some of the people I have known who are closet to the Lord, are the ones you wouldn't look at and think so. But the others, who look perfect and sound perfect, their lives tend to be in shambles. Ironic, isn't it?

The Prices said...

It's really a wake up call that we need to respect each other's personalities, interests, etc and recognize that just cuz you don't do scrapbooking or whatever, someone else might. And we need to quit being so sarcastic, it just makes people feel stupid or sad.

Kristi said...

Amen! And Amen.

Harmony said...

Amen to Kristi's "Amen! and Amen."

Sarah said...

2 things: Danya pretty much said what I was going to say, sorta. People often make up for their own desires and shortcomings by making good qualities undesirable. Stuff like: You're a nerd, a goodie-two-shoes, a Molly etc. Probably jealousy, spite, and self-degradation all rolled into one. A Molly Mormon, in my mind, is someone who does those typical Molly things because of the acclaim they bring rather than the joy. If doing those things make you happy, you are not a Molly Mormon, you're a Becky.
Second, any time we sort into US and THEM, we lose something. We need ALL types, the do-it-all mom and the do-it-most mom, and the do-it-none mom, and the not-mom. If we were all doing 'it all', it would be pretty dang boring. I am not a do-it-all mom, but I do what I can and what makes me (and my family) happy. That is different than what many other Mormon moms do, but it is right for me. And I really try to live by the theory: Maybe she was doing the best she can for what she has right now. And it's not up to me to decide if it's enough.
Love you, loved this post and how you embraced your do-it-all-mother-ness.

Kim Loudon said...

I WANT TO BE A MOLLY MORMON...(and I am in the worst way)...there is NOTHING more important to me than the gospel...and especially teaching the gospel principles to my kids while they are young. We have mini FHE's like every night. We have family scripture study 2x's a day... the "Real scriptures" in the morning, and the kid stories at prayer 2's a day etc. I tell scripture stories and apply them to what we are going through, I have them be a part of a million little services I do for people during the week...they help me brainstorm ways to serve and carry out the service. I tell them stories about gospel related things I have learned in my life, I bear my testimony about points of doctrine that we are discussing...sometimes several times a day. I emphasize following the prophet and being worthy of the temple...A LOT. Every room has a picture of the temple, a picture of the Savior, AND a picture of the 1st presidency. I am OVERKILL. I am WILDLY taking advantage of the fact that kids are SPONGES...and praying that at least 1/10th of what I shove down their throat will stick. I want to equip them with all the knowledge and testimony possibly, because...THEY ARE GOING TO NEED IT in this crazy world QUICKLY winding down toward the coming of the Savior. There is SUCH A SHORT period of time that they are under my watchful care...I already recognize that in sending my 1st to Kindergarten I am no longer 100% of her influence. They will soon be using their agency to make choices when I am not around. Hopefully, they will have a wealth of understanding and the help of the spirit to help them recognize and chose the good. If they DON'T choose the good, I can rest assured that their choices are NOT on my shoulders....and pray for them with more faith because I KNOW that I trained my children in the way they should go...and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

However, I don't FEEL like I meet the molly mormon status because I don't do it ALL. I don't scrapbook, I am not crafty, I don't quilt. My house doesn't have enough Vinyl stickers.\"/ I KNOW I am wickedly hard on myself. And for the most part, I have CHOSEN to let go of the perfectly clean house as a priority at THIS stage of my life. But that doesn't help me get over my feelings of NOT being an adequate Molly.
I have to remind myself that I can do it ALL....I just can't do it all RIGHT NOW. There is a time and a season for everything. Right now, I am in the season of filling the minds of little sponges, not scrubbing the floor with kitchen sponges.\"/

SO said...

I love your post.

I have to say though that a "Molly Mormon" to me is something a bit different. It's all of those things that you mentioned BUT....BUT in my mind someone who is a Molly is also someone who is/can be very judgmental. Someone who looks down on those of us who struggle with "doing good". Who gasps when you talk about letting your child eat cake for breakfast or when you slip up with a swear word when you are talking about how mad you are at your addict brother. I also think of "Molly's" as being out of touch with what can be going on in the lives of their children, especially older children.

That said I don't think of you in that light at all.

With this, MY definition, of "Molly" bouncing around in my head I can honestly say that I always disliked it when I was given this label. So I usually take it as a compliment when people tell me that they don't see me as a "Molly Mormon".

I will say that your post has made me rethink my stance though.

Elizabeth said...

You're certainly not a Molly in the derogatory sense. My definition of Molly includes either terribly judgmental, woefully naive or stupid, or both. That's not anything like you.

I don't know if I've ever said how comforting and ... flattering? not quite the right word... complimentary? it is that someone as wonderful and on-track as you still likes and somewhat admires someone as off-track and struggling as me. That's valuable to me, and helps me remember that in spite of all the things I'm doing poorly at, there's still stuff I'm doing right.

My house is not clean. I can cook and quilt and make clothes without a pattern and scrapbook, but I don't. I'm really struggling to spend time with my scriptures and in meaningful prayer every day, and weekly FHE takes a great deal of effort, most of which ends up shouldered by my husband. And you know what? I've still been called a Molly. Because for the things I AM doing right that other people can see, there are some people who feel guilty by seeing what I AM doing right. It's too bad for them that they're not taking your wonderful example and allowing it to inspire them. It just means they're not ready to change yet, but they know they need to.

Try to be patient with them. What they may not even know about themselves is that there are little girls inside of them feeling guilty for not being where they think they should be, and they think you ARE. They may be wrong about where they should be. They may be wrong about where you are. It may be both. But their reaction (and all of ours, whenever we react like that) says only true things about them, not true things about you.

I'm all caught up on your blog now. Miss you. Hope you're feeling better. (I'm sick too, so I'm sending empathy vibes, not just sympathy ones.)

grace said...

You're so wonderful! Thanks for sharing with us! I can't help but wonder if a little more love, a little less defensive offendedness might have changed everything. Those ladies probably want to do all those things, and they probably feel insecure and like they're failing in some way when they don't. So, maybe they expressed their insecurity in not the best way. But don't let that worry you, be proud of who you are and what you are, but you don't have to get defensive, just love those ladies, and tell them they're perfect too and probably do lots of things wonderfully that you don't we all have our strengths and weaknesses.....just a thought....

kerri said...

Fantastic post. Obviously - I mean look at all the fantastic comments it received.

Twice this weekend I heard General Authorities (Elder Samuelson at my Stake Conference and President Uchdorf during his CES broadcast) mention the idea that if you see someone who's got it all under control, gets it all done, has a fabulous marriage/children/garden/etc., and is never down (i.e. "perfect"), you just DON'T KNOW THEM very well. TWICE this was said.

So your message is their message. Let's all just do the best we can, including by loving each other better. (And, I guess, forgiving those who don't quite have this in their understanding yet.)

Shooting Starchild said...

I LOVE reading your blog! Amen to everything you said, Becca! I was called "Innocent Annie" in high school and called a "Goodie Two Shoes" but I've always liked who I am and just made people deal with me the way I was. I love how you see through all the superficiality of labels (or titles) and point out that you're just trying to be like Jesus.