It’s cool to be a smart mom

It is cool to be a smart mom, and I hope I am one. So I’ve been trying to figure out precisely how to explain why I found the following quote “I think it would be cool to both be smart and be a mom—to be a smart mom” so disturbing in the context of The New Era article “Seek Learning.” Bull has posted the article here and the youth follow-up quotes here.

There’s another point completely separate from the bizarre sexist doublespeak of the article that says (on the surface) that girls’ education is as important as boys’ and says the opposite between the lines. Of course it’s cool to be a smart mom, but that’s not the point of getting an education — it’s a side effect at best.

Thinking about this point, it hit me that — as far as this article is concerned — the only purpose for your education is to advance your career. Thus, if the career you’re supposed to be shooting for is SAHM, they have to explain why an advanced degree is relevant. Now I’m enough of a realist to understand that an education represents such a huge investment in time and money that for most people the corresponding earning potential is a major (even primary) concern. But what about the value — and joy — of seeking knowledge for its own sake because you’re interested in what you’re learning?

Here’s a recent example from my house. Nico has done a series of drawings illustrating the bone structure of different animals. I didn’t ask him to do it or even suggest it to him, but the drawings contrasting bat wings with pteranodon wings were partially inspired by the fact that I’d gotten out a bat book and showed Nico this contrast when he was showing me some of his pteranodon images and toys. Of course I was pleased with the drawings and found them cool, but I wasn’t thinking “Ah, good, that Biology I studied is finally good for something.” (As one might imagine from another of the youth quotes: “If my future wife knew how to rear our children well, teach them things that they need to know for school, and help them out, I think that would be great.”) It’s more like we’re all stuck in the house together on weekends, so we end up talking about subjects of mutual interest.  Kids pick up on the things that their parents value and enjoy, and often end up with similar interests as a consequence.

It seems like Mormons generally place a high value on education in terms of success and achievement, but for its own sake it’s a little suspect. Enjoying it too much might lead to becoming a so-called intellectual…


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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7 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    That kind of language reflects the conflicts that believers have to deal with. They know that their daughters cannot prosper without a proper education. And most Mormon mothers are participating in the labor market. (Thanks a lot for applying the guilt liberally, by the way). The only ones who have not figured it out are the prophet and his buddies.

    If this was really about parents raising their children personally, there is a lot that the LDS leadership could do.

    For example, the brethren would make a huge contribution if they supported efforts for health insurance reform. There are many parents that would love to work part time if they could only obtain insurance. Imagine the possibilities just by reforming health insurance. Both parents could work thirty hours a week, one parent could work ten or twenty hours. In short parents would have a lot more flexibility.

    Instead of addressing the bread and butter issues that shape families’ lives, the brethren are obsessing about the sex life of gays and everybody else.

    My suspicion is that the whole SAHM rhetoric is about sexual domination. The Brethren are so insecure about their own sexuality that they cannot bear to have happy gays and independent women. Heaven forbid, there might be women who are actually sexually autonomous.

  2. liseysmom says:

    I think why the “smart mom” quote is so disturbing to me is the underlying assumption that it is something out of the ordinary that would just be a nice bonus.

    Like, I don’t really HAVE to be smart, I mean, I can just be a mom. But if I happen to be sorta smart so I can, like, help my kids with homework that’d be pretty cool. And my husband might think it’s kinda neat if I can, like, have a conversation with him too, as long as I’m not more smarter than him, I mean.

  3. chanson says:

    Hellmut — it’s so true that the bretheren could come up with better strategies for helping families raise their children if that were really the priority (rather than just “try to have the mom stay home at all costs and regardless of your particular situation and talents”). I feel like it’s because of the need to preserve the current power structure (and the hierarchy-in-heaven doctrine it’s based on), and for that they can’t budge a millimeter on gender roles. Then gay people get the shaft as a side-effect because there’s no way to include them in the doctrine of eternal reproduction…

    Liseysmom — exactly. It’s disturbing that they feel the need to come up for a justification for why it’s useful for women to be smart. Like it’s not self-evident that a woman would be curious and want to expand her mind like anyone else. It’s just a cute accomplishment that might come in handy for her family…

  4. Bull says:

    How many “Madame Curie”-types has the LDS church produced? How many women of potential greatness has the LDS church smothered?

    Part of the problem is that the church denies the very possibility of a woman being successful outside the home as well as at home. It’s expected for men, but somehow women are expected to sacrifice that potential.

    Of course, the answer is that the man might be asked to sacrifice more and contribute more at home to make up for a woman having a life outside the home and that just wouldn’t do. After all, in the immortal words of the prophet, “You wouldn’t want your wife to be smarter than you.”

  5. chanson says:

    Did he actually say that? Yikes!

  6. Hellmut says:

    There are plenty of smart Mormon women. A lot of them teach at BYU. And every one of them has had to deal with explicit condemnation by their students for failing “to follow the prophet.”

    Never mind, that it is entirely inappropriate for students to criticize the life style of their professors. I am all for students challenging their teachers intellectually and I will admit that there are circumstances where students need to confront professors about abuse of power issues. However, it is unacceptable to criticize one’s instructors for their gender.

  7. Bull says:

    Yes, he actually said that in General Priesthood meeting. It was greeted with great waves of knowing laughter.

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