Feb 8, 2009

unintended discrimination

I think our church is full of wonderful men and women who are charitable and considerate. I don't think that people leave certain minority groups out in the cold on purpose; if it ever happens, it is simply because of a lack of perspective. A white, male, land-owning priesthood leader has likely not been there, and so likely misses things every once in a while.

I'm not talking about race here. Or even gender, necessarily (though this is an element).

I'm talking about young motherhood!! That's right. Here are a few examples that get my dander up a little on sundays:

1) The sacrament is not brought to the foyer in my ward. Because of the time change, my son's usual nursing time falls right smack dab in the middle of the sacrament. I have gone breadless and waterless for 2 weeks now.

--now I know this is something I can work on and solve myself. But I feel just a little left out... and I don't understand why they don't bring the sacrament out to the foyer where the young mothers (perhaps chasing an unruly toddler, or coming out of the nursing mother's room for a moment)can partake.

2) For the last several sundays, nobody has turned on the heat that heats up the nursing mother's room. I am soooo grateful my church has nursing mother's rooms... one quite roomy and one cozy, nestled in the doorway of the bathroom. I've heard of places where this has been omitted from the building design, leaving mothers to the indiginty of nursing in toilet stalls. Whenever I have to do this, I feel like nursing must be something dirty, that I have to do it on the toilet. Anyway, slight venty side note.

As I was saying, the nursing mother's room has been ice-cold for all the hours of church for the last two sundays, and I can't find the switch to turn the heat on! It's not in the nursing mother's room. Skywalker says it must be in one of the rooms next to it (either the Mens' bathroom or a classroom).

3) Sunday school is apparently not for young mothers who have kids in that difficult gap-age between walking and nursery. I have gathered from the looks directed at me when I have tried to attend with him (and he's really not that loud... little cooing noises, an occasional giggle) that babies are not welcome in Sunday school. Last sunday I spent the second hour in the foyer with all the other moms who have kids that age. I feel like, as a young mother, I'm being told that I don't belong in the ward, or in a classroom learning gospel doctrine. I should be chasing my toddler around the foyer instead.

You know, I can do that much more easily at home.

4) Nursing in sacrament meeting. I have tried it a few times (under a blanket, of course) but have gotten some wierd looks. Apparently, as a young mother, I'm not supposed to be in the chapel when I nurse. For some reason, nursing is considered an indecent enough activity that it is relegated to the bathroom stall or a special room so that nobody has to look at me.

the problem is, when I go to said special room, half the time there are moms in there chatting (and that presents another dilemma... should I be social and chat and be a good ward member that way, or should I be quiet and try to listen and be spiritually fed. Anyway) and so I don't get to hear much.

It's a vent, people. Sorry. Anyway, hopefully the purpose of this blog post will be to help people see that there is a problem. Us young mothers get little sleep, we're nutritionally challenged because we've got cute little babies suckin' it all out of us, we have little time to ourselves throughout the week, and we really don't get enough time with our husbands, either. Please, please don't take spiritual nourishment away from us, too.

Ideas? Thoughts, anyone?

*you can tell this has not been one of my best Sundays.*


Michemily said...

I have no experience whatsoever in these cases, so all I can say is "good luck" and talk to someone about the heat and the sacrament. Oh, and I also think sometimes we think people are thinking things that they aren't really. Unless someone asks you to leave Sunday School, stick it out. Maybe people are just bored and noticing that a baby made a sound. It's only natural. Anyway, all the best from Germany!

NoSurfGirl said...

I think you're right about that... and I do my best not to assume what people are thinking. You're right that they may not really care about me bringing baby to Sunday school... but I'm pretty sure that the feeling is that I'm being "disruptive." The sunday school teacher even pointed it out once, saying I was busy in the back "playing with my baby" instead of listening to the lesson. Grrr! OK, now I've got to stop thinking about it... dredging up examples will just start me feeling the victim instead of working on doing something about it. :)

Hayley said...

i think you should threaten them: two more sacraments missed and you leave the church.

NoSurfGirl said...

lol. They'd probably do it on purpose, just to get rid of me and my complanin' self. :)

Destiny said...

You might talk to the Bishop about having sacrament brought out into the foyer. As the RS Pres about hte mothers room therm. As for the lessons, I felt the same way you did when I was a new young mother. Someone told me that even if you are spending most your time in the mothers lounge or foyer with your child that if you make the effort to just be there that Heavely Father would bless you by making those things in the lessons that you do hear clearer. Does that make sense?

NoSurfGirl said...

That's an interesting thought. ;) I wonder, though... I feel much less angsty about having to take care of my rowdy kid when I'm at home... and thus maybe feel the spirit more? I dunno. ANyway, I'll stick it out, of course. I just wish that people would pay more attention.

I talked to my husband (ward clerk) about the sacrament... maybe he'll bring it up at meetings. He said that some stakes don't allow sacrament to be brought to the foyer because it encourages members to sit out there rather than in the chapel.

Nathan and Rebecca Scott said...

I don't have any real experience with those things, so I am not much help. Even the few times I have been in the foyer during the sacrament for one reason or another, it has always been brought out to me. And if I have ever given a mother and her baby much special notice in Sunday School, it has been generally been out of personal admiration for the beautiful mother and baby.

I hope things get better for you and wish you the best of luck with them.

Fern said...

Right now your main job is to "police" your child around the church during meetings. Sure, you may not get ANYTHING spiritual out of church for the next year or so (because we both know it only gets worse from here until nursery age!). But by going anyway (even if you are in the hallways and bathroom most the time) you are showing your faith, maintaining good habits and being a good example to your children. At least your family can attend class even if you cannot. You should talk to the Bishop about wanting to partake of the sacrament, he may not know or realize your plight. We had a Bishop who wouldn't let the sacrament be passed out in the lobby because there was a problem with too many people (not necessarily mothers) who weren't going inside the chapel... they just wanted to hang out in the lobby. So you never know the real reason :)
As for the looks in class... there's always those people who have forgotten how hard it is to have a baby, and those who have unrealistic standards when it comes to children in class. Do what you've got to do! I mean yeah, if the baby's screaming its head off... the hallway might be the best place, but if it's just cooing and happy noises... then don't worry about it.
Just take it one Sunday at a time! I would make a special effort to keep up with the lessons on my own, usually Sunday afternoon I'd read the recent lesson... I think I got a LOT out of it... more than I do now IN class!

NoSurfGirl said...

that's smart, Fern. I should do that.

yeah... I think that some sundays are absolutely wonderful, and others are very discouraging. I really miss those single days, sometimes, when I could maybe go to a fireside all by myself with my scriptures and notebook in hand, with nobody around to distract me from spiritual things. The year at Ricks was so invaluable... I still remember the feelings of deep peace I had after meetings and devotionals.

I miss that. :)

But I suppose this is another form of spiritual growth. A less selfish one.

michele said...

I ABSOLUTELY think the sacrament should be brought out to you in the foyer. I would INSIST that it be brought to you.

It's instances like this that I must remind myself that the gospel is true, and the church is run by imperfect (and sometimes ignorant) people.

The thing that really REALLY bothers me is the part that people disapprove of you nursing during sacrament meeting. Breastfeeding is so wonderful and so good and so important. It's happy and peaceful, and probably shoots good vibes out all around when it happens. I could go on and on about how great it is, and I've never even done it! Why has it been relegated to be such an inferior activity? If any activity during sacrament meeting should be disapproved of, it should be gum chewing, unnecessary whispering between adults, unnecessary talking between adults, sleeping, cell phone communicating, ect. NOT nursing!!

I LOVE seeing mothers and babies breastfeeding and I wish that LDS church people and Westerners in general would rejoice in it rather than be disgusted by it.

I say that as long as the handbook doesn't list breastfeeding as an inappropriate activity during sacrament meeting, do it.

Heather said...

I've thought a lot about my spiritual growth in relation to having children as well. I've wondered if it has halted since I've had kids and have only heard at the most half of what's being said in any meeting I attend. And I've decided that it's just in a different kind of growth. Although it's impossible to digest all the details of what is being said in the meetings, I can listen to get something out of it. If I'm unoccupied for 1 minute, then I listen for 1 minute to hear something I need for that day. If it's a good day then I can listen and participate a lot more. It's hard. But I look at the past 4 years since I had my first child and I see the areas that I have grown and the things my kids have taught me and I don't feel shortchanged. If I don't get to sit through a Sunday School class all the way, it's okay. I'm being taught by children who are very close to their Heavenly Father and they teach me every day how to be more like Him. I agree with Fern that going to church is more about exercising faith and obedience than about anything else - especially for a young mother!

NoSurfGirl said...

Yes... I think I have moments of clarity when I realize that I'm "growing up," that spirituality is not about solitary little old me anymore. It's about helping others on that path, too.

Michelle, I think you hit the nail on the head. I love my ward, and I don't think anybody's doing this on purpose to minimalize young mothers. And I don't even think it's the priesthood leaders who usually care about nursing under blankets in sac. meeting.. it's usually other mothers whom I have heard make remarks (not about me, but about nursing in public and how it's indecent, etc.) It's so odd that we do this to each other... relegate something that is supposed to be divine and our calling, to the status of something that needs to be done in hidden corners, furtively.

I know some people would say that it's along the same lines of not saying Heavenly Mother's name because it's "too sacred," but I say that when it gets to the point that I can't listen in sacrament meeting and be spiritually fed, it's no longer being treated as divine and sacred, it's more about shame and the fear of what others may think.

With my first two I tried the nurse-under-a-blanket-I-don't-care-what-anyone-says thing, but I've just lost the energy with this third baby. Plus, he doesn't like blankets and throws them off. :)

My slight rebellion then is to nurse WITHOUT a blanket in the mother's room... most women still nurse under a blanket in there. I don't see the point.

Anyway, kind of silly of me. But it brings up all sorts of annoyance.

An interesting editorial sidenote: I have relatives (skywalker's side) who breastfed in the sixties when it was looked upon as "dirty" or "something poor people do." During that time, there were strict guidelines about not wearing underclothing under your garments.

Aunt Larue told me that this was really difficult, because as garments were all one-piece back then, having a bra on over the garment made it so that every time a mother nursed her baby, she had to pretty much disrobe entirely from the waist up. She said that as long as she breastfed under those conditions, she pretty much had to stay home a good portion of Sunday.

She said that one time when she was in the temple she started feeling so full of sorrow over it all. It got to the point where she felt so down that she needed to talk to someone about it, so she talked to one of the temple matrons. She asked them why it was that the Church didn't want women to breastfeed.

The matron said, "Oh, no. The church absolutely wants women to nurse if that's what they feel they should do. It's not something the church is against at all."

So Larue said, "Well then, why can't the church make it more convenient for us mothers then? We're allowed to wear underpants underneath the garment during certain times of the month. but we're not allowed to wear bras or nursing pads underneath. What's the difference between red and white?"

A little graphic... sorry if I've offended anyone.

But anyway, the moral of the story is... nobody wants to make things hard on any one group of people. As to the issue with nursing and one-piece garments, things have changed significantly since then and I"m very grateful.

But sometimes "unintentional discrimination" (in the sense I mean it in this post) happens inadvertently, just because the people making decisions sometimes literally do not understand the issues. And sometimes it takes a while for things to change. I guess that in the meantime, my role is to do my best and not get bitter...

so thanks, everyone, for all your comments.

SarahJane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

When I went home at Christmas to Exeter I was pleasantly surprised-- the Sunday School/Relief Society room has a little add-on room with a baby monitor so that you can be with your loud child and still hear what is going on in the next room. The lady in the meeting announced it but then added that she, for one, didn't mind having children in the same room as all the adults anyway. I felt very loved and included. I know that right now, because there are so many wards in our building, extra rooms like that are a little harder to come by, so I understand. But my son isn't usually just gently cooing, he's usually being extremely loud or crawling all over the room, so I almost always have to take him out :) Anyway, I thought what they did in Exeter was a really good idea.

As for the nursing thing, I wonder if it's a bit of the American culture seeping in? (although my lil guy also has the tendency to throw the blanket off me at very inconvenient times so I don't know if I would be brave enough to try it in Sacrament meeting anyway:) ). I am also a rebel and nurse without a blanket in the mother's room. I also agree with you that it's hard to get any good listening in in the mother's lounge because of conversations between mothers (me included).

Also, I just got a calling as primary pianist, and I always wondered if they would give me a calling having a young baby, but apparently they did. So far, Josh has just ended up watching jr. during the last two hours of church, but when Josh teaches in Elder's Quorum I'm going to have to set jr. loose in the primary room...

Anyway, I think you bring up some really valid points. As a church, we're all learning together. And like you say, I don't think people are doing it on purpose-- it's more just that all the kinks haven't been worked out of the system yet.

One thing I will say-- before I was a mother I had NO IDEA what mothers went through at church!

merrilykaroly said...

Sorry, that last comment was from me, not from Josh :) I'm sure you guessed that.

Jayne said...

Bless your heart. That's an expression we use in the South that means absolutely nothing...and yet it can convey volumes. In my case, I mean it as an empathic response since I've "been there, done that" in my younger years. There were years that I wondered why I even bothered going to church since I spent so much time wondering the hallways with a crying or unruly baby or child.
I could just say, "This too shall pass," but I'm not. You already know that. I'm just going to suggest that you talk to the Bishop or someone else who can do something. I just have to believe he'd do something if he knew that one of the mothers in Zion had so many challenges. Yes, I'm going a little overboard here, but really...you and your children are important,and the issues you've mentioned are fixable (except for the closed minded sisters who give you "looks").

Putz said...

they have it in for you pure and simple...i am a past lds custodian and i PURPOSELY left the heat off only in the nursing room so that the adversity would build great and strong bqbies and big strong babies mothers

Lucy Stern said...

I nursed all three of my children, but I never did it during sacrement....William was especially loud with his nursing and he would disturb anyone sitting next to me. I usually nursed right before going into sacrement and then if they got hungry before church was over, I would just go into the nursing room or give them a small bottle.

We have several young babies that are routinely in our Sunday school meetings...If they are quiet and not making a lot of noise it doesn't bother me, BUT if they are crying and disturbing everyone in the room, then they need to be taken out so that others can hear.

When you have young children, it is hard to be able to go to church and enjoy all of the meetings (or any meetings). You have heard the scripture about a time and a season. Your time will come when you can go to church and enjoy all of the classes. Hang in there!

varun said...

nice range!!Shawls and Scarves

NoSurfGirl said...

Wow... that spam was oddly appropriate. I think I"ll leave it, just in case all the people who can't handle seeing me breastfeed my son want to wear something over their heads!!


Laura said...

I just wanted to say that I've been a gospel doctrine teacher twice now, and I really never minded little kid noises. Unless the kid in Sunday School was SCREAMING I usually didn't even notice them.

However, as a mom of little kids myself, I totally commiserate with feeling left out and like you are bugging others when you are there with your kid. It's tough.