Forsaking paychecks for ‘paydays’

Mothers giving up promising careers

Sally Lowder once made a pact with her husband, Brad.

The couple agreed that if her lucrative job in radio and television ever interrupted the family's spiritual growth, she'd quit. Soon Sister Lowder was handing her boss a resignation notice — and giving up an enviable salary, benefits and stock options.

The decision baffled her employers.

"My boss told me at the time, 'You're making the biggest mistake of your life,' " Sister Lowder recalled.

Now a few years removed from the workplace, Sister Lowder said she still disagrees with her former boss. "It was the right decision, no question."

Scores of professional LDS women have left jobs — some high-paying, often budding careers — opting to be "stay-at-home moms" while nurturing and raising their children. Other talented LDS mothers who are musicians, artists and singers have stepped away from the audience to attend to domestic endeavors.

It's seldom a simple decision. It's one best reached after family fasting and prayer. Many say they are heeding the counsel of modern-day prophets.

In an October, 1996 general conference address, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the sisters of the Church. Much of his talk was directed at LDS mothers, particularly those with children at home.

In his address, President Hinckley recalled a message President Ezra Taft Benson delivered to mothers of the Church, encouraging them to leave their employment and give their individual time to their children.

"I sustain the position which he took," President Hinckley said. "Nevertheless, I recognize, as he recognized, that there are some women, it has become very many in fact, who have to work to provide for the needs of their families."

"To you I say, do the very best you can."

The prophet said it was his hope that mothers employed full-time are laboring to "ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars and other luxuries."

"I repeat, do the very best you can," President Hinckley added. "You know your circumstances, and I know that you are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children. Each of you has a bishop who will counsel with you and assist you."

Following are accounts of three LDS mothers who have put promising careers on hold, opting to stay home with children.

Making a tag-team effort

Lynette Williams still sometimes wonders how it feels to perform on Broadway.

An accomplished vocalist, Sister Williams grew up with music and theatre. She studied music in college. She loved to perform —showcasing her talents in places like Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Salt Lake City's Pioneer Memorial Theatre.

She almost snatched a job offer as a soloist with the traveling U.S. Air Force Jazz Band. Instead, she married Duke Williams. When children came, she stayed home.

Careers on Broadway and other renowned stages demand full-time commitments. Such commitments, the young couple decided, belonged first to their children. "I've never really regretted my decision." said Sister Williams of the San Antonio 8th Ward, San Antonio Texas Stake.

Her choice to give up a full-time musical career was swayed largely by a similar decision her mother made years earlier.

"My mother was a beautiful singer, but I also saw what an influence she had being home," Sister Williams said.

Although being a stay-at-home mom may have foiled Broadway dreams, Sister Williams credits a helpful, responsible husband for enabling her to continue to develop and share her talents.

When the family was living in Europe, Sister Williams studied with the Stuttgart Opera. She also operated a home-based music studio, supplementing the family income.

Raising children was always a tag-team effort.

"My husband has been extraordinarily supportive" she said. For example, when the family returned to the United States, Sister Williams worked with the Seattle Opera Company. Brother Williams would come home early and care for the children so his wife could perform in the evening.

Sure, an extra paycheck would have been nice, they acknowledge, but Sister Williams said her family has been blessed because her husband's military career always covered the family's needs.

The closeness and love of her family, Sister Williams said, has been a special bonus.

"Each one of my children, as they've gotten older, has told me they have appreciated my decision to stay home," she said.

Living with a single income

Jennifer Huber decided to be a "stay-at-home" mom before ever becoming a mom.

Sister Huber of the Glenmoor 10th Ward, South Jordan Utah Glenmoor Stake, recently quit her job teaching English at Utah's Hunter High School to stay home with her new son, E.J. For most families, such decisions would exact a financial sacrifice. The Hubers didn't notice.

"When Ed and I first married, we decided we would not spend the money I made from my teaching job, so we never relied on that income," Sister Huber said.

Instead, the family established a budget that depended solely on Brother Huber's earnings. When Sister Huber left her job, the family did not have to make any dramatic lifestyle changes.

"We do miss having the security blanket of a second income," Sister Huber said, but she adds that the savings they accrued from putting away her teaching money now offers the family financial peace of mind.

Giving-up daily interaction with fellow professionals may be as difficult for some LDS women as foregoing a paycheck. Sister Huber said a good extended family has helped her make the social transition, and she has stayed involved in teaching committees that allow her to maintain networks of professional contacts.

True, the recognition a career affords is on hold when professional LDS women stay home. "A baby can't tell you you've done a good job," admits Sister Huber.

"But the gospel's wonderful, and I know I'm doing what I should be doing."

Finding Rewards in Service

Sister Lowder was never naive about becoming a stay-at-home mom. Giving up her job, of course, meant giving up a chunk of money and the day-to-day contact of colleagues.

But the family decided together they could make it work. First they eliminated whatever expenses they didn't need. Brother Lowder worked extra hard to make up some of the difference.

Soon they realized Sister Lowder's decision to leave her job instantly eliminated other bills.

"There were fewer clothes I had to buy, less eating out, less dry cleaning," said Sister Lowder of the Santa Rosa 1st Ward, Santa Rosa California Stake. "It was costing us $600 a month for child care."

While some social opportunities were lost, Sister Lower said she became more involved in her ward, her children's school and her neighborhood, and now teaches seminary to Santa Rosa-area high school students.

"You have to seek out friendship," she said.

Sister Lowder adds that her family has been blessed economically since she left the workplace. Her children have also been rewarded.

"They know when they come home that Mom's there."