I know we’ve all heard discussions about if we’re influenced more by nature or by nurture, usually in context to sociopaths and murderers. I’m not here to get into something that I’ve not delved into the studies of, but rather bring up a few things that my sisters and I have noticed about our family’s dynamic.
I’m an introvert. I hate being in groups of large people, even if I know them. I do best in small groups, or by myself. Interestingly, so are my sisters.
Beyond being an introvert, I’m very unsure of myself. I’m constantly afraid of failing, so I often don’t even try. A huge flaw that is hard for me to admit that I doubt anyone else sees. I have a hard time making big decisions and sometimes act on impulse, jumping into something before I have time to weigh the options. At times that’s a good thing, as it actually gets me doing something. Other times…..not so much.
My sisters have, in the past few years, become fascinated with learning about personality types. I couldn’t tell you the names of the different classification systems, as that doesn’t really interest me. But we did find it interesting that all of us siblings are introverts. The probability of that happening naturally is rare. We have come to a conclusion that much (or all) of that is due to how we were raised in the patriarchal society that is the Mormon Church.
Mom was a homemaker and never held a job as we were growing up, with Dad being the typical provider. He would get up early, dress in his suit and tie, get his lunch from Mom, and head out the door to catch the bus to work as we only had one car. I think because he was away before we woke up until about 5 or so at night, getting to spend time with him and earning his approval seemed more special than getting time with Mom.
Dad wasn’t heavy handed in discipline. I had friends who’s parents used a belt when spanking them, but that never happened in our house. So thinking about it, I’m not sure where our introverted personalities came from, if not from the way the Church was “enforced” in our house. As the man, Dad was the head of the house and it was up to him to direct the family.
During my years of dating woes, at one point my mother told me that she didn’t want me to be afraid to bring a guy home to meet them just because he isn’t a member of the church. She told me that she didn’t want me to miss out on the blessings of having a family just because I couldn’t find a “worthy priesthood holder” to take me to the temple. A couple weeks after mom told me this, when talking to Dad he said, “now remember you want to get married in the temple.”
Simple translation, “don’t date outside the church.”
Dad was always the one I feared disappointing. Maybe I felt Mom was more understanding. When I moved in with my husband (at the time boyfriend), I told Mom first. She was quiet, and then said, “I’m going to hang up. Call back later when your father is home and tell him.” Doing that, and listening to the lecture I had known was coming, was such a difficult thing to do. I think the only thing harder will be telling them that I’m going to leave the church, once I have to courage to write and send that letter.
When meeting my family, my husband (who works with the mentally ill so he’s pretty good at reading people) noticed things that I never had. My mother was more subdued with my father around. She started crying when my husband told her that he knows she has her own opinions but hesitates to voice them with Dad around.
Now I don’t say any of these things to say that my parents are bad people. I love them both dearly. However, I do wonder if my sisters or I would be more outgoing were we raised in a secular home in which there wasn’t such a huge difference in gender roles and if we weren’t raised with the idea that our main life goal is to get married and make babies, and a career is just something to do until that day.
How different would my life be then?