“Happily Prepared Ever After,” Ensign, July 1985, 65
As a young girl I always envisioned that my life would unravel in fairy-tale fashion. I was confident that I would grow up talented and beautiful. Someday, I felt sure, my prince would come. He would sweep me off my feet, and we’d live happily ever after.
But, as I have watched the lives of friends and family members unfold, I have been forced to conclude that “happily ever after” is a goal few of us achieve. In fact, I have discovered that life was not even meant to be a happily ever after” existence without some mortal challenges. Young mothers are sometimes widowed; others are divorced. Husbands may become disabled. Couples struggle to have sufficient food and clothing for their children. Some women never marry. These realities do not mean that life is a grim enterprise. With so many opportunities available to us, we have every reason to be hopeful about the future. But it is preparation, not luck or circumstance, that helps us make “happily ever after” as much a reality as possible.
The challenges life presents demand our best preparation—in mind, body, and spirit. An important aspect of preparation that women cannot afford to neglect is career readiness. It would be desirable for every woman to have a marketable skill—one that can help her get a job that will provide for her needs and bring her as much satisfaction as possible.
A few compelling facts about Latter-day Saint women support this need:
Fact 1. Ten percent of LDS women who are between the ages of eighteen and thirty will be widowed before age sixty.
Fact 2. Thirty-five percent will be divorced before age sixty.
Fact 3. Three percent will never marry.
Fact 4. Forty-five percent will be the primary breadwinner in their homes before age sixty-five. (See Church News, 6 Nov. 1983, p. 4.)
Another Church survey released in 1980 “showed that thirty-four percent of LDS women work outside the home, and that fifty-seven percent did so to meet basic living expenses. Another thirty-five percent were working because they were widowed or divorced; seventeen percent said they needed involvement and self-expression outside the home; and eight percent said they were career women.” (Deseret News, 13 Feb. 1983.)
Other statistics indicate that nine out of ten women in the United States will work outside their homes at some point in their lives. (L. C. Chenowith and E. Maret, “The Career Patterns of Mature American Women,” Sociology of Work and Occupations, 1980, pp. 222–51.) Another study showed that an average twenty-year-old woman would spend 45 percent of her life in the labor market. (“Women at Work,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 2168, April 1983, p. 12.)
The message is clear. Are we prepared?
Of course, most of us could find some kind of employment. But we should prepare ourselves for work in which we will not only be happy, but which also will provide an adequate income. The sad truth is that 80 percent of working women are concentrated in low-wage jobs.
How to prepare adequately is a complex problem, but there are solutions.
We need to help each young woman prepare, as well as possible, for her highest career level. Our aim in doing so is not to detract from her important calling as wife and mother, but to enhance it—and to help her meet the future successfully if she needs to support herself and her family.
We must help our high school girls see that social experiences are not more important than scholastic achievement or career preparation. The years between age twelve and the day a young woman marries are her years to prepare. The choices she makes during these critical years will determine her quality of life for the rest of her life. The more productive her years of preparation, the more able and happy she will become.
Each young woman must know that, even if she never works outside the home, good preparation will give her a greater feeling of security and more skills with which to bless her family and community.
If you are not currently working, you may want to prepare for the day when you might need to. If you already have a marketable skill, it would be to your advantage to keep that skill polished and ready to use. You might also take an occasional class or read up on the latest in your field. It is wise to prepare now, even before you need to use your skills in the marketplace.
If you do not have a marketable skill you would enjoy using daily, plan now to obtain one. Assess your educational background. List your interests, aptitudes, and talents. Decide how you can obtain a marketable skill with the least amount of money, time, and stress. The secret is to begin.
As you consider alternatives, use your imagination. There are a number of educational opportunities, such as four-year college, two-year college, business college, skills centers, vocational schools, community schools, apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training, correspondence or independent study, and continuing education.
Prepare for a variety of possible situations: What would you do if it becomes necessary to work full-time? Do you have talents and skills you could use to earn either a part-time or full-time wage while at home? What home-based occupations might you consider?
If you are now in a situation where you must work, do you find your job satisfying—financially, intellectually, and spiritually? Are there good opportunities for advancement? Do you have a career plan? How can you upgrade your occupational skills?
If you are unmarried, are you prepared to spend your entire life in the work force? Don’t fall into the trap of doing interim jobs to fill the time until marriage. Make a difference in the workaday world and in your community.
In most communities there are agencies that can help you improve skills you already have, or help you develop a new career path. Your bishop can counsel you and put you in contact with your ward or stake employment specialist.
Here are some case studies that show alternative ways to solve similar problems.
When Maurine, a thirty-year-old mother of three, was divorced, she could have found a clerical or light-industry job for immediate money. Instead, she returned to the university to complete her nursing degree. Although it took nearly three years living solely on alimony and child support, she now is happily employed at a hospital doing what she loves.
Karen, a thirty-seven-year-old mother of six, found that the demands of a big family were stretching their budget beyond its limits. As the bills began to pile up, the stress on the family increased. Wishing to remain at home while contributing to the family income, she obtained a business license and opened a beauty shop in her home.
Diane is a sales representative for a product sold at parties. She makes deliveries several times a week, but can handle all her other business transactions by phone. Her family hardly knows she is employed, but it is her added income that keeps the family solvent.
Liz, who taught kindergarten before she was married, missed being a teacher but didn’t want to leave her small children. She and her husband bought some used school equipment and set up a preschool in their basement. Seven years later, her preschool has such an excellent reputation that she has a long waiting list.
Margaret was unable to have children for the first five years of her marriage. While she waited and hoped for a family, she finished her undergraduate work at a nearby university, then obtained her master’s degree. Twelve years and six children later, Margaret was left alone with those six children. Fortunately, she was able to secure a teaching job at the university. She feels greatly blessed to have been prepared.
In our preparations, we need to be prayerful and wise. Surely, being with our children is worth more than having a career; no mother should unnecessarily seek a career that takes her out of the home. But we live in a world that demands that we be prepared. In the process, we can develop talents and facets of our personalities that will be a blessing to us and to our families. And, through careful preparation, we can live happy, enriched lives, whatever our circumstances might be.