People who know little about polygamy express surprise when they discover that so many of the FLDS women are returning to the YFZ Ranch. Even though it's clear that these women could lose their children if they again put them at risk of early marriage and other types of coercion, many mothers have taken the risk and returned to their homes. Why on earth, mainstream women ask, would a woman want to go back to such a situation?
I can relate to this confusion. I never wanted to live polygamy myself. But to tell the truth, I missed having many shoulders to bear life's burdens, and many minds to solve a problem, and many mouths to share food and information. As my mother used to say, "Many hands make light work." I know why my mother liked plural marriage to the degree that she did. She got to live next door to her twin sister, who was also married to my father. She got to share her whole life with the two people to whom she was closest.
Plural wives have told me that they stay in the marriage as much for their sisterwives as they do for their husbands. Their commitment to the marriage augments according to the number of people they are married to. And they like dividing responsibilities up and having a change of venue from time to time. When women are bearing children, they stay at home to care for and school their little ones as well as the children of working sisterwives. In an open polygamous community (not typical of the FLDS way of life) women could feasibly enjoy a full-time career and full-time motherhood without distressing the family. In the FLDS community, where members are held in isolation, implosive influences and competition might keep women from growing in healthy ways, as they did during the early days of polygamy (1843-1890) when women combined forces and contributed their gifts and talents to building the arts, business, education, social service, and anything else they found worthy.