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Maren Butcher, the Board Chair of Big Ocean Women, grew up in El Paso, Texas with her four younger siblings. She remembers her childhood for her trips visiting family, going to museums, and swimming almost every day. 

While growing up, her family created a culture of learning. Her mother exemplified that passion through her lifelong studies. While Maren’s mom was very dedicated to her family and children, she was also dedicated to expanding her own knowledge. She earned her master’s degree at twenty and was constantly teaching her children and helping them grow. Some of Maren’s favorite memories with her mom were their daily trips to the library when she was a kid. Her love of learning and knowledge on current events inspired Maren’s own interests in helping others, both in her own family and around the world. 

Following her mother’s passion for continuous learning, Maren attended Brigham Young University, and later, the University of Utah where she met her husband during one of her religion classes. She then went on to receive her doctorate degree at A.T. Still University for physical therapy. With Maren’s patient and easygoing nature, she hopes to pass on her mother’s gift for continuous learning to lift those around her.

Maren now lives in Chandler, Arizona with her family where they enjoy the beautiful desert sunsets and warm winters. She enjoys reading, playing the cello, trail riding, and anything that involves her family. 

Her role as a mother is where Maren finds the most joy and strength, so it’s no surprise that her four kids are what led her to her work with Big Ocean Women almost ten years ago. After going through the process of adopting their youngest son from South Korea, she felt she needed to share the importance of family — of children, and mothers, and fathers — with those around her. She finds joy in her love for Christ and His binding power in her family relationships. As she told me in a conversation with her, that particular experience of her church performing a sacred ordinance to strengthen her family ties with her adopted son is something she hopes her children will always remember.

While Maren acknowledges that some see family ties and responsibilities as a sacrifice of freedom, she sees her family as the source of her strength. That experience in the temple with her family helped her realize that “keeping [her] covenants or promises to God [and to her family] has ended up being more liberating in the long run.” In talking about family responsibilities, sacrifice, and going through hard things in life, she said that holding on to those covenants has “…opened doors for me. It’s increased the clarity of inspiration in my life.”

Making good but hard choices comes with a season of growth. The discomfort that’s often seen as a “ball and chain,” as Maren put it, isn’t a sign of having made the wrong decision, but a sign of growth. These family responsibilities give us more confidence, more strength, and more potential for growth. What once were sacrifices, soon turns into freedom.

Maren recently had the chance to experience the strength of family responsibilities during her trip with Big Ocean to the Commission on the Status of Women. She explained Big Ocean Women perfectly when she said, “No one hides their kids. We don’t separate ourselves from our children and families. We embrace them. We took babies to the UN, and it made a huge ripple. People were shocked seeing these mothers strapping their infants on [and carrying them along] to the Commission on the Status of Women.

“To be a powerful woman is the opposite from separating yourself from your children. It’s to integrate your children. That’s where you have the most authority and power.” 

Today’s common mentality of demanding more freedoms with less responsibilities creates little opportunity for individual and familial growth. Being tied to our family is a good thing. It makes us stronger. Maren sees this truth most clearly in her work as a physical therapist:

“In order for my patients to get stronger, I have to add heavier things. If your body doesn’t have resistance on your bones, your tendons, your muscles – your body will stop allocating resources to those areas. It stops supporting those areas until you add more weight or more stress. Only then will your body dedicate more resources to your tissues and create building blocks for growth and strength. If we don’t have the stresses and the heaviness in life, then we won’t get stronger. Looking back at my difficult experiences, it was hard — it felt like walking through heavy mud — but it made us stronger spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. The choices and the experiences that we were led to mattered. Every time, we gained something from those experiences. Choosing to live a value-driven life is the most liberating power. It gives you purpose and opens up the path to constant revelation and strength.”

While the difficult, yet healthy choices we make in life can at first feel like a ball and chain, tying us down, Maren chooses to see the “liberating power” that comes from going through hard things. She chooses to see the opportunity for growth.