Debora Fletcher lives in a spacious house in Highland where she raises 10 children (eight boys, two girls) and oversees Sustainable Families, a nonprofit, internationally active organization she founded less than a year ago. But this isn’t the life she envisioned for herself while growing up in Guatemala in a family with 10 children (eight girls, two boys).
As a bright math and technology high school student, Debora expected to get an education, have a career and start a family. She didn’t plan to marry at age 19, give birth to double-digit children and be finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at BYU at age 47.
But Debora is resilient, a trait she teaches the children she refers to as teammates.
“The family is the team you’re going to be with your whole life,” she says. Debora and her husband, Russ (CEO of Xyngular), want to be the ones to raise their children — not the coaches.
“We want the children to play every sport, learn the piano and get a taste of drama,” she says. “This helps them figure out their talents with our help.”
Debora prefers nature to take its course as she leads her busy family. In fact, she prefers natural consequences over punishments, particularly with chores.
“Everyone who lives in the house has a stewardship for a month before we rotate — and the kids have Saturday jobs for a year,” she says. “After 20 years, we’ve figured out how to run our household. Everyone knows who has which jobs, and there’s peer pressure. There are natural consequences when something is a mess.”
This same group-work philosophy comes into play for a large task, such as the Fletchers’ son’s wedding hosted in their backyard. The family created a project wall (based on the Agile Movement), a group leader was selected (son Michael), and the family made 3X5 cards of tasks.
“We use butcher paper to create a master plan and we post it behind a quilt that hangs near our entry way,” Debora says. “When people visit, they don’t realize we have a major chart hiding, color-coded with jobs for each family member.”
This highly organized approach was employed two years ago when the family moved back to Utah from Maryland, where Debora’s passion for promoting sustainable families was enhanced when her second-grade daughter was accused of “hate speech.”
“During her first month of school, the class was studying families,” Debora says. “When asked what a family was, my daughter raised her hand and said it was a mom, dad and children.”
The school sent home a notice that she was in trouble for her comments. Trouble struck again when Debora’s daughter was asked to write an essay about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“After 20 years, we’ve figured out how to run our household. There are natural consequences when something is a mess.” —Debora Fletcher
“She wrote that she wanted to study nursing, be a writer, a reader, and be a great mother to all the children God would send her,” Debora says.
Seeing the contrast in her family’s views and those around her put Debora on a path to promoting families while still raising hers. She’s traveled to New York, Ecuador, and other UN and pro-family meetings sharing her message with her Guatemalan accent and perfect English. Traveling is not new to Debora, who has moved her family multiple times across the country. While in Boston for her husband to finish at MIT, the Fletchers were in Mitt and Ann Romney’s LDS ward.
“Our ward felt segregated by stay-at-home moms and professional women,” Debora says. “Ann gave a lesson about how it’s beautiful to be a mother. She did an amazing job and it resonated with me.”
Now Debora mentors her 10 children, two daughters-in-law, her Sustainable Families teammates and the people she meets in her BYU psychology program and the international policy events where she is bold and friendly in sharing her experiences raising a family in Utah Valley — aka “the best place to raise a family.”