Monday, October 17, 2011

A Mother's Job

My husband started an online debate.  This is nothing new.  He posts something that he knows will stir people and he waits for the comments to come flowing in.  He doesn't start the day thinking what can I do to get people riled up, but he writes and speaks about controversial topics fully intent on defending his position with Scripture.  Then there are times when he writes totally obnoxious things about various sports teams or political shenanigans.  But that is a whole other story.

On more than one occasion his online debates have steered across the topic of a woman's vocation, or more specifically a mother's vocation.  I tend to read over the comments, silently agree or disagree, then vent to my husband (for what must feel like hours) after the kids have gone to bed.  I'm sure he is thinking, I thought she had a blog...isn't that what a blog is for?

So honey, this is for you.  However it doesn't mean we still won't talk about it later.

I am a strong woman.  I am professional, authoritative but also nurturing and sensitive.  Before I married Hans, I was supporting myself, in the process of buying my own home, and going to school.  I was very happy with my life.  I was successful.  Then I married Hans.

Boy, I should probably rephrase sounds like a bad thing.

Then the most wonderful thing happened when I married Hans.

There, that sounds better.

We moved to Indiana and I got a new job.  I still remember hyper-ventilating when we moved into our first apartment because I knew that, since he was in school, I would have to be the one to support us.  That is intimidating.  Three months into our first year of marriage and my new job, I found out I was pregnant.  I have to say, I wasn't as excited as my husband.  I didn't know if I was ready to quit my job and be home full-time.  I'd always wanted kids, but when I thought about it, the possibility just seemed so far away.  I continued to work full-time until a month or so before our son was born.  Then, for the first time since I turned 16, I was unemployed.  It was scary.  I liked it for about two days and, after I finished watching everything I wanted to watch on TV, I felt like I needed to get out.  It didn't help that I had the baby blues something fierce.  I spent virtually the whole year in utter depression, dreading my vocation.

Two weeks before John's first birthday, I went back to work full-time.  Hans was now back in school for his final year of seminary and we needed food on the table and health insurance.  So I was able to get my old job back.  The pay was good, the insurance was great and all in all I liked my job.  I was coming out of the baby blues funk and finally shedding the last 70 pounds.

Yes, you read that right, I lost the LAST 70 pounds...meaning there were initial pounds lost.

But as good as I felt about myself, I knew this wasn't where I was supposed to be.  Hans and I were lucky in that Hans' school schedule allowed him to be the primary caregiver for our son.  For the few hours a week that we needed childcare, our friend, Emily, watched him.  For months, John would cry and cry when I left the house. I felt as though I was abandoning him.  Then one day he stopped crying for me.  To this day I still can't tell you which scenario is worse.  I felt torn.  I loved my job.  I loved feeling needed in a way that could be expressed beyond grunting and crying.  I loved running staff meetings and doing inventory.  I was important. And yet, there was still something wrong.

After a year Hans graduated and got his first call to Denver.  I had to quit.  My husband was now going to be the financial provider for the family.  I was to resume my roll as mother and housewife.  John cried and cried for Hans everyday after he left for work.  He missed his daddy, the man who was his primary caregiver for as long as he could remember.  I was the one he saw in the evening from 6-8, briefly in the mornings, and then all day one or two days a week.  I wasn't supposed to be the one to be with him all day in his mind.  And yet, the sad thing was is that I was supposed to be the one with him.  There were many milestones that were achieved the year between his first and second birthday, and I missed almost all of them.

There are many women out there like me who were successful and self-sufficient before getting married and having babies.  Some women have an easier time giving up the job, extra money and gratification of it all, while others hold on to that part of their life, unwilling to give it up for the benefit of their children.  I know that sounds harsh.  I've heard countless arguments for women choosing to remain full-time employees and leaving their children in the care of others.  Off of the top of my head I'll give you some excuses I've heard and my reply...of which I end up thinking in my head and not voicing.

"I get depressed when I'm at home."
Then get out of the house.  Find things you and your kids can do.  Make a schedule.  Plan trips.  See your doctor, you may be suffering from baby blues.  I too found myself in deep depression the first year.  I know how you feel.  However, I don't think getting a job and leaving your children behind is the answer.

"I want to make a difference in the world."
Start by making that difference with your children.  Your children are growing up in a very secular, accepting (in a bad kind of way...not the good kind of way), jerky, cruel world.  They need YOU, not their nanny, or their babysitter, or their teacher, to teach them, nurture them, and discipline them.

"I just can't sit around all day."
I'm not sure how you actually get any sitting done.  I would love to sit.  The word "sit" doesn't enter my vocabulary until the kids are in bed.  If you don't like being in the house, then find things you and your kids can do.  Go for a walk.  Visit a park.

"I'm using the gifts God himself has given me."
God has given each and every one of us gifts.  And we should use them to His glory.  That doesn't mean we should leave our children for others to raise while we are off using said gifts.  God also gave us girlie parts.  We carry our children in our bellies for 9 months.  We endure hours of labor to bring these children into the world.  We can provide all the nourishment that is needed for the first year of life.  Are the gifts you speak of more important than raising the child(ren) God has given to you?

"We really need the money." 
For this, my answer can vary depending on the situation.  There are times when it becomes a necessity for two parents to work.  The women using this excuse in situations where it is legitimately true wouldn't argue with the fact that they are needed at home.  These woman usually find ways to quit and stay at home when they are able.  For the others...You don't need a fancy house, or car, or to send your kids to a fancy, high priced preschool.  Your kids do not need 50 outfit changes and 8 billion toys.  While it is nice to go out with the girls, or have a date night every week, or get your nails done on a regular basis, these things are not necessities.  These are luxuries.  You are choosing to spend precious time away from your children, leaving them in the care of others 40 + hours a week for luxuries...not necessities.

"I went to school to get my degree.  Am I just supposed to forget about ever putting that degree to use?"
Whenever we've talked about college, my husband has brought up some words that a professor spoke to him and a bunch of other students during freshman orientation weekend at Indiana University.  "You don't go to college to get job training," the man said.  "You go to college to become a thinking person."  I'm not an expert on the history of education, but I think that is how most people have viewed higher education throughout the years.  You don't go to college so that someone can train you how to perfectly perform the functions of  a certain job.  You go to college so to grow in knowledge and to better yourself as a human being through that knowledge.  And if you've done that, the knowledge you've gained by attending school will surely help your children.  I too went to school and am the proud owner of some pretty hefty student loans.  I also obtained my degree in International Finance, which is a subject with which my 5, 2 and 1 year olds won't be needing help for quite some time...if ever.  And sure, my choice to go to and finish school was made with a job/career in mind.  But learning what I did has enabled me to understand how to financially run a household, when to save and when to spend, and how to teach my children the ways that money is important and the ways that it isn't.

So even though I'm not "using" my degree by working a job in the field of international finance, even if I could go back in time, I wouldn't change anything.  Well, maybe I'd pick a less expensive college.  Maybe one day I'll "use" my degree out in the field.  Maybe not.  But I don't feel I've wasted my time or my money.  Neither should any other mother.

I can't tell you I don't miss working outside the home.  Sometimes it is nice to reminisce on times when I could afford to buy fancy new shoes or wear dry-clean only garments.  For about half of my three years as a stay-at-home mom, I've maintained a small part-time job.  Working a few hours a week gives me some time away, adult conversation, and a little money I can squirrel away for vacation, date night, or the occasional surprise car repair.  I know that my vocation as a mother will give me far greater joy and better sense of accomplishment than any job could offer.  Ultimately I know that being at home with my children is what is best for them.  And, I hate to burst your bubble, but it isn't all about you anymore.  Your time comes again when your children are grown.

**Unfortunately I've seen conversations about women staying at home turn pretty ugly and/or quickly steer off track.   I know there are women with children that are not married for whatever reason and simply cannot stay at home.  I am not talking about those women.  I am only talking about married women with children.**


Heather said...

Katie, I could not have said it better myself. There is no place I would rather be than home with my children. (Even on the snotty-nosed, poop-filled days!)

I, too, would LOVE to sit sometime before bedtime. No such luck! :)

Linda said...

Yep. Well said. If my life would have turned out the way that I envisioned it being in college, I definitely wouldn't have all these kids! Instead, my life is completely full, and happy, and chaotic. Wouldn't change it for anything!

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. Great post. Thank you!

ABCEKegg said...

Preach! Being a mom is the HARDEST job I've ever had, and I would be lying if I said that there aren't moments when there is anywhere else I'd rather be; sometimes I would be happy to lock myself in a closet for 5 minutes. :) It is also the BEST job I've ever had. It is what we are created to do. When Adam and Eve sinned, Adam's curse was that the ground would rebel against him, meaning he was going to have to work very hard to provide for his family from then on. Eve's curse was pain in childbearing. So, yeah, the Bible is pretty clear about our responsibilities from the beginning. We can't afford for me to stay home either, but thankfully I have found a part time job that I do almost completely from home. We do what we have to do. Sorry for such a long comment! Hot topic for me, I guess.