Sunday, March 23, 2014
At Home Moms: I Speak for These
“Long before ‘going green’ was mainstream, Dr. Seuss’s Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment. In this cautionary rhyming tale, we learn of the Once-ler, who came across a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots (“frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits”), and how his harvesting of the tufted trees changed the landscape forever. With the release of the blockbuster film version, the Lorax and his classic tale have educated a new generation of young readers not only about the importance of seeing the beauty in the world around us, but also about our responsibility to protect it.”
From the Seussville website:
When it comes to the preservation of motherhood, specifically full-time at home motherhood, I feel more and more like the Lorax. And the things that get in the way of motherhood—the “thneeds” that apparently “everyone needs” (such as self-actualization and materialism)—continue to fly off the production line of the wily Once-ler, who in my mind stands for the devil.
It has taken quite a long time for me to write about at-home momhood, so I will be very clear: I speak for potential or current at-home moms who would like to raise their children full time but:
1. Receive no emotional or moral support.
2. Have been taught that being an at-home mom and wife is demeaning.
3. Are convinced they “need” to work in order to survive.
4. Feel as though they are “selling out” on their women’s liberation duty to be a force in the office/career world.
5. Have been filled with doubt by the mantra “a woman cannot be fulfilled as just a mom and wife.”
I will begin by acknowledging that when my husband and I were raising children, my husband had a good job. And if the situation changed, we agreed we would do whatever it took to ensure that I could stay home with the kids.
I am friends with women who have more children than I do and whose husbands have a lower income but these women are nonetheless fulltime at-home moms. One woman is married to a pastor. They have 3 boys and live in a very small house they outgrew years ago. They are content with what they have and are putting their family before material things and material opportunities. She is my hero.
My grandmother, one of the few college-educated women of her time, chose to be a wife and mother, leaving her English teaching behind for the equally engaging and rewarding adventure of marriage and children. I know of no other woman who was as fulfilled and content as my grandma. My five siblings and I count her as one of, if not thee most, influential person in our lives, and desire to be the grandmother to our grandchildren that she was to us. She is my hero.
My best friend—college-educated and at one time working professional—stayed home and raised three children. She wouldn’t have it any other way, and has found much writing material from her time as an at-home mother. She continues to do the same as a grandmother. She is my hero.
But I did not always champion or hold this view of motherhood.
I have lived on both sides of the fence: as a women’s liberationist attending and graduating with a degree from UW Madison in the 80’s; then as a confused mom holding a newborn—knowing there was no way I was going to leave him every day in the care of someone else; as the mother of a toddler and newborn feeling the need to “make up for” my lack of career by running myself into the ground with volunteerism; and then as a wife and mother coming to the end of herself in utter despair of trying to incorporate the women’s liberation dogma heralded by other women, the public schools, civic organizations, colleges and church I attended.
When I quit my job to stay home with my first son, I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest. The lies of being “unfulfilled,” “walked on by a man,” being “lesser” and not “using my degree” all haunted me. So I ratcheted up the volunteer work to the point it negatively affected my marriage and family life. I had a double standard: while my husband got up at 6:00 am and went to work, and came home late each evening, I thought I was free from household duties because, as a woman, I was above them. So I grudgingly did the basic chores, but not consistently. I was a slob. I did a great job of volunteering, and hanging out with my kids, but my priorities were skewed because of the battle raging within: I was too good to be just a wife and mom!
And that is the state in which God found me: wrestling with the diabolical, culturally-imposed construct that militantly defines womanhood to mean having a job, earning an income and being better than a man simply due to being female.
So although I loved being home, I felt insecure in that choice. Although I adored being a mom, I felt I was shortchanging myself (I wasn’t a Christian yet, so other-centeredness had not yet entered into the picture. I was not in a place of even considering how I might be shortchanging my children or husband). On and on it went. The women’s liberation ideology continued to be a fly in the ointment of my contentment with motherhood and marriage.
And then, through a series of circumstances, God got hold of me, primarily through His Word, the Bible, which I had begun reading as an exercise in great literature. Over a period of eight years, God began His process of un-conforming me to the world, and renewing my mind and heart towards His truth.
He showed me that these children are not my children, they are His, entrusted to me to raise for Him. Wow. I saw how my husband is also not only my husband, but God’s child as well. I learned that I am God’s child. We all belong to Him.
It dawned on me, with these realizations, that it might be best to do things His way. And it was! He, in His mercy, gave me permission to be an at-home mom, derailing once and for all the women’s liberation freight train. I was unequivocally, irrefutably and finally free! Not only did I receive His permission, I received motherhood and being a wife as His high calling. Peace and contentment followed.
But there was regret. Regret that it hadn’t happened sooner. Regret that nobody, no woman, had ever told me the truth about marriage and motherhood.
An acquaintance of mine is now experiencing this sort of regret: a professional career woman living in the Los Angeles Hills in a multi-million dollar mansion, she confided that, as the time nears for her only child to leave for college, she is wondering whether her time away at work “was worth it.”
It is out of compassion for young women and their future children that I am driven to be the voice that never spoke to me: a voice that can reveal the beauty, possibility and worth in motherhood and protect it, just as the Lorax tried to protect the trees. I desire to plant the hope of “unless...,” the word in The Lorax that begs for someone to care enough to plant the seed that will grow, in this case, motherhood back into the wonder that it is.
The Lorax spoke for trees; I speak for these: women who still have time to change their minds, to make new choices, to listen to and act on their inner mom that says “I want to stay home with my children!”
I am the Lorax who will give you permission. Together we will plant the seed of “unless...”
“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”