Friday, October 11, 2013

Rethinking "Working" Mothers

A couple of days ago, Matt Walsh posted on his blog about the animosity toward stay-at-home mothers & how society has it all wrong. Being a stay-at-home mother myself (& a housewife before Emma was born), I've felt the judgment & pressure to "go to work" first-hand from friends & family. So, Matt's post resonated with me, & sharing it sparked a conversation between a friend & myself. As a result, I wanted to take some time to address where I believe Christians are going wrong when it comes to mothers who work outside of the home.

First, I want to be clear that I am not speaking about all working mothers. I am not talking about those mothers who have no choice, who have to help their husbands provide for the family even though their heart yearns to be home with their children.  I am not talking about those mothers who have cut extraneous expenses everywhere they possibly can, who go without cable, the smartphone, the new car, & the bigger house, yet still require her salary to make ends meet.  I am not talking about those mothers who, through no fault of their own, are raising their children by themselves - like my own mother had to - & have to work in order for them to live. Finally, I am not talking about mothers whose children are grown & living on their own. All of these mothers are doing everything they can to take care of their family, & they are right to do so.

But there are an awful lot of mothers who do have a choice, who could stay home & commit themselves to the noble task of being the primary caregiver of their family, but instead choose to work outside of the home because they . . .

     -would "go stir crazy" being "cooped up" at home; or

     -put a lot of time & effort into obtaining their degree & don't want to "waste" their talents at home; or

     -want to be able to live "the good American life" (i.e., cable T.V., iPhone, a new car, a bigger house, designer wardrobe, vacations, etc.).

Amongst unbelievers, these are expected & acceptable attitudes. They have unchanged hearts & unredeemed desires. But those of us who are saved by Christ are to look to God's Word for guidance, not follow the world's "logic". And God tells us that

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." ~Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis mine)

So, the older women are to teach the younger women "what is good", & part of that teaching includes that the younger women are to be "working at home". Why? "That the word of God may not be reviled". Which means if we don't attend to this, the word of God will be reviled.

Now I realize this flies in the face of what our culture proclaims & even what many in the church practice. I am also aware that some - or perhaps even many - of us may not like this teaching. However, our feelings are not the final arbiters of truth, any more than the culture or even our own opinions are. God's Word is, & whether we like it or not, it's quite plain here what God's plan is for His daughters. The world tells us this is antiquated, outdated, primitive. Perhaps. But that doesn't make it less true or right. And, really, when we take off the blinders to get a good look at how living according to the world's standards has destroyed our society, we see that God’s way is also better.

If Christ is our Savior, He is also our Lord. We can't say that He saved our souls from damnation, but has no right to tell us how to live our lives. If we show by our actions that He's not our Lord in this life, then we show that He's not our Savior from God's wrath in the next. As Christians, we know that we "were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 7:23) & are "bondservants of Christ" (Eph. 6:6). As such, we cannot claim freedom of choice over what God has decreed. God has dominion over every facet of our lives. Our responsibility as Christians is to prayerfully search, study, & meditate upon His Word so that we may discover His will & then act on it.

I'm not saying this is easy. Anyone who has read their Bible knows that we are told that following Christ means going against the world's "wisdom" & enduring hardships. What this looks like changes from person to person & family to family. For us, it's meant hearing repeated questions from family & friends about why I'm "wasting my talents" by "not working". . . & when I will be. It's meant not going on vacations that we felt an almost desperate desire for. It's meant not having cable (or even a T.V.) or a smartphone until this past year. It's meant making do with older clothes, & eating at home (although not as much as we should). It's meant not buying a new car (because what we have works) or a bigger house (because we can't afford it on one salary). It's meant distinguishing between needs & wants. It's meant sacrifice. It's not easy, but the trade-off of being home taking care of Emma - & knowing that I'm obeying God to His glory - are both so very worth it. No matter what we do, in the end, all mothers - whether working outside of or at home - sacrifice something (or someone). But it occurs to me that this sort of sacrifice, the kind where we give up some "things" in exchange for always being with our little one(s), is always worth the reward.

So, all that is to say that for those mothers who do have the choice to stay home with your children, you should make the sacrifices necessary to do so. Not because I think so, but because God says we should be "working at home". And if we claim Christ as our Savior, we must also submit to Him as our Lord.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning Lessons

There are all kinds of things I thought I knew about parenting (especially when it came to sleeping) . . . & then I became a parent!  ;-)

I just knew that babies sleep all the time, so it would be no problem to follow everyone's advice to "sleep when she sleeps". Then I had Emma, who seemed to have a built-in radar that alerted her every time I tried to sleep. I don't think she slept more than 30 minutes at a time for the first couple of weeks. I cried a lot because of sleep deprivation, & Michael said, "I thought babies were supposed to sleep" very often.

I just knew that it was easy peasy to get babies to sleep on their own. Then I had Emma, who always wanted to be held while she slept. Which is why she woke up every half hour when she was a newborn. I learned to hold her on my chest while we slept just so we could sleep, & I remember feeling so blessed when I was rewarded with 2 straight hours of sleep as a result. We finally tried putting her to sleep in our hand-me-down musical swing, & that thing was a miracle worker! As long as it was on, she slept. Which means we went through a lot of batteries, because she slept in it all night every night - plus naps - until her feet were hanging over the edge a bit!  ;-)  It was wonderful! If we're ever blessed with more little ones, we'll be getting an electric musical swing for sure!

I just knew that we'd never have a "family bed" & that babies leave parents plenty of time for chores while they nap. Then I had Emma, who slept by herself in her pack 'n' play beside our bed for 3 months before changing her mind quite dramatically. All of a sudden, when she was 7 months old, she simply could not sleep by herself any more. We still don't know what happened, but I followed everyone's advice to "let her cry it out", & was rewarded with a vomiting baby. We continued to try to put her down to sleep, but every single time, we ended up having to clean a vomit-covered baby, bed, & floor (plus ourselves). So, I finally gave up & now she sleeps snuggled up next to (or on top of) me at night & in my arms during naps. It's often inconvenient, but I'm learning to do what I can when I can & not stress about what I can't get to . . . because she needs me, & that's more important.

I just knew that I would be a Mama who got up before everyone else to get a shower & be ready when my family arose every morning. Then I had Emma, who knows when her Mama is not right beside her in the bed & wakes up protesting. One time she even sensed - in her sleep, mind you - that I was fixing to sneak out of the bed, & she woke up long enough to push me back down so she could crawl on top of me. Which, of course, made me laugh!

Actually becoming a parent opened my eyes to all of the things I thought I knew, but didn't. Emma's taught me plenty more lessons than are expounded upon here, & many more are to come, I have no doubt. But there is one more lesson that she teaches me every day, & it's the most important one of all.

I just knew that having a baby would be one of the most profound, most rewarding, most life-changing blessings of my whole life. Then I had Emma, who proved me right even beyond my wildest dreams. She has been such a joy, & each day my love for her grows . . . which always astounds me because my heart almost bursts with love & you wouldn't think it could hold any more! Yet it always does! She has shattered so many of the things "I just knew" about parenting before she came along . . . & I couldn't be happier.

*Note:  This is a light-hearted post about how Emma has changed some of my pre-conceived notions about parenting. I am not looking for advice on how to get Emma to sleep on her own. We're happy with our arrangement for now. Thanks for reading!