Friday, November 1, 2013

From working mother, to staying at home. The journey.

Proverbs 31:25-30



"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”..

We live in a time were woman are often financially called into the workforce. Many of whom have successful careers, perhaps even taking on the role of the breadwinner for the family. I believe there are many reasons for this change...for as it used to be a common held belief that women stay at home. Raise children. Bake. Tend the garden. And such. Forgive my historical accuracy, but seems something changed about the time of the 1&2 world wars. When men went off to war, leaving the household to be taken care of by the women only. Often times forcing them to work hard to earn extra cash. Or perhaps it was with the emergence of Feminism that woman became empowered to have their own careers. Both of these historical, life changing events, brought change. Change for the family that were both good, and that had some less positive effects on family life. It's all a matter of perspective, but lets look at how these changes impacted my life...and the detour it sent me on. 

Thanks to these changes, I was able to work as a newly wed. Times were tough. D worked long hours just a little over minimum wage, and we had a new house, and two growing boys. I had labeled myself as a teenage failure, having dropped out of school and had a child before my prom...and so the prom I missed. With these things hovering over our heads, and the current social standards that dictates how we should be living a glamorous lifestyle and and expectation that we, as a young couple, ought to fit today's vision of success, I felt that I could overcome the "obstacles" that life had dealt me and become a successful contributor to our situation. I landed a few fast food jobs before I found my place with a federally funded/provincially managed program. It had a position available for a "disadvantaged young mother" such as myself to gain employment, skills and experience as a peer mentor. I was the "image" of a successful participant. I grabbed this image and ran with it. After serving in this role for 4 years, I decided to work my way up towards the position of Program Facilitator. This was a position that, if I had not had the experience of being a past participant of the program, I would have required a social workers degree to even apply. The only thing that stood in my way was a high school diploma and a certificate from the community college to say that I had successfully mastered the Human Services course. I set to it. A while later, I stood and received my offer of employment as the new facilitator for a full time job with a federal like pay check. I attended important meetings, I had "colleagues", I was the ultimate success story and an inspiration for the young mothers that I had in my meetings. D and I were doing well financially and my children were at a great sitters. We had it all...I thought. 

After the few years it took me to climb the social and political ladders of college and a professional life, and after having overcome the "barriers" of labeling myself an epic failure, I realized that this new life was settling in..and as it grew more and more comfortable, the mean side started to appear. I would come home after working 12 hrs and my children were already in bed. Without having been kissed goodnight by their mother. My husband was tired after having had to pick them up from the sitters, helping them with their homework, making supper, baths, and tucking them in by himself. I could see the stress that my working was bringing to my family. The paycheck couldn't pay a counselor enough to solve these problems..and there was no nerve meds that could fix the constant ache. My children came home day after day, having been taught the values of their caretakers. I wondered...why did they not still hold onto those which I had taught them. I tried endlessly to combat the influence that public school, teachers, peers and the sitters had on them during the day...trying to fix it all in the 30 minutes I might have with them early in the morning as I rushed them out the door to school. 

It all changed. Something inside me felt a shock wave. It was a cold evening, 3 hours away from my home when I was teaching a prenatal class to some "disadvantaged" couples when I felt it loud and clear. Here I met a mother to be, one who had already had a child and was expecting another. She was just about the age I was when I had my second. Her and her boyfriend were together in the meeting room, taking their turns talking and sharing about their pregnancy. It was her voice that was the loudest. They had planned the second child and she was happy to be a stay at home mother. They didn't have a nice place, they had little money, they couldn't afford a babysitter to go on date night, but they were happy. They were together and rocking her child to bed at night gave her such fulfillment. As I listened to her story, I knew that it was contrary to the "postponement, prevention, and preparedness" theory. It was contrary to our goal: to prevent her from having more kids before she was 25. It placed her into a "high risk" category. But it was vaguely familiar. Either no one told her that she was a social outcast for having 2 kids before she was 20, or she didn't care. She didn't care. She loved her life..and she wanted it this way...and so did I. I had raced the race so hard to defeat the very life that I loved, only because I was doing what I thought would make me a success...little did I know, I was a perfect mother, just the way I was. It was the full time job, professional pressures, financial upkeep, and my reputation that was digging holes into my soul. 

I woke up that day. I realized that what I had truly wanted, was the life I had before I started the rat race. I worried though that I might let my husband down...you know, financially. I went home and spoke to him. I told him how I felt it was important for me to raise my own kids. I told him how I wanted to be his helper, instead of him being mine. I told him how I wanted to have his supper made when he got home so that we could both snuggle with the kids after the meal. I told him how I felt proverbs 31 leading me to manage my own household..to be making the beds and teaching my own kids. Up until that point the house cleaner and teachers and sitters and peers were all doing those things for me. All just so I could have a new pair of shoes and some fancy imported fruits to send to school with the kids. To my amazement, my husband was entirely relieved to hear my desires. He was tired. He needed me. He didn't care about the money. Happiness, and togetherness was looking so much better than the constant running and running and running that our family had been doing. 

It's been over 4 years since I retired. 

My husband is happy. 

My children hold true to our core values and beliefs.

We homeschool. 

We are together. 

I could write for days about how this change has impacted our marriage, our live and our future. I will spare you for today of the long version. Put simply, I feel that this change has returned me to my roots. It has taught me to follow my heart. It has encouraged me to do what I know is right, rather than follow the trending mass. It has taught me that money isn't all that is seams..we can get lost just looking for more of it. We can get way off track trying to fit the mold. That mold, or vision, wasn't mine. It wasn't for me at all. Sure, it fit for a time, and I know that the experience has helped me to become who I am today, but I wouldn't take it back for the world. I ought to say that I don't think that *every* woman should stay at home. There are certainly times when helping the family financially is a pure blessing, and a help to the husband. Those can be real needs. Single mothers would have no other choice. Sometimes the bills are just too much. I understand. We were there. On the other hand, I have realized that staying at home can bring a new set of blessings. Part of staying home is that we not be idle...and working steadily, keeping busy and productive is a large part of what I do. If you have read anything on this blog, you will get a bit of a picture of how my days look. I have found time to homeschool, care for the home, children, husband, and sell hand made items at the local markets to help offset the cost of staying at home. These things give me a true sense of success...but a much different kind than I felt when I was in my black pinstripe blazer toting along a very full agenda.