I was part of a women’s Bible study about a week ago. When it came time to ask for prayer, I did at the last minute after taking too long to muster the courage. I asked the ladies to pray for me to find fulfillment in the now. The role I chose as wife and mother was exactly that – a choice. I have been doing a lot of thinking on the role of women today. I come across so many women whether online or in real life who are, like me, seeking to balance so many obligations, or what feels to them like things they are obligated to do. The feminist movement gave us a choice. We are no longer just the homemaker, child rearer, cook, laundress, or maid to another wealthier woman. We have the option to choose a “career” over family and marriage. We are as capable as men to hold and succeed at a variety of jobs and professional positions. I am thankful for those women who fought for that right.
The problem has come for me in the fact that many women want the “career” but they still have the desire to be mothers and/or wives. We choose both and it becomes a juggling act that some of us do very well with, and others of us feel like we are sinking into an abyss. I didn’t want to be a mother going into marriage. John didn’t want to be a father. Then, we lost someone very dear to us at an early age to cancer and we realized that family was the most important thing earthside. God placed it on both of us that we needed children. It was something we had never considered before. We both had dreams of artistic endeavors, traveling, never being tied down.
I had set out to be a writer and a teacher of writing on the college level. John’s dream is one he is fulfilling in every way even now – a working artist and musician. When I got pregnant with Deladis, it became obvious to both of us that it would not pay for me to work. Neither of us wanted to leave our child in the care of a stranger for most of our day. I decided that after Deladis was born, I would resign my teaching position and be a stay-at-home mom. We would have to give up a lot to do it. We couldn’t buy clothes for ourselves very often or buy them new. We would have to give up our health insurance. Traveling would be something that we would have to save for and plan well, if we got to do it at all. There was a lot that most people in our families and circles couldn’t believe we should or would give up. Deladis was born and I was staying home.
At first I was gung-ho about being a mom and only a mom. I understood with all my heart that it was a full time job. I enjoyed my days with my baby and loved learning about parenthood and all the fun stuff that goes with it. We went for walks. I became involved with a local attachment parenting group. Then, all those comments from the people we love crept in. “How will you all make it?” “It takes two incomes to live in today’s economy.” “When do you think you’ll go back to work?” “You all need health insurance.”
When I paid the bills every month and saw time and again how we had just enough to pay them, it was hard. Instead of feeling blessed with having our basic needs met, I began to feel guilty. Now, our culture has changed. Whereas before, people would condemn a woman for working outside of the home or at a non-domestic type of position, now, they seem to fear or look down upon a woman who chooses motherhood as her profession. I felt guilty for not working. I felt like the people around me (other than the mothers who had also made the choice I had) were looking for me to throw in the towel and get a job. To do the “right” thing by my husband and children.
Since, those first feelings came upon me, I have been seeking to make some kind of money. I had never quit writing, but I had been taking my time with it. Doing it more because it was a strong desire rather than trying to make money doing it. I tried an at-home business that was sort of telemarketing. I was burned out quickly with that, and was sinking more money into the business than I was making. I watched John diligently working all hours of the day and night, traveling alone to festivals on the weekends, and I began to dream of him being able to slow down a little. I felt like I needed to find a way to stay home and make money, eventhough we have never been in a place where we couldn’t pay our bills since I made the decision to be a full time mom.
I have realized that those expectations that others have for me are ones that I have adopted as my own. They are not the best for me. I am not like these women who are happy juggling all the roles. I want to write again because that is what I like to do and someday I’d like to see my work in print, not because I feel like I am in a race to make money. I want to be fully present for my children and not pressured to perform while trying to meet their needs. I have few places outside of our home and the internet where I can talk of the triumphs of my mothering. Many of our friends are single adults or childless couples. Those who have children live away from us or are acquaintances only. When I am part of conversations where people are talking about their work and accomplishments, I tend to stay quiet or only offer well wishes. Ivy using a spoon for the first time, or Deladis starting dance class isn’t exactly something that excites most social activists, working artists, musicians, or career minded folks. I share when I have something to say about my writing, but even that is often on the outskirts of exciting.
Since opening the door to choice, (which is a great thing, don’t get me wrong) we have really not allowed for women to fully make that choice and be fulfilled in simply being a wife and mother in the home. The seeds of doubt are planted. Many at-home moms spend their days alone, seeking conversation here and there, and wondering if they are doing a good job. We put pressure on mothers to choose work and homelife and to balance those roles perfectly. They also must remain physically and mentally healthy while doing so. Those who choose both and do well, can often be made to feel like they could perform even better without the home obligations and are encouraged to take on more. The women who choose career are talked about as selfish, or that they will grow old lonely. Why can’t society just be happy for us in what we choose?
The fact is that it is imperative that I understand that all the fulfillment I need is right here in my home with my husband and my children. A woman in our group said to me, “The world won’t suffer for one less story written. It won’t know the difference.” At first, I wanted to cry right there and tell her how dare she say that about the work I love to do. But, in the next second I realized that she was right. She wasn’t saying not to write when the time was right, or even not to try to work it in to my schedule, but that I needed to look at it as I did before – as something I did because I love it, not because I’m trying to make money or having bragging rights. The writing I do will be better for it.
Since choosing at this time to homeschool, I don’t foresee my getting an outside job anytime in the near future. John and I continue to live a lifestyle different than most in the United States strive for or live daily. We aren’t up to the standards of so many, but our needs are met and we are happy with our lifestyle. I wonder how it will be when my children are older and I am still home with them. I wonder how people will see me. I know I’ll be writing more then. I have decided that no matter the comments, I’m going to allow myself to believe what I know. Motherhood is the most important job of all when that’s the choice you’ve made.