Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Babies vs. Career...

A friend of mine recently told me of a lady friend of hers who arrives at work by 6:30 a.m. and usually doesn't leave for home until 6 p.m. This, in itself, is not amazing, until one considers the fact that her lady friend is a married mother of four children. Not a single mother trying to make ends meet... but a married mother striving to build her career. To be sure, the career of this woman is a noble one - she is a public school teacher. But one can't help but wonder what prompts her devoted interest in other people's children over her own. Harsh words? Yes. They're intended to be. You may say, "well, she may need to work to help support her and her husband's family." Now I don't know their financial status, but one usually does not spend such an exorbitant amount of time in that type of work, unless one enjoys it. No, I think, all things being equal, that she has bought in to the notion that a woman can have it all... in other words, that she can have both a career and a family. Well, yes she can have them both, but only at the expense of one. Now I've heard many arguments from the other side: "I relate better with my child if I'm away for a while." "I'm bored at home." "I'm a concrete Type A-X squared personality..." "I need to expand my mind." "I'm helping others by working." "I need to be around people." Blah, blah, blah. When you get right down to it, it's all fluff. In our family, the situation is what may be considered, in suburbia, to be an anomaly. I am gainfully employed, while my wife is a stay-at-home mom. Not only does she stay at home with her children, she is homeschooling them as well. The first choice (i.e., stay-at-home mom) is easy and, I would argue, it is a mother's responsibility. The second choice (i.e., homeschooling) is much more difficult and is certainly not for everyone. To stay at home with your child means that you will be there with them and for them from the time they are born until at least the time they go into kindergarten. I've blogged about the First5 California program that has its eyes set on mandatory preschool... but that's another subject. Here I'm speaking about a mother and how she guides the development of her children through the years that are the most critical in establishing their thought patterns. With regards to homeschooling - there are certainly enormous sacrifices that must be made when one decides to engage in this endeavor. If you were to ask a typical homeschool mom she would probably tell you that her biggest sacrifice is that of time. Yet, she would add, it is certainly not without reward. My wife told me recently, of an incident that occurred between her and our 8 year old daughter. In a discussion they were having during school, the subject came up of mothers that go to work (i.e., are employed). Upon seeing our daughter's confused reaction my wife realized that, without necessarily planning it this way, we have pretty much hung out with other homeschooling families and / or stay-at-home mothers. As such, our daughter was completely unprepared for the idea that some mothers actually went to work out of their own free will! My wife explained that some mothers had to go to work so that their family would have enough money to buy food, clothing, etc. But she also said that some mothers wanted to go to work and that they either left their kids at daycare or with another family member, such as the kid's grandparents. My daughter pondered this new thought for a few moments, and then looked at my wife and asked, "Then why did they have kids?" There, in the innocent question of an 8 year old, is the crux of the matter. She's figured it out. She understands the sacrifice that my wife has made for her and her 3 year old sister. She is now fully aware of what my wife considers to be of utmost importance. For the career mother, this is unexplored territory... it might as well be a dark abyss that she will never visit. The career mother, while building her own future, has handed her own children over to someone else and has sent herself into a self imposed exile from moments in time that can never be revisited. In choosing a career, she transfers to another, experiences that are rightfully hers. Experiences such as: being the one to see her child take her first steps, or of watching her child's eyes light up as she learns to read, or being the first person to answer her child's question about just who God is. The list is endless... Time is fleeting. In just 10 short years our 8 year old will be ready to leave our house. After she leaves, even though we will inevitably still see her, we will be left with only memories of her childhood. As for my wife, she will have the memories of intimately guiding, firsthand, our daughter throughout her life from a baby into that of a young woman. What career can compete with that? Heidi Bratton wrote an article recently for Touchstone Magazine. The article, Soldiers on the Home Front: on the Vocation of Motherhood, does a fine job of relating, from a woman's point of view, the aspect of motherhood and career choices within a Christian Worldview.

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