Should Mothers Be Forced to Work?

There’s a lot of things that should be illegal…but choosing to stay at home and raise your children?  Are you kidding me?  Apparently, that’s the belief shared by an Australian magazine writer.  Columnist Sarrah Le Marquand, a mother of two children, says it should be “a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.”  So, she’s not targeting the parents of little ones but still…it’s a little twisted to cite the reasons for this being 1) a loss to the economy and 2) untapped potential in the women who choose to not work.

 

I became a stay-at-home mom just before I had baby #2.  It was fairly easy to make this decision because financially, we couldn’t afford to put two kids in daycare.  Basically, I would be working just to send them to daycare.  That became even truer when baby #3 arrived.  When my oldest became school-age, I decided to homeschool.  My reasons for that could be a whole other blog.  But I did this for several years.  In fact, the first time my children were put in school my oldest was in 5th grade, my middle child in 2nd and my youngest started kindergarten.

 

I didn’t run out and get a job.  In fact, my first job was very part-time when my oldest entered 6th grade.  When he was in 7th (the other two in 4th and 2nd grade), I tried full-time work.  It lasted a few months.  For our family, my immediate availability was most important.  So, I went back to part-time work and eventually became a professional writer who worked from home.

 

Untapped potential?  I found value in being a mom.  Whether I worked or not, that didn’t change this truth.  It doesn’t diminish anyone’s value, whether they decide to stay-at-home, work part-time or full-time.

 

Gender equality is something I tend to poke fun at, to be completely honest.  When Donald Trump was elected as president, the feminists cried about how the women’s movement would be negatively affected.  I have yet to see that happen.  Women have a great deal of opportunity to contribute significantly to this world.  In the workforce, yes.  But also in in their families (and sometimes doing both!)

 

If feminists are all about equal rights, why do they squash the desire of some women to have that right to stay home and raise their children?  They’re thinking is one-sided.  If women are supposed to support one another, why aren’t we cheering on those who stay home?  Those who work?  Why aren’t we celebrating one another and the different choices made available to us?

 

Motherhood is one of the greatest privileges I’ve been granted.  While I would never change the ability (and sacrifices made) to be able to stay home, I would never question another woman for choosing to do things differently.  Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities.”  Our status as a woman is not defined by choosing to work or not work.  Our rights give us the choice to choose between working and not working.  Opportunities means the ability to make full use of our skills in the workforce and/or in the home.

 

Feminists get frustrated with women who don’t do things the way they think it should be done.  That’s not equality.  Equality is found in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

 

I choose to celebrate the uniqueness of God’s creation, not only in man versus woman…but within my own gender and the advantages we have in choosing what’s best for our family.  With His guidance and direction, we can’t go wrong, no matter what we decide.

Let Go

She slipped out of my hands.  The pull of the current was too strong.  I couldn’t reach her.  Desperation enveloped me as I attempted to grab at something, anything.  But she didn’t fight to make her way back.  She seemed to accept her fate, her mouth not saying a word but her eyes telling a story.  “Let me go,” they seemed to plead.  Never mind my screams that pierced the dark night.

She doesn’t want to be rescued.  My attempts to intervene unwanted.  Quickly and yet at the same time it seems like slow motion, she is drifting away.  Our eyes lock, mine pleading for her to come back and hers pleading to let her go.

For a time I run along the banks—she’s still in my sights and although I know she isn’t safe, there is some reassurance because I can at least see her.  I haven’t completely lost her.  Maybe around the bend a branch will catch her and I can make a daring attempt to bring her back safely to the shore.  I will die trying! 

Yet it seems the more I try to keep up, the faster she drifts away.  What scares me the most is that she seems to have no fear.  She sits back comfortably, unaware and unafraid of the dangers that lurk ahead.  No concern regarding the unknown.

While initially she seemed alarmed at our separation, now she appears almost relieved.  As this reality hits me, in a panic I realize that now she’s nothing more than a dot…I can barely make her out because she has gone so far from me.  But there is nothing—absolutely nothing I can do.  It’s out of my hands.  She’s gone.  No possibility of a rescue.

Exhausted from my efforts, I fall to the ground.  The tears flow freely.  But a gentle breeze comes along and wipes them from my face.  The sun is shining so brightly I now have to squint.  Warmth envelopes me.  Peace floods me.  Comfort surrounds me.  And suddenly I know—that although she’s out of my reach—she is safe in the arms of my Father.  My tears like prayers He collects in a bowl.  The sun a radiance that gives light to even the darkest moments.  And the warmth of my Father’s love that reminds me of hope.

She is not completely lost.  He still has her in His sights.

I get up from the ground, brush off the dirt and look not in the direction I last saw her…but heavenward.  I don’t have to worry.  I don’t have to fear.  As great as my love is for her, His is even greater.  He’s got this.  He’s got her.  I can truly let her go because He never will.

 

NOTE:  Taking a little break from the Prodigal Child Series I’ve been doing, as God laid this on my heart to write and I wanted to share.

Experiencing the Thing You Judge

I guessed her to be 17 or 18. Her earlobes had been stretched enough you could see through them. She had a piercing on her lip. And on her hip she carried a baby.

Sipping my soup, watching her, I couldn’t help but think that in a different time and place—under different circumstances—my heart would have been full of judgment.  In the wrong frame of mind, I might have even made my feelings obvious.

What does it take to soften a heart hardened by judgment?  Experiencing the very thing you judge.

Sometimes God has to knock us off the pedestal, bring us down to ground level, to show the true condition of our hearts.  He’ll interrupt our cozy world and shake things up enough to get our attention.

We might fall into the trap of putting too much stock in our own efforts.  As a parent, I had it all figured out.  If I do A and B, well, naturally I’ll get to C.  Instead, parenting one child in particular turned out to be more like a complicated algebraic formula.

The day I learned my then 17-year-old daughter was pregnant was more than a shaking of my world.  It was like an earthquake—everything came crumbling down.  Mixed in with the obvious concerns of what she was going to do, was what I was going to do when others found out.  It didn’t take long for my mind to go there…concerns about how I was going to look as a mom.

What I had once cast judgment on, was now going to be cast upon us.  And the judgment did happen—upon our family as a whole, myself as a mom and my daughter.  But I’m happy to say that we experienced more grace than we did judgment.  That’s how the church is supposed to function.

Judgment is something I still struggle with sometimes—I cannot lie.  The human side of me can easily go there.  But it doesn’t take long to remember our family’s journey.  It reels me back in and reminds me of God’s goodness and grace.

Back to Panera Bread—because where else would I be sipping soup?  As I watch this young mom place her baby in the high chair, sit down and interact with him…a smile starts inside and then transfers to my mouth.  I doubt she gets many smiles her way.  I’m honored to be in a place where I can offer it.

Who could use your smile today?  Who could benefit from an encouraging word instead of a disparaging one?  Parenting is hard enough without making it harder for others.  One never knows where life will take them, so it’s better to err on the side of grace.  After all, isn’t that the point of the cross?

Pressing through When Hard Pressed

It brings out the best in me.  But it also brings out the worst in me.  Motherhood.  Never is one pressed harder physically or emotionally than when challenged as a mom.  Emotions pressed hard.  Heart pressed hard.  Beliefs pressed hard.

Pressed hard when running on little sleep because the baby’s days and night are mixed up, or the youngun’ is sick with a fever and cough.

Pressed hard when homework time becomes a battle.  Or the juice gets spilled…yet again.  Or the walls get colored on with permanent marker.

Pressed hard with the bickering…the inability to follow simple directions…the whining…and the backtalk.

Pressed hard when the driving lessons start…the introduction of the first boyfriend…coming home late from curfew…when poor decisions are made.

Emotions pressed hard can run amuck.  The heart pressed hard can break.  And beliefs pressed hard can be questioned.

Yet in these times of being hard pressed, there is a way of pressing through.  It’s God’s Word in our heart, bringing hope to the soul.  It’s God’s grace giving us the ability to endure.  It’s God’s peace seeing us through the challenges.  And it’s the promises of God giving us assurance.

When Grace Overshadows Shame

“I do realize the pain I can cause…”

“I’ve disappointed you…”

“You say you’re proud of me, but why?  I’m trying to remember the last good thing I’ve done.”

 

These were my own words, penned from a heart that desired to do right but couldn’t seem to get there.  I ran across this letter, written to my father when I was just 16 years old, in a box of mementos given to me by my stepmother more than a year after his death.  I couldn’t believe he kept that letter all these years.

 

Now on the other end, as a parent with children who have probably felt some of the same things, I get it.  In fact, it wasn’t that long ago my own 19-year-old daughter expressed to me that even though I tell her how proud I am of her, she still feels like she’s a disappointment to us.  It can be difficult to separate the disappointment we have in our children’s choices from them as a person.

 

I made some pretty bad choices myself as a teenager.  Yet my dad would tell me he was proud of me.  Perhaps what he was really saying is that he saw the potential in me.  He saw the places where I shined, more than those dark places.

 

I won’t lie.  My daughter can certainly stir things up.  Sometimes it causes chaos, anger and hurt.  Yet I can still tell her that I’m proud of her.  Why?  I see beyond the surface stuff.  I see the places she has overcome and done well.  Sure, I can get caught up in all her wrongs and fixate on those…but God nudges me back to grace.

 

The words I wrote when I was 16 years old could be echoed today, to my Heavenly Father.  I’m sure I’ve caused Him pain and disappointment.  I know there are times it seems like goodness is so far from me.  But I know…because of His Word…that He loves me anyway.  My heart is able to receive this truth.  Why?  Because grace overshadows my shame.

Dear Devil – A Letter Regarding My Children

 Dear Devil,

 

This letter serves to put you on notice that you must take your hands off my children.  They don’t belong to you…and they never have.  They belong to the King of kings and Lord of lords—the One I dedicated their lives to not only in a formal dedication service in the House of God but more importantly, in my daily surrendering of their lives to Him.  I give them to God because they are HIS and HIS ALONE.  I surrender them to the One who created them, who is continuing His work in forming and shaping their lives.  Because He who began a good work in them WILL carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).  And it IS a good work being done in them.  Devil, you have no right to try and intercept God’s plans for their lives.  Plans to prosper my children and not to harm, plans to give them a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Not only do I declare that you have absolutely no authority over their lives, but I put you on notice that you have messed with the wrong one.  I am a Warrior Mother, persistent in my prayers and faith.  Although I may get weary at times, God will give me renewed strength to carry on.  Although I may get discouraged, God will encourage me through the truth and promises of His Word.  I stand on the Word of God, my solid Rock.  Try as you might to bring me down, I will not slip and fall.  I will STAND!

 

I will be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power, by putting on the full armor of God so that when you devil, scheme to do harm to my family, I will be able to take my stand.  For I recognize that my struggle is not with my children but it’s against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  It’s not what my children do or say.  That’s not my struggle.  It’s a spiritual battle for their souls.  Therefore, I will put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, I, as a Warrior Mother, will be able to stand my ground.  And after I have done everything, TO STAND.

 

I will stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around my waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, I will take up the shield of faith, with which I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  I will take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And I WILL pray in the Spirit on ALL occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, I will be alert and always keep on praying for my children (Ephesians 6:10-17)

 

Devil, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to take your hands off my children.  They are not yours!  They belong to God and He has given me charge over them.  I am a Warrior Mother and my prayers WILL reign victorious.  In the name of Jesus, AMEN!

Dear Youngest Child

More sure of myself as a mom—and yet, having greater awareness of my flaws—there are benefits in being the youngest child.  I’m more in tune with what works and what doesn’t.  I’m definitely less strict but in some ways a bit aloof from the whole idea of parenting.  It’s easier to let things go, which is partly why the youngest is accused of being spoiled.

 

By the time you came around, I had a greater understanding of how parenting isn’t a formula and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.  Still, it doesn’t mean you were immune to my mistakes.

 

I oftentimes teetered between holding you too close because you are my baby (a title the youngest is stuck with regardless of age) and letting the reigns go so loosely that I might have appeared disinterested.  It must have been unsettling to not know which way I’d go.  But being a mom to the youngest is scary, because it’s my last chance at doing things right.  It forced me to look at my own failures and inconsistencies.  It showed how far I’ve come but also how far I have to go.  As a result, I was often disappointed in myself and therefore, took it out on you.

 

At times I didn’t think I had what it takes to be a good mother.  I didn’t know what to do when you clammed up and refused to talk, when my mother heart knew something was wrong.  You probably felt less important when you discovered there were fewer pictures and videos of you.  I wonder if I missed important moments because I was too busy.  I’m sure that sometimes I was too wrapped up in what your siblings were doing to notice your world.  I probably didn’t trust you enough to do the right thing, which made you suffer the consequences of the wrongs made by your brother and sister.

 

For every mistake—real or perceived—that I’ve made, I apologize.  If I could take them back, know that I would.  But more importantly, know that my love for you is fierce and unconditional.  And there is nothing that could ever change that.

 

My hope is that when I say I’m proud of you, that you believe it.  Not as a result of anything you have done or will do.  I’m proud of the person you are and the young man you are becoming—which includes your mistakes.  Perfection is not something I have (or will ever) expect from you.  If I didn’t do a good job at showing this to you, I hope you know it now.

 

Thank you youngest child, for putting up with my sometimes impatient and controlling ways.  Being the youngest isn’t always easy.  But you’ve done well.  I am a much better person because of you.  You have taught me a lot about laughter and not getting so worked up about little things.  And for that, I am grateful.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE “Dear Firstborn” and “Dear Middle Child.”

Dear Middle Child

 Although it’s impossible to get this parenting thing down to perfection; believe it or not, you were in a much better place being the 2nd child, compared to the 1st.  Little did I know at the time of your birth that you would also become the middle child…falling into the syndrome that leaves you feeling neglected at times.  Squeezed between the firstborn who gets the most privileges and the youngest who gets the most attention, it was probably hard to find your way in the family.

 

You weren’t immune to my mothering skills and flaws.  But you had the benefit of being a girl, which meant I could relate to you much better than you realize.

 

I oftentimes teetered between understanding your girlish ways and demonstrating impatience.  It must have been difficult to know which way I’d go.  But being a mom to a girl was a whole new world to me…in many ways, much scarier than raising a son.  It forced me to look at my own struggles with being “too much” girl and not enough.  It showed the strengths within but it also showed my weaknesses.  As a result, I was often quick to point out what you were doing wrong and focused on how I would have done things differently.

 

At times I didn’t think I had what it takes to be a good mother.  I didn’t know what to do when your world was falling apart or your heart was broken to pieces.  You probably didn’t get all your emotional needs met.  I wonder if I handled your passage into adolescence right.  I’m sure that I was unsympathetic at times and didn’t take enough time to really understand you.  I probably didn’t trust you enough to make good decisions, which made you feel like you couldn’t win with me.

 

For every mistake—real or perceived—that I’ve made, I apologize.  So often I parented out of fear.  But the root of that has always been my love for you.  A love that can’t be diminished by any choice or decision you have (or will) make.

 

My hope is that when I say I’m proud of you, that you believe it.  My pride has never been based on your actions or only when you’ve done the right thing.  I’m proud of the person you are and the woman you are becoming—which includes your mistakes.  Despite how it may have come across, I’ve never expected perfection from you.  I hope you know that now.

 

Thank you middle child, for putting up with my sometimes intense and emotional ways.  Being the only girl and stuck between two boys isn’t easy.  But you’ve done well.  I am a much better person because of you.  You have taught me a lot about empathy and trust in God’s ability to move in difficult circumstances.  And for that, I am grateful.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE “Dear Firstborn.”

Dear Firstborn

 Let’s face it…I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, from the moment I brought you home.  It was like navigating unknown terrain without the appropriate gear.  The only thing I had to offer you was my love, which in many ways was all you needed.

 

Yet in some ways, it wasn’t enough to overcome the experimental part of my parenting.  I did a lot right but I also made a lot of mistakes, ones that I wouldn’t be able to correct until the next child.  In fact, the youngest one reaped the greatest benefits of my learning experiences.

 

I oftentimes teetered between spoiling you and letting you get away with everything, to placing a great deal of pressure and expectation upon you.  It must have been confusing at times.  But being a mom was sometimes scary.  It forced me to look at my own insecurities and flaws.  It revealed the best in me but it also showed the worst.  And being a firstborn myself, I had to battle against the perfectionism that seemed to highlight what I wasn’t doing well.   As a result, I was too often harder on you than I should have been and reacted harshly when I shouldn’t have.

 

At times I didn’t think I had what it takes to be a good mother.  I didn’t know what to do when you wouldn’t stop crying or was throwing a temper tantrum.  You probably watched too much television and didn’t get enough home cooked meals.  I wonder if you were socialized enough the years I homeschooled you.  I’m sure that I was too strict and over-the-top with some of my religious beliefs.  I probably didn’t trust you enough in responsibility, which makes me think that I held you back.

 

For every mistake—real or perceived—that I’ve made, I apologize.  Regardless of them, I hope you know the depth of my love for you.  That nothing you have done or could do would ever change that.

 

My hope is that when I say I’m proud of you, that you believe it.  Not because of what you do.  If you thought that my pride in you was based on doing good things or things that I approve of, then let me correct that right now.  I’m proud of the person you are and the man you are becoming—which includes your mistakes.  I’ve never expected perfection from you.  If you didn’t already know that, I hope you do now.

 

Thank you firstborn, for putting up with my sometimes dramatic and confusing ways.  Being the Guinea pig is never easy.  But you’ve done well.  I am a much better person because of you.  You have taught me a lot about myself and life.  And for that, I am grateful.