Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lament of a Working Mom

Part 3 – "BE a Revolution?"
          I'm sick of sitting on my hands, letting Satan whisper in my ear that I'm too busy to get involved with anything, that there's still dirty dishes in the sink, and that I still haven't cleaned the bathroom.  For starters, there's no such thing as being too busy to pray.  In order to BE a revolution, as opposed to jumping on a revolution's already established bandwagon, one must exhibit individual activity.  In this particular situation, that could mean being actively prayerful with regard to praying for other moms, whether they work or not; or it could mean studying up on Biblical womanhood and motherhood.  It might just simply mean taking a stand against the lies that run through our minds each day, lies that are meant to bind us up and leave us helpless against further attack.  The word "revolution" is derived from the Latin word revolutio, which literally means "a turn around".  In this sense, then, I suppose I'm calling us (mothers and future mothers) to a personal "turn around".  Once we turn ourselves around, we will then be in a better position to turn others around, and to "turn around" the Feminist ideologies that we have grown up believing as inherent truths.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea to jump on the already-existing Feminist counter-revolution bandwagon by any means – it's just that, in my personal experience, once you jump on someone else's bandwagon, you generally wash your hands of personal responsibility for the situation at hand and tend to go along for someone else's ride, so to speak.  We've got to make it our own ride and own the revolution on an individual level.  As Jars of Clay sings in "Revolution",
"if you wanna learn to play the rock guitar
throw down your guns, you're gonna be a star
you got to begin with who you know you are
to be a revolution, yeah".
They make a very good point.  You've got to begin with who you know you are to BE a revolution.  Sometimes who you know yourself to be is vastly different from who you actually are on a daily basis.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lament of a Working Mom

Part 2 – “A Call to Action”

          I don’t know why God has me working right now, but it must be for a reason.  That does not meant that I’m going to cease my petitions to stop working, but I guess it does mean that I need to change my perspective and overcome the grip of the guilt monster on my back.  I know that I am not the only Christian working mom (WM) in the world, even if I feel like it sometimes.  I also know there are plenty of other WMs out there like myself that feel like they must spend every waking moment outside of work with their child to make up for all the hours they are away from them during the week.  In addition to being guilt-ridden, the “culture” of a WM is a busy one – and it is often a scattered one, especially if there are multiple children involved.   WMs don’t take much time for themselves or their spouses, and sometimes even household chores suffer as a result.  We are expected to do all that non-working moms (NWMs) do in the home, plus work outside the home, all in the same amount of time.  Add a child who doesn’t sleep through the night more than once or twice per week, and you’ve just added “exhausted” to the list of adjectives describing the WM culture:  guilt-ridden, busy, scattered, non-social and possibly exhausted.  Thankfully, I have a husband that understands this and tries to help out in any way he can, as time permits.  However, I know that not all women are blessed in this way, and the majority of the housework rests with them.  Regardless of whether the brunt of the work is on your shoulders or not, you’re probably asking the following question, just like I am; that is, “But how did I get stuck in this position?”

We educated, Christian WMs are some of the products of the Feminist movement, the casualties that no one talks about – a generation of mothers with  conservative values that want to stay home to raise their kids, (at least for the developmental years prior to enrollment in school), but may not be able to for various reasons.  We are not like the discontent NWMs who helped Betty Friedan to pen The Feminine Mystique, thus triggering second-wave Feminism.  The NWMs that Friedan interviewed for her book were discontent because they had identity and self-worth issues; they felt an emptiness and desperation and thirst for something “unnamed” that being a prosperous wife and mother did not satisfy – in my opinion, they had a hunger (that still exists today) that only Christ can slake.  They were looking everywhere for fulfillment, except to Him. 

Regardless, the emptiness that fueled the second-wave Feminist movement in the 60s seems to have re-shaped the former private/public spheres into more of an oblong circle.  Now, most American women do not really think twice upon graduation from high school about going straight to college, and then from college to follow the career path that their education has prepped them for (and to pay off all of their sizeable school loans).  Very few enter, at least in my experience, straight from college into a marriage/full-time housewife situation in this day and age.  Unfortunately, as a result, many WMs are now reaping some of the consequences of our nation’s and foremothers’ sins.  The “victories” of Feminism in the last few decades (legal abortion, male/female equality, the entrance of females into formerly male occupations) have effectively taken numerous mothers outside of the home (private sphere) and into places of work (public sphere), leaving many an American child in the care of day care facilities, babysitters, or at home with little-to-no supervision.  And these so-called “victories” have also left several WMs, including myself, with new identity issues.  If we’re mothers, than what are we doing at work for double the amount of hours we spend mothering each day?  I highly doubt, for most WMs, that working outside the home provides the type of fulfillment that the NWMs in Friedan’s book were pining after.

Perhaps it’s time that we joined forces in prayer, if not simply to repent for our sins and the sins of those before us, then for one another and for our children and their futures and future ideologies.  We must stop these newer (and the older) consequences of the Feminist movement before they bring forth more pain and identity issues.  It is time that we redefine the mother’s role apart from Feminism’s overshadowing, whether we are WMs, NWMs, part timers, or future moms.  It all starts with making peace with God and then peace with each other.  God has placed each of us in specific situations according to His plan, just as He did with Esther - for “such a time as this”.  We cannot allow our jobs to cause us to sink into depression, allow guilt to render us useless, or just try to survive each day without any goals, aspirations or dreams to strive for - that’s exactly what the enemy wants.  A counter-revolution to Feminism has already begun (check it out - http://www.truewoman.com/), but what we need to do is BE a revolution.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Coming Soon..."Lament of a Working Mom" Part 2!
Lament of a Working Mom
Part 1 – “My Story"

My friend from Zimbabwe once told me that, in the Shona culture, when a mother gives birth she is no longer called by her first name; she is thereafter referred to as “the mother of so-and-so” – her firstborn. This is the result of an identity shift that occurs immediately after the birth of a child that, for some reason, the Shona women understand and many an American woman can relate to. One’s focus is no longer on the “self” after having a child – instead, the mother’s identity seems to almost co-mingle with that of the child’s. Honestly, I feel like I should be called “the mother of Maya” instead of by my first name, since everything I do revolves around my daughter’s wellbeing. In fact, the owner of the daycare she attends calls me “Maya’s mom”, mainly because she sees scores of parents every day and can’t keep all of their names straight. However, I find it to be a comforting address, seeing as though I beat myself up each and every day because I feel like I’ve been a terrible mom – some days I even feel like I don’t even deserve the title of “mom” – because I work full time. Thus begins the “Lament of a Working Mom”.

Let me start off by providing a bit of background: My mother only took two weeks off from work when I was born. As a result, from the time I was two weeks old until I was about three years old, our neighbor Felicia babysat me. When I was three, I began attending pre-school. So this lament is coming from a woman who has been indoctrinated in the “culture” of a working mom. I was a very lonely child, from what I can remember, because I had no one to play with up until the age of three. Don’t get me wrong, Felicia was a great babysitter, but sometimes kids just need to be around other kids. By the time I entered pre-school, I was a bit behind the other kids in terms of socialization, so it was harder for me to make friends. As such, all I seem to remember about pre-school is sitting as close to the door as they would allow and crying until my mom picked me up. I’m sure I didn’t do that all day, but that is one of the main memories I have of it - that and trying to go to the bathroom while standing up. But that’s a story for another time.

Since I was indoctrinated in the “culture” of a working mom, which we will discuss in more depth later, and since I blamed my lonely childhood in part on the fact that my mom did not stay home with me, I always thought I would never do the same thing to my own child. Unfortunately, I didn’t really set any goals or make any specific points to enable that to occur. I ended up getting pregnant earlier in life than I had expected, so I was not in the financial position to stay home for more than three months after giving birth. At this point, I have a feeling that one of the following thoughts are running through your mind, especially if you are a non-working mom (NWM): “There are plenty of things you could do and/or sacrifice to stay home with your child. You could downsize – live in a smaller home. Sell something valuable. Drive a used car. Get rid of your cell phone or cable bills.” Let me assure you that my house payment is less than half of most house payments paid by others my age, including taxes, (and probably half the size), and I do drive a used car. I just got cable TV and I’m not willing to let that one slide yet. Besides, the measly $40 per month isn’t going to enable me to stay home, and neither is getting rid of my cell phone bill. At any rate, my point is that I have crunched the numbers again and again, and I don’t think it’s possible to squeeze much more than a couple hundred dollars from our current household budget. Again, even if I did, it still wouldn’t amount to the total I make by working outside the home, even AFTER child care costs are removed.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, you might be starting to recognize some of my struggles. In my circle of friends and acquaintances with children, I am the ONLY one who works full time outside of the home. So, out of about 15 women that I have at least some contact with on a weekly or monthly basis, I am the only one who must put her child in day care five days a week. As such, I have heard some of these women claim, even in my hearing, “I would never, ever put my kids in day care. I would never let someone else raise my children. That’s just terrible”. Here’s a tip for you NWMs: Do not flaunt your status in front of working moms (WMs). We feel bad enough as it is – we do not need you to tell us how terrible we are for having others raise our kids for us. My primary struggle lies with being away from my child all day long. My secondary struggle is with the guilt associated with all that being away from my child entails – having someone else raise her, not being there to witness certain milestones, and having to deal with the consequences of other children teaching my child some very bad habits. Lastly, my tertiary struggle is with jealousy. At least twice a day, the following thoughts run through my head: “Lord, why is every Christian woman I know, except for myself, able to stay home with her children at least part time? What have I done wrong? Am I incapable of staying home with her – is that why you have me working?” Of course, I have not received answers to these questions, probably because I’ve asked them with wrong motives. One day, however, the Lord did show me that Maya has reaped many benefits from being in day care – she is certainly not a lonely child like I was, so in a sense, I’m not reinventing the wheel. That was a somewhat encouraging realization.

Yes, I am a Christian. “GASP!” That’s right – a Christian woman who is often jealous of other Christian women – and one who is working full-time outside of the home. You might be thinking, “But that’s not God’s plan” – well, it appears to be God’s plan for me right now. I’ve petitioned my husband to no avail, I’ve petitioned the Lord, I’ve crunched numbers, I’ve run various scenarios in my head – all to end up sitting in this chair, in front of this computer , for 40 hours every week since my child was three months old. She is now 14 months old, and just this morning, I cried when I dropped her off at day care. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t have asked for a better establishment for her to attend, but just recently she moved out of the Infant 1 room to the Infant 2 room, and this morning she was just not a happy camper and didn’t want me to leave. So I stood out in the hall, tears welling up in my eyes, waiting until she stopped the hysterics. I cannot leave if she’s not happy, even if that means being late to work. Some weeks things go well and I worry that my heart has become hardened to leaving my child in someone else’s care every day. Other weeks I feel just like I did the first day I left her there – like someone ripped my heart out of my chest, threw it on the ground and smashed it to pieces. So here’s another tip for you NWMs: Do not assume that WMs work because they do not want to, or are emotionally unable to, stay at home with their kids. Sometimes it’s much more involved than that.