It was always my plan to stay home with the children. From early in our dating relationship, I made it clear to my now-husband, Mike, that I did not want to have children until we were financially prepared for me to stay home. After being married about five years, we had saved up enough of a bumper for me to comfortably quit working for at least a year. After that, I hoped to find some kind of work at home income. Our beautiful daughter was born and I was beyond thrilled to hold her, feed her, and tote her around town in my Moby. After about three months, I grew restless. I started a blog. I opened a home day care. I picked up more hours working as Children’s Ministry director at my church.
Then, I started getting really tired. I wondered why I was so absurdly busy and why I couldn’t be the type of homemaker I wanted to be. Still, I was staying home, so that put me where a woman belongs, right? Then we had another baby and things got really crazy. I resolved to get up earlier (you can read how that turned out here) and be more committed to making the house run smoothly. I cut back on my day care hours and found myself a little more relaxed. I had a little free time, so I decided to start making all my food from scratch and sewing my own curtains.
I was excited about finally “getting things right” at home, but I found my world growing smaller and smaller. I still had my friends at church, but beyond that, most of my conversations involved puppetting around a small plastic figure while I talked.
I picked up a book at the library entitled Bringing up Bebe. A good friend had recommended it to me, so I was anxious to glean whatever parenting wisdom it might dispense. Basically, the book is about the differences between American and French parenting and what we can learn from the French when it comes to raising children.
While I can’t stand behind all the ideals of French parenting (neither could Druckerman, the author), something that really struck a cord with me was the concept of cadre. Cadre is working to establish a balance in your life and not letting any one area, even motherhood overwhelm the rest. Druckerman says it best:
For some American moms, there’s something morally righteous about committing to motherhood at the expense of everything else, even their bodies….It seems selfish to take time away from their babies to tend to their fat or even talk to much about it (125). French mothers aren’t just different because they are thin. French moms get back their pre-baby identities, too. For starters, they seem more physically separate from their children. I’ve never seen a French mother climb a jungle gym, go down a slide with her child, or sit on a seesaw — all regular sights back in the United States. In American homes, every room in the house is liable to be overrun with toys. I’m also struck by the nearly universal assumption that even good mothers aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there’s no reason to feel bad about that. I frequently hear American stay-at-home mothers say they never use babysitters because they consider all child care to be their job. In France, the dominant social messsage is that while being a parent is very importaant, it shouldn’t subsume one’s other roles. Mothers shouldn’t become “enslaved” to their children (130).
There’s more to this thought, of course, but I think Druckerman speaks some truth when she expresses that motherhood becomes an all consuming role in America, especially for stay-at-home mothers. Is this good? Do children benefit from such exclusive attention or do they just grow up to be entitled and spoiled, incapable of finding their own entertainement ?
Photo Credit: Flickr: Stephen Downes
I just wonder, where did the obsession with staying home come from? Especially among Christian circles, it seems you’re not truly a good parent unless the woman is staying home. Is this actually biblical? Even the Proverbs 31 woman (often heralded as the ideal woman) seems to work outside the home: she buys and manages vineyards, she makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes (verses 14 and 24). I notice that she also has servants. I bet servants would really help my housekeeping skills.
I think we lift up the the old-time mother as something to be emulated. She stayed home with her kids. However, she was also busy. She made her clothes for her family, cooked and baked, and often grew her own vegetables. She was home, but she wasn’t playing with the kids all day.
Perhaps things have gotten a bit out of balance. Today, we have so many conveniences that we don’t really need to spend much time “making a home”. So, we’ve turned the stay-at-home mom position into “run-around-town-and-provide-enriching-experiences”.
Is this good?
What is the primary motivation for staying home? To make sure the kids are safe and well cared for? To develop the type of character that is important to your family? To enjoy the time together?
What About You?
What do you chose to do with your time?
Do you work outside the home? Do you stay home with the kids?
What’s the motivation? What’s the outcome?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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