Monday, July 2, 2012

Reframing the staying at home versus working debate


My family just returned from a visit to see family and friends in Kansas. We made it a priority to see friends this time and it was well worth the over scheduling!

While we were there this, this and this were circulating on the web. I posted some comments about them on my personal Facebook page as the very fact that we allow for moms that stay at home and moms that work to endure painful criticism just boggles my mind, but I was still working on a fresh take for my own project. The standard “Both are good!”  is nearly as tired as insulting one or the other.

I spent some time on our trip catching up with six women that I am thankful to call friends. This wasn’t a group gathering, and many of the women do not know each other. We had the opportunity to talk in a different way than you would at a party or event. This meant feeling like I was talking about the same milestones and hot topics over and over, but I spent the entire drive home thinking about these six women and our commonalities and differences. The seven of us alone are shining examples of how women make it in today’s world as married women and mothers. We are not all Catholic. We do not all identify as feminists. We are a mix of mothers that stay at home to raise our children, mothers that work and raise their children and mothers that do a combination. We are step mothers, biological mothers, and soon to be mothers. We differ on how to raise our children. We have different interests and perspectives.  Our commonalities lie in how we serve our families: with all we possess.

The obstacles that face our growing families these days are different than they have been for previous generations. With each new generation this is the case. Sure, there are some things that stay the same. The internet, Facebook and technological advancements change how we live and communicate. These things change families as well. It is not always possible for families to survive on one income. What I see happening amongst myself and my friends is an adaptation that is producing some pretty amazing results. This is about how parents parent and provide for their families, not about just mothers. Our children need us to be their primary educators. They need us to provide love, sustenance and shelter. They need our attention, love and support. They need us to be role models, they need to see us as people living our faith and they need OUR LOVE.  If all of these things are present, it does not matter what parent or if both parents work. It does not matter if a parent is at home full time. What I see among our families is seven different families (15 children) finding seven different ways to do all these things successfully. I see seven men that take the responsibility of being a father seriously. Seven men that want to do all they can to be solid fathers and provide for their families. Seven women that want to be solid mothers and provide for their families in any way they can. Seven families that provide for their families in seven different combinations that include primary and secondary childcare, extended families, jobs, careers and everything in between. When you bring life into the world, you are no longer just responsible for yourself. Providing for those little ones often involves the best kind of sacrifice: the kind that is no longer self-serving.
It is imperative that we recognize mothers AND fathers that do it all for their families. The environment we live in has changed. Men’s relationships with their children have changed, as have women’s. What difference does it make which parent brings home the money to raise a family if both are actively involved in the other non-financial needs of a family?
The meaning of life is an important question to everyone, regardless of faith (or lack thereof). I submit that the meaning of life can be found in your life’s vocation: mine is found in raising my children. If I have no other purpose in this life other than raising my children to be functioning members of society, I will do it to the best of my ability. If there is no afterlife and all I have is what I do on earth, then I will make sure my children are capable of raising their own children to be functioning members of society. Life happens. We are living it now and we are busy pointing fingers and hurling insults at those that stay home to raise their children or those that don’t. I submit that this is a detail that doesn’t matter if the true parenting substance exists. When I was younger, my brothers and I respected the “Thus who smelt it, dealt it” rule, and I think it applies here as well, but I will reword it: “Thus who insult others for lacking, lack it.”

Thank you to my wonderful friends and their families for summarizing my thoughts on this subject. I am truly blessed to know you all!

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