Monday, April 25, 2011

The Sacred Mother

Recently I was chatting with a neighbor who dropped by to introduce herself. She is a young mother, like me, and had an adorable 15-month old baby girl. Our children played for a while, during which time my new friend and I got acquainted. As my new friend and her daughter got ready to leave, I mentioned to my new friend that I would really like to get to know more of the moms in the ward. She mentioned to me that she had been trying to get a play group together with the other moms, but she had realized that most of the moms with similar aged children were all working mothers. We both exchanged comments about how odd that seemed to us, since we live in a neighborhood of mostly established families – not families with husbands going to school or unemployed, but regular, mostly-well-employed, regular size families. In fact, my new friend had mentioned that her husband was currently in school, and yet she stayed home.

Later I mentioned this fact to my husband – that so many LDS mothers in our ward were working mothers. Most of whom work full time. My husband said something that hit me in the gut – “You and your friend are a rare find these days.” Really? In a neighborhood where our ward is less than a square mile, we are one of probably a hand full of stay-at-home moms?

I understand that there are good reasons for mothers joining the workforce, but I have a hard time believing that every one of these mothers has a good reason.

I have been reading the book American Grace (which I highly recommend) and was appalled to see that during the 1980s, religious women (read the book to find this specific definition of “religious” – but I think the definition is fitting) moved into the workplace at the same rate as secular women. At the turn of the century, religious women were working mothers at a higher rate than secular women had been working mothers at the beginning of the 1980s. This shocked me. I thought for sure as religious women, we would be more likely to hold staunchly to our beliefs that the mother is vital in the home. The most depressing statistic I found was how fast the idea became “old” (even among religious women) that mothers in the workplace had no negative effect on children. What a horrible untruth! As I said earlier, I know that there are good reasons for mothers to need to be in the work place, however I do not think, even under the best of circumstances and the most righteous of decisions, children are not affected negatively by their mothers being in the workplace. It is always ideal for mothers to be home with their children. In my opinion, the times when it is the least bad for the children is when the mothers readily and heart-breakingly admit that it would be better for their children if they were able to stay home with the children. When mothers start feeding themselves lies about their responsibility and sacred calling as mothers, they become disillusioned and are less likely to make (if able) the sacrifices necessary to stay at home with their children.

In one of the articles I have been reading, the author tells a story of a woman who was a working mother, and when working mothers were attacked in conversation, “she spoke up defensively, citing her need for intellectual stimulation, association with other educated adults, and the daily reassurance and satisfaction of a job well done.” This is exactly what I was talking about – none of these reasons are even close to good ones why a mother should be working outside the home – especially not full time. This mother goes on to talk about how she eventually realized the importance of her staying at home with her children, and stayed at home with her children.

My husband and I have discussed this at length, and I have constantly gone back and forth and back and forth between working and staying at home. I am gaining a testimony of the importance of my constant presence at home with my children. We have decided that unless we are unable to provide basic necessities for our family (very  basic – for example, bread, milk, fruits and vegetables – not steaks and hamburgers and dinners out and fancy meals) I will stay at home with the children. I will probably continue to tutor math occasionally, and I teach a few piano lessons in my home, but neither of these endeavors takes me away from my children – the math tutoring I do in the evenings after they are asleep, and the piano teaching I do in a group lesson which involves my children anyway. We will drastically cut our lifestyle before we send mother (me) back to work. Unfortunately, in society today – even among faithful Latter Day Saints – people are not willing to give up lifestyle choices simply to preserve the most sacred duty of their mother. If we are to raise up a family to the Lord, we know that we must do everything in our power to keep me at home, in the home.

Which brings me to my final point – that mothers who are in the home should learn to enjoy the sanctity of their job – and should learn to feel as if they have “intellectual stimulation, association with other educated adults, and the daily reassurance and satisfaction of a job well done.” If we as mothers are educated, and spend time with other mothers, we will be able to associate with other educated adults. Even if they are not formally educated, most mothers have the education of life. Mothers who read are even more educated, and most mothers I have met are avid readers. Caring for my children is the most intellectually stimulating (and emotionally exhausting) job I have ever done. I am constantly on my toes, constantly analyzing situations and circumstances to create a loving, spiritual atmosphere in our home. And trust me, I use every ounce of my college degree (in Math!) to be a mother.

It is interesting that most of the talks I read this weekend about motherhood were from the 1980s. Motherhood was under such attack back then, but really nothing has changed much. Motherhood is still under attack, and now it is under attack even among the ranks of otherwise faithful Latter Day Saints.

The most uplifting talk for me to read was this talk about spending quality and quantity time with your children. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes from this talk is this:

“These are quantity-time lessons that nobody can teach a child as well as a full-time mother. Seeing his mother do these things is much more significant to him than seeing a babysitter do exactly the same things.”

This article has helped me realize that just by being home with my children I am being a better mother than if I had chosen to be in the work place. I have been making myself crazy in the past few years because I feel pressure for every waking moment with my children to be “quality” time with them – but how blessed am I! Because I have so much quantity time with my children, really I do not need to spend every waking moment in quality time. There can (and should) be moments of quality time with each child each day, but I do not need to feel guilty for washing the dishes and doing the chores when my children are awake because they are learning from watching me (and at times helping me with these various household activities).

“As I am going about routine activities, my preschoolers, little as they are, are learning that a neat house does not appear by waving a wand. They are learning that playthings have a place where they belong and that among mommy’s priorities are things like cushions on the couch and not on the floor, and dirty clothes put in the laundry basket and not dumped where they were taken off. Apparently these are not easy lessons to learn, judging by the daily necessity to teach them all over again. But I am convinced that the baby trotting after me as I vacuum is gradually developing a preference for cleanliness.…

Quantity time is really the child’s glimpse into the life of his parent as a person, the person who existed before the child himself was born, and who will continue to grow and develop after the child has moved into independence.”

I really recommend this article as a good read to any mother, especially mothers who stay home with their children.

I have a testimony that it is more important for children to be raised at home with their mother than it is for them to have anything else other than maybe food, shelter, and clothing – but only the MOST basic of these things. If your family can fit in a $150,000 home, then mother needing to work to pay for a $300,000 mortgage is not the “necessities” of life. Mother needing to work to pay for rent or mortgage in a home barely big enough to house the family, that is a necessity. If your family can eat beans and rice and other cheap foods, then mother needing to work so that the family can go out to eat is not the necessities of life. I urge anyone who is thinking about sending mother to work look first at where they can cut expenses, where they can cut back, where they can move, what they can sell, etc before they make such a serious decision. I urge those mothers who do work to do the same – look at your budget, curb your spending, cut as many costs as possible. Get rid of cable television, stop eating out, stop buying new expensive clothes. Bring mother home. It is sickening to think that people would trade mother at home for anything other than the very basic necessities of life.

There is no other job as vital to life and spiritual survival than that of being at home.

What have you studied to help you make this decision? Have there been times in your life where you had to work in order for there to be a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your bellies? Have you worked when you didn’t really need to? Do you trade mother at home for the “comforts” of life? Or do you value to the sanctity of mother and sacrifice some worldly comforts for the immense blessing of having mother in the home?

Talks I studied:
Working Double Time: The Working Mother’s Dilemma
by Jan Underwood Pinborough
A View of the Eighties: What It Means to Be a Latter-day Saint Woman Today by Mary Alice Campbell
Mom – At Home by Derin Head Rodriguez
Giving Children Quantity and Quality Time by Beppie Harrison
Mothers Who Know by Julie B. Beck
To the Mothers in Zion by President Ezra Taft Benson

1 comment:

  1. Isn't that so strange?

    I've noticed it in my ward here, which I love. But there were far more stay-at-home moms in Wymount than there are here in NC.

    My friend who lives in Provo has noticed the same thing. Most of the moms who stay home run preschools or work part-time or have mental illness or addictions.

    It's so strange to me . . . So many of us are following right along with modern society.

    And what can I say? I've just made the decision to go back to grad school at night. But no one will be caring for my children while I do so but myself.


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