Thursday, April 24, 2014

Contributing to Society

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post that got under my skin. Yet I read it on the anniversary of my little sister's death (you can read about her in my post, Mackenzie Day), so I didn't feel like blogging about it then. Yes, death is tough.

While reading the first section of the article, A Letter From a Working Mother to a Stay-at-Home Mother (and Vice Versa), I thought, "This is great! I love that she's recognizing stay-at-home moms for all that they are and all that they do for their families!" But then I became annoyed at the second part of the article.

*Before I get to my annoyance, please let me say that I absolutely agree with the phrase the author wrote about work-outside-the-home moms, "I know you love your children just as much as any other mother."—I know it's true.

I also want to clarify that I totally understand that there are some situations in which a mother has no choice but to work outside the home. I have such empathy and compassion for mothers who struggle financially. I know how a mother's heart breaks when there is seemingly no answer in sight to the financial difficulties she is facing, for I have faced that same situation so many times in my life.

Yet my husband and I have always been blessed to find solutions that have allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and still meet our family's financial obligations. Those solutions have always involved sacrifice, but those sacrifices were absolutely worth it for me to be able to stay home and care for every one of my children's needs! And my husband completely agrees. :)

All of that said, here's the paragraph from the article that riled me:
"I know that sometimes you feel guilty about not being there all the time. But WM [working mom], I know this. You are setting a wonderful example to your children. You are showing them that a woman can have a career, contribute in some way outside the home, and still be a loving mother. You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want to do in life. You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love."
Even now, as I read through that paragraph again, I can feel my insides clenching. My fight-or-flight response has kicked into high gear!

You see, I believe that motherhood is the ultimate career. Raising the next generation is the greatest contribution to society that a woman will ever have the wonderful opportunity to be a part of. What continually frustrates me is to see, time and again, that women somehow feel that raising children isn't enough. I truly can't fathom that train of thought!

This sentence, "You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want in life.", made me want to shout to the world: Yes, women can do anything they want in life. Women are strong, capable and smart! But who will raise the children of those work-outside-the-home mothers to become their best selves? Who will spend the quality time and extra energy on those children in exactly the same way as their mothers would? No other caregiver will love a child as completely as her/his mother does, and anyone that thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. No one could ever fully fill the void in a child's life when their mother isn't there on a consistent basis.

*Disclaimer: I know there are some women who are not fit to be mothers. I'm referring to women who don't fall into that sad category. Also, stay-at-home dads are a wonderful option when the mom isn't available, and I wholeheartedly prefer them to day care, or nannies, or babysitters, every time! But I still believe the mother is the best option for her child, day-in and day-out. Also, I completely understand that no mother can be with her child 100% of his/her life. I'm referring to when a mother consciously and continually chooses to have a career (or other interests) outside of the home full-time, when she could find an alternative and make the sacrifices necessary to be a stay-at-home mom.

What I wish work-outside-the-home moms would think long and hard about is this:

What message are you sending your child when you leave to go to work? Are your actions showing your child that you love her/him more than anything? Or, are you silently and unknowingly saying, "I love you, but I love my job more because I leave you every day to go to work." Have you thought about what your child honestly thinks of your decision to work outside of your home? Because no child will willingly say something to their beloved mama that might hurt her feelings.

Yes, please think about your child first...not about your career and where it will take you in the future. (Again, this is not directed to women who have absolutely no choice other than to be employed outside the home.)

To continue, I cringed when the author praised work-outside-the-home mothers by writing, "You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love." For I believe every mother should give her strength, endurance, dedication and tenacity to her children...she should not give precedence to her career. Every child deserves to have 100% of their mother's very best qualities on a daily basis!

Instead, I fear many of our world's children receive their mothers' leftovers (I'm not talking about food!), because no one has endless energy or time. Every person has a set amount of give that they can share with the world. If mothers are continually giving the best parts of themselves to the outside world, there isn't much left to give to their children.

In his talk, Of Regrets and Resolutions, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has beautifully taught us the importance of cherishing our loved ones every day of our lives. He said,
"Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love. 
"Men in particular sang this universal lament: they “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill of … work.”3 Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends. They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them." (He took quote 3 from from Bronnie Ware, in Steiner, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”)
I think President Uchtdorf's example need not apply only to men, as it can absolutely apply to women with children who work unnecessarily outside the home on a regular basis.

I simply feel that if all women could actively internalize the immeasurable importance of stay-at-home motherhood, not only would they feel better about their decision not to work outside the home, but the children of our world would be happier, healthier, emotionally content, more intelligent, and feel secure in their lives. That might seem like a lofty list, but I believe it's entirely achievable.

Yesterday morning, I took a break from writing this post to get ready for lunch with my friend. I was stunned to hear the news story of a 15-year-old boy who hopped a flight to Hawaii inside of one of the rear wheel wells of the airplane, and he miraculously survived! My first thought was, "Why on earth did he do that?! He could have been killed!!" Yet, I wasn't surprised when I heard the suspected reason for his trip. It turns out, the young man was simply trying to get to his mother in Somalia. Wow. It pulls at my heartstrings to think of how much he must have missed his mother...enough that he would risk his very life to be with her again! That stowaway's sad story is the perfect illustration of just how much children need their mothers—no matter how old they are!

In the end, children grow up and move-on in their lives. When compared to overall lifespans, mothers have the opportunity to raise their children for a relatively short period of time. And if a child dies while still on the younger side, a mother has even less time with her baby. (I say baby even though I know children grow up and are no longer technically babies. Every mother's child will always be her baby, no matter how much time passes.)

If only all mothers would remember that they have the rest of their lives to work in their chosen career, I feel they would be able to make it through the long and tiring child-rearing days at home—with a happier spring in their step! :)

After speaking with so many elderly adults, I'm convinced that our numerous employment years will seem much l o n g e r than the time we spent raising our children. Also, depending on how long we live, please ponder the fact that retirement can roughly be the same length of time we spend raising a child to young adulthood! Seriously, wow.

We would do well to remember President Thomas S. Monson's sage advice (emphasis added):
"If you have children who are grown and gone, in all likelihood you have occasionally felt pangs of loss and the recognition that you didn't appreciate that time of life as much as you should have. Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future. 
"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly." (Finding Joy in the Journey, General Conference, October 2008.)
Yes, fellow mothers, let's dearly appreciate the fact that we have been given the greatest opportunity to be employed in the most extraordinary (albeit unpaid) profession there is! Let's enjoy every moment we have with our children, for we have merely 6,570 days (i.e., 18 years)—give or take a few—with our beloved babies in our homes. Remember, there is no turning back the clock of childhood. Thus, let's not hesitate to daily give all of our very best bits to our children!

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