Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hiring Out Our Future

If you've read some of my other blog posts, you've seen my passion for parenting, raising children well and strengthening families. I write about those topics a lot because I'm right in the thick of raising my darling children, so they're constantly on my mind. Oh, how I love my two handsome boys and my beautiful daughter! So, yes, this will be another post about the importance of motherhood and fatherhood! :) If you're bored of the topic, I say, oh well! #sorrynotsorry ;) And if you choose to be offended by my words, please read my previous blog post, "Pesky Pernicious Perilous Pride." :)

I've been fiercely loyal to stay-at-home motherhood my entire life. This strong loyalty comes mainly from my sincere love and concern for the well-being of all children, but also from knowing my own mother as a stay-at-home mom and a career mom. My mom and I have talked about this issue umpteen times and we've come to an understanding about our lives and the way her magnificent teaching career affected our family, so I know she's okay with me writing about her in this way. (Hi Mom! I love you!)

Basically, it comes down to this: my life was awesome when I had a mother whose primary responsibility was her family; my life was not as great when my mother went back to work.

Don't misunderstand—my childhood family did very well in life and I'm sure we appeared quite successful to those around us. In fact, I'm guessing many people out there would hear our family's story and say, "Boohoo. Quit complaining. Your life was a walk in the park compared to mine." But when it comes right down to it, my father should not have asked my mother to go back to work so he could open his own business, and—as utterly heartbreaking as it is to see his pain—he's freely admitted his mistake.

By the way, there are so many layers involved in my childhood family's story that I don't have time or stamina to go into them here. Suffice it to say, my mom most definitely wasn't on-board with my dad's decision to have her go back to work and that decision affected all of us—in mostly negative ways. Now that our family history has been written, my dad agrees with us that my mom should have never been required to go back to teaching.

*The great paradox of my childhood family's story are the hundreds of students my mother so positively affected. She literally changed countless lives for the best because of her marvelous teaching abilities, talents and endlessly loving/happy personality. My dedicated mother was such a force for good! I know my mom's students are so grateful for her and I'm so glad they see her immense value, but our family suffered while they benefited from my mother's sacrifice. Even though I've moved-on and absolutely love my life, I regret my childhood family's loss to this day.

I'm guessing my younger sisters didn't feel so sad about my mom going back to work because they were just that: too young to remember the difference. I, on the other hand, vividly remember the difference in my mother before she went back to work and after she became a career woman.

My sweet mama always passionately states that she wishes she could have been a full-time stay-at-home mom more than anything! At least she had the opportunity to stay home with her children for about 14 years. And you'd better believe I am so thankful for those 12 years I had with my mom at home!!! In our general society, I'm guessing most people think that 14 years is way too long to stay home with your children. But in a child's mind, I'm guessing they never want their mother to leave home—because I felt exactly that way.

Thus, I've been disturbed again (what else is new?! ha ha) with what is going on in our world. Call me a broken record, but I firmly believe all of our world's woes come from children being raised by people other than their happily-married parents. Children need to be raised by their mothers and fathers! Call me a traditionalist (I'll take that as a compliment!), but I still believe mothers are the best day-in and day-out caregivers to their children. Yet if a father is able to be a stay-at-home dad, I'm all for it! :)

What I'm saying (and will continue firmly stating until the day I die!), is that children need at least one parent home raising them at all times. That parental influence needs to stay with the child until he/she has graduated from high school! Of course, dating and occasional short vacations (for parents) away from home are okay and good for every family (as long as another competent caregiver is present), but parents shouldn't be the occasional caregivers that show up between work hours or social events.

My strong feelings for this post were spurred by a few articles I stumbled across over the past several weeks. For starters, I read about Marissa Mayer's scheduled upcoming 14-day maternity leave in this LinkedIn article, "How Marissa Mayer's Maternity Decision Affects Young Women—Whether She Likes It Or Not." (Marissa Mayer is Yahoo's CEO.) I seriously wonder what Ms. Mayer thinking? At the very least, she should remain at home for six weeks to allow her body to heal from delivering her twins! Don't agree with me? Read, "Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth—Recovery At Home," by WebMD, and you might change your mind. Thinking about the two babies at home who will need Mrs. Mayer—and deserve her!—makes me want to cry. Every baby needs their mother!

I also clicked on the link inside the above-listed article that took me to Time Magazine's article, "Matt Lauer Asked Mary Barra If She Can Be a Good Mom and Run GM" (the title is self explanatory). I shuddered when Mary Barra said, "I’m pretty proud of the way my kids are supporting me in this." Seriously? The way your kids are supporting you in this? Um, Mrs. Barra, parenting works the other way around: we must support our children in every way possible as they grow and until they leave our nests!

Both of those articles convey the problem with our society: children are often viewed as assets to be managed, not raised. I sound unbelievably harsh, but I can't stop wondering: why do parents have children if they're just going to hand them off to nannies, daycare and after-school programs?! And no, I don't want people to stop having children...I just want children to receive the proper and continuous attention they deserve from their parents! :)

Hey, I get it. There are certain times when outside childcare is necessary for survival. The lovely family I nannied for in Michigan was in a tight spot: divorced/single mother of a special-needs child. That precious soul with Down Syndrome and Autism was precisely why I wanted to become a nanny: because I knew his sweet mother literally couldn't do it all by herself. If she didn't work, where would they live—how would they survive? The same generosity applies to single fathers, widows and widowers. Thus, I knew my intense love for helping children grow and progress was exactly what that darling single-parent/special-needs-child family needed. I was so happy with my chosen "profession"!

But for those families that are in the sweet spot of having two living married parents, why won't one of them stay home full-time to care for their child(ren)? Why won't they alternate the stay-at-home parenting duties between husband and wife?

A few weeks ago while folding laundry, I decided to watch the series finale of Melissa and Joey on Netflix. Despite their differences in lifestyle choices from mine (lack of following the Word of Wisdom; and major morality issues), I greatly enjoyed their chemistry and some of the story lines—they really made me laugh! But at the end of the episode (spoiler alert!), I was more than disappointed when Mel decided to still run for congress even though she found out she was pregnant with twins. Part of the last scene played out like this:
Mel: Someone wants to publish your book? That's great!
Joe: Well, yeah, I know, but it's not gonna happen.
Mel: Why not?
Joe: Why not? Because read on, honey, they also want me to do a big book tour.
Mel: That's fantastic!
Joe: No, no, it's not fan... Com'on, we can't have twins, run for congress and a book tour—that's not gonna work.
Mel: Are you kidding, Joe? That's the starter pistol. Bang! (That's another part of the story earlier in the episode.)
Joe: Do you really think we can do it?
Mel: We'll hire a nanny!
Insert Adrie's commentary: A nanny is not the answer! Aahh!
At that very moment I thought, "Melissa and Joey's mentality is precisely what's wrong with our society—everyone is hiring out our future!" And after everyone has hired out our future—i.e., raising the children of this world through nannies, daycare and after-school programs—they have the audacity to wonder what is happening in our world! It is very frustrating to me.

Granted, I know not everyone is struggling. There are a lot of happy families and I'm so very grateful for their wonderful influence on our world! :) But the endlessly tragic/horrific news stories—that seem to get worse with each passing year—have everything to do with the way our world's children aren't being raised enough by their parents.

Children are crying out for the unconditional love, attention and time of their parents. When those special spirits (every child is important!) don't receive what they need at home, they look elsewhere to fill their "love buckets." Sometimes they land in a good spot with good people to teach, mentor and love them, but more often than not, those soul-wearied children end up in situations that turn them into less than our Heavenly Father intended, which is a true tragedy.

Many of those children recover from their less-than-stellar childhoods and go on to live very good lives—and I strongly believe every adult is responsible for their own happiness. Yet countless other children stay in their sad lives and become the adults who are unable to see another way to live. Sadly, when those lost children become parents, the regrettable cycle continues.

I admit, there are dismal childhood outcomes for stay-at-home parents, too, despite their best efforts. I know stay-at-home parenting isn't the 100% cure-all for every problem in our world—but it comes pretty darn close at 98%! ;) (That's my personal figure. Ha ha.) That said, I wish I could spread my soul's feelings/thoughts to every corner of our universe:

Children need their parents at every single stage of their lives! Just because a baby won't have memories until they are two, that doesn't mean said baby doesn't need a constant and consistent caregiver, i.e., a stay-at-home mother or father! Just because a pre-teen is ultra capable and responsible "above their years," that doesn't mean said older child doesn't need a parent who is daily involved in supervising their growth. Just because a teenager earns great grades, or is a fantastic athlete, or is super popular in school, or has a bright future with a college scholarship (how exciting!), that doesn't mean said teenager doesn't need a parent to come home to every day after school, and one who can stay up late to hear about every date!

*I also think children who are forced to grow up too quickly have major life struggles that could be avoided if they were simply allowed to be children until the proper time.

My list of children's needs go on and on. I'm sure many people reading my blog posts are tired of hearing me say the same things over and over. (Is anyone still reading?!) Yet I cannot get my feelings (about raising children) out of my mind, and my blog is my favorite place to share my thoughts! :) Besides, my thinking eventually returns to, "There has to be someone, somewhere, reading my post who will make the best choice for their family and become (or continue being) an attentive/engaged stay-at-home parent! Surely they'll realize their sacrifices can instantly change their child's life for the best and just do it!" At least I have hope that my words can help somehow! :)

Recently, I was so excited to see the conclusion to an article I read three years ago on The Atlantic (I love that magazine!) because it definitely helps support my feelings. I'll talk about the first article, then the most recent article.

In 2012, I eagerly read "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All," by Anne-Marie Slaughter, July/August 2012 Issue. Based on the title, I initially thought how great it would be to read an article by a successful career woman and mother who was willing to lay it out so plainly: that women cannot have career and family success at the same time—that one of them will suffer, and we ladies must choose. I dearly hoped she chose full-time stay-at-home motherhood! Instead, I was disappointed to read these sentences:
"I still strongly believe that women can 'have it all' (and that men can too). I believe that we can 'have it all at the same time.' But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured."
and 
"...I had the ability to set my own schedule most of the time. I could be with my kids when I needed to be, and still get the work done."
I still get so riled up by her words because, again, the author's thoughts seems to be focused more about what she (the mother) wants, not what is best for her children! It's another classic example of the mother fitting her children into her schedule—when it's convenient for her—instead of being available when her children need her.

My view of motherhood resembles this: picture in your mind children happily playing, working or studying. Their mother is in the same room, working on whatever it is she needs or wants to get done, but she is available to help her children out whenever they need her. Obviously, the mother is available to the realistic extent possible because I know no mother is available literally every minute of every day. Mothers are not slaves. Children need to be taught the value of patience and that the word "no" is a part of everyday life. But my point (in my view of motherhood) is that all children should be given the opportunity to learn, grow and enjoy life with their mothers nearby. Then the mother is able to successfully interact with her children in happy/fun/intelligent/kind ways, and make needed course corrections as they arise. The mother certainly doesn't need to hover, but there is such a peaceful feeling children receive just by knowing for sure their mother is completely there for them—in every sense of the word! :)

Later in the article, Ms. Slaughter made the statement, "The discipline, organization, and sheer endurance it takes to succeed at top levels with young children at home is easily comparable to running 20 to 40 miles a week." I understand she's stating how hard it is for women to break into a man's career world, but when mothers are raising their children, I say motherhood is the ultimate career! Succeeding at "top levels" doesn't have to include a paycheck in your mailbox every two weeks or a glowing year-end review with a Christmas bonus!

To use Anne-Marie's own words, "Our assumptions are just that: things we believe that are not necessarily so." Nope, it's not necessary to have the immaculate business office, a beautiful view of the city, an envious pension plan, the fancy job title, and an amazing paycheck with the prestige and honor to match, for the title of Mother supersedes it all. Yes, ladies, once our children are raised, we'll have plenty of time to climb to the very tip-top of whatever career we choose—while simultaneously shoveling piles of money aside! Ha ha.

But I digress...

One of Mrs. Slaughter's sentences, "Perhaps the most encouraging news of all for achieving the sorts of changes that I have proposed is that men are joining the cause." is the perfect lead-in to the follow-up article in The Atlantic, "Why I Put My Wife’s Career First," by Andrew Moravcsik, October 2015 Issue. The author is Anne-Marie's husband, so I was fascinated to read what he had to share about their family. Mr. Moravcsik states (these sentences are from all over the article, not right in order):
"A female executive needs what male CEOs have always had: a spouse who bears the burden at home." 
"...most two-career families sooner or later find that one person falls into the role of lead parent." 
"Lead parenting is being on the front lines of everyday life." 
"Lead parenting is not merely its own reward; it also unlocks a capacity for caring and closeness that can last a lifetime." 
"Despite many days of weariness, I would never give up my years of being what the journalist Katrin Bennhold has called 'The One'... ...When my sons turn to me in this way, I feel a pride that is in many respects deeper than any pride I have experienced professionally."
Yes, Mr. Moravcsik gets it! :) I'm glad his wife and sons have him in their lives! His choice to be the lead parent is precisely the example other husbands and wives can look to when the mother wants to pursue a career outside the home. Yet I still would have recommended that he be the stay-at-home father—but a lead parent is better than a nanny, daycare or after-school programs! :)

That said, I must reiterate that I truly believe with my whole heart and soul that women are best suited for the full-time job of raising of children. (As I've said before, I know sometimes that blanket statement doesn't apply to everyone.)

To further support my mama-bear thoughts, please read this sentence from Andrew's article, "Despite their superior performance in college, surprisingly few women reach the pinnacles of professional success..." *If that previous sentence is true, then women really are the best candidates for the job of raising children! Take that! Ha ha. Sorry, I just couldn't resist throwing that fabulous tidbit in there. ;) And Dr. Bill Sears agrees with me (no, I've never met him, but I'd like to!):
"To your baby, you are the best mother." – William Sears, The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby
Of course, his wonderful advice applies to our children as they continue growing—not just when they're babies! (Click here if you'd like to read more of Dr. Sears' fabulous quotes.)

In all seriousness, I'm grateful there are fathers willing to sacrifice and take on the primary responsibilities of raising children. Their families will be blessed for their selfless efforts!

Please understand that I know parenting is difficult. I'm an imperfect mother and have much to work on. I know how hard staying home and raising children can be because I've been doing it for the past 15+ years! I know the feeling of "missing out" on corporate pats-on-the-back; raises; bonuses; recognition dinners; awards; certificates; new wardrobes for work; traveling abroad; adult conversation; company parties, etc. I'm intimately familiar with the feelings that come from child-induced sleepless nights; hunger pangs because I'm too busy caring for children to eat; crumby floors when I just vacuumed(!); crying fits (mainly from my children but occasionally from me! ha ha); multiple shopping trips in one day (this happened even before our children were diagnosed with celiac disease); loneliness when children return to school; endless budgeting from making it on only one income; repeatedly staring at our food, wondering what to make for dinner; driving/owning loud, old cars; never-ending laundry piles; dishes that seem to multiply overnight; chauffeuring children around until my hiney is numb...my list could go on for days! Oh, and I can't forget my postponed desires to blog on a consistent and regular basis—it's taken me a solid month to get this blog post and typographic designs published! Can you say frustrated?! Ha ha.

Here is evidence of just how tiring mothering can be:

Survival Mode Mothering, February, 2005.
Yes, that cleverly dressed young mother is me! Greg came home from work one day and busted up laughing at the spectacle of his wife—he had to take my photo! (And I'm really grateful he did. Our family's photos are priceless to me!!!) You see, at that time, my youngest son was a total mama's boy. He wouldn't let me out of his sight without wailing something fierce! Thus, I did the best I could by wearing him on my back for several hours a day. We went everywhere like this—including the grocery store! (People would just stare at me with my son on my back, my daughter in the front seat of the shopping cart, and my oldest son holding my hand.) My awesome hat was so necessary, you have no idea! My baby boy loved to play with my hair (still does!), so to keep my sanity (and my hair in its roots where it belongs!), I put my hair in a bun and a hat on top! My horrible outfit was chosen because I would get very sweaty hefting my darling son while cleaning our house and I didn't want to ruin my nicer clothes. And you have no idea how much I wanted to curl up on our couch just like my darling and sassy daughter! HA! So, do you see? I totally get how hard parenting is! :)

Yet none of those previously mentioned "difficults" will ever come between my children and me—or my husband and me, for that matter! As tiring as it is being a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn't change a smidgen of my life's greatest choice! Besides, I potentially have less than three years left before my oldest son is out of the house, and only seven years until I could be an empty-nester! Say what?! I don't know when my daughter will choose to leave home, but she said she wants to get an apartment after high school. Those thoughts blow my mind.

Thank goodness Greg and I were on the same page from our very first conversation about our potential for parenthood. How grateful I am to Greg that he supported me in my dream of stay-at-home motherhood because I would have been greatly disappointed if he would have wanted me to be the breadwinner, or have both of us work outside the home. Our lives would look completely different today if we had hired out our future, i.e., paid someone else raise our children.

I recently read this wonderful quote given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) at the World Meeting of Families:
"I've heard it said that raising children is like growing a garden. You can’t force plants and flowers to bloom when you want, the way you want, but you can do much to provide an environment that makes flourishing likely. ...The essential element is not just what we do, but what we allow God to do through us."
Yes! We need to create a lovely, peaceful environment for our children to grow and thrive. When children feel unconditional love and safety, every important thing in their lives can fall beautifully into place!

Elder Christofferson's last sentence is key. We parents must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices that allow our Heavenly Father the opportunity to raise His children wellthrough us. Who better to continually love, care for and raise God's children than the parents he appointed through birth?! :) Not only do we please and honor our Heavenly Father in that wonderful process of serving our children (His children!), we absolutely become better people!

I have hope that one day the people of our world will look to the examples set by stay-at-home parents as the healthiest way to raise children and follow suit. I'd love it if parents would examine the sacrifices associated with raising children and, instead, view them as indispensable blessings: a lifetime of opportunities for self-improvement! My dreams for society might never be realized, but at least I'm living my dream and actively raising Greg's and my children 100%! :)

I truly believe there is nothing more beautiful in this world than happy traditional marriages followed immediately by glorious motherhood and fatherhood! I say to everyone:
Motherhood looks good on you!
Fatherhood looks good on you!


4 comments:

  1. That picture of you and the accompanying explanation is seriously one of the best things EVARRRRR! I'm so glad that Greg captured that moment forever. Mothers are resourceful and amazing humans, and you are a shining example of that. Love you sista!

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    1. Thank you, Carly, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and especially your cute comment! :)

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  2. Hi Adrie! Long time, no read!! Reading over this post made me think you would love the book How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. It is about poverty, education, and how proper parenting can help fix it all. The researcher and psychologist in you would doubly love it because it is thick with studies. Tell me how you like it!

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    1. Hi Denita, I've missed you! ;) That book sounds fascinating—I'll definitely check it out one of these days!

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