Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Just a Mom

Back in the 70's during the height of the "women's lib" movement, as best as I can recall hearing about it all the time, there was a television commercial that used to drive me nutty. You may recall it. It showed a woman arriving home from work, tossing something in a frying pan and cooking dinner all while putting groceries away, greeting kids and whatever else. While she was doing this a stupid song was being sung in the background that said "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, something else and something or other, because I'm a woman, w-o-m-a-n!" Oh boy I cannot tell you how much I detested that commercial. I'm not even sure why, it just seemed so lame, so in your face, and the woman in it didn't look like a mom I'd ever want to have.

Oddly enough I thought about that commercial today as I was busy doing 90 million things at once. Not to toot my own horn or anything (I'm too tired to even look for my horn, so there's no tooting going on around here), but I did more in my house today than this annoying woman could have ever dreamed of doing. Even though I slept in until nearly 8 am (I could never get away with that when the older girls were young and in public school), as soon as coffee #1 was properly administered, I was on the go. Laundry, straightening up bathrooms, and rounding up kids for school. After we did our lessons (we only did 4 lessons today, I skipped math for the day so I could get to my long list of to-do's), there was more laundry to deal with, a clogged toilet to plunge then snake since the plunging wasn't enough, several phone calls to make, bills to sort and a research project to work on. When that was done, I gathered up the required cleaning supplies and headed for the basement to clean out all the scary movie sized spider webs that accumulated over the summer, then half-dismantle the wood burning furnace and scoop 7 bags of last winter's ashes out of it. Doing all this in a most awkward position that I would discover later was not at all friendly to my back, AND while Ruth danced around the dirty basement asking me millions of questions like "how do the toads get into the basement?" and "why is your head in the furnace?" and critically important stuff like that. She's 4, she never runs out of questions.

By the time all that was done, I was just about wiped out but I still wasn't done. I still had more laundry to deal with, desperately needed a shower and then had to make dinner. I managed to get all that done too then get the girls ready for bed (Papa & Samuel were at the church tonight for Boys Club) and pray with them & tuck them in. Even after they were in bed, I still managed to get a massive amount of work done at the store (lots of new stuff this week!) and even found the time to dye my hair back to it's original dark brown color.

I suppose there are a few other things I likely did today that I have already forgotten, but that was the gist of my day, and this is the gist of most of my days. As I said earlier I'm not boasting about what I do around the house, because I assure you, it's about as glamorous as falling into a mud puddle or stepping barefoot on a big ole Pacific Northwest slug (yes, I've done both so I speak from experience). I only mentioned all the things I did today because that wretched "I am woman" commercial popped into my head today, and it made me wonder what I'm missing by being a stay at home mom, and what I've gained. I've been in the workforce before, I'm no stranger to that life. I've owned my own business, worked for others, had good jobs and had horrible ones. I've checked coats at dance clubs and helped senior citizens remember to take their meds & cleaned up after them when they had accidents. I've sold specialty chocolates at an upscale chocolate shop, and I've rung up orders at KFC. I served steaming hot plates of canneloni at the best Italian joint in town, and I've come home with my hands stained with woodstain after remodeling. I've dealt with more customers at customer service than I ever care to think about again in this lifetime, and I've been told I'm the nicest telemarketer folks have ever met. It must have had some truth to it, I did it for nine years.

I've done all those things, and yet I've also changed diapers, cleaned up after sick kids, helped them make their beds, taught them how to tie shoes, wash their own hair, and pray hard and fast when they stub their toe or cut a finger. I've made cookies and had them all eaten within hours. I've rushed kids to the ER, held their hands in ambulances, and wiped their tears away when a pet died. I've watched overjoyed faces as they open the gift they wanted the most, and I've taught kids how to read, how to spell, what a common denominator is, what a noun is, why mercury does what it does in thermometers, and why water falls from the sky. I've repaired 'do it yourself" haircuts they've all given themselves at the age of about 3, and I've let little girls too little to wear it, wear my lipstick. I've told them stories about my childhood and I've fielded more questions from more short people than I ever thought humanly possible. I've scolded kids up past their bedtime and I've admired their angelic faces as I peek in when I wake up before they do.

I can only say that it had to be the Lord, but the moment I looked into the face of my first child, just seconds after she was born, it hit me like a tsunami that "now someone else comes first". It wasn't a burdened feeling but a wonderfully honored and humbling sensation knowing that God put someone in my care. Its been the same with each of them, and remains the same with all of them still at home. For me, it is far more important that I be home with them and be there for them, than to ever be out in the workplace bringing home a paycheck. When I hear things like "thank you for dinner mom" every single night, from every kid - that IS my paycheck. When I see them resolve problems between themselves without running to me to tattle on each other, those are my long term benefits. When my body is contorted into a pretzel with my head stuck in the furnace scraping ashes into a scoop, and I hear my 4 year old asking why there are toads in the basement, and how they got in, those are the things I find worthwhile. (For the record, I'm not sure how they get in, I just know there were 3 of them down there today - two were taken outside and the third hopped behind the stacked wood).

Yep, I am just a housewife. Just a mom, and just a homeschooling parent. It used to really insult me to hear people say that, but anymore it doesn't bother me one bit. I know what I'm missing in the workplace, and I know what I'm gaining at home. I am right where I should be, and while it can be overwhelming sometimes, at the end of the day I am grateful beyond my ability to express with words, that I can be at home.

The added bonus is that I get to be a liberal woman's worst nightmare. I'm perfectly at peace with that one.