Now, it's all fine and good for me to commend maternal at-homeyness in any family for which it is possible because it's not like I had anything big going on besides ideas that may very well not have worked out. I feel rather more awkward at the prospect of saying so in front of someone who went to law school or med school or is a specialist in a technical field (by which I absolutely do not mean an English professor). Clearly these ladies have brains and are hard workers and have more to bid farewell than I did when I turned up pregnant.
But one of the main lessons to be learned from staying home is that it is not only, or maybe even primarily, the children who benefit from Mom being around. Though it may boost my self-confidence, increase the family's income, even "keep me sane" to be gainfully employed at work I enjoy and at which I excel (and I did have a brief and gratifying go at this), it is, in comparison, no refiner's fire. I do not mean that such work is easy. But its particulars are largely self-chosen, its rewards are predictable, it is genuinely respected by the public, and it more commonly reveals mistakes than sin. This is to say, it is the opposite of CSPP at-homism.
This quotation from an NPR story on French écôles maternelles stuck with me: "I was very skeptical at first, to send her there for basically all day. But eventually as the year went on, I realized that she was learning so much. I mean, she was teaching me rhymes, French nursery rhymes that I should've been teaching her. So she's having a good time, she's learning and she's with other kids, so she's playing. And I can't really compete with that, even though I'm the mom."
I hear you, Barbara. There are many other people who would do a better job of teaching my kids French nursery rhymes and about everything else in the world. I just don't like teaching three-year-olds nursery rhymes, even in English. A lot of times, I don't like teaching my beloved children even the things I really, really, really want them to know. I am impatient, temperamental, lazy, and selfish. Should I be surprised that I didn't learn the oceanic depth of these sad facts about myself until such things became my job?
But there's this, which I think might actually mean what it says. Arguing from the weaker negative, there's the fact that I don't really trust even the most wonderful teacher of French nursery rhymes (or the American top-of-the-line daycare equivalent, which I and most people can't afford) not to screw up my kids. And then there's the horrific baring of my most inveterate sins that this whole maternal experience has been.
As a "person," I could do without that last bit of nastiness. As a "person," I need affirmation and publication* and a paycheck to show how much I'm worth (heaven forbid that I should suffer from low confidence or a lack of identity!), not to mention adult conversation to purportedly preserve my purported sanity and a professional wardrobe to help me remember that I'm a still a terribly beautiful woman (which, apparently, a pregnancy does not indicate). As a Christian, such comforts take the edge off my hunger for a Savior. As a Christian, I can see a big difference soul-wise between my old lines of work and my current hourly reminders of how insidious and horrific is my enmity toward God.
The Christian mothers who are trained as doctors and lawyers, organic chemists and glaciographers--they are Christian mothers too. Just as our beautiful sisters must bow lower to receive the mantel of modesty, our brilliant and accomplished sisters must bow lower to pick up their little ones day after rambling day. They have as much to gain from the crosses and joys of maternity as any Christian mother. Given their brilliance, they may recognize sooner and treasure more deeply than the rest of us the rewards God offers the humble hausmutti: a desperate reliance on His grace, the sweetness of the Christian home, the gifts parents and children give each other throughout a lifetime. God bless those who can and do--and if any of them happen to be reading, thank you. Your example to the rest of us is a profound encouragement.
*she blogged, ha ha ha ha ha.