03 December 2011

Latch-key ambitions

More inflammatory rhetoric, on this boring, boring Saturday.  

There is never a good time for a mother to return to “the workforce.” Children are far louder about needing you when they are babies, but they never stop needing you. They merely become a lot more polite about expressing how terribly they need you the older they get.*

Yes, there comes a point when children no longer need help doing the more banal tasks of being alive. (Someday, I will not have to summon the sitzfleisch for toilet training! HOO-FREAKING-RAY!) But there is never a day when suddenly a child can accomplish by himself the terrible and the beautiful tasks given all men to accomplish. There is never a day when a child, boy or girl, man or woman, stops needing his mother, not to coddle and coo, but just to be there. The child needs his mother as a structure needs its pillars, and as the ocean needs its boundaries.  

A daughter never stops wanting her mother, especially if that daughter is blessed to become a mother herself, as everyone here well understands. A daughter, be she married or virgin, never stops needing the consolation and shelter of her mother’s voice, presence, and help. There is never a good time for a mother to take on work that interferes with her ability to be a blessing and help to her adult daughters and to be fully a grandmother.

A man will leave his mother and father and hold fast to his wife, and in things both salient and subtle a good wife supplants a good mother in the life of a man. Thanks be to God. Even so, a man never stops being his mother’s son. If a mother takes work that interferes with her sons’ lives and happiness and well-being, then so much the worse for everyone. If a mother takes on work that makes her relationships with her daughters-in-law unnecessarily strained, that mother has cut and cauterized those heartstrings that once held her sons.

You absolutely cannot have it all. Should you go scrabbling after a sense of worth, you will find yourself begging for scraps of love in all the wrong places. Stay home, even when your house is empty. They need you there.   

Yes, this being there, this being a mother, is a cross for women. Being a woman is a much bigger deal than all that is stored up for fire would have you believe. But this being doesn’t look like much. It looks like years and years of patient waiting, of quietly resisting the erosion of your body and mind, and a lot of missed chances to contribute to the Social Welfare. It means submitting to being consumed and being all things to all your own people, instead of one comfortable blip to a myopic People that just barely exists. It means reflecting however imperfectly the Church who gave you birth unto life everlasting, until your days accumulate in the death of your flesh to the glory of your soul. But, look: we Christians know what to do with crosses. We do not flee from them. We do not decorate them with flowers, soak them in essential oils, and put them in storage to be borne when we have the inclination. We pick them up, splinters and all, when they’re given to us, trusting in Christ who promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light.

Regardless of what she does with her life, the Christian mother never ceases to be a mother to her children. Children are made to thrive in the warmth of a mother’s faithful, long-suffering obedience to Christ (and her faithful repentance of failure), even when that mother draws down a paycheck. But, think it over. Your children want you when they're small; they will want you even when they’re grown and busy and distracted (sinners are we all, and thus do we take for granted that which is best for us). And when the times comes for you to leave your children on their own, when your angel comes to bear you unto the bosom of Abraham, knowing that you wait beyond all shadows with the angels and archangels for that glorious Day wherein you will breathe again and be reunited to your peoplethat even in death you have not ceased to be their mother—gives your children courage to mourn as those who have hope. They will not stop needing you, even then. Be alive for them while you can. 

*Again, I know there are Reasons why some of you cannot be home, and that those reasons are good. Especially you, dear friend whom I love. Christ redeems my "good works" right along with yours, that we might have no cause to fret. Thanks be to God. 


Leah said...

The child needs his mother as a structure needs its pillars, and as the ocean needs its boundaries.

A mother's being there kind of reminds me of light, invisible in itself, but visible only in the effect it has on the objects it shines upon. You don't see the light itself (which is sometimes cause for lament and worry on the mother's side) in its steadiness, but it shows up only as its prism is split and shines out in a thousand rainbow colors in the thousand ways her children bear the fruit of (through the faithfulness of God) their mother's faithfulness to and continual repentance in her vocation of "being there."

Leah said...

I'm learning now, that as much children need their mothers, mothers need their children. Yes, we may complain about them and how the interfere with our plans and intentions; but we need them, too.

My great-aunt wouldn't allow her children to live more than 12 miles from her house. I would have been outraged when I 18. I think I can appreciate that now, as I'm a mother myself, and living far away from my own.

Rebekah said...

O Gauntlets, may you be forever bored.

Anonymous said...

I do work outside of the home even though my nest is emptying but not empty. I yearn not to "have it all". What I do yearn for is to have orthodontia (for many mouths paid for), a starter fund for Lutheran collegiate educations, wisdom teeth removed, license plates for our aged cars, auto insurance for our teenaged drivers, gas for said teenagers to get to part-time jobs so that they can save for Lutheran collegiate education, vaccinated pets (the mailman appreciates this), deductibles for those inevitable auto accidents and to cover the neighbor's window that my kid shattered with a golf ball, parochial tuition (pastor's kids aren't always free), etc etc etc. That, fellow readers, is a glimpse at my checkbook. So, what I aspire for is to put a structure around my children as they grow so that their heads are educated, their teeth are straightened, the wreck they drive is street worthy, and the home they live in has heat, shingles, and groceries.

I have no bitterness and do not in any way want to relate that. I actually feel called to my away from home job and I thank God for my job. What I do bring to this discussion is the idea that staying home, as the nest empties, doesn't pay very well and the expenses of a pastor's family are difficult to meet when children start spreading their wings. Perhaps your situation is different and the well will be deeper when you reach that point. Just wanted to share a perspective from the emptying nest side of the street. I enjoy the discussions on your blog.

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gauntlets said...

It is not bad for a mother to bring in money, even when the children are small. And it is certainly very possible for a mother to create an income for the good of her people or for petty cash. For instance, I appreciate Etsy for the earning opportunities it provides women, while taking very little from their families (some families manage the shop together, thereby securing a business education for the children that is increasingly rare in our nation). But work outside the home for a mother of mature children, while not immediately evil, imposes upon a woman and robs her family of her time. She answers to people other than her people. There are consequences to leaving your home, only one of which is a paycheck.

It is a struggle I have lived through on both ends. Whatever a mother chooses--whether to stay home forever, or to take on employment--she will have angst. I guess it's then a matter of choosing your preferred source of angst. :P

Gauntlets said...

Anon: thank you for sharing your perspective. There is much to consider when contemplating motherhood.

Leah said...

Here's another thought worth considering:

A mother who remains home, even when her children are grown and gone, not only has enough time to be a mother to her grown children and a grandmother; but also a caretaker for her own aging parents, or those of her husband. I don't just mean checking them into a nursing home, visiting often, and managing their accounts. But rather, bringing them into your own home- cooking their meals, washing their clothes, taking them to church.

And yes, I realize that this isn't a one-size-fits-all. But think of what a woman could do for her aging parents if she wasn't tied to a job outside the home.

Melrose said...

Leah regarding aging parents, your parents are blessed to have a daughter like you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I'm the only grownup whose heart is sometimes heavy at the prospect of weighing one's desire for her mom with her mom's "no personal calls or emails at work" directive. No, it's not an emergency . . . but you're my mom! :(

Emommy said...

This is a beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you.

And on the stay-at-home wife when the children have grown... I have been so blessed with a mother who, in the last several years, hasn't worked, and therefore has been able to keep a clean, comfortable, inviting home for my dad and for visiting friends and relatives. She gives of her time freely to her family since she often gets to travel with my dad for his work, which makes him a much better, much happier, much healthier exec than he otherwise would be. She gives to her children, and now grandchildren, by coming for long visits to help out. If ever there existed the intangible, priceless benefits of pouring oneself out for family in a stay-at-home-wife, my mother personifies them. She was voted something like "Most Likely to be President" in high school, and I know she has struggled with the cross of having wonderful gifts that the secular world would tout and cherish and ultimately forget; I'm just sure glad she has submitted to her vocations of wife and mother (and grandmother) so fully. I'm not saying all married women should forego employment outside the home; there's just much too little said about the gifts the women who "stay at home" give to their families.

MooreMama said...


I love you, too, Friend. All of this, my Husband KNOWS, but can you write him a letter for me? We've yet a year-ish on paying off all of the things that we bought on credit before our eyes were opened, and prayers are being answered left and right to facilitate getting me in my Place, but then we start seeing the possibility of a growing savings account and we are weak.

Anonymous said...

"A daughter never stops wanting her mother, especially if that daughter is blessed to become a mother herself." I can't say enough how much I appreciate that my mom is home and that she makes herself available to help my sisters and me in our vocations as wives and mothers with her time, her words of encouragement and all her practical advice. I am so thankful that God has shown my mom that motherhood is still a high calling for her even though her children are grown.
Grace K.

Reb. Mary said...

I appreciate this post since it's taken me so very, ridiculously long to stop thinking in terms of "what I'll do with my life once the kids are gone." (Whoops! There I go thinking it again! Stop it!) They're gonna be around a long while yet, and after that I'm gonna want to be around for them (and for any relatives on the other end of the age spectrum) when they need me.

Like others here, I too hope that the many flexible and part-time options may, years in the future, perhaps help fund things such as music and educational opportunities, and eventually a Grandparent Travel Fund. ;) Oh, to be crafty and clever enough to be Etsy-able!

Mary P said...

I never realized how much I need my own mother until I became a mother myself. I am very thankful for her "being there" for me when I need her, whether it's a short or long phone cal or an actual visit or babysit. Thanks for your encouraging posts.

oh, and I second Rebekah comment - O Gauntlets, may you be forever bored.

I wish I came up with such profitable, encouraging words when I was "bored"

Sue said...

I had no choice but to go to work when my boys were 4 and 7 because my husband didn't want to live with me anymore. How I hated that! Even when they were in high school, I know it would have been so much better had I been home when they got home from school. I envy mothers who can stay home with their children. I'm happy that with the birth of my first grandchild (now a year old), that my son and DIL are managing on just his salary, and that Henry gets to stay with his Mom all the time.