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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Call Me "Tiger Mom"

I read something last week that I haven't been able to get out of my mind.  It was this story about a mother who left her husband and two children ages 5 and 3, because she had an "epiphany" and realized she didn't want to be a mother anymore.  She was afraid of being "swallowed up" by motherhood.  She "had to leave my children to find them" and has opted for "part-time motherhood".

Now I have a question:  Exactly how can you be a "part-time" mother?

When Cecily (our oldest, now 13) was just a baby, I worked outside the home as a social worker at a state psychiatric hospital.  We had an older couple that kept her for us in their home.  One day after work, I had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick something up; Mike was picking Cecily up on that particular afternoon, so I was by myself.  We absolutely loved the couple taking care of Cecily at the time; they will always be known to us as Papa Noah and Mama Kay.  They loved our girl like she was their own.  Papa Noah gave her her first haircut (he had been a barber) and taught her to take her first steps.  She had her first McDonald's chicken nuggets with them.  And while I had complete confidence in the care she received from them and still feel like it was the best situation outside me being at home with her, I still grieve over missing so many things that first year of Cecily's life.

Back to the Wal-Mart trip.  As I was standing in line that day, there was a young mother with her little girl with her.  The little girl had to be around two years old.  She was a cutie with long brown hair and big round eyes and the cutest little smile on her face as she looked at me.  I will always remember her looking at me.  This young mother was yanking on her and really being fussy with her.  Mind you there wasn't a peep coming from this child the whole time!  Someone who obviously knew this young woman in the line next to us asked her how work was going to which the young woman responded, "Oh I'm not working. I'm at home."  The friend responded to that with "Oh, I guess you are enjoying being with that little cutie of yours then."

The young mother's response is one that brought me to tears and one I will never forget:  "Oh h*** no!  I'd hang myself before I had to stay with this kid all day!"

I remember barely being able to check out without losing it right there in the check out at Wal-Mart.  There was no way I could turn around and look at those big round brown eyes again.  All I could think about as I drove home that evening is how badly I wanted to stay at home with Cecily!  I would have traded places with that young mother, apparently in a position to be able to stay at home, gladly, except I would have been overjoyed to spend the days with my sweet girl with me!

Since that day, approximately 12 and 1/2 years ago, God has blessed with me two more gifts in addition to Cecily:
(Bentley, age 5)
(JennaBeth, age 2)
Fortunately, and not without its sacrifices, I have been at home with both of them.  Now I'm not throwing a token into the "mommy wars" on the stay-at-home mother side!  I've been on both sides of that fence and being a mother any way you slice it is a very hard job.  There are days when I am "swallowed up in motherhood" and days when I don't respond to the challenge with as much grace as I should. 

But by the grace and mercy of God, prayerfully I'm learning to be the mommy that Cecily, Bentley, and JennaBeth need.  And I believe that whether you work outside the home or you stay at home or some variation in between, CHILDREN NEED THEIR MOTHERS AND FATHERS FULL TIME!  

I really don't mean to vilify Ms. Rizzuto ( the woman in the article ), but I can't ignore that at the heart of her "epiphany" is absolute and utter selfishness.  I guess this kind of thing shouldn't shock me so taking into account the times in which we presently live where everything is given value based on whether it is convienent or not.  

Years ago I read a book by Sally Clarkson titled "The Ministry of Motherhood".  In the book she explores five "gifts" our children need:  the gift of grace, the gift of inspiration, the gift of faith, the gift of training, and the gift of service.  Early in the book, while discussing the gift of grace, she talks the grace of time together.  She relays the story of a time when she and her husband had just moved the family to a knew town.  They had four children and they were all missing old friends and having a hard time adjusting to the re-location.  It's half past ten and as she makes the tour of the four bedrooms to tuck them all in, her last stop is her 13 year old son's room.  

His "puppy dog eyes" begged for some attention and she shares that "to be honest, I didn't think I had it in me.  I felt drained and wrung out just trying to keep all four children happy and cared for in their restless need for more than I had to give."  Ms Clarkson goes on to share how she ends up sitting on her son's bed, talking with him and scratching his back listening to him pour out his heart.  At the end he shares, "Thanks for taking the time, Mom.  It meant a lot to me."

Ms Clarkson ends the section by sharing this:
"I once had dreams of great feats I wanted my children to accomplish with their lives.  I wanted them to have a strong moral character and be a testimony for Christ.  I wanted them to be leaders to their lost and wandering friends.  I wanted them to be excellent in their manners and conduct, work habits, and schoolwork and to be gracious and patient to each other.  I wanted them to take up their cross and follow after Christ in whatever they were asked to do.  I still have those dreams of course.  But I've realized that my dreams are not necessarily what really motivate my children to become the best they can be.  What matters to them is my loving presence.  Nathan wanted me to be his friend, someone who would take the time to talk and scratch his back.  And that's what all my children need from me.  If I want them to be open to my messages, I need to be willing to serve them - to voluntarily give up my rights and my time to meet their felt needs - just as Jesus was willing to give for his disciples."
So rather than a text message, Skype event or IM with them a couple of times a week, I chose to be with my three blessings.  There is no other place I'd rather be.