Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Please Let's Not Go There.


To reiterate an important principle in the creation of my blog, I do not post about political topics. (As the author of this blog, I do however reserve the right to change my mind at any time. But now is not that time.) While the setting is political in nature, this issue is not.

I want to tackle a topic that in all probability is more volatile than politics, which may be hard to believe in the current political climate. But trust me, this is a very sensitive topic, and I am going to try and handle it with grace and care because it strikes at the very core of a woman's heart. It is emotional for me to even write this. The topic is women with young children and whether they "should" work or stay home full time.

With the nomination of Sarah Palin, I just knew this one was coming. I hoped it wasn't, but there it was today on TV. Although I was young at the time, I don't remember this particular angle getting as much play when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for VP in '88. In '88 Geraldine Ferraro didn't have young children. In '08 Sarah Palin has five young children. And so the talking mouths on TV just had to go there.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are probably either a man or socially naive. (No redundancy intended.) In any case, let me fill you in - there is a terribly raw, painful, self-righteous "debate" that has raged between the camps of women who work outside the home while raising children versus the women who choose to stay at home full time with young children. It isn't all women fighting this war (there are frighteningly militant women on both sides driving this) - but in the end most every woman bears a wound from it. To understand how passionate women can be about this, you have to understand the deep, abiding fears women have. Women across the board fear two things - failing their children and failing themselves.

I am really nervous to even publish this blog (I am still debating, honestly), because it is such a touchy and emotional subject. There is even PC lingo I have to remember to use. You see, it is an insult to the stay at home moms to infer that they aren't "working" by calling the other group "working moms". And what do you do with the moms whose office is inside the home? Whose side do they "Red Rover, Red Rover" to? You may think I am kidding, but talk to any new mom, and if she is honest, she will tell you it is there. It is often unstated, but present.

I grew up in a house where my mom was home full time until I was in 4th grade. I always assumed I would be a stay at home mom - in fact, I don't recall Mark and I ever having a discussion about it prior to having kids. Looking back, I am reassured that it was the right decision for me. With my recovering-people pleaser personality, I couldn't have succeeded in either area of that life and kept my "Jesus". That is not false modesty or self-righteousness. That is self-awareness. I have good friends who work full time and raise young children and do it with joy and grace. My dear friend La (hey girl!) is a guidance counselor, has two great kids, a happy marriage, and absolutely no stress wrinkles on her face. Not one. I know everything in our lives isn't perfect, but I do OK with my life this way, and she does OK with her life that way.

Either women have finally started making their peace with each other, or I have graduated into a new age group of mothers who are too tired, too secure, or too mature to care what other people think of our choices. There are effective arguments that run both ways, but I think I stopped discussing it a few years back, and can I tell you - sweet release! Don't get me wrong, it isn't always too far from my heart - I have days where I feel like I am doing exactly what God called me to do, days where I desire more for myself, days where I am grateful for time to volunteer at Jude's school, and days where I think I must have been crack smoking to sign up to be a room mother. There is guilt and longing and shame and joy all rolled up together. With time I have come to realize that the "grass is always greener", but dogs still poop on both sides of the fence.

So here we are with Sarah Palin as the Republican VP nominee. And I hear a few in the media start down this road - can a woman with young children work and not short change either the family or the job? Hell, no. What a ridiculous question. I am a SAHM, and I short change multiple areas of my life every day. Then I hear "if her family needs her, she won't be able to serve the country as well". I certainly hope not. And that hope goes for the man too. If a man's family is in crisis, please tell me he would have the integrity to focus first on them. I find it ironic that with all the research and talk about the importance of fathers, why is no one tallying up the amount of time the male candidates are spending with their children? And what is the official magical age when women stop being a mother to their offspring and can be fully committed to another endeavor? The moms of adult children I know are still waiting. And if it takes a village to raise a child, then who the heck is working the fields?

Look. I am not about crying sexism and I am not going all feminist on you (see previous post for my stance on bra burning). But I will tell you that this is not just some fodder for the networks to chew on. Raising children is heart breaking, heart warming work that forces me to be painfully introspective on a daily basis. No mother needs another voice questioning her. Trust me. She's already a thought or two ahead of you.

This is tender, sacred ground that people are treading on. So I am asking, please, let's not go there.


LA said...

Please note my determination in finally getting signed up to comment! You are an awesome SAHM and thank you for the due respect on both sides. One correction, however, there are many stress wrinkles sneaking up on me!

Aly said...

I'm in awe! What an incredibly insightful post. I agreed with all of it! Being a mother is tough. There are days when I'd give me left arm to work "outside the home" but I KNOW that for me and my family I NEED to be home. I know Mom's who NEED to work "outside the home", for financial reasons or for sanity reasons, my sister being one of them. I am so sick of women not standing up for other women. Why are we the first ones to criticize and judge?s