For the young exhausted mothers, families who are trying to make ends meet, and providers who bring home a paycheck, I can only say, regardless of the messages from the world, and from your own hearts, “It’s worth it”.
I know I am speaking from another generation and another set of circumstances, but I don’t believe my view is really that different from experiences in the lives of human beings throughout the world. Families are important. I rejoice at the image of a child being rescued from a collapsed building, and I grieve at the sight of a lifeless body being carried from a disaster, no matter where it happens in the world. I know those people are valued and loved, and their rescue or their loss is felt deeply by those who love them.
How do we do it? Why do we wake each morning and plow forward once again? One foot in front of the other … again and again and again. I believe that we all do it from a common purpose, a common love placed in our hearts by God. And we can thank God for it. Otherwise our lives would be pointless. Our days would be empty. That is not what God intends for us now or to eternity.
Who should be employed? Who should receive a pay check … just compensation for his or her efforts? “Equal pay for equal work” is the rallying cry of many men and women today. But I heard it too in my day.
After centuries of women being relegated to carrying out the duties of the home, an important task, by the way, the conveniences of maintaining a home and the availability of education for both men and women, provided women with the choice of pursuing a career outside the home. Or simply help provide financially for their families.
This was a welcome choice for many women, married and single. I was a young woman when the clamor for women’s rights in the workplace was strong. Not only did women embrace the chance to be gainfully employed, but those of us who chose to stay home to raise our children, as our mothers had, felt the pressure to work outside the home as well.
I was educated. I had a master’s degree in education … and I enthusiastically chose to stay home with my six children. I felt the pressure to help out financially, but most of the women I knew stayed home with their children, and I thought I was doing my part to care for our children and our home and to provide a supportive family for my husband to come home to.
Yes, I taught school while my husband was finishing school, and I returned to office work when my children left home, but, by and large, when my children were home, I was there nursing and caring for babies, preserving food from our garden, shopping, preparing meals, taxiing the children to their lessons and activities and enjoying the give and take of family life. It was exhausting, and it was a lovely life to live.
I think as more women chose to pursue a career and daycare facilities sprung up to provide for the care of children, the pressure on young mothers to work outside the home increased. The demands of providing household luxuries and the perceived high cost of raising children added to that pressure, until it now seems to be accepted that it is impossible to raise a family without the support of two pay checks.
Is it only the “privileged few” who can afford to have a parent stay home to care for the children? Is my perspective skewed by my privileged circumstance? It may be. But I also see young women who want to ease the financial burden at home finding part time work, a job that coordinates with a school schedule or work they can do from their home. I see parents providing “home schooling” together. I see men staying home to care for their children, and grandparents, aunts and uncles supporting young families in many ways. Just as in many communities in the world, the extended family and a caring community is a lifeline for the support of family units.
I believe that the question of “just compensation” often cannot be answered for years. I can now look back on my life and see the effort I put into raising my family and volunteering in my community and in my church, and I cannot imagine anything compensating me more than the pleasure I had in doing those things. I honor the effort to secure financial support to provide for these uses by gainfully employed men and women and those who contribute financially for the support of others, but I cannot imagine feeling the richness of satisfaction in a pile of money at the end of my life as I feel in seeing the faces of my children and grandchildren. There is no comparison. And I have come to the conclusion, looking back, that this is the Master’s plan.
For Christmas this year, my husband framed Psalm 128 for me as a Christmas present. The true gift was to see God’s plan expressed so beautifully, and to have my husband present it to me as a gift. Here it is:
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!