Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Many Seasons of Life

In another forum I frequent, a woman suggested that mothers who stay home with their children are little more than babysitters and are shortchanging themselves and their communities by not "doing more". She also suggested that women are taken less seriously by men when acquiescing to the age old sentiment that "A woman's place is in the home".

Below is my response to her ....

I think something your observation and opinion forget to acknowledge is the many seasons of life. We as women are not defined by a single season, but rather the sum total of all the wonderful seasons our lives embrace.

Before I was married and had children, I owned my own business. After my first child was born (premature and with a variety of allergies) I sold the business to take care of him full time. Initially I had planned to keep the business and take my son to work with me ... but his needs required more than that situation would have allowed.

Recognizing he was my first priority ... it was out with the business and in with full time parenting. I became a stay-at-home mom from then on and 4 years later when my second son was born, he was a welcome addition to the family. Never did I think of myself as my children's babysitter ... I was/am their mother, their teacher and their friend. And on the few occasions when my husband took care of the boys solo, never did I say he was babysitting them - as I have heard many people comment when dads are home with the little ones. It seems to me that knowing they are his children too, and he is in the process of caring for them ... it is not babysitting either!

That said, I was totally devoted to my sons' care when they were little, totally devoted to their education when they were homeschooled and when they were in the public school setting. Initially that left very little time for outside activities, but as they grew and the seasons of their lives changed, so did mine.

Eventually, even as a stay-at-home mom, I started a small news-magazine with a friend and eventually co-founded a magazine for Senior Citizens with my mother. By that time, my oldest son was in public school - but my youngest, whom I was still homeschooling, often traveled with me to do interviews, get advertising and deliver the magazine to 30+ communities.

After both of my sons entered college and moved away, a new season in my life began. My husband and I became very active in politics and eventually I was appointed to serve as Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. During that time, as I spoke to Libertarians throughout the state, I found many men were very respectful when they learned of my homeschooling efforts. Not from “a woman's place is in the home" attitude, but rather a "good for you for bucking the system and putting your libertarian ideals into action" attitude.

I suggest no matter what opinions and statistics reflect regarding equality, we are all only as equal or unequal as we personally feel. Recognizing that staying at home and raising our children is of value, knowing that our children grow up and leave home grateful and secure for the time and attention we have given them, and knowing that the different seasons in our life are not limiting - but rather appropriate, productive and wonderful – makes us women a viable force to be reckoned with on many fronts.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great response, Jan! It is so sad to hear negative comments about women choosing to stay home and actively parent their kids!

I too had a fulfilling career before I had kids. I worked a lot in my 20s, and didn't start having kids until I was 31. I never consciously thought I was giving up a career (temporarily); I just knew that I wanted to be around my kids as much as possible. Even while in school, my husband and I traded off taking care of the kids, with the help of family & close friends at times.

I am fortunate that most of my friends, many of whom were neighbors too, were in the same situation, and many left careers behind to care for their kids (or chose jobs where they could take their babies with them), so it was considered completely natural.

It is so disheartening to hear people, especially other MOMS, who denigrate the vital role moms play in raising their children, and that they downplay how natural it is for moms to CHOOSE to take an active role in parenting especially in the early, formative years.

Keep spreading your important message!