Sometimes I try to quietly sneek into the kitchen and very carefully remove ingredients and pans so as not to alert the small children. They love to ‘help’ and insist on stirring and pouring and seasoning until the symphony of,
“Can I help?”
“I wanna do that.”
“It’s my turn!”
“She won’t give me the spoon!”
It’s enough to have you fishing for the pizza delivery number. But as I remind myself that it’s my job to teach them and as I envision them making their own greek goulash with caramelized onions one day, I welcome the sous chefs gladly. They scamper outside to snip some fresh herbs and then painstakingly cut the luscious mint and parsley with scissors, their minds and mouths working as hard as their fingers, with questions like “You like to cook, don’t you mommy?” and “Do you really like eggplant?”
It’s moments like these that I am fully aware that they are watching me.
They are learning to live their lives by watching how I live mine. It’s no small responsibility to bear. This long circuitous journey that I have made through medical education, residency training and then a six year career in medical practice has finally brought me HOME. Where I have struggled to find my way. Where I am learning to ‘serve my neighbor’ in the most intimate but also seemingly mundane ways. I entered this vocation ill-prepared and ill-advised on what it meant to be a full time homemaker. And the questions that haunt me sometimes in the throws of laundry and dishes, about whether I am using my gifts to their full potential, are answered decidedly in those little eyes and hands helping me make dinner. I am making a bold statement to them.
The vocation of motherhood is honorable; instituted by God for the raising of children, for the domestication of men, and for the stabilization of society. It is His design and I’ve learned that I am most ‘female’ and truly most fulfilled when I embrace and nurture this role as wife and mother.
And that drove me to reread a few sections of a book that I read a few years ago called The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Friedan is crowned with having started the second wave of the feminist movement and was the first president of the National Organization for Women (that’s enough to make me skeptical). I disagree with nearly every statement she makes in the book but in many ways, I’m glad I read it. I understand the feminist movement a little more clearly and realize that I am a product of a generation of women who were told that they needed to find fulfillment outside the home. Friedan compares housewifery to being in a ‘comfortable concentration camp’ and characterizes suburban housewives as chiefly unfulfilled, dependent women who have given up on intellectual interests and have no real impact on the major issues of society. She makes a few valid points but for the most part I find her conclusions flawed and riddled with the biases of someone who is driven by an agenda.
She comes across to me similiar to the way most feminists do; projecting her own misery and lack of fulfillment onto the whole of the female population and placing blame on men, religious institutions and society as a whole. She admonishes women to leave the
‘comfortable concentration camp’ to work and to be educated so that they may contribute so society in a meaningful way, thus finding true fulfillment. She says, ”
A woman must create, out of her own needs and abilities, a new life plan, fitting in the love and children and home that have defined feminity in the past with the work toward a greater purpose that shapes the future”.p. 338
Well, speaking from experience, I have never felt that I was contributing more meaningfully to society than when I decided to put my own career on hold to be home with my children. Any ‘ole Joe can refill Ralph’s prescription for hypertension, but I am the most uniquely qualified and gifted person to raise my own children and to love and serve my husband. Noone else can do that with the same passion and care. So, I want to stand up for all educated, professional women who have made an informed and conscious choice to give their lives in service to their families. I applaud you. What you do is important and powerful and instituted by God himself. There is no higher calling. There is no greater work.
Disclaimers: I am not in any way admonishing that every female should do what I have done. I am blessed with a husband who is able to provide for us financially, making it possible for me to enjoy this tremendous blessing. If I need to enter the force again, I will do what is necessary for our family. Nor am I casting judgement on women who have chosen different paths. It has been my experience that in our society, it’s the SAHM who feels a certain inferiority and who frequently questions her decision to stay home. There are many creative ways to combine outside work with home responsibilities and I personally know many women who do a fantastic job of it. When I was in the work force, I embraced the unique femininity that I brought to my vocation and tried above all else to keep my family first. Similarly, just because a woman stays home is no guarantee that she’s embracing her role and nurturing her family to her best ability. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness and whether or not we stay home or join the workforce, we do so riddled with sin and selfishness. We all need God’s grace to cover us and to give us true peace and joy!
I’ll conclude with a quote from Plato:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.