By the time I was 27 years old I had given birth to three children in four years. This was the late 70s. I had always wanted to be a wife and mother. I wrote that in my high school year book.
I remember going to the park and bumping into another mother. After the niceties she asked me "Do you work?" I looked at my three children and then I looked at her. "I stay home and take of the kids." Yes, but do you work?" Ahh. Do I work?
I wish I could say that I defended myself. But at that moment, that woman managed to demean everything about motherhood. Women are our own worst enemies. We have taken motherhood and moved it to the lowest level of work. I remember statements like, "Well, anyone can raise children." I suppose. Take a look at our society. Are we really better off with our mothers going to work and then doing a second shift at home caring for their children? And then there was the father who said "Well, I'd love to stay home instead of going out to work every day. To think, you can have your own schedule, nap when you want..." Really? When do you suppose he spent more than an afternoon with multiples of children?
Think of the sound of a baby crying. It is as offensive to the ears as well as the entire nervous system as a jack hammer. At five o'clock a construction worker turns off his jack-hammer, removes his hard hat, his special ear protectors, and work shoes and goes home. A mother looks at the clock, and thinks, how much longer? The jack-hammer crying doesn't end at 5:00 p.m. It's not like she can put the baby down and go home. She is home.
Think of listening to that crying for hours at a time because of colic, teething, upset stomach, who knows, the wee one doesn't speak, yet. And if all this goes on at night, you are still on duty the next morning. Then there is always one child that likes to throw a tantrum or two. Now that is something to experience in line at the grocery store. Meal time is always exciting, especially these days when so many mothers are also spending hours a week chauffeuring. One of my favourite jobs was picking up one of my children from school with the younger siblings in tow who had to be woken from naps and dressed to go in the car. This was even more delightful in the winter.
I was told by a wonderful child psychologist that it takes about 16 years to know if you have succeeded in "producing" a successful model. Sixteen years. Think about that. What other profession puts in 24-hour days, seven days a week to produce a finished product? I can only think of scientist/researchers who can spend 10 to 20 years looking for a cure for something.
Most people who go to work see the outcome of their input within a reasonable amount of time. Even authors can usually finish writing a book in less than 16 years. Except the job of motherhood isn't over at 16 years. That is the point when you can see if everything you have taught them, especially morals, values and ethics, has been internalized. They can still go off the rails. Drugs. Alcohol. Unprotected sex. Today, children are still at home in their early 20s and beyond. Age doesn't reduce the constant concern of a parent for a child. My children are all parents. But they are still my children to me.
There is no more difficult or more important job than raising children. When we fail, our children fail. Even when we give them all of our attention, with the best of intentions, we can fail. Stay at home mothers are responsible for the next generation. Not the next car or the next computer. I remember a young mother of three telling me that we are only as happy as our unhappiest child.
I do not want to pit one mother against another. But, I am tired of the lack of respect we show to moms who choose to stay home and raise their children, prepare their meals, and attempt to make their homes a sacred place for their family. I have no doubt that these women rarely think of their work as sacred. But it is.