Friday, August 23, 2013

Being a Mother is Smarter Than You Think

I recently read about some new research being conducted by Satoshi Kanazawa, the controversial former Psychology Today blogger.  A Reader in Management at the London School of Economics, Mr. Kanazawa has “begun to present scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers.”  I'm sure there are thousands of women out there who would take issue with this statement.  They know as well as I do that neither the length of my job title, nor the size of my paycheck is a reliable measure of how well I utilize my intelligence.  

So, mother= dumb?  Or put another way, intelligent= childless?  I have to say, I am a bit insulted but not at all surprised.  This is the same anti-child rhetoric that radical feminists have been spewing for the past five decades.  They have all but said that motherhood is synonymous with slavery.  If you have children, your life as you know it will be over.  Okay, changed forever, yes, but not OVER.  Betty Friedan wrote 
The Feminine Mystique in 1963, examining and confronting the role of women as stay-at-home mothers, and the seeds of discontent were sown.  She argued that women had been coaxed into selling out their intellect and ambitions for the paltry price of a new washing machine.

Fast forward to 2013, where there is a movement several years in the making among women who are already mothers (many stay at home full-time or run part-time businesses out of their houses) to unveil the realities of motherhood.  There seems to be a sense of indignation over someone not telling us that this was going to be so hard.  In an effort to expose the truth that we don't have it all together, we have let it all hang out there: the good, the bad, and the ugly.   Honesty is a good thing; it helps us understand that we are not alone in our struggles.  While we shouldn't labor under the false assumption that everyone else is doing it all perfectly, I wonder if we haven't contributed to undermining our roles by talking about all the negative aspects of mothering.

I have certainly been guilty of this.  I jumped on the bandwagon shortly after Colton was born, with a desire to debunk the romanticized version of motherhood we often hold before we actually have children.  I was open about my struggles with post-partum depression, and the hard work of caring for a baby and then a toddler while my husband was away at work for 12 hours a day.  Many women thanked me for being real and shattering the isolating illusion that being a mommy is nothing but pure bliss.  

So, I was caught off guard when I began to realize just how negative I had become.  I was doing more complaining about the daily tasks of mothering than pointing out the simple, ordinary joys.  When I saw a pregnant woman browsing the baby aisles at Target and passed her with my two kids who may or may not have been dangerously on the verge of a total meltdown, I'd think "Just wait.  THIS is what's in store for you."  When people asked me if I'm having more children, I would be quick to say I'm a member of the "two and through club".         

The message in our culture today is children are an inconvenience; wait to have them until you're "ready", or better yet don't have them at all.  It was subtle and happened over time, but I found myself perpetuating this very same message.  When a friend who was childless would tell me she couldn't wait to have kids, I'd encourage her to wait because once she had them her life would be completely changed- she wouldn't have the freedom to do whatever she wished, whenever she wished.  I thought I was doing her a favor, but I was really doing her (and myself) a disservice.

When I write and speak more about the tantrums, the stomach viruses, and the sibling squabbles, I am conveying that being a mother is tiresome, loathsome, and something to be avoided at all costs.  There are so many beautiful, sacred moments in the ordinary that I miss when I am focused on those details.  I forget that my kids are two precious individuals God has entrusted me to raise, who miraculously grew inside me from one cell into a complex human being.  After all, the idea that children are a blessing is as old as time.  It is also biblical.  And something I've sadly forgotten. 

We definitely shouldn't try to live up to an impossible standard or ideal as mothers.  That takes our focus off of our unique talents and circumstances, including the special children that we alone have been given to care for.  Mrs. Friedan complained about this all throughout her book.  This is one of the things the women's lib movement in the 60's and 70's was trying to liberate us from.  However, f
ifty years later, what remains is that stay-at-home mothers still believe that there must be something wrong with them if they do not find great satisfaction in every moment of parenting and taking care of a house.  What we are left with is that the value in raising children and managing a household has been stripped away, because they proclaimed that women can't find meaning in these tasks.  They also succeeded in getting two generations of women to deny the distinctive, inherent qualities that set them apart from men and uniquely position them as life-givers and nurturers.
The term "housewife" or "mother" is what you make of it.  You can either see it as a misery or a joy.  We glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace his created design, function, and order for our lives as women.  Society is all too willing to feed us the line that we should abandon the home in pursuit of our so-called real ambitions.  We are sold a bill of goods that to give up our careers or other aspirations for raising children is, quite bluntly, dumb.  The "war on women" is more like a war on mothers.   
It is not unintelligent, though, to recognize that children are only this young for such a short amount of time, compared with the rest of one's life, and that during these crucial years our role as mothers is vitally important in shaping and molding their minds, values, and morals, along with instilling a sense of stability.  As I muddle my way through these early years of mothering, I take heart that my actions, though not always glamorous or acknowledged, will one day produce a godly young man and woman.  That is where I get my fulfillment, if you will.  This is worth sacrificing all those other achievements for.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Refusing to Buy Into the Hollywood Version

One of my favorite bloggers, Lisa-Jo Baker, wrote a post a few weeks ago in response to the June 29th "Teenager Posts of the Week" featured on The Huffington Post Teen Edition.  The unnamed girl stated, “My love life will never be satisfactory until someone runs through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight.”  Lisa-Jo's post was so popular with readers that it ended up going viral and appearing back on HuffPo's website, this time for its parental audience.

I can tell you that my husband has never run through an airport to stop me from getting on a plane.  But he has run through an airport to catch a flight to go on a business trip that provides a roof over our heads and food for us to eat.  He has left a meeting early to come home and take care of the kids, when I was ill with the flu and could barely get off the couch.  He has been patient with me as I recovered from two c-sections, and was right there beside me in the OR when both our son and daughter entered the world.

We are more than a decade now from the evenings when I would catch him staring at me from across the table.  To be honest, I do miss that time period in our relationship.  Our love has grown much deeper than those romantic dinners through the years, however.  He tells me over and over that I'm beautiful, with no make-up on, even during times when I feel like I'm at my worst.  He still saves me the last piece of cake, or the last cookie, because he is considerate of me.  He offers tenderness, listening, and protection on a daily basis.  He has held my hand and prayed for me during rock-bottom moments, when I didn't have the strength to pray myself.  
The last day of our honeymoon, 1/21/03
The Bible articulates numerous reasons for the purpose of marriage.  The following three are the most important, in my opinion: 
1) Companionship 
2) Procreation 
3) Holiness
Marriage provides us with lifelong friendship, sustains life on earth, and brings us closer to God through the process of sanctification.  It is not for the purpose of our happiness. When you subscribe to the view that the main purpose of marriage is to make you happy, it's easy to see why so many marriages fail. As soon as the fun stops or the momentary "happy" runs out, people quit and the marriage collapses.  Marriage is God’s design, and His purposes must be pursued in order for you to be truly happy. His end is holiness and He will use all things in a life devoted to Him to fulfill that end.

Our marriage has definitely not always been happy, happy, happy (as Phil Robertson would say).  
We've survived countless moves, two episodes of post-partum depression, and three separate periods of unemployment.  Going through life's trials together has sanctified us and strengthened our relationship with one another and with God.  When you can go through some pretty tough circumstances and come out on the other side with your marriage intact, being even better than before, that's a powerful testimony to the redemptive work of the Lord in your lives.  

No, he's never run through an airport for me.  But yesterday, he raced home from Newark Liberty to be with his family who he had been away from on a job for almost a week.  He played with our kids outside until dinnertime, even though he was jet-lagged.  And later that evening, he held me tight and told me how much he missed me.  That's my version of romance.  The ordinary, forgiving, brace the storms of life together, kind of "ever after" you just won't find in fairy tales.    

Ten years and two kids later.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Let's Hear It For The Boy

As Colton's birthday approaches, I have already been thinking about what I will post on Facebook that day- probably something like "five years ago, I became a mother."  Then my own words stop me and I think, is that accurate?  Did I really only become a mother the second my son came out of me?  Or did I become a mother months before, when he was conceived.  Or nearly three weeks later, when I held a positive pregnancy test in my hand.

With my suspicions of being pregnant confirmed, I immediately went into the mode of doing everything I could to ensure the life growing inside me would thrive.  I switched from soda to juice and water, ate a better diet, started taking prenatal vitamins, and began exercising.  I started preparing for his arrival by reading baby books, researching the best baby gear, and long before I even knew that the baby was a "he", I blogged almost daily about every detail of the pregnancy.  I dreamed of who my son would become and who he would look like.

A unique person with his own DNA, his personality began to take shape even before he was born.  As a preschooler, he doesn't go along with the crowd.  In the womb, he remained breech right up until his due date.  The coding for his father's engineering mind and my facial features were already there.

The law did not consider him to be a person with certain inalienable rights until 1:33pm on August 14, 2008.  Up until that time, it was strictly up to me to protect him.  That was my job from the moment I knew I was pregnant and continues to be throughout the rest of his childhood into adolescence.  Even when he turns 18 and becomes a legal adult, he will still be my responsibility if he lives under my roof.  I will still worry about him, pray for him, give him advice.  In other words, I will always be his mother.

Though the physically demanding, practically non-stop work did not begin until he was outside my womb, he could not have gotten to that point unless I recognized that I was already a mother and began sacrificing parts of myself for his sake.

Colton continues to develop and thrive as his fifth birthday draws near, due to the investment made into his life by me and his daddy.  We make sure he eats the right things, gets the sleep and exercise he needs, learns values, receives discipline, and understands that he is loved and special.  And, if I may be permitted to brag a little, he is a pretty amazing kid.  This is not to pat myself on the back, but to proclaim that he is an extraordinary child who I have the blessing and privilege of raising.

He is kind to others, quick to help, and embraces life with tenacity.  He is definitely ALL boy, turning his sister's toys into lawn mowers, gear for monsters or super heroes, and garages for his cars and trucks.  I love how blonde his hair gets in the summer, and how the sun on his cheeks accentuate those deep, blue eyes.  I am so proud to be his mother, and I can't believe he is going to be five next week!!!

Colton enjoying his favorite treat at the Sussex County Fair.