One of my recent callers came up with what I’m sure she thought was the singular most legitimate reason for not being a stay-at-home-mom: “… it’s not all enjoyable.” I kid you not, she actually said that, followed by, “… and I just don’t seem to be able to do it well.” She did say that being with the kids was fine, it was all the other stuff: housekeeping, shopping, cooking, and so forth – that were described as unrewarding and relentless and, well, just not enjoyable.
She also complained that she just couldn’t do it all well. I asked her what part of putting dishes in the dishwasher and making sure the clothes got through the washer and dryer and back into drawers was too complicated for her? She laughed and said that she didn’t know why it was hard for her to do it right – it just was. Mind you, this was all said with a tone that did not suggest she had great concern about doing any of it better.
Truth be told, whether coming from a man or a woman, this behavior is self-centered, and displays a character that knows little of honor, obligation and sacrifice. This is a mentality, rampant today, that speaks not of what “I can do for my family?” but only for “What will I get out of what I do for my family?”
Whenever I hear either men or women tell me that some part of their responsibilities as citizens, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, adult children is not “enjoyable,” I always remember an experience my husband, son and I had while on a driving trip through Arizona and New Mexico. We stopped off for lunch at a small cafe in what appeared to be an old-west type ghost town. It had a small museum with all kinds of yuchhy stuffed snakes that our then young son just loved.
For a few extra cents, we got to go into an old, abandoned coal mine – a real one that had been worked by men supporting their families and producing power for their neighbors in a bygone era. It was illuminating – the experience, not the tunnel! While in the tunnel I was struck by how dark, damp, cramped and difficult working in the mine had to have been. I couldn’t imagine anybody “enjoying” the experience.
The last few generations have been brought up with too much and too little: too much opportunity and things, too little gratitude and obligation. We actually have a large segment of our population that couldn’t imagine giving without getting, sacrificing out of obligation, suffering out of responsibility, following through out of honor.
Consequently, I’ve gotten calls from men with wives raising their children who don’t feel satisfied enough about their careers and want to go back to school or start some business or change jobs or risk a move for an unsafe opportunity – and are resentful that they should have to consider their responsibilities to their families. Unbelievable!
The woman caller was resentful that her husband did not come home and do housework. I asked her when she did his paperwork, made his phone-calls, drove in his rush hour traffic and dealt with his boss. Silence. I reminded her that she is part of a team and each member of the team has its own responsibilities and that the end result was a peaceful, happy home.
In response to her call, a number of women wrote me to describe their deeper understanding of being the family team member at home.
- The warm sun on your face.
- The laughter of children.
- Their sweet breathing when they are asleep.
- Breezes, flowers, spectacular cloudscapes.
Look at the world through the eyes of your children and see what a marvelous world we live in. Enjoy it all with them.
I have something to say to the woman who was just not “enjoying” it. Life is like that. We all have stuff we don’t like. True, there are some tasks we must do that may not be pleasant, but for the most part, we are free to choose what we do and when we do it. We are doing something extremely important and irreplaceable. But think this thought: We have incredible power within the home. We set the tone of the whole family. It is our honor to serve those we love and those who love us. And our lives are blessed with things that an office does not offer:
Sabina, another listener, wrote, “If she doesn’t like being at home and walks out on her family when they need her, what does this teach her children? I have often used this myself as a teaching tool. When I ask my kids to do something, they frequently balk at my requests. When my daughter refused to help her siblings or do her chores, I tell her that we all have to do things we don’t like to do.
“Each person in our family has responsibilities and we take care of each other. I tell her that sometimes I don’t feel like getting up in the morning. What would happen if one day I didn’t get up? How would she like it if I didn’t make her lunch just because I didn’t feel like it? She usually grumbles that she wouldn’t like it and then proceeds to do her chores. The amazing thing is that it not only works, it’s the absolute truth and really makes kids think about responsibilities and obligations.”
And if we had a whole society filled with people who saw the world this way …