LifeSite News recently posted an article about a speech by Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In the speech, she refers to "yummy mummies"--young women who have opted to be stay-at-home moms rather than following in the footsteps of feminist trailblazers.
Helen shared an article from The Atlantic about the dilemma women face choosing between family and career. It focuses on women in high-power-mover-shaker type positions and the reality that women really can't have it all. Sacrifices are made no matter your choices.
So here it goes from my yummy mummy perspective:
While in college, I worked in daycares and as a nanny. I saw the broad spectrum of pluses and minuses of working mothers. But these experiences were not the only reasons I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. They certainly galvanized my convictions, but my own mother helped lay the foundation for me.
My mother was born in 1950. While other mothers blazed the career track, my mother blazed new definitions for the stay-at-home track. She was intelligent, involved in the community, and politically active. She breastfed her babies--in public no less! She loved to volunteer and help. She dared to challenge school boards or any other entity that strayed from its purpose. She hated the saying, "that's just the way things are."
She and her friends were of the generation of stay-at-home moms that refused to be bound by the strictness or stoic masks of generations past and embraced the terms "domestic goddess" and "executive of domestic affairs." They used humor as a shield against feminists who insisted they were wasting their lives. Their houses were usually on the messy side, their refrigerator doors were cluttered with fingerpaintings and photographs, and their living rooms were havens for toys. They rolled their eyes at the perfectionism and materialism of yuppies. They didn't turn up their noses at microwaves and Hamburger Helper. (This is something my generation reacted to by going to farmers markets and digging up our grandmother's recipes, but can we really blame our mothers for wanting to make dinner a little easier?) They bought clothing a year ahead at seasonal clearance sales, and their family vehicles were never purchased brand new. At public gatherings of various sorts from company picnics to fundraisers, they proudly took on the sneers of other women who thought stay-at-home moms were mindless and lazy.
My Mom was happy that I wanted to stay at home and was supportive of our homeschooling. She was good about chiding me when I started weighing myself down with mommy guilt or took on too many things. She was constantly reminding me to keep a sense of humor. The home school world seems to be more prone to legalism than other venues of life, and she loved to remind me that ultimately I answered to no one but God Himself.
I am so grateful for my Mom's legacy. I find it cool that my generation has had a new wave of stay-at-home moms--college educated yet putting off careers for later in life. We know it's true that the hand that rocks cradle rules the world. We know communists and fascists find the family unit dangerous, and we love challenging the growing secular mindset that institutions should raise children.
Is it easy? No. Do I ever have my doubts? Yes.
I have fears that all this will be for nothing. I have many friends who work outside the home, and they seem to balance everything so beautifully. Did I really make the right choice? I worry that when my youngest is out of the house, my brain will be too tired to try out a new career and that we'll be destitute in our old age.
So ultimately, I stay at home by faith. Faith is how I fight my fears because I believe this is where I am called to be. Logic and reason only get me so far and are little comfort in the blurry turns and dives of the rollercoaster of life. I have faith that God is trustworthy. That doesn't mean He grants me whatever I wish like some genie in a bottle, but it does mean that where He leads I can follow in the knowledge that He loves me and my family.
The world needs us yummy SAHMS. I've seen articles that tell working mothers to befriend a stay-at-home mom so that the working mother will have help in mothering her children--for when the child is sick or when the child has had a bad day but the working mom is busy in a meeting. I've seen articles about public schools lamenting that because of the necessity of dual income homes they don't have the volunteers needed to help make the school successful. (SAHMs with kids in school can put in as many hours volunteering as they would in a salaried job.)
Churches need us SAHMs, too. Our schedules are usually flexible. It's easier for us to make time to take a dinner to a sick family or to help out with a food drive or to visit someone in the hospital. So while reviling us for holding back feminism, the world can't seem to help needing those of us whose job title is simply Mother.
I have friends who are truly bucking materialism in their call as stay-at-home moms: They clothe their families with hand-me-down group exchanges and thrift stores. They carefully do their grocery shopping, and almost everything is cooked from scratch. They buy used curricula, and utilize the library and the internet. Their backyards have chickens and vegetable gardens. They find joy in the simple pleasures of life, and their homes are beacons of light to their neighborhood. Latch key kids come knocking on their doors to play with their kids . . . and to get some mothering.
In The Atlantic article mentioned above, it is pointed out that women are seriously under-represented in government. I would suspect that of the women in government my conservative bent has even less representation. Of the conservative women in politics, many are only fiscal conservatives. Most social conservative women are busy living out their convictions rocking those cradles. We abide by the "having it all, but not at the same time" adage. It's not popular and may be impractical, but it's the only way to be true to our convictions.
My plan is to one day get a graduate degree in literature and teach at a high school . . . or maybe I'll open a tea and curiosity gift shop . . . or maybe I'll get trained as a nutritionist and help refugees adapt to America (a job I saw advertised in the newspaper the other day).
And that "one day" is coming. The kids will be grown. Our goal really is to raise adults that will have homes of their own. One day I will not have children asking me to stop writing so I can read more of Redwall to them. One day I will not have piles of clean laundry on the sofa which match the heights of piles of dirty laundry in the washroom. One day I will not need to research curricula and go over checklists of subjects that should be covered in a year. One day I will not have little feet jumping up and down in the kitchen because I made my lasagne. One day my oldest will no longer mark on the calendar mother-daughter outings to the coffee shop. One day my second will not regale me with stories he read that day about World War II. One day third will not ask me deep philosophical questions at bedtime. One day fourth will not crawl up into my lap while I read. And all too soon, my fifth will no longer fall asleep while nursing at my breast.
And I will miss it.
So though it doesn't always make sense, I love this calling. I love this life that I've been lead to live. And in a very American spirit that loves to embrace a taunt and turn it around, I really want a t-shirt that says, "Total Yummy Mummy And L-O-V-I-N' IT!"