Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Baby, its cold outside!

The wind is just chilly enough today to warrant a real coat. I went out with just a vest and regretted it-I'm ready to go jump under my covers to warm up. Maybe that is where I'll prepare my seminary lesson. Hmmm. I think it unnerves the kids to find me hanging out in my bed, though, even though it's my favorite spot to work, read, knit, whatever. They need to see me up and around. So, I'll put on a sweater and sit at the table to greet them when they come home. It continues to be so important to them that I'm around. Even more so the older they have become. They like me to be home "at the crossroads" as much as I can, just as President Benson counseled so many years ago. They don't really like it when I teach at night or on Saturdays. They are supportive and don't complain, but they always, always say "Oh good" when I tell them that I don't have a class that evening. They always ask, too. It helps that most of my evening classes are on Wednesdays when they are already occupied, but they have verbally expressed their relief that I am teaching about half as much as I was before Eric was called as Bishop. I can't remember who has said it, because I think several people have, but when it comes to motherhood, there really is no such thing as "quality time." It is all about presence to a kid. Fortunately, as my kids have grown older, more aware and interactive, my attitude about motherhood has matured and developed to the point where I am happy to really focus on them-to give them that gift, then move on to other things more fully as they become more and more independent. I used to be in such a rush to get them out the door so I could do other stuff, but for them, the stability of a well-kept house, dinner on the table and milk in the fridge is the foundation of the refuge that I claim to be trying to build. Homemaking as a craft and vocation has become more enjoyable as they've gotten older because its just plain easier and more fun. Nothing needs to be childproofed, they can put their own laundry away and I don't have to do dishes after dinner but maybe once a week, because they've reached the point of being able to do chores independently. Even Evan can clean the kitchen pretty much on his own. But, just because he's getting more and more independent, I don't want him to end up all alone in the house when he's in high school-I've gotten to the point where I want to be with them as much as I possibly can because their lives outside the house have become so busy.

It's very exciting in this time, just two decades from when I started my family, for young mothers to have so many options. When I was starting out, we were fighting the backlash of second-wave feminism as characterized by the proposed ERA. It was either all or nothing. In the world's view, a woman was either trying to be a man or she was a backwards-thinking idiot. I did a year at UMBC while expecting Jeff and actually felt unwelcome on campus-one professor actually asked me to leave class once because Jeff's in-utero hiccups were making my belly shake and it freaked the teacher out. Another professor once used me as an unwitting object lesson to illustrate "the power of cult thinking on a previously bright mind." (sadly, a quote like that does not easily leave the memory.) It was a negative enough experience that I pretty much gave up on school at that point. Today, the pendulum is swinging back toward the center and women are realizing that choice doesn't mean being like or even competing with men, it means that there are actually choices. Don't get me wrong, third wave feminism is just as flawed as the other two waves, but reason is at least in view. It makes me so happy to see women with pure hearts and righteous desires following the spirit and being blessed with all kinds of opportunities to contribute, to be wonderful and be shining lights to the world but still be able to have their first intention be pointed toward their children. I know my amazing career as a professional knitter is a direct blessing for being willing to focus first on the kids and then look for little opportunities here and there. I started teaching just after Evan was born, and it has continued to build since then, but always I was able to be home as much as I felt I needed to. I look at the other knitting teachers I admire at the conferences I go to and they are in their 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's! Many of them did just what I'm doing-raised a family then branched out and ended up with 2 complete careers-each one at the right time and right place, instead of trying to do everything all at once and go crazy. One gal was a stay at home mom till she was 43 and now she's been a pro knitwear designer, teacher and author for almost 30 years! I'm not sure I have the attention span to do anything for 30 years! But I'll have that opportunity if I want to. That puts it in perspective for me.

One of my students is a brilliant woman-a psychiatrist who got her MD at Harvard-with 4 kids. She warns me all the time "not to be hoodwinked by the pernicious lie that women can have it all when their children are in the house." She actually had to be hospitalized in the early eighties because she believed the hype and pursued her career even though all she wanted was to be home with her kids. She really believed that being home was tantamount to wasting one's mind and talent.

Okay, I'll stop now. Holy cow-I did not intend to run on like that. Oh, what mischief can come of a free hour. I hope this doesn't read as judgemental or controversial to anyone. It was total stream of consciousness musing with no agenda whatsoever. It represents only my personal experience and I hope the message comes across that I am filled with love and admiration, with no qualifications, for all my dear sisters who are so busy making their lives into works of art.

5 comments:

  1. Kellie, I really appreciate this post. I am glad when SAH mom's aren't as criticized as they were before. Many people still find us indulgent, but at least it's not so unusual. I love teaching and editing, but we always make sure we could live without "my" money and that they're always with their dad while I'm working. I was so appreciative of my mom being at the crossroads and I've really tried to make the most of those times. Even though they mostly do their own thing while they're home, the kids really do appreciate just having me around.

    Oh, and I wanted to comment about the bed. Once I was reading in bed (for warmth) and Ethan starting coming up so I quickly got out of the covers and read on top so he wouldn't think I was sleeping! Ha! I just hate it when Ethan is always saying, "Mommy, you AWAKE!!" Like that's a big deal. Hmph. Time for getting out of bed, I guess.

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  2. I appriciate your thoughts about your teenagers needing you in the home. I remember being a senior in high school and being happy EVERY TIME I came home and my mom was there (that's almost every day, since she ran a daycare out of our home). I just wanted to know she was there to help me if I needed it and so I could tell her everything that happened during the day. I STILL need that from her. I love that you have found a way to create that relationship with your kids, that they WANT you around. I pray (literally) that I will have that too :)

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  3. Thank you so much for this post. It really puts into perspective for me how fortunate I am to have the choices I do, without so much of the stigma.

    It also made me realize that lately I've been trying to do too much of my "own things," and my kids, who seem to need me almost ALL the time right now (they're 3 and 1), are getting less of their mother fully mentally, emotionally PRESENT.

    I look forward to when they will be more independent, but I guess your post helped me realize that I need to live in the NOW, and really enjoy my children, even if that means putting off other things I'd like to be doing, or just doing a little less of them for the time being. (Once hubby's not in school and working, and I get a few more breaks, this should be easier, right??)

    Another thing your post made me realize is that this mothering of young children won't last forever--all the more reason to cherish this time.

    Finally, I really appreciate how much importance you place on being physically present in your home for your kids, even though they are independent in so many ways. Oh, and I didn't think your musings were AT ALL judgmental--quite the opposite! :)

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  4. What great thoughts, Kellie. I really feel strongly about being at home with my children now and just plain old at home when they start school. I know there will still be tons to do and plenty of places to drive then, too! Everything in its season...

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  5. What a great post - to think you wrote it all in a stream of consciousness - that's great!! Its a hard issue for me because I grew up with a working mom and always got defensive as a kid when people would question why she worked etc. etc. But now I love that women have the choice and more SUPPORT i.e. fabulous blogging communities!! :) I feel so blessed to have the ability to be a SAHM and am so glad that its not so crazy - hey Oprah calls it the hardest but most important job on earth so that's something, right?!! :)

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Thank you for sharing your insights!