Why I’m Grateful for the Feminist Message, Even Though I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom

stay at home mom

Once upon a time, I used to put words into the mouths of famous politicians, thinkers, and athletes. Literally. I wrote their speeches, and they spoke the words that I put on the paper. It was kind of awesome.

But then, my brilliant husband graduated from college, and I came home to watch our first child. I always thought that I’d go back to work one day, or back to school to earn my doctorate degree, but that’s not what life had planned for us. Instead, God gave us two incredibly funny, life-giving special needs children and one very cool, very funky daughter. This God also allowed me to contract a couple of autoimmune diseases that are highly unpredictable and drain me of energy and make me wonder if I’ll ever be able to handle the stress of a full-time position again.

So every year, as I sit down to fill out tax forms, I dread the moment when I have to fill out my occupation on tax forms and write: homemaker.

It’s not because I’m not proud of the work I do. I’m incredibly fulfilled by loving and caring for my husband and children. It’s been an amazing blessing to be the stay-at-home mom who can feed pasta to neighborhood kids as they whiz through my backyard, pretending to be superheros. It’s also been stunning to see how God would use my time to serve women, particularly women who have been sexually and physically assaulted. I can’t tell you how many times I have been able to comfort, council, love, and serve women just because I had my eyes open and my schedule free.It’s also proven my mom’s words true: it’s always worthwhile to educate a woman.

But I hate filling out that form with “homemaker” because I feel like I’ve been a bad steward of this brain that’s been entrusted to me. I’m a valedictorian. I was an honors graduate of one of the best universities in the world. I worked 14 hour days and handled the media’s craziness. Surely, surely I can figure out how to be something other than a domestic engineer?

That’s why I’m grateful for the feminists.

The feminists have been in my corner this past decade encouraging me forward. While more conservative thinking organizations encouraged me that I’m doing “God’s work,” the feminists always told me that I was not just my family, including their failures or successes. They valued that I had prioritized raising my children, but always told me that I wasn’t not done yet. In fact, in this moment, I had a voice, and talents, and love to give. And it’s okay if I wanted to hand that stuff out,with wisdom and discernment now. Whether I was changing diapers or driving in carpools, feminists never stopped valuing my voice, and never told me I couldn’t participate because I had a child on my hip.

In contrast, I have been told that I should isolate myself because I needed to learn how to parent my special needs daughter better. I have been told, as she squirmed on my lap, “Get your act together, mom!” And, no, this did not come from feminists. It came from people who supposedly support my kind the most. The people who insist that I should throw every brilliant thought I have to the wayside, at least for TWO DECADES, and then, if my children prove my worth, then, maybe I can try to start a career. Out of scratch. When I’m close to retirement age.

If it wasn’t for the feminists, I would have lot my mind. If it wasn’t for the feminists, I would have lost my voice. And if it wasn’t for the feminists, I wouldn’t have served God because I would have felt guilty, thinking that my time could have been better spent lavishing even more love on my kids and husband.

It might seem like it’s really encouraging telling a stay-at-home mom that she’s doing the most important thing in the world. But what’s even more encouraging is telling that same mom that when she has some time, you’d love her input on the committee. Because God knows, she needs to know that she can do more than just teach a kid ABCs. And it might be wonderful if she can have that volunteer position on her resume if and when she ever chooses to bless the world with her gifts and talents full time.

What to do with all that Discouragement

The phone surprised me when it rang today.  I wasn’t expecting a call; not even a “Hi, this is the nurse at the school” call. I peered at the called ID and noticed that the number was from a publisher. Shame set in really quickly. I didn’t want to answer the call because I knew what the question was going to be: How close are you to publishing?

The truth is that I stopped writing six months ago. I realized then that the people who would love my book are also the people who would hate my theology and be the most unkind to my mentors. Unable to market this book to a different kind of crowd, I let it go.

But my publisher hadn’t.

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“How’s it going?” my agent asked.

“Um…I’ve actually decided not to publish.”

Silence. “But why?”

(inner groans) <<mumbles something about discouragement>>

“I think you’re wrong. I think you’ve put a significant amount of time into this book and there is a greater audience for it than you imagined and you need to rethink your conclusions.”

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That’s just it, isn’t it — Discouragement makes it so you can’t see clearly. And not only can you not see clearly, but you end up making poor decisions and choices. It looks a little something like this:

I can’t go back to school (even if one night a week of school means that you’ll be able to financially provide for your children better for a lifetime).

I can’t “do better” and get another partner (even if it means that you are in a psychologically destructive relationship.)

I can’t lose weight (even though I know that eating right and exercising would do wonders for my mind, body, and spirit, even if I didn’t lose the weight.)

I can’t approach my child about <enter touchy subject> (even though not talking to them means that your voice isn’t heard and someone who cares about their future far less will advise them).

Discouragement always leads to the same path: shame for you, and someone else missing out on your gifts, talents, abilities, and blessings. It always causes us to have self-condemnation, and a loss of hope in others’ ability to value us. Discouragement always takes an order from God, intended to be a light for the world, and turns it into a dagger to our own souls that leaves everyone lost.

So how do you defeat discouragement?

The first thing is to let go of expectations. Discouragement will always point out how the goal is to big — too unattainable. So remove that goal. Here’s your new goal:the goal of this task is that I complete it, and that I can honestly say that I gave my best.If no one else benefits from this, you can be assured that you have grown and changed and become a better version of yourself. And that needs to be enough.

Secondly, treat discouragement like a Vulcan. On the hit TV Star Trek series, Vulcans always pointed out how certain actions or efforts were irrelevant or illogical. The famous captains always would smile and say something like “noted.” That’s because discouragement always has a little bit of truth in it — enough that you should pay attention, but not enough that you should let it have power over you. In fact, I’ll save you some time. If you specifically feel that God has asked you to go on a mission, it will seem irrelevant to the world’s standards, and it will be totally illogical. I’m not saying it will be devoid of wisdom. In fact, it usually takes wisdom to understand a call of God and how it can be carried out. But if the time, ability, and money to complete a task are there, and it’s just a matter of choosing to be courageous, then you know what you have to do.

Lastly, discouragement usually thrives when you have a full schedule and when you have been far from your closest loved ones. So circle the wagons. Reach out. Tell people you need them to pray for you. Missions don’t happen in a vacuum. They take cooperation from many different people. That’s why they are so powerful. Missions become movements. And movements…well those change the world.

Love and peace,

Pam

What Do We Do Now That Advent is Done?

Epiphany

More people fell in love with Advent this year than I’ve ever seen before. We desperately needed weeks to sit in ideas like faith, hope, joy, and love. But what do we do now that there are no structured reading plans and our world is still such a mess?

Where we sit now is where most people sit on the day after Valentines, their New Year’s Eve resolutions destroyed by heart-shaped chocolate boxes, steak dinners, and luscious mousse pies: defeated — knowing that the best thing to do is just to go back to the plan; and yet, feeling so powerless to do it.

I mean, really, who wants to hold on to believing if it makes you look naive? Christmas gave us an excuse, but now we’d just look childish.

Who wants to hope for a brighter tomorrow when military bases are taken over by terrorists? Christmas reminded us that God cared and came. But now, we remember that we’re alone. How can we hope when it’s time to prepare for something more dire?

Who wants to sing for joy as flu season approaches, arctic chills sweep in, and credit card bills arrive? The best most of us can muster is to get a pint of ice cream and pull up our Netflix account to see what new shows we missed.

Who wants to think about anyone else? Who wants to be selfless? Who wants to believe that anyone will even care?

Me. That’s who. And you do, too.

We long to return to home. We long to return back to a place where we can say I’m sorry and everything is forgiven. We long to have grace cover our relationships, and have conversations marked by depth and listening and easy exchanges.

That’s why Epiphany matters. Epiphany is revealing what matters most. It is post modernism at it’s best. It admits every real and tangible sorrow, and our need for something better — and then asks us to bring whatever we have, even if that means that we don’t get a picture perfect result.

Epiphany reminds us that we’ve already been on the journey, the least we can do now is show each other what we have to offer.

And when that happens, when people give the precious gifts they have, the most amazing thing happens: it’s enough.

Whatever you have to bring to your community …It’s enough.

Whatever time you can spend loving your family intentionally…it’s enough.

Whatever idea you can foster that brings goodness and hope to others: it’s enough.

Offer what you have, and it’ll be enough.

Love,

Pam