Moving On

Caryn: MomHelen so wisely comments in “Early Influences” that as Christians we should accept that Jesus accepts more than one type of mom and move on. Couldn’t agree more! But, since so many other people aren’t there yet, I think it’s hard to do that without a bit of a fight first (hence the Revolution).

You know, I was thinking the other day about how much I loved Jill Savage’s book, Professionalizing Motherhood. Her book totally opened my eyes and revolutionized my own thinking about how motherhood might look–a few years before I had kids.

In fact, I credit her–and that book–with bolstering my decision to stay home with my kids. I love that her whole “‘thing” has been to make being a mom–and all the roles and responsibilities that go along with it–into an actual profession, going so far as to start conferences–like other professionals have–to learn and “network” and just generally connect with fellow moms.

While Dorothy Sayers rightfully argued in “Are Women Human” that the Industrial Revolution robbed mom of “intelligent occupation,” by taking away much of the bread-winning work moms once did, Jill Savage’s book sets out a look at a very intelligently run motherhood. Albeit, one that still doesn’t come with a paycheck.

This may seem weird that a “revolutionary” mom would like a book so much that is targeted for the “traditional” mom so much, but I think it’s because Jill  did revolutionize a view of motherhood. And I’m always up for that (as long as it doesn’t include neglect, cruelty, or something evil!).

Of course, as I flip back through her book now (just grabbed it off the shelf), I realize how little my life as an “at home mom” resembles the one she sets out. Really, it seems, I’m more of an amateur… But I’m good with that. Because I’ve tried to follow God’s call into other areas (as has she!) beyond motherhood. 

So what’s my point? Who knows? I’ve totally got a bad cold right now and am having trouble thinking!

Wait, I think I’ve got one: That OF COURSE Jesus accepts all types of families (down the road, we’ll talk about the WONDROUS book, ‘Parenting Is Your Highest Calling’ and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, which addresses this beautifully!), and so do I. And we can each continue to learn from other models of motherhood. They’ve each got their strengths and weaknesses. And will until we can be moms in Glory (my new favorite word for heaven. Love it.)

Carla: I love the idea of professionalizing motherhood–up to a point. I think back to something I read in a book that I can’t remember the name of anymore that said what I had wanted to say for so long: that motherhood (parenting really) isn’t a job or a role or a calling. It’s a relationship. That’s why models and rules and ideals don’t work, why they frustrate us when we want so badly to make them work. But a relationship exists between two individuals, both of them unique and unpredictable. So while I agree that we can professionalize the work side of motherhood, I think we always need to keep that idea of motherhood as a relationship first and foremost. It’s what helps us see our children as people, not projects. And it also helps us retain a sense of balance. It’s never healthy to lose yourself in a relationship and the mother/child relationship is no different. Both people in that relationship have legitimate needs and hopes and desires. And both of them have to figure out how to meet those needs and live out those hopes and move forward with those desires in the context of that relationship.

I know you’re sick and this is probably going waaaaay over your snotty head. And I’m certain you (and Jill Savage) are not suggesting one view over the other. But as we revolt, this understanding of motherhood as a relationship will be one of our core values. How’s that for professional?

And Ron, thanks for chiming in. We’re glad to have you around.

Caryn: Thanks for bringing up the relationship thing. Someone mentioned that to me when I was researching my book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to Discover the Real You Under All That Mom (coming March 2009, but if you pre-order now on Amazon, I will be your best friend!!!), that the thing that gets annoying about the mom identity is that we become known by our relationship, not as ourselves. So, again, nothing to do with what you just said–or that I said before, but what can I do? I’m now under the influence of Nyquil. Good night!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by momhelen on September 12, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I hope it’s all right that I keep commenting! Just love all the stuff you Revolutionaries are bringing up. Agreed, Caryn, that the revolution is still necessary and so glad that you’ve both started this blog!

    Now, I’m thinking about Carla’s point about motherhood being about relationships. On one hand, I totally agree with her. Absolutely true. But, our lives as mothers often require more attention from us outside the relational, and I think that’s what ultimately makes “motherhood” feel so challenging. There so much life stuff that keeps us from being able to focus on and enjoy the relationships we have with our kids. Life stuff such as laundry, meal planning and preparation, scheduling doctors’ visits and play dates and activities for however many children you might have, cleaning, laundry, more laundry, and did I mention laundry? So this particular point goes beyond what it means to be a mom and moves towards gender roles and responsibilities. Studies have shown that women tend to shoulder the household management tasks as well as whatever outside vocational responsibilities they might have. It’s hard to enjoy and invest in our relationships with our kids when we’re so worn out by all the other grueling necessities of life. Sometimes I wish I were independently wealthy so I could just outsource all the aspects of managing a household that I do not enjoy! Then perhaps I could really enjoy the time I do have with my kids. (I know, one day when they’re all grown up and out of the house, I’ll miss doing all their laundry and such. Well, then again, maybe not!)

    The author of the book I’ve been reading, _A Mother’s Work_, suggests that a public policy be put into place that concretely recognizes the economic worth of motherhood/parenthood. He suggests a publicly subsidized “home-care allowance” that would be approximately 80% of the cost of sending one’s kids to public day care, that parents could use in whatever way would be most beneficial for them–helping to pay for childcare if both parents do want to work outside the home, or perhaps even using it to pay for home-related tasks such as cleaning and LAUNDRY! (Hmm, I just don’t think I’ve made my daily nemesis clear enough.)

    Anyway, I suppose my point is that perhaps for some of these tensions to be relieved, ultimately it may require more than just an individual internal paradigm shift, a reorientation of priorities, or a clearer acceptance of one’s roles…the revolution might require activism on a broader scale to promote policies that have real practical application on the lives of today’s moms, Christian or otherwise. (Gilbert’s book also explains why some of the traditional “family-friendly” policies are ultimately minimally helpful when it comes to relieving some of these burdens, as they are only geared towards women in the workplace.) Not necessarily saying that the home-care allowance policy of Gilbert’s is the answer, but I hope that one of the eventual outcomes of this revolution is not just a lot of chatter (good and thought-provoking discourse though it is), but real change, coming from real action and creative ideas on our parts. I write this not even knowing what I mean by it! But I will be eager to see where our discussions lead.

    Reply

  2. Helen, please keep commenting! Better yet, write a post!!!

    For me, that language of relationship is helpful in that it reframes our expectations of motherhood as it related to the actual parenting part of being a mom. We instinctively know that there is no single model of relationships that work for all people in all places. Instead, we understand relationships as being reshaped and renewed and reworked every day. We see each relationship as unique and don’t feel bad about that uniqueness. So if we can see our relationships with our children in those terms–rather than in terms of a job or a project or a role–then we can give ourselves some grace when we make mistakes or aren’t the moms we’d like to be. We see the bigger picture of how we are connected to our children and can accept the ebb and flow that is part of a relationship.

    So maybe in our conversations we need to distinguish between the parenting/relational part of motherhood and the task management/professional part.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Heather on September 12, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    The relationship and the task management is exactly what I’ve had to draw a line between recently. I just had my second child seven months ago, her older brother is three and a half. My husband was home with my oldest for two and a half years, so the time I’ve been doing the at home mom thing has consisted of being pregnant and chasing a two and a half year old and now transitioning to having two kids in our house. It was IMPOSSIBLE for me to get anything done/completed. Everything had a little bit of effort thrown at it and it all was looking like crap.

    So, the hubby and I sat down with my list of 60+ things that I was trying to attempt each day (which I had written on a giant piece of butcher paper from the easel). I basically said to him that most of it had to go. I (we) needed to choose two or three things to be my main focus, and maybe a couple more to reach for daily. The other 55+ chores/adventures/relationships had to go, or at least be more spread out, and I NEEDED him to participate with me.

    The top three things for my day: Feed Children, Play with Children, Dress and Wipe Down Children (by 5pm).

    The other two: dishes, keep piles and stacks under control (mail, bills, drawings).

    This might seem over simplistic for some, but I had to do away with what I thought I needed to keep up with. Now that I focus my day on the kids and having a relationship with them (my personal reason for being home for the time until they go to school), I find it easier to load the dishwasher and sneak a couple of loads of clothes in the washer a day or two a week (though they never get put in the dryer).

    Reply

  4. Great comments. It is good to note that motherhood encompasses a professional side, a relational side, a kind of role-play side (if that’s different from the pro), and a plain old how we’re identified side, maybe.

    Of course, I do get VERY nervous hearing about public subsidies for at-home moms (or anyone/thing else, for that matter). While I agree that it’s nice to have a value-added to motherhood, goodness, this would open a can of worms. I mean, then we’d be looking at allowances for all at-home types–even without kids.

    That said, privately (meaning, out of the public square) I think we should push for better balance situations for moms everywhere. Carla wrote a great post yesterday for Gifted For Leadership (www.giftedforleadership.com) about leading in a man’s world. And how women, still, are supposed to contend with the way men have set thing up (not saying they did everything WRONG, just different). One dream of mine would be if we could shape out a Mom’s World–one that doesn’t see kids as a hindrence to anything and actually values what women–with kids–can bring. Especially when we have to bring the kids with…

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  5. Wow! This conversation is indeed enlightening. Thank you for all the perspectives thrown into the arena.

    I’ll head in a slightly different direction with my comment. In writing Professionalizing Motherhood, my premise was indeed looking at motherhood as a valid profession. One worthy of our time, talent, and education. I still believe in that message.

    Over time, however, I’ve come to understand the value of this perspective for both moms at home and working moms.

    When we view what we do at home as a profession, we approach it with a different intentionality. We seek education and set goals like someone would do in the in career world. So a woman who devotes herself to motherhood as her fulltime profession sees herself as a professional and feels a sense of pride in what she does. And when a woman who works outside the home thinks of what she does at home in a professional way, she mothers with a different intentionality and energy, too.

    Reframing motherhood as a profession helps us think about what we do differently and gives us a sense of pride. It also raises the value of motherhood culturally in the minds of both men and women. And I think it only enhances the relationship part of mothering that Carla was talking about.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Robyn on January 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    For me, motherhood is very much a relationship, not a profession. I have a profession in that I am a teacher. My relationship with my daughter is so much more than that. It is deeper, more meaningful, more intimate. It is more important, too. I am intentional in my relationship with my daughter because I value it so highly.

    “Motherhood” does not include household duties. I could understand “Stay-at-Home-Mom” as a profession, though I HATE that term as it excludes men who are “homemakers” and would call it something else. Maybe “Domestic Engineer” or something.

    Reply

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