The following quote is taken from The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home by Carolyn McCulley.
A woman named Joy writes:
“For purposes of understanding my situation, let’s assume I accept (which I do) that there is immeasurable benefit in staying home with your children—being their primary disciplinarian, helper, caretaker, home-creator, influencer. I intend to be home with them after school until they attend college. This is because I have a strong conviction that most of my destructive choices in high school were made simply because I had no adult supervision after school, once I turned twelve. So I plan to be here, and have no plans to change that.
But here I am, six years into being a stay-at-home mother, and I find myself dying to work outside the home, to work at something that uses all my mental abilities. I wrestle with questions about calling, gifting, and fulfillment. My brain is super-active. I was a successful young entrepreneur before becoming a mom. I constantly think in money-making strategies. I love to problem-solve. So slowing down to function on the level of a pre-schooler has been THE HARDEST thing I have ever had to do in my life. I struggle with boredom every day. I have such a hard time pretending with them that I often turn to videos (much more than I ever intended), or to any structured activity like coloring time or room-playtime to keep them busy so that I will not be forced to “play”—which I am terrible at. Seriously, it’s like a learning disability. I can’t think of a thing to say when they ask me to pretend to be a bear or elephant with them. I try, but I freeze up—I yawn, my mind turns to thirty other things I could be doing (there’s that e-mail to write, that meal plan to make, that family budget to update…) I can’t stay focused on the game. Other moms have confirmed they have the same response to play time, but I think somehow I am worse. Some other moms seem more interested in the things of childhood than I am—like my friends who have chosen home-schooling. But I feel like I am an adult through and through—and I don’t know how to be a kid again.
In any case, this results in a constant sense of guilt that I carry around in all my mothering. I should be fulfilled doing this, but I am not. I should enjoy this playtime with my kids, but I don’t. I am not “gifted” at this full-time-playmate-for-little-kids thing. So I do my best to take good care of them and snuggle with them and attempt the occasional board game, bu I often feel like a failure.
Life with small kids is so sporadic and random, it’s hard to keep your home life and schedule organized perfectly. I don’t know any moms who do, so can I even hope to be great at this? What does the Bible say mothers could be called to do in terms of working for profit with their skills? Is it possible that some wives and mothers, like me, could be called to work more than others, or is it most likely sin if moms want to work at things they “enjoy” more than being focused on the home?”
Women of previous generations would be surprised by Joy’s idea that a mother’s role is to be a “full-time-playmate-for-little-kids.” Most cultures throughout time viewed children as an addition to the family’s productivity. The work of managing a home was too labor-intensive to expect hours of amusement, a concept we will explore in the following chapters. But the questions Joy raises are valid. For all the advancements claimed by feminism, Joy sounds a lot like the women interviewed fifty years ago by Betty Friedan: “Is this all?” Perhaps we’re not viewing the issue from the proper perspective. Perhaps we are far more shaped by recent history than we realize.
Does this topic interest you? I’m reading through this book right now, and I thought it might be interesting to blog about it as I go along. What do you think?