Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Motherhood and Vocation, Part 4
I suppose I could also title this: EPILOGUE: THE GOOD HUSBAND.
You've probably noticed that I haven't given a lot of specifics in this series. I haven't used the words "stay-at-home mom" or "daycare".
Yeah, that was on purpose. The thing is, I don't know what the right answers are for you. I don't know the details of how this all works out in your life. I'm only barely figuring out how it works out in my own!
I can give a few general thoughts on it though:
1) A bad husband will make every single piece of this so, so much harder. If vocational worries are a first-world problem, they're also in some ways a good-marriage problem. Women with husbands who aren't good at husbanding are in a hard spot. They need every grace everyone around them can give. A good husband will, well, husband. In older times, that word was a verb that meant to cultivate, to guard, to help things grow and flourish. The result of good husbanding is growth and flourishing.
I do believe that God is a father to the fatherless and a husband to the husband-less. But if a good husband is an unearned blessing, a bad one is at the very least a severe handicap.
And we're all of us bad spouses to some extent. I'm just saying that it's not fair to beat yourself up when you're having to fulfill your own role and someone else's and you're finding you're not able to do the job of two people no matter how hard you try.
God gives grace wherever we find ourselves. But it's unkind, I think, to fail to acknowledge that the husbandless or badly-husbanded woman is playing the game on a much higher difficulty setting.*
Again, I don't know how to address the situation or how to fix individual situations. I can just see clearly that having no husband or having a bad husband makes all of mothering harder, and that has to include the parts that have to do with juggling your vocation. And I want to acknowledge the bravery of the mothers who keep loving and working in the middle of those situations. They're heroic. And may God grant them every grace and mercy and strength that they need.
2) People say "specialization is for insects" but screw that. The truth is, specialization allows for civilization. Try having roads without engineers or secure borders without soldiers. Specialization is efficient.
Specialization allows for civilization in countries . . . and in families.
That the children are fed and clothed is the responsibility of both parents. It's my concern that there's money for food and it's my husband's concern that the children are cared for. If either of those things fail to happen it's both our faults. Redundant responsibility is a good failsafe.
But, practically, specialization makes for efficiency, and often it's going to make sense to have one person specialize as the bread-winner and one as the care-giver. Not always. Often. There are certainly reasons to split up those tasks or to juggle them back and forth. There are reasons, and there are seasons. (And I think the older kids get, the easier it's going to be to juggle those responsibilities back and forth.)
But, often, specialization is the most efficient way to make sure the family is 1) provided for, and, 2) cared for.
So you end up, often, having the father with the bigger career and the mother more often at home. I just want to point out how practical this is. And that it isn't necessarily bad to do things for practical reasons.
I think the problem comes when we start to see ourselves as the roles and only the roles. If I look at my husband and see a workhorse or a piggy bank, if he looks at me and sees a nanny or a maid . . . then we're in trouble.
But if I look at him and see Adam, and he looks at me and sees Jess - knowing full well that Adam earned the money and health insurance, and Jess cleaned the bathroom and cooked dinner - well, that's fine. We're called to love each other is all. Not use each other. Love each other. That there is utility there too is just the proper rights of love. That's okay.
It's a question of love. I guess it all comes down to a question of love. Sometimes loving the Lord means I'm nursing twins and trying to have a kind word for my toddlers despite my headache and my exhaustion. Sometimes loving the Lord means I'm spending four hours writing. Sometimes loving the Lord means I'm scrubbing a toilet. Sometimes it means I'm sitting still long enough that I can hear Him remind me how much He loves me.
So, motherhood and vocation . . . all come down to love, I think. Loving the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength . . . and loving your neighbor as yourself. You know, those little neighbors who are the fruit of your and your husband's love. Your first neighbors. The ones in your own household.
Love God. Love each other. Do the work God's given you to do. Trust Him to make up the lack. And . . . I don't know what else to say, so I'm stopping there. What do you think?
*I think the first user of this metaphor was John Scalzi, here. It's probably pretty obvious that I don't agree with Mr. Scalzi on everything, but he's a good writer and it's just a brilliant metaphor. Credit where credit's due.