So What do YOU do?

[note color=”#FDD017″]This is a guest post by Joanne Miller.  She is my wife and is affectionately known as Queen Mother in the 48Days community. She writes, serves the needs of others and spends time with her grandchildren.  Her newest book is titled Be Your Finest Art and that’s also the name of her group here in this community. She doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook but has more connections than anyone I know. If you’d like to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.[/note]

I had a “friend” once ask me how on earth could I be content with being just a housewife? She and her husband ran a successful business together and DSC_5485they had raised one “perfect” son who didn’t interfere much with their daily schedules.  I have to admit I was a bit put off by her question and probably stammered a bit as I tried to answer nicely (our husbands were friends) without punching her lights out.  The truth is, I sometimes, just briefly, for a minuscule minute, wondered the same thing myself. 

When people ask me what was my career I proudly say, house wife, mom, supporter and cheerleader for the family.  I’m not at all embarrassed, ashamed or put down by that title.  Somewhere along the line, the women’s liberation movement did a lot to create unrest, resentment and a feeling of unfulfillment in women for staying in the home and taking care of a family.  Really, it doesn’t seem complicated to me to think that if a couple decides to have a family that someone has to take care of said family.  Funny, when you think about it, how many parents have the conversation with their child who wants a new puppy…. “Now, Ian, if you want a puppy you have to be responsible to feed it, exercise it, train it, discipline it, take care of it all the time!” yet when it comes to taking care of their own offspring, that responsibility is handed off to others to take on those very roles.  (Let me add a caveat here.  I know there are plenty of single-parents who don’t have the luxury of staying home to play “Susie Homemaker”.  And I know for most of those homes, the parent would love that scenario.  Please know my heart goes out to you.)

Dan just attended a conference in Boston where Martha Stewart was one of the speakers.  He said she made no apologies for lifting homemaking to an ART.  I like to think I did the same thing.    I always felt someone had to be the stable influence, especially in the entrepreneurial, often chaotically unpredictable home.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote about motherhood in her famous book, Gift From The Sea,We do not see the results of our giving as concretely as man does in his work.  In the job of home-keeping there is no raise from the boss, and seldom praise from others to show us we have hit the mark.  Except for the child, woman’s creation is so often invisible, especially today.”  Those words were written in 1955 and still have relevance.  Yet, just as the child who takes his responsibility seriously and raises that rambunctious puppy to be an obedient, loving household pet, the proof is in the pudding.  Schools are in a mess today largely because parents have abdicated their responsibility in teaching respect, honor and a love of learning….things kids used to receive from parents who looked at child rearing and homemaking as a serious career, teaching their children how to live responsibly in the real world.

I will refrain from getting on my soapbox and spare you my rant on this issue. I do know, however, that in the early days of building the 48 Days business, I would often assure women that the most important career they will ever have is raising responsible children and creating a haven of peace for their family.  Invariably I would have women weeping as they told me they so needed to hear that.  If you are a mother, I hope you realize childrearing is for a season.  Mothering is forever.  Just as that little boy grows up with a well-behaved and much loved family pet, your family and your community will honor you for the effort and time you put into creating a home you can be proud of and children who become responsible citizens giving back to the world in their own way.   Mom is the most influencing person in their world all their formative years.  Regardless if you are a full-time stay-at-home mom or have another career outside the home, you have a very important role to play in your family. I hope you will wear your motherhood badge with pride and the knowledge you are the hub around which family and home revolve and you will reap great rewards in seeing your children, and your spouse become people of influence and success. 

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  • Our world likes to be able to measure everything. So in asking what someone does, part of the question is meant to measure worth. The problem of course is that stay-at-home parents’ contribution is hard to measure in financial terms. Quality is always much harder to measure than quantity. But you’re right: parenting is one of the most valuable tasks those of us with children can ever do!

    • Andrew,
      Wow – that’s a really insightful perspective – and so true.

      • Amélie

        Dan, can I have that purpose for my “Work I love” ? Finding a way to help my husband with the income, but keeping my focus on my role as a mother without struggling with stress and non fullfiling work? I have a sales job with a flexible scedule, it help to take care of my family, but I have a hard time to deal with coldcalling and performance and finaly it´s the same as working outside a full-time job because I’m always preoccuped about my job in my times off, so I am not realy there for my kids. I don’t want to loose any other moment of their childhood. Is it possible?

    • Great perspective, Andrew and I agree profoundly. Sadly, we Americans don’t need a whole lot of real information in order to size someone up as to their value. I figure raising Godly, respectful and productive…..and loving….children……makes a parent pretty valuable!

  • Micki

    Joanne, I have not ever been a stay at home mom, but have made many job choices in order to have the flexibility to raise my kids. I so admire you for being so committed and passionate about your family. I feel the same passion you do for my two wonderful boys!

    • Micki, I know many working Mom’s who bend over backwards to provide as much stability as they can for their children. Kudos to them! I would have done the same if I had not had the option to stay home. Just because a Mom has to work, doesn’t mean they love their children less! Thanks Micki for your comment!

  • Bonnie Lynch

    Love it! Especially, “I tried to answer nicely … without punching her lights out.” And you don’t have to ever have been a stay-at-home mom to feel that sense of “wow, this person really doesn’t get what I do or why it’s important.” I guess what matters is that you (and ideally, the people you do it for) understand and value what you do. We have to keep focusing on them, I think, and being the example that ripples out into the world.

    • Bonnie, right on! The woman who said that remark to me totally didn’t value her position as Mom. So sad. And she totally didn’t “get me”! I still wanted to punch her lights out! Still makes me want to even after all these years!! 🙁

  • Hi Joanne,
    My wife stays home with our children full time and I often think I get the better end of the deal by “going to work.” She does such a fabulous job taking care of all of us and creating a well run household. It’s a very difficult and challenging job, not to mention a 24×7 job, but she would tell you it’s worth it. We’ve made some financial sacrifices in order for her to stay at home, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for encouraging the women who have made this decision.

    • Adam, Kudos to you both. And you “get it”! I’m so glad. There have been times when, at the end of the day, I went back through my mind thinking about all the various duties I performed all day and have thought seriously that I would have been so less busy had I had a “real job”….and then could come home and rest. My job is never really over till I hit the bed at night. It’s just who I am. Thanks for the comment.

  • Tim Bishop

    I was blessed with a mother who shared your perspective, Joanne. I appreciate your words.

    • Thanks, Tim. I wasn’t. Nor did I have a father in the house. I know I worked doubly hard to provide that nurturing for my children that I so wanted growing up. It was totally worth it!

      • Tim Bishop

        Interesting. Neither did my mother, as her mother had died in childbirth to a still-born sibling when Mom was a toddler. Some are motivated by a lack of nurture in their backgrounds, not wanting their children to suffer from the same lack, while others rebel and self-destruct. Why is it, do you think, that some choose the high road while others do not?

        • Tim, if you ever figure that one out, you could make a billion $$! I certainly never have.

          • Tim Bishop

            What do you think the difference maker was in your own life? Did you have a mentor, or a spiritual experience? What was it that pushed you in that right direction?

          • Tim, the difference was just making an intentional decision that I would change the family tree. I determined to work hard to give my children (and husband) all the love and nurturing I had desperately wanted prior to marriage. We all make choices. Mine was out of my own pain and desire to create a peaceful, joyful and loving home. I did seek out mentors, read books, listened to speakers, whatever I could do to learn to be a good parent and spouse. And my church at that time helped a lot.

          • Tim Bishop

            Very encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tracy Nolan

    Beautifully put and I couldn’t agree more!

    Tracy Nolan
    Winnetka, IL

  • Kelly Melear-Hough

    Most families need two incomes to make ends meet these days, not just single parent families. I see staying home with the kids as more of a luxury only available to families in which one spouse earns a high salary. This feels like a criticism of moms who work when in reality most moms HAVE to work outside the home and already experience stress and guilt associated with that reality. And, to top that off moms (and dads) in the workplace also get a hard time when they want or need time off to be with a sick child or to attend school functions. This is a societal issue, not just an individual one.

    That said, I agree that raising kids is an extremely important and valuable job. It is possible to raise great kids while also working outside the home too.

    • Radiant Sunset

      Well, Kelly, as a single mom who raised 2 young children to adulthood by myself, I didn’t take anything Joanne said as a criticism. IF you want something badly enough, chances are that there’s a way to make it happen. That is how, without a high salary or—for most of the time—child support, I was able to homeschool and work from home. I couldn’t give my children everything they wanted, but I could give them my time and attention and group activities (I also led a 4-H club). Sure I was exhausted, but it was only for a season, and then they grew up. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

      • Well put, Radiant Sunset……Kelly, I meant in no way to criticize the working mother. I was raised by one. But life is all about choices and you wouldn’t believe how many women Dan and I see who “have” to work but long to stay home with their children. Then they hop into their new Lexus and drive to their 5 bedroom home. I chose to home school my children, shop at GoodWill and thrift stores (I still do) and we lived in some pretty scary places, which I fixed up to create my Haven of Peace. The problem with our society is that we judge one another by what we do, what we own and what church we attend. Not fair and not at all accurate. And I am a testament to the fact that a working single mother (divorced twice before I can even remember) can produce productive, caring and loving children……My 46 year marriage is a first in our whole family tree. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you felt I criticized. It was definitely not my intent.

        • Terri Day

          Amen Joanne!! Very well said, my sweet friend

  • Ron K

    We always have options, choices. If both parents are in agreement that mom should stay at home they usually can make it work. My wife and I did. At times it meant we had to say “no” when others were doing things we would have liked for our children to have done.

    Joanne was simply stating the blessings she has received from being a stay-at-home mom. It was a choice she and Dan made. I seriously doubt their financial situation was as good when they made that choice as it is now.

    • Ron, I had to chuckle at your comment! Uh….NO our finances (when I chose to stay home with the kids) were NOT what they are now. It is funny how that works. I have a lovely big kitchen now with all the amenities. How I wish I could have had the same when living in some of the not-so-desirable houses during those rather lean years. But now I get to entertain my three married children, their lovely spouses and my twelve darling grand children in better style. And you are so right. We usually have more choice options than we think! Our children didn’t feel deprived they couldn’t vacation in Destin but felt priviledged to spend time on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm or simply play on the playground at the local park. We didn’t live a life of abundance in “stuff” but we always had an abundance of JOY! Thanks for your comment.

  • Jevonnah Ellison

    THANK YOU, Joanne for saying this! I especially love your statement, “Regardless if you are a full-time stay-at-home mom or have another career outside the home, you have a very important role to play in your family. I hope you will wear your motherhood badge with pride….” This is encouraging to not only mothers, but to all women. Thank you for being an EXTRAORDINARY example.

    • Thanks, Jevonnah. I have witnessed so many women cry over hearing me say those words. It is sad to see women feel the societal pressure to grab a briefcase and be “productive” when they really only want to be home with their children. That is not being lazy. She is not neglecting her family by not bringing in income. It is a hard job being a stay-at-home mom. And one that is worth much more than she could ever make at a job outside the home. Some single women are forced to work. I applaud them for doing what they have to do in order to survive. And I do believe they can be excellent mothers. My desire in what I wrote was to encourage women to value their roles and not feel “just being a Mom” is to be less valuable. I know this is what you teach also Jevonnah. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  • Luis Sabillon

    Awesome, Ms Joanne !

  • Karen Ray

    Joanne, thank you for affirming the value of investing in our families! We too made sacrifices so I could be home with our kids, teaching and raising them. Plus side, in addition to having raised happy well adjusted kids to adulthood is that I have a great store of raw material for my writing work after those two brief decades of rich life experience. Wouldn’t trade it for anything, and interestingly enough—my kids have said neither would they :).

    • Thanks, Karen. Oh, yes, I have lots of fodder for writing, having been a stay-at-home Mom of an entrepreneur. Oh, the stories!! And what a RIDE! And we all survived! Many years ago, Barbara Bush said in an interview, “The future of our country lies not in what’s happening in the White House but what’s happening in YOUR house!” It is the best motto I ever heard. Thanks for your comment.

  • Daniel Bryan

    Encouraging words, thank you!

  • Natalie

    Thank you for your encouragement! I needed it so badly today. Blessings to you

    • Natalie…..Never underestimate the value of being a career mom! Glad I could be an encouragement…..

  • I wish it were a requirement for every child to have a full-time parent available. I so value the time you spent with us, Mom, and the incredible opportunities we had to explore the world as homeschoolers. Everything we did was both a learning opportunity and an adventure and I’m so thankful for that experience. It’s overwhelming at times to navigate the work world and parenting and taking care of all the to-dos in having a home/family as well. Like Andrew stated in the other comment, quality is hard to measure/quantify but is so critical to building the valuable relationships/connections in life. Thanks for being the present mama that you were/are!

  • epickett

    I don’t have any kids(single guy here), but I’ve always said that being a mother was the most important job in the world…

  • thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you…… I need to hear that message over & over & over again!!!!!

  • Kevin Miller

    I admit I romanticize the image of a farming family. Where everybody is working on the land in different capacities, but…together. And no role is admired over another. Maybe the guy is out in the elements more cause he can’t nurse the baby, and happens to have naturally bigger muscles. And maybe the gal is better at nurturing children. But it’s all one unit. Not the segregation of whoever off to work, away from home, and applauded for their place in the economy.