Morning Reflection: Coping when it’s Gone

This morning I found my rhythm. I laid out the children’s clothes last night so I could quietly dress them one at a time when they rise and then usher them out to the playroom where, hopefully, no children would be watching television. They come Saturday and leave Monday. It is never long enough. There are some moments on Sunday when it feels never short enough. But it is always worth it. I see how weak the virtue of patience has grown in me. I remember how parenting three active children did not feel difficult until after the first hospitalization when I was reminded how peaceful and quiet life can be. Even though I snap at them, it is wonderful to be with them.

When they leave, my heart feels empty. The world goes from color to black-and-white; and the only thing that really helps…is to walk. To walk and walk and walk until the emotions and the emptiness fade into the distance, the scenery begins to brighten with color and after long enough, my feet hurt and I am eager to get back to sit down and rest. Then I finish the day as I started, just moving forward.

I do not know if the children know they leave today. They usually leave on Monday, after two nights, but I cannot bear to say the words. I will have to. No, I will have my husband do it. I do not want to see their sad faces. Even if they know, they will be sad. They do not want to leave. The hospital is a place with a wonderful playroom and nurses who are just so interested in them. Family House is a place with new bed, new pictures and a living room of toys and books they have not seen before. It is even better this time, there is a play kitchen. But most of all, we are today, and that hurts the eldest when it is time to leave. And that breaks my heart.

No news came yesterday. No news is very good news. No news means nothing new has grown in the blood cultures. If nothing new continues to grow, the infection may be cleared. If nothing new continues to grow it means I can start counting the days. I will keep counting since the last blood culture, five days…one…two…three…four…five. That would mean Tuesday. Give it an extra day so I do not get too excited. That makes it Wednesday. But I would not usually tell anyone I am hoping for Wednesday because then I will have to tell them when Wednesday comes that it is not Wednesday and they are more disappointed than I can handle. I was just hoping after all. Today is Monday.

Today is Labor Day. My family and I used to go camping on Labor Day. My husband, children and I never really do anything special for Labor Day. They will have a barbecue here at Family House in the afternoon. I hope to eat a hot dog. I have written up my holiday season plans, as I do each year for the fall and winter. For each holiday or birthday I have written a back-up plan, a San Francisco plan, because Easter was just too heartbreaking to be away from home. And I do not want that to happen again.

The last time I saw the saw the ocean here in San Francisco, I felt hope again. B knew it would have that effect so he took me. We went yesterday. God, it was good to see the children enjoy themselves, good to sit with the littlest after the waves scared her, good to not worry about the sand. The sun was beautiful. The walk was beautiful. The waves were magnificent. We sat at a restaurant, paid for too expensive milk and walked back. The best moments with kids are the moments when you do nothing, when you sit and just let them be, watch them, stop them from picking their noses, and break up the fights with a teaching moment.

The goodness of the moment overwhelms me. My husband is making steak and eggs for me. It is overwhelming to be so loved. Everyone has their crosses. I suppose God gave us the grace in our relationships so that we could face what the outside world would throw us. We just take what comes; embrace the chaos; wish we had worn sunscreen and cope with it when its gone.

Morning Reflections: Flowers along the Path

What many thoughts go through my mind. I handed my phone to the Dr. P who attempted to speak with the staff member from the other hospital. A while later I heard the summary, “not candida,” as in, do not panic…thank God!…”we’ll try to treat through the infection”…for now no surgery. Candida is yeast. Candida Lucitania is the the yeast we all fear, the yeast that would have meant scanning his entire body looking for where it is hiding. He so much more active than before. Without the pacifier, this would be torture to him. Not candida.

The beeping is driving me mad. His tube keeps getting twisted so it keeps beeping. This is out of the ordinary. It is after lunch and after lunch is when I take my leave of him. I tell the nurse I am going to leave so I do not break the pump (the beeping pump). The kids comes tonight. I will leave at 5:30pm so I will take only an hour leave. Thus the overall time I am absent is not too much. Each step is calculated in this way, because I cannot be away from him.

I will take my book and read in the sunshine even though the clouds have not come out yet. I recall my morning reflection and that talk about the sun coming out and anticipation dying down. It has not. How deep is that meaning?

I did not read St. Zelie Martin’s letters yesterday so I will read them today. I will take Don Quixote with me in case I grow weary of reading letters, but it is unlikely because she is dying of breast cancer, but she is praying for a cure!

The letters I read, while sitting in my park among the flowers, are filled with urgency as she seeks a pilgrimage, as she prays for a cure. She goes to Lourdes and it is exhausting and full of trouble. She is not cured. Zelie continues to hope.

I feel like she walks along side me. I am not dying of breast cancer. I do not have thoughts racing through my mind about how my children need me just a little longer and how since they need me, perhaps God will not take me.

Or do I?

Hoping that God would allow her to stay just a little longer. She does not pray for a complete cure, just a few more years to help her Leonie. Zelie’s faith and courage: she takes nothing for herself. Her children are her purpose; they are the reason she moves forward. She owned a successful business but found her reason for living was life with her husband and children.

I walk along the path and it hits me how God has answered our prayers. Yesterday in my conversation with Mrs. G, the topic about thanking God for little victories came up. We’ll take what we can get, she said. This is a little victory. Not removing the Broviac means two less surgeries, at least for now, or at least in the big picture. And we can continue to pray. We do not have to pray for great and global things, although God could surely answer those prayers as well, but he will answer in the little ones. Or at least he will help us to get through.

So what it is then? Flowers along the path, the little things along the way, the prayers answered. It is hard to understand the ups and downs, one minute up, the next minute down. But maybe it is only hard when one expects a cure, or for it all to end. I stopped thinking that way at the onset of the third hospitalization. We will drive ourselves mad with that: when will it be over? It will not. I mean, one day it will be different, but it will never be over. Accepting that is the first step to sanity. The next step if finding things that can be joyful. Those are the flowers. And they are red and purple and yellow and smell wonderful along the path. The sun came out as I read.

Prepare your hearts

We do not know what the future holds. Sitting apprehensively, pondering what our days will hold. Frustrated with the hospital that called with an unclear message that a blood culture is positive. They don’t know what it means to us to find out. It is the difference of going home and staying, possibly staying weeks. It is the difference of getting through something and deciding to adapt, to make a way to live here away from home.

We will have to wait and see. What does the future hold? It is uncertain. But it never was guaranteed. We take it for granted that we will know what will happen until something throws us off the rails, until God laughs at our plans. He does have something better for us. It is just that simple matter of what is actually good? Is not it better that I love my family, that I love my home, that I take nothing for granted? That sitting a table with my husband feels like a date again?

Each room has a familiar scene. I have seen these views before. Yesterday it was the patio and the other windows. Today it is the park. In the past Family House was my peace. Now it is the park. That park with its fragrant butterfly attracting flowers. They say the path forms a butterfly wing, but I am not so sure. Whenever I walk through I make sure to walk around the park as my daughter requested each time we went during the week she was here.

Anticipation hangs on my heart like the fog. What will happen? How long will we be here? How will we manage? Plans start to run through my mind but it is too much to think about. Better to wait and see. I will look out the window at the park, remember the smell of the flowers, and how is makes up for all the other smells of the city.

The sun will come out in the afternoon. Then we will know more. I will go out to the park, sit among the flowers, read Don Quixote and adapt to the news. Ready to take what comes. The resident who is on today saw me at my worse, in my uncontrollable tears, five months ago. The night before I went out for my first walk, my first escape. The sun will come out in the afternoon. I will watch the movie now. I do not have think about it now. It is time for the baby to play.

The Path to Heaven Through Suffering

“That same evening, when the sun appeared to be sinking into the vast stretch of the waters beyond a golden path of light, I went with you to sit upon a lonely rock. I gazed for ages on this path of light, and you said it was an image of the path to Heaven when grace lights up the way.”

St. Therese, The Story of a Soul

Sunset reflected on the sand of the beach
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

His energy was low. It was strange how calm he was during the outing. He spit up once in the car. His eyes looked a little sunken. During lunch we put the clues together. I called the pediatrician knowing the doctor could ease the process of getting labs. I would have to drop the other children off at my parents. They have an opening in 25 minutes. It takes 15 minutes to get there. My husband rushed to shoe and load up the kids while I prepared the diaper bag. I did not think of packing. I did not think of anything except getting there.

99.2, then taking his temperature in a more accurate method…102.

Damn it.

It is rather like a flood. This means San Francisco. This means leaving home. This means being torn apart. This means returning to the desert where we seem to live half the time. This means suffering. This means making arrangements.

Off to the ER.

And then the news that we will be flying to San Francisco. This means no suitcase. This means it gets complicated. Could I go without him in the car?

Having a car sit unused in a garage for two weeks. Complicating the lives of those caring for our children with the back and forth of not having the van. I have the van. The good doctor from UCSF says they will try to make a way for me to have a break. I do not know what he means. Another doctor…another conversation, she is all heart and optimism and she helps keep me going in ways well beyond the call of her profession. They mean for me to be able to go home for a few days. But Baby is very attached to me. He is eight months. I left my eight-month old son to return to work full time three years ago. It hurt him. I can’t do that. They are wonderful here. They love him here. But I cannot take him from the stability he knows of the person he is attached to most.

In the helicopter,

I hear, “PICU” from the flight nurse in the back with Peter. We are in a helicopter. PICU. Is it more serious than I realize. It is bright and hot on my face as we fly west into the evening. The air conditioning is cold on my leg. When I start to feel a moment of panic, I take a deep breath and repeat in my mind “it’s an adventure!” This is my second helicopter ride.

It is beautiful and exciting. We are up over the clouds. Beneath us is a sea of clouds. I take a photograph for my son. I think of St. Therese. If she loved the elevator what would she say of this! I think of the golden path of light above the clouds.

We are in the steady movement of the helicopter and it feels we dive into the clouds. The power of the moment, the magnitude…it is awesome. And we go lower. The clouds turn dark. I think of the dark night…of feeling a separation from the things we love…of feeling torn from home. We are in the dark clouds. We come beneath them. The bay is below us. The sun sets. It forms a golden path of light along the water.

This is the path to Heaven. This way of suffering…of love…of sacrifice. I offer my sacrifice for Joseph and his family.

A nurse in the last ER asked me, “how do you do it?” You just do. You just keep moving forward. Because this is the path to Heaven. To bouy us up, the Lord finds a way to light up the path, to give us hope, and keep us moving on our journey.

Happy New Year!

It’s actually very difficult for me to stir up excitement about the New Year. Thanksgiving packs a punch with gratitude for the past year. Christmas is a time of reflection, it being the anniversary of the night my husband and I began dating. Then comes New Year’s. My family did not celebrate it much. I had a few great dates with my man before we married, but along came children and out went New Year’s Eve celebrations. I love the idea: the revelry, the reflection, new chances. I just can’t stir up the excitement.

Putting that downer aside, there are some life improvements in the works. We’re about to have another baby, which is always an improvement on the status quo, albeit a chaotic one.

I purchased a monthly planner from Target, which is beautiful. My loving husband bought a fancy fountain pen for me. I believe in the richness of the sensory experience tied to reading books. I believe it engages our minds in ways that digital world just cannot. So with that philosophy in mind, I thought I’d give a printed calendar a try. It will help with scheduling new business clients and as I do not use an internet phone, I’ll be able to access my calendar without needing the internet. Revolutionary, no?

One of my proudest moments is from last part of 2015, I took stock of our finances. I enjoy crunching numbers, paying attention to details, getting caught up in the minutiae. So while my husband is the main provider, I do the finances. While we never racked up credit card debt, it felt like each bill took me by surprise. Savings was going down and stress going up. We fell into the mindset of using the credit card to spend the money we’d earn the following pay period.

Again, while this wasn’t detrimental to our security and lives, it wasn’t healthy. I felt that they key was the abstract nature of using the credit card. I dug out an accounting pad I received from my father many years ago (I took an accounting class in high school) and began recording everything: cash spent, credit card purchases, debit card purchases, income, income from store returns. Every transaction.

To any one who ever balanced a check book, this will not sound amazing. But really, with online banking, how many of us let that practice go completely? And even for those who did or do it, what about cash purchases?

I put the numbers on paper. I add and subtract with each transaction. Credit card bills are no longer a surprise because they are already accounted for.

This process created the mindfulness needed to really get on top of our spending. The problem was not so much a problem for my husband, but for me, and this was the solution. So while, we still have things we can do better (saving more from unexpected income), I’m so pleased to say that now, at the end of the pay period, instead of nail biting, we have double the amount we would have had two months ago.

It’s a little lesson, but I’m proud of it. Writing it down, being able to glance at it any time without going on the computer, adding the numbers myself all adds mindfulness to the practice of spending and receiving.

It’s a small personal triumph. What, in the past year, have you found works for you, has solved a problem, has made you feel proud of your accomplishments?

School: what is it good for?

What is the role of the school? Why do we send children to school? I think we send children to school be educated. Some people will put up with a substandard education because they believe that, equally important to education, another purpose of school is socialization.

Story Time At A Country School A Painting by Norman Rockwell

Because our children spend so much time in school, the culture of the school becomes a strong influence on the culture of our children. If religion has been historically the transmitter of culture, but schools will not allow, or teachers do not perceive any allowance of the discussion of religion or the influence of religion on curriculum, then a type of secular culture will be transmitted to students. Is the culture secular humanism? Or is it also driven by marketing, as I have argued many things are?

My only experience in sending my child to school consisted of the local state preschool. Discussion of religion was not included when celebrating or learning about holidays. Christmas was about Santa and this fact was hammered into them through re-written classic songs. They did not learn any Christmas hymns as we did while we were children, “Silent Night,” and all that.

What else happens at school? Organizers of the school, apart from religion determine the virtues children should develop, without a sound virtue theory. Locally, character traits encouraged in school programs consist of six pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship. They aren’t bad things, but without a foundation and without also emphasizing prudence, which helps one determine the right response in the given situation to the right degree, the character traits will, in the end, be empty, flat, and forgettable.

Another quality I have noticed is that school is intent on filling in where parents are failing. Children are mandated to go to school. For those who do not choose private or home schooling, public school is available to everyone. Therefore, the public school is where “we” have access to children, so this is the best place for vision tests, dental hygiene, and now, to the interest of many in California, mandating vaccines.

SB277 would require children without medical exemption to be vaccinated or they cannot attend public school in California. Whether or not I think children should be vaccinated, the use of school as the place to enforce it, seems to me, a gross overreach of the point of school. Public school has become the place where the state becomes the caregiver. They provide breakfast and lunch for free, even through the summer, because many kids would not eat otherwise. They bring in health professionals to make sure kids are up to the mark, even in preschool, even when a physical was required for admission, without informing or the consent of the parents.

What is the goal of school? Is it free daycare? Is it free parenting? Is it what we want our children to inherit? I think my children would benefit from the social opportunities that comes with school. They love to be with people and other kids. But I can’t get past the fact that I believe community and church equally provide social opportunities (nicer one’s in fact since they are more stratified), and that school is for education. I do not attend a church of a different religion just because nice people go there. I attend a Catholic Church because I want to practice my Catholic faith. The religion is the point, the people are the plus. I do not want to live in a community with a nice house but terrible neighbors. The people are the heart, the home is the plus.

I can’t get over the idea that school is for education, learning. So even though I would love to send my children out of the house for schooling, to be with others, to enjoy the revelry of their age group, I will find other sources. I radically disagree with the utilitarian approach to education couched in our school programs, at the heart of the common core curriculum. I disagreed with it when I was in junior high and high school. I disagree with it now.

Let learning be for learning’s sake. Let education make us better people. Let it teach us empathy by great literature. Let it create opportunities to develop skills such as memorization, and mental flexibility through music. Let it transmit culture by not rejecting European culture. Three quarters of my heritage is European: Greek, German, Irish. One quarter is non-European: Chinese. Would my children encounter the classics of these cultures in the common core? I doubt it.

I want them to have a childhood full of stories, of rhymes, of imagination, of natural science. I want religion to part of their way of life, not just something that happens at home and Sundays. How can I explain why for a majority of their hours God is never mentioned?

You may make a different decision. It comes down to that question. What is school for? We’re free to decide for ourselves what qualities we value most, and decide from there.

A Journey Through Mother’s Day

A journey through Mother’s Day.

I love the idea of being pampered. I love it all too deeply, I’m afraid. So my first Mother’s Day as a mother, 2010, was really wonderful. I was really excited to stand up and receive that special blessing at mass. My child had not been born yet. We lived in Virgina far away from family. My husband took me to Le Madeleine and let me buy myself a present. I forgot to buy a card but I called my mom.

DIGITAL CAMERAMy second Mother’s Day, 2011, was probably wonderful too. By then I had one baby born. I don’t remember very much from it. We were still in Virginia.

IMG_2639 My third Mother’s Day, 2012, was when things got complicated. We were back in California. This meant two families plus my own motherhood to celebrate. We went to Marie Calendar’s with my family for brunch. It was nice, but hot and very crowded. I had one baby born and one on the way. My husband’s family plans much more last minute. They planned to eat lunch at Johnny Carino’s that afternoon. We announced my pregnancy after lunch. It was a very tiring day going out twice like that. I was sad my husband did not write out a card for me because I’m spoiled like that. He put together a brilliantly sweet and funny picture-card written in the voice of our 1 ½ old daughter.

IMG_3502After that, we had two kids and naps became more and more important so we were unable to attend get-together’s planned in my husband’s family, as they usually involved lunch. We had a picnic at Micke Grove in 2013.

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Last year on Mother’s Day, we had two kids and one newborn.

IMG_4674My husband tried to make me breakfast in bed with our eldest’s help but I was already up taking care of the baby.

Last year I read a very good reflection piece online about Mother’s Day and disappointed expectations, disappointed because sometimes we mothers get confused about what Mother’s Day is about. As much as it is about celebrating mothers, that celebration of motherhood is a day that does not make motherhood stop. So there will still be dishes, diapers, crying, but it’s a day when I, as a mother, can reflect on the magnitude and beauty of the call. I can spend time thinking about how my motherhood would be weak indeed without the support of my husband, and I can thank God for him.

IMG_3688Our children are growing older and so we are able to start involving them more. My daughter loves to buy gifts for people and she is wonderful to shop with. She can copy letters and write cards. It’s a good time to be a mother. It’s a wonderful time to teach my children about gratitude and generosity, I mean, when it’s my turn to lead them in celebrating Father’s Day. Now it’s my husband’s turn.

I will probably not sleep well the night before. I will probably wake up an ungodly hour and not be able to fall back asleep. My husband will probably very sweetly have something planned (I left a magazine clipping on his desk, after all) but the fact that I get up, get dressed and put on make-up before he’s up will make that breakfast-in-bed difficult.

And the children will fight, whine, and tug on me…but this year, I’m arming myself with anticipation and preparing to take it as a day to reflect on what it means to be a mother. It does not mean pampering, but service.

And then, I can turn around and celebrate my own mother.

IMG_4232Happy Mother’s Day.

Christmas Traditions

And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! – Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof

I wrote previously about Black Friday traditions in my family. Growing up, my mother and father both worked full time and I was a latch key child. There was much independence, which after 5th grade meant, much television watching. We did not hold many traditions. Every Advent and Lent we went to a penance service. It was in junior high I learned confession was available outside penance services as well. For the majority of my childhood Christmas mornings, my sister and I woke very early, as did my father. We were allowed to open our stocking and waited until my mother rose to open our presents. We opened in a round robin fashion, taking the time to thank the giver. Breakfast followed, then 11am mass. Once I was old enough, on Christmas Eve, we watched a movie, went to sleep for a couple hours and then woke to attend Midnight Mass. My mother converted to Catholicism after she married my father. My father was the typical pre-Vatican II Catholic, devout, faithful, moral, fell away for early adulthood, returned upon marriage. My extended family is not Catholic. Some are Protestant. Most are not.

Thanksgiving was typically held at my aunt’s house in Redding. Christmas was usually celebrated separate from the day at my uncle’s house outside Santa Cruz. Their house, nestled among redwood trees, with its wood-burning stoves and quiet, wet location, still feels like Christmas to me. The family is small, children are few, and once the children were grown, it seems the demands for tradition dwindled and gradually fell away.

Camping locations changed, different parties hosted different holidays, I grew up and wanted to host as well. What traditions are left?

My father has never denied the existence of Santa Claus. He has neither denied the existence of fairies or little men in refrigerators who turn the light on when you open the door. He has a touch of the poet in him. The thing to understand about poets is that there is a touch of madness and a touch of magic in how they see the world. This makes for beautiful art, whether it is technically correct will require other personality facets.

My mom does not have the touch of the poet in her mind. She is pragmatic and driven. My sister does not have the touch of the poet, she is fact seeking and direct. I have it. The man I married has it. It is the quality about him, along with faith, that I need the most in order to be married to him.

I would never consider it a lie to share with my children the Santa Claus tradition. I think people who think it is a lie, probably, lack the touch of the poet. How do you explain to a cynical society that magic still exists in the world?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

Telling children Santa Claus and fairies exist keeps fertile the already fertile soil of a child’s mind for the understanding of angels, the communion of saints, heavenly gates and the Eucharist. It trains their minds in receptivity of spiritual things which we can understand in greater complexity as we grow older.

What are our traditions? My husband and I are developing them. Old movies will be part of it, as will stop motion cartoons. The Advent wreath is important to us. We will maintain a focus on this time as preparation for Christmas, rather than Christmas, but without being so stogy that we can’t also enjoy the things of Christmas now. Advent isn’t Lent after all, though it does demand some penitence on our part in order to truly prepare.

I have the first phase decorations up: winter, Advent, things that reflect warmth and coziness.

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On Gaudete Sunday I will hang the stockings, put out the Crèche; we will buy our tree and trim it. On Christmas Eve, a Santa figurine will come out, as will Baby Jesus to complete the Crèche.

This year we attended the Christmas Festival and parade in this little town of ours.

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The children met Santa for the first time. They were not yet ready to sit on his lap and tell him their Christmas wishes. But they met him, albeit apprehensively.

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Consumerism does not have to define our culture and our practices. Just because every store and advertisement tells me it is Christmas does not mean it really is, just like Charlie Brown taught us.

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Religion can drive culture. Families can drive culture as well. It is our intention to be let these factors be part of our family culture. We can’t ignore that consumerism does largely drive the society we live in. We don’t have to let it define us, so we will work with it, not ignore it. Every year this will unfold more and more. I’m so glad to see how it’s shaping up.

Counting your blessings.

What am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for my place of work. That I can keep changing my the number of days I work; that my supervisor will do all she can to support me nursing my baby, that we can go around and with 60 people each say what we’re thankful for at our paid Thanksgiving luncheon.

I’m thankful for my children. For my littlest, who I did not think would be born because of the terror miscarriage, even though the pregnancy with her was, thankfully, perfect and without complication and that she was born so darn quickly, once everything got started.

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I’m thankful for my son, who is crazy and darling and getting more and more attached to me.

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I’m thankful for my eldest, who sings “Alright, okay, you win” and “we all live in a yellow suffering” (that would be “submarine”) and dances and speaks in full sentences.

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I’m thankful for my husband, who is everything to me, who makes life beautiful and fun. Who rescues me from my wild children, makes amazing lattes, cocktails and everything else, who is a genius musician, a successful teacher, a never-give-up, always strive to grow man of God.

I’m thankful for my parents, their support, their love, their pride in me. I’m thankful for their love of my children and their help so I can actually spend time with that husband of mine.

I’m thankful for my grandmother and that she has been able to know and love three of our children.

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I’m thankful for our home, our inexpensive rent to my parents who own the home, the stability it’s provided us, the perfect floor plan for a family with so many toddlers, and the wonderful neighbors we have.

I’m thankful for the town we live in, the potential to get involved, to be a in a place where people care about the community.

I’m thankful for the gifts God has given me, the talents, and the opportunity to use them.

I’m thankful I can think and read and learn. I’m thankful for books, for the internet, for the availability of information.

I’m thankful for Dr. John Buri and Dr. John Boyle who mentored me in college. I’m thankful for my experience at the Institute of the Psychological Science, which, as the cliché goes, made me who I am today.

I’m thankful for art, music, design, color.

I’m thankful for all things, grateful to God that we have them. He is the giver all things, my first love, my Creator, who set me on the path, protected me, sheltered me, brought me to my husband, and allowed me to see him not only for the man he was but for the man he would become. It is by the grace of God we are here; and I am so thankful for that.

Education and the stay-at-home-mother

Education and the stay-at-home-mother

Sophia Kramskaya Reading

As a society we have changed. In order to secure a livable wage, one must have a college degree. In order to advance in one’s field and make a greater than livable wage, one must have a master’s degree. These wages can be earned without the degree, but often they involve some great physical strain or peril in the type of work required. It is all too common in this modern American society to trust that he who holds the degree has the knowledge to judge what those lesser individuals can judge. He is held on a pedestal. He has this mysterious knowledge others do not have. My goodness, he is licensed in, something. It doesn’t matter what.

So they form the elite class. If Mrs. Obama doesn’t know how to feed her children, is there any hope for the uneducated masses?

 

They form the meritocracy. Instead of an aristocracy, where one is born into a privileged position, these intellectual higher-ups have used their merit to become the ruling class. They determine what our children should eat (Mrs. Obama’s lunch program), what they should learn (common core applied nationally), how many children they should have, even if they live in Africa (a la the cultural imperialism of Melinda Gates). That a person should be Ivy League education makes him or her the greater judge is absurd, especially since determining the needs of any human person requires creativity, flexibility and risk, and students at Ivy League schools are showing less and less of this.

What does this have to do with stay-at-home-mothers? The title of this post suggests a relationship of some kind. I met a mother once who advocated I become a stay-at-home-mother. I told her I wanted to work with clients in a therapeutic setting (I didn’t use such fancy words then). She told me I can use the skills I gain from any degree with my children. True enough. I can. I can be reflective, use smart words, guide and mold their development with appropriate rewards and punishments, but I will hopefully not be working with victims of trauma in that setting. Ordinarily, there are lots of more advanced skills and learned judgment that just simply are not used day-to-day in the rearing of a four-year old, two-year old and infant.

So what’s a mom to do? Study, I say. Read.

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Imagine that. I tend to spend more time on the internet than is healthy simply because I do not have to hold my computer. I can hold my infant and use my eyes without requiring my hands, except for the periodic mouse scroll. I see Moms’ groups leading lovely bible studies focused on motherhood, but hear less about Moms’ groups engaging in academically rigorous study together. We do not need to be engaged in formal education or work in order to advance intellectually.

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Perhaps it’s too hard to find a topic of interest. One mom may be deeply engaged in the field of psychology, another in politics, another in theology, another in art. Or a mom may have hated school and be deeply engaged in the rearing of her children, not interested in academics. All these mothers come together either out of values or necessity. They are stay at home moms.

Here I would propose a new program that can bring mothers with diverse backgrounds together, and assist in their personal and intellectual development: a book club, an intellectual, deep, stimulating book club. If interests are too diverse, I propose a book club focused on good literature (aka, not Fifty Shades of Gray or the Twilight series, unless you’re focused on the cultural impact of so many children reading the Twilight Series, and yes, I know this was, like, 7 years ago).

No time to read a book?

Then I say:

Our personhood does not stop when we have children. Sometimes we know this. “I need alone time” and whatnot. Some mothers practice this with greater gusto and determination than others. Some mothers judge the practice of it in others as being selfish.

The reality is, just as we need to maintain our health as much as possible by sleeping and eating, so we also need exercise, physical and mental. As human beings we need to push ourselves. This could be by creating a schedule that masterfully manages five children, homeschooling and an infant. It could be by applying coping skills, psychotherapeutic techniques in the home while still managing to get dinner on the table. It could be playing delightfully with little rascals while keeping the house clean. It does not have to be academic. But for many, we need it in some way. Read a book. Create a schedule. Play. We need it all. And we need to prioritize it.

Moms come together: relational development.

They read: intellectual development.

They do so without toddler interruptions: emotional coping by taking a break from chaos.

They learn: professional/personal development depending on the topic.

If reading great literature: empathy develops, which makes for a better mother.

If the topic is spiritual or good literature, the application of the topic/reflections to one’s life: moral development.

The deeper the reading the more we flex those brain muscles, the better adept we will be to meeting the chaotic and never ending needs of the little people in ours lives.

So start a book club! Make it a priority as you make sleeping a priority (which means sometimes other things take precedence, but by and large we maintain the effort to do it).

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