Sunday, February 21, 2010

God Bless the Stay-at-Home Mom!

It has been my perception since the years when I was a stay-at-home mom that our society does not respect women who choose to spend their days tending their children instead of joining the world of work. In my mind, the “Mommy Wars” have become irrelevant, because we have seen that a child’s ultimate character is determined by the quality of parenting – the love, emotional support and encouragement given by parents; the children of the 70’s and 80’s who were raised by parents who carefully tended to their needs and development are now successful adults, whether or not their mothers were home with them.

That being said, I have chosen to care for my own grandchildren during the day because I prefer that they spend these early, formative years with someone who loves them and has an emotional investment in their futures. Fortunately, with the help of their other grandmothers and a loving family friend, I have been able to care for them and attend to my own duties in our family business, as well.

However, as I have once again become immersed in the “dailyness” of child care, I would like to extend my support and encouragement to all of today’s stay-at-home moms. I’m sure many of you sense this lack of respect for your choice. It is manifested in several ways. There are the snide comments from working mothers who say, “I could never be home all day – what do you do – aren’t you bored?” Some husbands are less than supportive because they feel their wives don’t “really work”. And, there is the unintentional lack of respect for a mother’s time – the requests from working mothers to shuttle their children around, drop off the forgotten book to them, or pick up the sick child from school.

When I began caring for my first grandbaby in 2007, it had been five years since my youngest child graduated from high school. I was far removed from the daily world of babies and preschoolers – my memories of those days were rose-colored and blurred. In the past 2-1/2 years, I have been struck once again by the enormity of the job. I have these precious toddlers for 9-1/2 hours a day, and I am exhausted by the time they leave – looking forward to a glass of wine, a good dinner, and the silence of my office. The full-time mom still has hours of work ahead before the last child is tucked into bed and finally asleep.

It is this “dailyness” of child care that is so demanding – fix breakfast (with the help of my granddaughter), answer questions, wash faces and hands, turn on a DVD for them to watch, clean the table, the chairs, the floor, change diapers and dress them for the day, pour juice into the “right” cups, answer questions, help with a craft activity, read to them, referee the hair-pulling fights, change diapers again, answer questions, pick up toys, fix lunch, answer questions, wash faces and hands, send them into the living room to play, clean the table, the chairs, pick up the macaroni pieces which are by now glued to the kitchen floor, change diapers, answer questions, pour milk into the “right” cups, put the Elmo naptime DVD in, gather the blankets, tuck them into their respective recliners, or rock them in my lap until they fall asleep, scurry around to finish some chores while they sleep, then once again change diapers, fix snack, answer questions, referee fights, play “Ring Around the Rosie” for the tenth time that day, work on our “letters”, pick up toys, and send them off with Dad or Mom, with kisses, hugs, and “one more kiss”.

Of course, as I am breathing a sigh of relief, the stay-at home mom still faces supper preparation and clean up, bathtime, and bedtime rituals before her day is over. And, more often than not, in addition to taking care of these little ones, mom has school age children as well.

So, if you are a stay-at-home mom, I send you my praise and appreciation for the job you are doing -- providing your children with the best possible childhood!!!

And, if you are a working mother, I know your life is difficult, too – a juggling act which tugs at your heart and your energy. Both of my daughters-in-law work full-time, and I see first-hand the effort they put into their jobs and their precious children. But, please be aware that the full-time moms you know are not enjoying a life of leisure.

And, if you are the husband of a stay-at-home mom, please look at her with love and appreciation, for she is working every minute of every day, tenderly caring for your most precious possessions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spring Musings

On this chill February morning I am dreaming of flowers -- not the perfect red Valentine roses filling the stores today in anticipation of being presented with a flourish to sweethearts of all ages. No, I am dreaming of the first tiny snowdrops I will carefully uncover from the leaf mulch by the end of this month, and the purple, yellow and white crocuses that will cluster beside my stone walk. I see the stately daffodils breezily gracing the front garden, and the lovely tulips that all too soon become dessert for the deer who visit my garden each night, and the purple and white lilacs which follow -- scenting the world around them with their sweetness, and the tiny lilies-of-the-valley snuggled under my old maple tree.

February has been cold; the ground is hard and bare -- the deep snows of 2010 have so far not made it to my little corner of upstate New York, so the traditionally snowy landscape of February has instead been brown, hard, and bone-chilling. That is the reality this year.

And, as all gardeners know, nature is whimsical. My flowered dreams of the spring to come may be "pie in the sky", also. We have had springs of perfection with softly warm breezes, sunlight, and a profusion of flowers. But, some years spring balks, and we are left with cold and mud, and the deer eat the tulips before their blossoms open.

But, for today, in the midst of this cold and bleak February, I will carry the visions of blossoms unfolding, lilacs perfuming the air, tender green leaf canopies on my beloved old trees, birdsong at dawn, and morning coffee on the porch. My spirits are lifting as I write --