Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Professional Mothers - Bev 2

Today, we continue the interview with professional mother, Bev. Just for the record, Bev notes that her work with the InterVarsity Urbana conferences was done as a stay-at-home wife BC (before children).

Mother-Lode: In the course of your work as a mother, what kinds of things have you done?

Oh, goodness! All kinds of things!

The longest and most challenging thing I’ve done is home schooling my two daughters, who are now 19 and 17, for the past 15 years. My oldest, Melissa, graduated from home school this past summer and Margaret has two years to go before graduating. This has stretched me beyond anything I would have imagined when Melissa came to us at age 4, begging to be taught to read. I’ve gotten the education I never had or simply forgot, and I’ve come to realize how much more I still have to learn.

I have taken great pleasure in learning to do new things and challenging myself to do things I already know better. If I say so myself, I’ve become a really good cook. A year ago, I found out that I’m allergic to all foods containing gluten (wheat, oats, barley and rye) and have learned that it’s possible to cook wonderful meals without any of those ingredients. In addition, I have to try to find recipes that don’t include dairy (or where it can be added on the side) or tomato because of the girls’ allergies. Try matching that challenge! In the past couple of years I’ve begun an herb garden, which has been a lot of fun and has added to the flavors I use in my cooking.

I’ve taken a course in Interior Design at our community college, and put those new skills to work in making our home beautiful. This has included re-upholstering our couch, learning faux finishes for the walls, and making drapes. The best part of our biggest design project was that the girls and I did all the planning, shopping and work ourselves while Tom was out of town taking care of his mother. It was so fun and challenging to make it a “girls project” and to learn how capable we really are.

We’ve traveled quite a bit around the U.S. for speech and debate, seeing all kinds of new things and making friends. When the girls were quite small (2 & 4) we lived in American Samoa for two years while Tom worked for the Samoan Attorney General. The girls don’t remember much of it, but living in another culture and making friends from around the world enriched my life tremendously.

Mother-Lode: How have you dealt with the feminists' view that a career is all-important for the full development of women, and with the pull of careerism in your own life?
The feminists’ view of a career being necessary for the full development of women needs to be seen for what it is: a false dichotomy. They hold up a career as the means of women developing themselves, because they have failed to see the challenge of parenting done well. I believe they think of a housewife as someone who sits around watching soap operas and eating bonbons, failing to use her mind in any productive manner. Ultimately, I believe feminism is selfish, setting up the plaint I frequently hear, “But what about me?” In a hierarchy of values, what I want to do is more important that what others need from me.

Being a good mother and wife is hard work; it takes a lot of energy and creativity and know-how. How the feminists can say that all this isn’t fully developing my mind and isn’t fulfilling is quite simply beyond me! Titus 2:5 says that among other things, women are to be busy at home and a repeated character trait of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is industrious. However, she isn’t just “stuck at home”; she has a business selling linen and sashes to the merchants, understands how to make wise land purchases and how to grow a vineyard.

There are so many possibilities of things a mother can do that are fulfilling both at home and outside her home. The trick is to find those things in which you can include your family. I will admit it may be hard to see anything fulfilling about changing the umpteenth diaper or doing another load of laundry, especially when our children are very young, but even in those years it can be done.

God had generously given me gifts in the area of administration, and using those in the areas I chosen for involvement has definitely settled the question of “careerism” in my life. I have good, intellectually challenging work to do in a variety of arenas, including my home and family. A benefit is that as my family changes and my interests change, I have the freedom to move on to the next arena without the fear of any employer giving me a poor job reference.

In the realm of home schooling, I was the leader of a local home school support group for several years and am called on annually to speak to a group of community leaders about home schooling. I have volunteered in several capacities for the NM home school convention, doing the desk-top publishing for the convention handbook and leading several workshops. In our community, I have volunteered at the Community Kitchen , teaching adult Sunday School, coached the Bible Quiz for AWANA, and been Superintendent of the Arts and Crafts building at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair.

In learning along with my daughters, I have become a public speaking coach and have learning to coach and judge debate. These skills have put me in place to help run the NM speech and debate tournaments, primarily working with the community judges.

I am also a past-president of Chaves Country Republican Women, one of the largest Republican Women Clubs in NM. This was a tremendous challenge, because it covered the time frame of re-electing both President G.W. Bush and a highly effective freshman representative to Congress. It involved educating women about the political process, raising funds for candidates, walking precincts and lobbying legislators in Santa Fe.

Every one of these activities included the girls or came about because of home schooling them. The support group was a family activity, the girls were runners at the Fair and later moved up to taking in exhibits and arranging them for display. Republican Women welcomed them with open arms and put them to work, and even created a new category of membership for girls who are not yet 18.

Mother-Lode: How would you advise a young woman about to graduate from high school?

Don’t just “settle” for what our society may be telling you to do. Life is fulfilling and challenging when you go about it purposefully and intentionally. Think about what you are doing and the choices you are making. Are you only doing it because everyone else is doing it? The better things in life come when you choose to do those things that are inherently difficult, because the rewards and satisfaction are so much greater.
Mother-Lode: What have been the returns of your labors as a mother?

First and foremost, I have grown in my relationship with the Lord. I have been pushed back into Scripture time and again, and I have had to rely on Him daily. I don’t want to sound like everything is sunshine and roses – there have been many, many days when I have started the day simply asking for the strength to get out of bed and open my eyes (in that order!). Overall, my knowledge of Scripture has grown because I have wanted my girls to have a greater knowledge of God and His purposes in the world than I had growing up.

I have become much less selfish, much more competent and much, much more confident in my personal abilities. I used to have a lot of ideas and opinions but was afraid to express them for fear of what others would think; as you know, that doesn’t seem to be a problem any more!

In teaching my daughters to respect their father, I have gained a far deeper respect for all that he does, which in turn has made my love for Tom all the stronger.

I have a wonderful relationship with my daughters; I count them among my dearest friends. I know so many women who have teenage daughters, who look at them rather helplessly and murmur “Oh, well, this too shall pass. We just have to let her get this [whatever ‘this’ may be] out of her system” or they ring their hands feeling impotent as a parent to have any influence in the lives of their teens. We have not had this experience, and I’m convinced it is God’s blessing in response to our obedience to home school, and the constant 24/7 input we have been able to have in the girls’ lives. We sit up late at night and talk and giggle and frequently talk about the things that are on their minds, and this has built trust between us, so that the girls will talk to me about all that is going on in their lives, whether it is fashion, theology, work or relationships with their friends. What a tremendous blessing for a mother!

Overall, I can’t imagine NOT being a mother. My life is rich with experiences, but most of all, rich with the love of my family. Through being a mother, I know, too, that my life has made a difference in the lives of others. I already see results through the influence of my daughters on others’ lives, and can’t wait to see what they are going to do as mothers. (Actually, I can wait. I’m just looking forward with great anticipation!)

Mother-Lode: If you had it to do over again, would you make the choice to be a professional mother?

Absolutely! Only…. Would I get to keep all the things I’ve learned this time around?!

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