The Power of a Woman

I struggle every day with who I am. I am a traditional person. I like the idea of “The Man of the House” and me being the “housewife”, or mother, or domestic engineer (Okay, not so much the domestic engineer title). I dream of winning the lottery so I can truly be at home and taking care of my man, my children and the home. If I won the lottery I could give money to the non-profits I support and volunteer to my heart’s content. I was lucky enough to only have very part-time jobs for 17.5 years. My husband worked (and still works) his tail off so I could be home with the children.

Because of his sacrifices, we homeschooled for six years. I was a full-time volunteer, always available to run errands for my husband and be “that” mom who was heavily involved in her children’s life. Because my husband travels with his job, there were frequent flyer miles and hotel points so we enjoyed nice vacations.

I am employed, outside the home, full-time now because of circumstances in our life. I made choices that precipitated my full-time employment sooner than I had expected, but we also have a child in college and one who will be in college in the next year and a half. We decided that our children should come out of college debt free and so there are sacrifices that I now need to make. (Did I mention before that I like nice things? Oh yeah, I did. Once again, another reason why I am full-time)

I love what I do. I have the best full-time job, outside of the home,  that a person could have. And while I love what I do, my heart still breaks a little (a lot) when I get home and realize that I still have my home responsibilities and that I am not as available as I was. I am a traditionalist. I liked being available, at the drop of a hat, to run errands for my children, or my husband. I liked being that person that could be counted on to bring food to school for the teachers, or homemade treats for the dance class. I liked quilting and making Halloween costumes and making homemade bread for the family. I liked being able to can the vegetables from the garden and shovel the driveway, for the exercise.

I hope that people did not think that I was an unintelligent woman when I was a stay-at-home mom. I hope people didn’t think that I “settled.” I love it when I can give of myself to people. The gift of my time and talent was the best gift I could give someone; especially when time is so precious these days. I was not dependent on people. I am a very independent person but I loved being “that person”.

Years ago, I received an email that was a dig on being a good wife. And while I laugh at some of the things that are presented in this email, I have to say, that I would think our home would have been happier if I would have done more of those things. That independent part of me did not allow me to follow through on some of these things.

Good Wife…Directions

1) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

3) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.

5) During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

6) Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate the noise of the washer dryer or vacuum. Encourage your children to be quiet.

7) Be happy to see him.

8) Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to see him.

9) Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first-remember, his topic of conversations are more important that yours.

10) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

11) Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.*

12) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

13) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

14) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

15) A good wife knows her place.

* Don’t know that him staying out all night, should not be questioned.

So as I read through these things, I think to myself, how lovely it would be, to be all of these things to the man I love. This is a total commitment to be a good wife and manager of the home. And, in turn, your husband would be respectful to his wife and appreciative of all of the things that she does for him. This is the true definition of being a good wife. In the Bible (Ephesians) it talks of being submissive. It does not mean to be lesser than, it means allowing the man to be the ultimate say in the household. Believe it or not, someone needs to be the boss; someone has to have the final say.  It brings tears to my eyes to think that I have been too opinionated, too forceful in my ways and not submissive enough.

There are needs in a household. Someone has to clean the house. Someone has to cook the meals. Someone has to cart the kids around before they are able to drive. Why does society look down on those people who have made that decision to take on those responsibilities? Do I feel less of a person because I was that person for so many years, absolutely not! I would say that I feel less of a person because I am outside of the home, not being there, doing the things that need to be done in the home.

I honor and respect those women who are able to always be at home, unless they are at home for the wrong reasons. If you are at home, you should be trying to do things to make life easier for your spouse, who is out making the money to sustain your household. If you are home out of laziness, shame on you. If you have sacrificed your career, to be available for your spouse and children, I applaud you and have no greater respect. What a greater sacrifice to give, than to put yourself last and all others first.

For years I wore a necklace that had the acronym JOY: Jesus first, others second, yourself third. Now I wear the United Methodist Cross 24/7. It helps define who I am. I like to think that I still live in JOY but the others (my family) may not feel that they have me as they had me at one time.

I still hope that maybe I could still win the lottery. I do buy tickets every once in a while but I need to accept the fact that my life has changed. I can no longer be “that” mom who is always available. I am finding that my volunteer life is not as easy as it once was; I find that my free time is different. I have not quilted in almost two years and I have unfinished projects begging for attention. My family does not receive homemade meals like once was; sometimes I just look at them and tell them they are on their own.

I know that my husband has sacrificed a lot to provide for our family. He is a man who likes to be busy but I don’t know if that busy-ness would have to be for an income, if it weren’t for the likes and lifestyle that has been established in this family. Some may feel that I sacrificed by being at home for so many years. I would tell you that my sacrifice is being away from the home and not available.

Maybe I was wired for a different generation. I hope that there are women out there like me. I hope that there are people out there who want to live their life making other’s happy in an unselfish manner. I am not an unintelligent woman. I am independent, but want to be a people pleaser.

For those people out there, who are who I used to be, God Bless you! For my husband and children, I love you and know that this is where we need to be in our lives. In a perfect world, I would be at your call 24/7, available for you whenever you need me.

Ephesians 5:22-23

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, …

You need to be where you need to be; your sacrifices are your sacrifices and they may not seem like sacrifices to others. Sometimes, okay maybe more times than not, you need to look outside of your world and figure how you can be best used in the live’s of others. I mourn that I am not who I was and I have still not accepted who I am now. But, with God’s Help, I will find my way in this new life, embrace it and live life abundantly.

Love at first sight.

For nineteen years I have held this secret; a secret that, for many years, I thought defined me as a parent. Here goes…I did not have an outpouring of love when my first child was born. There, I said it! I was a total wreck after labor and delivery and I was too spent to feel anything but exhaustion.

I am, in no way, saying my labor and delivery was difficult. Compared to many, it was easy. Sure, my blood pressure was elevated, which precipitated my being induced. Because I had high blood pressure and was hooked up to the pitocin drip, I was not allowed to get up and walk around to ease the labor pains.

I was at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and the IV line was put in at 7:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., I was having full-blown contractions, three minutes apart. My husband, bless his heart, would look at the monitor and let me know that “a big” contraction was coming! Thank you very much, I think I was aware of the upcoming pain. The pains became so intense that during the down time of the contractions, I began to hyperventilate. By the time I regained my regular breathing, another contraction was coming on. There just was not enough time to recover from the onset of the contraction, through the hyperventilation and on to the next contraction. By 11:00 a.m., the nurse said it was too difficult for me and I needed to consider an epidural. I WANTED TO DO THIS WITHOUT DRUGS!!!! But the nurse was right; there was no way I could continue labor this way.

Our son was born at 1:16 a.m. If you do the math, I had between 350 and 400 intense contractions during the time that labor was induced. I had told the doctor that I wanted to avoid a C-Section at all costs but it became very apparent that I was not going to be able to deliver him without help. Out came the forceps and with a little help that way, he was delivered.

After his delivery, I was given oxygen because I could not catch my breath. Looking back, I am pretty sure my body was in shock. I was not in good shape at that time. It had been a hard and grueling day.

I had envisioned the birth of our first child so differently. I imagined my new baby being placed on my chest and being filled with love. NOPE, that did not happen. I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep. I felt guilty that I wasn’t overwhelmed with love, that I didn’t feel that immediate bonding. I feared that my first foray as a mother was going to define me forever.

Things didn’t get better. I just wanted to get home to my own bed, the new nursery, the comforts that made our house a home. Our son was born on a Saturday and by Sunday afternoon, I was on my way home. I felt great! I had rested some and I was ready to tackle my new role as mother.

Sunday, December 31st, I was home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I don’t even know if I had sparkling juice, but it didn’t matter, I was home. Then came January 1st! I woke up and was in severe pain. I thought I would be a trooper but I couldn’t get passed the pain. I needed to get the pain medication prescription filled. My husband went into town only to find all of the pharmacies were closed. Luckily, he saw a car in the parking lot of our pharmacy and knocked on the back door. The owner (head pharmacist) was doing year-end inventory and was more than happy to fill my prescription. (Remember this was 19 years ago, 24 hour pharmacies did not exist)

January 2nd my husband had to go back to work (no Family Medical Leave Act back then either). That meant my mom would come out and spend the week with me. She was a blessing when things were tough.

On January 2nd my son had his first visit with our new pediatrician. In 3 days our son had lost over a pound in weight and I was frantic that my breast-feeding was not going well. He was supposed to be eating every 2-2.5 hours and that just was not happening. And then to find out he was losing weight. I was going to be a horrible mother! For the first few months of his life, so many people said he looked so thin. I was struggling with breast-feeding and then people were telling me how skinny my child was. There seemed to be more and more evidence that I would be an inadequate mother.

January 3rd, I made an “emergency” visit to my doctor because my right breast was bright red and there was a huge lump forming. A biopsy was performed to see if it was something more than a clogged milk duct. To this day, I see that scar every morning and it is a reminder of how rough things were in the start. In general, I was still in really bad shape. (Sometimes, to this day, it can still be painful.)

Things did get better, but my son weaned himself from the breast at four and a half months. I felt I was such a bad mom as I couldn’t even provide my child the nourishment he needed. He preferred formula over me. It was another indication, I thought, that I would not be a good mother. Transitioning from formula, to cereal, to baby food, to “human” food was a challenge.

We went on to have another child, a girl. And while I wanted more, God had other plans. We are so blessed to have the two we have. And I try to think that I have been a good mother. I have been open to conversation about anything and I try to be understanding in all situations. I am a mother, not their friend. I have expectations of their manners in public and at home and I hope that their core values will help them make an impact in the lives of the people with whom they associate.

I love my children more than life itself. I am glad that I did not allow the first few days, or the first few months of my first born’s life, define who I am . If I would have allowed that, I would have not seen the potential in the gifts I have to offer, or the future I see for my family. I would have wallowed in the pain and inferior sense I had as a first time mother.

Do not let a few things define who you are. As we get ready to start a new year in 2015, find what you do well and excel, find a cause or a hobby which you want to learn and participate, take time to drink good wine, eat good food and love those around you. Don’t let your past define you, but let your future guide you to be the best.

I did not have that love at first sight experience with my son. But every time I see him now, which is few and far between as he is at college, my heart swells with pride as to the man he has become. My eyes fill with tears of joy at his future. I know that I had a part in helping him be who he is now. I know that my love is deep, for both of my children. And I know that I have done all I could for them to have a bright future.

Bless you and your family on this final day of 2014.

Happy Teens, Happy Family, Happy Life

Note: I do inter-change “I” and “we” when I am writing about parenting. In parenting, sometimes it is a joint effort and other times not. So, because of that, I include my husband when it is appropriate and sometimes it is things that I have done individually.

When I woke up this morning in the new year, I thought to myself, ‘What made me most proud in 2012?’ It did not take me long at all to realize that I am most proud of the relationship that I have with my teenage children.

My newly turned 17-year old son and soon to be 15-year old daughter still like being around their parents. We joke; we talk; we shop; we still do most all of the things that we did ten years ago. I know that amongst the friends of my children, I, and my husband, are a rare breed.

Do I have any thoughts as to why this is the case? Of course, I do; we joke; we talk; we shop. That has not changed in my 17 years of parenting. While I say this so confidently, it is not easy. There is a fine line that you walk from being a friend, to a tyrant, to a pushover. And believe-it-or-not, each of those characterizations are just a step away.

My parents were not poor parents; but they also were not very good communicators. To this day, my mom has never spoken with me about sex, or even menstruation. I don’t know if it was just my mom or if it was the times but my sex education was not controlled at all by my parents. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted a different relationship with my children.

I don’t know if I value my children more than other parents. I know that about 22-years ago, my gynecologist told me that I would probably never have any biological children. After buckets of tears and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue an answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Our investigation resulted in me having surgery for endometriosis and being put into menopause at age 32. (That is a whole other writing!) And as I wrote above, 17-years ago, we were blessed with our son. After a miscarriage, God blessed again and we had our daughter.

So you see why I wanted to make sure that I always would have a good relationship with our children. We went from being told we would be childless to being blessed with not one, but two children. I am sure all parents wish for a great relationship with their children. I worked from the time they were born to have the relationship we have today.

How did I do it? I think first of all, I was conscious of what I wanted and I have worked for it. From the beginning, I have always been open in our discussions. When they were younger we did not speak with them as if they were babies; we spoke to them in normal voices and used words, adult words – a penis was a penis; a vagina was a vagina. If I was uncomfortable using words, how could I speak with them about those things? I was determined to be open and honest.

The car was a great place to talk. We drove a lot, so instead of zoning out on music or movies, we would spend the time talking. Because we spoke with each other from the beginning, it was natural that it continued as the kids got older.

We are a family that cussing is not allowed. But the rule is that if you have a question about anything, that rule does not apply. I never wanted my children to think that they could not come to me about anything. We have had wonderful conversations that, I am sure, many parents have not had with their children because they have not been open to anything and everything.

I think we have done a good job in teaching our children to respect authority. It has taken a little bit but we have tried to emphasize that the way they speak with their friends is not the way they speak with us or other adults. We have taught them that there is a level of respect that needs to be given. And even though we want a good relationship with our son and daughter, we have taught them that we are still the adult, still the parent and what we say goes.

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to face is that my daughter’s friends do not want to have any type of relationship with me. After six years of homeschooling, our daughter went back to  public school in 8th grade. While she had church friends, homeschool friends and Girl Scout friends (which by the way, I had relationships with) these new friends wanted/want nothing to do with me.  I think it was shocking for me because I have such a good relationship with her. My guess is that the relationship I have with my daughter is different from the relationship they have with their parents.

Some of her friends think I am the “cool” parent. They also know that we have rules and while they think I am “cool” they also think I am strict. Thankfully our children don’t think we are strict; they think it is just the way it is.

In a nutshell, I believe we have happy teens, a happy family and a happy life because we communicate and we set rules and expectations. We come from a position of love and respect but ultimately, our children know that we are in charge; they do not have carte blanche on their life. We have taught them to be grateful for what they have and always be thankful to God, who gives all.

Happy New Year and I hope that you have a great relationship with the people whom you love!