Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Mommy Wars

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children" (Titus 2:3-4)

The Mommy Wars need a referree. (Or maybe they just need a full night of sleep.) The controversy could make any mere mortal incredibly tired.

I believe older women have the ability to teach and reach mothers in a way that can be missed by the average woman in the average experience. There has been an ongoing debate about what is best for women, or what is best for the children, depending on how the issue is addressed. Are you a stay at home mother? Are you a working mother? Are you present for your family? If you are a mother do you even have time to read further?

For starters, I know few mothers that aren't working. If you have children and you meet their basic needs - you work. Yet, if you allow the media to define the debate - it centers around women who stay at home and women who pursue professional careers. I think that approach to the debate misses the boat on many different levels. Early in my approach to parenting I rejoiced in the stay-at-home sisterhood. I eventually came to guard my choices and my values closely, without the time nor energy to argue about what decisions adult women make. I don't think that decision is the issue at all. The benefit of the doubt says we all do the best that we can.

Every mother I know aspires to do the best for their children. They make choices designed to protect the future of their children, educate them, nurture them, provide for them, love them and grow them into the best possible human beings. No two women approach that commitment in exactly the same way. The challenge as women and as mothers is to find the most authentic way to achieve those goals without losing the ability to reach your fullest potential as a person. To that end, it truly is about choices. The choices should have the well being of children at their core.

Second only to the debate about mommy wars, is my complete irritation at the comment, "you are lucky to stay at home." I have worked outside the home professionally in a full time job, I have worked as a consultant through my own business (ALlyd Image Solutions) and I have been a full time mother. Nothing was based on luck in any of those experiences. Each had a variety of benefits as well as challenges, and unfortunately I was able to see the impact of our choices on our children at every turn. Maybe I should say fortunately - as we ultimately have tailored our decisions around our values as well as our circumstances. The two can't be mutually exclusive. We don't live in a perfect world.

All of this leads to a debt of gratitude for women who have been willing to nurture and mentor me in my pursuit of meeting the needs of my family. As women, I believe there is an inherent nature of competion and comparison. The grass can indeed seem a much greener hue on the other side. I have grown as a result of women who have been willing, poised and prepared to help me to reach my ultimate goals. Isn't that a better measure of a woman? After all - the grass appears greener for many reasons. In some instances it may indeed be more green - but you have to wonder what the fertilizer was to make it that way?

Women have the potential to provide each other a tremendous support system. Support should not take the form of a critique of the parenting style you decide upon - but rather the ability to help each other in growing the next generation. I have been blessed with women who have shared their experiences, learned from their own choices and been able to excel in diverse pursuits. Yes, you can have it all I've been told - but you can not have it all at the same time. And with time being in short supply - less time should be spent on the Mommy Wars and more time dedicated to parenting the next generation. That includes both mothers and children. Mothers continue to be the primary caregivers for children and our responsibility should not focus on selecting who is right - but enriching the opportunity for children to have complete lives.

I was caught off guard with my third pregnancy and in a bit of denial about the future. I was approaching a self imposed depression when someone very close to me began rejoicing about the news. Her zeal about our ability to raise another child and her gratitude to God for my life gave me a new found energy to embrace the future. With the increasing costs of life in general we are also paying a cost for our choices. There are lessons that seasoned mothers can communicate to the next generation that can serve to help those emerging moms. We can all use all the help our hearts can hold on any given day.

The Lessons I Would Share - 3 Children Later:

1. Life is short and childhood is shorter. We are entrusted with raising our children for such a short season that we must embrace each moment with an unwaivering commitment. Children are true gifts and we have an opportunity to help them reach their fullest potential. That investment requires time, love and commitment.

2. Quality relationships matter. Children witness real life in what they see at home. The relationship that they see between their parents is of primary importance. When a child can see the interaction, respect, partnership, quarrels, joy, fun and persistance of relationship in action they have the opportunity to learn first hand the many aspects of true love.

3. Surrounding yourself with incredible women can make all the difference. There is something to be said about women who are willing to share the lessons of their life and to pray you through the challenges and obstacles that are inevitable. Investing in the lives of other women is powerful. When people work to build each other up there is a synergy that assists in your personal development. Not every lesson in life needs to be learned first hand. Our society is made more rich when older, more mature, established women reach out and nurture the next generation. Wisdom is a wonderful life lesson.

The less we engage in the war about motherhood - the more likely we can invest that time in helping each other to thrive. Being a mother is the hardest and most rewarding work of my lifetime. I'm not a half-bad consultant either, though.

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