Spilled milk didn’t cause me to cry, missing milk did. It was missing from our fridge because we couldn’t afford it that week, both bank accounts and plastic gallons having run dry.
The day the milk ran out, I made a conscious pivot away from my role as stay-at-home mom toward working mom. I amped up my part-time writing and teaching and accepted a generous scholarship that slapped a new label on my back: law student.
That label became the target of word arrows shot by conservative friends, family, podcasters, and pundits offering commentary like, “What are you doing?!” “Who’s watching your kids?” “My husband makes enough for me to stay home.” Naturally the women attacking my attempt to provide for my children are wealthy women. They struggle to understand the decisions of women looking at the underbelly of a shrinking middle class.
My critics are right in some regard. They recognize what progressive politicians and woke education lobbyists will not admit: children best spend their preschool years in the arms and home of a loving parent. Biology persuades that this parent should be the mother, but a loving father can also provide nurture and guidance far superior to that of the best preschool or daycare.
Nevertheless, criticizing mothers who cannot afford such an ideal childhood helps no one, and it hurts families who are trying to scrape by. Proclaiming a pro-life agenda in every political campaign and street corner while condemning both working women and social welfare is a hypocrite’s agenda, or one soaked in the naïveté of blue blood.
Some Great Husbands Make Less than Others Do
My husband works in a public school. He serves high school students, often investing more time in them than their parents do. He works nearly 70 hours a week, although his pay doesn’t reflect that workload by any stretch of the imagination. He applies God-given gifts of knowledge and compassion toward this vocation, and he affects lives.
But his income is not enough to pay our bills. As each of our children grows, our grocery bill inches higher. Food prices soar, housing markets inflate, while teacher raises remain laughably inadequate. I didn’t marry a rich man.
But I married a man who generously pitches in, boasting kitchen wizardry superior to my own, scrubbing toilets, caring for our children, pushing me out the door to law school even though that action substantially increased his workload. Perhaps his talents have not led to a career of material wealth.
On the other hand, my gifts—legitimized through a few challenging years of school—hold potential for a higher salary than he can dream of in his current role. Shall we slavishly ignore both economics and our talents in devotion to the ideal of him as primary breadwinner?
Even men who dig their heels into the conviction that women should stay at home find themselves occasionally appreciating working moms. My midwife, Sam, shared that her “very religious” patients who believe a man should support his family criticized her for working while her toddler is in preschool. “However, I don’t think they wanted a manwife, so it was a conflict they accepted!” she says. Indeed, women are uniquely suited for some occupations, and they fulfill those roles to the benefit of many.
Children Often Don’t Arrive On a Schedule
The Christians who worship the same God I do, who read the same blessed words about children, “Let the little children come to me,” “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full,” and “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” interpret them to mean that anything short of a spreadsheet-scheduled birth sequence is irresponsible. We have four children, who are blessing and joy beyond bounds. They were not welcomed on a precise schedule. There were tears, and not tears of joy, after some of those pregnancy tests. I thank God for each of these precious souls and will do all within my power to love and provide for them.
Women who abort their children are criticized and exploited for political reasons on both sides. Science, natural law, and the words of the Author of Life give me clear direction about notions of family planning “choice.” But sometimes conservatives don’t silence condemnation for women who choose life. My friend Regina was a single mother, working long hours in a newsroom to support her son. With Mother’s Day approaching, her sister told her, “You’re certainly not mother of the year!”
Whether too young, too old, too poor, too closely spaced, there’s plenty of criticism for women who choose life. Should we be blessed with another child after I turn 40, I can only imagine the scorn. Should that child have a disability that coincides with “advanced maternal age” (never mind the One who sets fertility’s window) I can only imagine the judgment.
‘Free’ Public Schools Don’t Meet Our Kids’ Needs
Conservatives love to complain about the public schools’ leftism, standardized testing, and negative influences. But only a few do anything about it, as 90 percent of the nation’s school children attend public schools. For people supposedly so set against socialism, most conservatives turn their children over to the state for eight hours a day, nine months a year, accompanied by a funny meme or two to mark their relief come end of summer.
I understand that decision, because the alternative is difficult. Homeschooling is mentally and financially taxing. Private school may be financially and logistically complicated. Pulling against the leash of the state is always difficult. Christians have criticized me for not accepting that leash, not throwing our children into public schools as salt and light. However, I want my children to be deeply and strongly rooted in their faith and trained in intelligent debate before I toss them into a moral war zone.
I homeschooled our children until our son reached high school. He expressed a clear and compelling plea for school as a teen boy not wanting to spend his days in a house full of females. We enrolled him part-time (all we could afford) in a local classical school.
Both homeschooling and private school are hard on a single-income family, but the free school down the street can be harder on a child’s character. It’s a constant debate around our house—our son begging for full-time school, my husband reflecting on what he sees at work each day. To enroll the boy full-time in this beautiful program that sharpens his faith and his mind costs more, requiring me to work more.
Even moms working in private schools are not immune from criticism for their vocation. My friend Victoria returned to work as a private school teacher when her daughter was an infant because the family needed her income. Her mother-in-law sharply criticized that decision. The parents of her students have registered their disapproval in more subtle ways, criticizing working moms in front of Victoria.
“They will comment on a kid’s behavior and blame it on the fact that the kid has two working parents,” she says, “Or they will complain that another mom is too busy working to volunteer and be there for her child. I just shrug and say, ‘I’m a working mom.’ They usually get embarrassed, but the bias exists.”
Remember, Women Have Always Brought Home Bacon
I know the challenge and monotony and delight of serving one’s children all day instead of a corporate boss. But I also know that comparing stay-at-home motherhood to working motherhood presents a false narrative of martyrdom. The ability to stay at home and focus on children, home, and crafty or intellectual pursuits is a gift. The ability to provide milk and bread for your family is gift too, but it throws an extra ball into the hands of an already exhausted juggler.
Nonetheless, women throughout history have worked. Lydia, the biblical dealer of purple cloth, wasn’t doing yoga by the river. Katie Luther, the wife of that reformer who changed the Western world, worked dawn to dusk with a boarding house, brewery, and farm while her husband ran for his life through Germany. The list of working women stretches through time, encouraging me that women have always put hand to plow when needed, while many also managed to raise wise and faithful children in the process.
The Giver of every good and perfect gift has given women great gifts of life and salvation, family and children. He gifts our daily bread—even milk—through provision by husband and neighbor and, sometimes, by the work of our own hands. So instead of a sharp word, why not lend a helping hand to women juggling the joy and challenges of embracing life? We could use your encouragement.