I’m one of the children of the past that can speak for myself on both sides of the feminism issue. For the first seven years of my life, my mother was a stay-at-home mother who would oversee my school lessons, bake cookies, fix dinner every night and made sure water actually touched my body when I was sent in to take a bath. She was able to be there for every little school performance and made costumes even when I only had a two-minute walk in part in the school play. After-school rehearsals were not a major problem as dinner would just be a little bit late. Fast food was not an option.
Then one afternoon when I was in the last few weeks of third grade, my Dad was the one who picked me up from school. I asked where Mom was and he said she was at work. That was the first I had heard about this. We went home, I sort of did my homework, did not study my times tables, and waited until eight o’clock that night for dinner.
My mother was working as the parish secretary and housekeeper/cook for the pastor. His meals came first and she made enough so there was usually a meal for us when she finally got home. The smell of dinner simmering on the stove no longer happened at our house.
Now, her working was considered the best of all possible situations as the church office was through our backyard and across the busy highway. It seemed a good deal longer to me. My grades went down from straight A’s and there wasn’t always time in the morning to make sure I washed or my mother remembered to brush my hair. She worked seven days a week because she enjoyed her work and the grownup company. I definitely came in second to the job. Whenever I felt sick, instead of ‘poor baby’, it was an anxious, “Are you sure you aren’t well enough to go to school?”
Fast forward to me with my first born. My mother was still working for the same pastor but slowing down and I was asked to help out with a paycheck. I was assured I could take the baby to work and see to his needs at the job. The church was 45 minutes away but it sounded as ideal as was possible since we needed the money and the pastor was a long-time friend.
The long-time friend, however, went into thoroughly boss mode and he kept alluding to his plans that when the baby was old enough for school, the pastor could get him in the Catholic school and I could work full-time. Uh, what? I casually mentioned that would be difficult especially if we had more children. Father looked taken aback and said, “Don’t you have enough on your plate as it is?” Uh, WHAT? The fact was that I was already pregnant with baby number two but hadn’t mentioned it yet.
GK Chesterton’s quote was so right. Bosses are bosses, no matter their vocation and my time was his time no matter what time I was needed and everything else came in second. I wondered how to gracefully resign from the job. The money wasn’t worth it when there were times when my baby had to cry so the boss would get his project done. Crying babies didn’t seem to phase him. I credit God with sending me a clear sign about what to do. I was getting ready to get on the road to work, one morning, morning sickness (second baby) in check and toddler ready to go. Our elderly car refused to work. I looked at my husband, walked to the phone and called the pastor and told him the car was dead and I couldn’t come in to work. In fact, I said, with a second baby in the works, I thought it was time I turned in my resignation. And I never looked back!
I almost made the same mistake my mother did only I had my child right there to see what trying to divide my time was doing to him. The employer was making me a slave to his work needs and felt a kindliness that he allowed the baby to even be there.
I went back to being a totally stay-at-home mother from then on and still am today even though the children are grown up and my youngest is self-sufficient even though she enjoys staying at home for the time being. I’m back to being a ‘slave’ to my husband which is the best possible job in the world. I no longer have to struggle with the bad math of being a full-time mother with a full-time job because, in the long run, it just doesn’t add up.