Our culture sells it in a very appealing way, a self-validating and inflating way, but the cost is simply too high. The twisted view that a woman only has real value in terms of how she stacks up against a man or a man’s performance in the workplace and society is an insult to women. Yes, a woman can be and millions are as intelligent as men, but our value has nothing to do with our IQ. A woman should be paid what a man is paid for the same job and have equal access to jobs, but at the same time our value has nothing to do with the position we hold or the money we bring in.
I know many women work because they have to bring in a paycheck to survive. Some women work simply because they want to, some because they have to. Yes, we all need a roof over our head, food on the table for us and, if we have them, our children, clothing, and the list or needs goes on and on. I applaud and uphold my sisters in this boat. I am right now, not by my choice.
At the same time, I’ve seen the tremendous price our children have paid for the absence of a nurturing mother in their early, critically formative years. I’ve worked part-time in public schools and in a private daycare since 1981, and I’ve sadly seen the cost to children placed in day care from their infancy. I gave my best to 35 children in a classroom but once they got home with their homework, and questions, did they have a supportive parent to encourage them, catch their mistakes and trouble-shoot with them so that 1) the child could feel free to know that mistakes are part of learning and correcting them is a GOOD thing, and 2) the someone cared enough about them just as a person to invest some time and attention into their lives.
I gave my best care and my smiling nurturing to five infants and toddlers at a time, but in no way could I replace a mother’s love and validation and security, even though several of them bonded with me and ran (toddled) to me when I came into the room. They needed to know 1) they were loved and 2) they wouldn’t be abandoned – that they were secure. The glaring truth from child development is that if a child does not develop a strong bond with a primary caregiver (and folks, that’s Mom, not their daycare teacher) in their first five years, the “wiring” needed to be able to develop attachments to others does NOT develop in a child’s brain and that child will grow into adulthood unable to establish significant relationships with others. That child will go through life trying to find someone to validate her/his worth and identity.
How much is your child’s emotional and mental health worth? I vividly remember my mother 60 years ago cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls from “McCall’s” magazine every month, gluing each “Betsy” to cardboard so I could play with “her” over and over. The time came when we cut the clothes out together, and then I could by myself, but that was so much more than cardboard and paper. My mother gave me both the security of her gladly involved time and love that said I was a person of value, and an outlet for my own imagination and creativity. What is that worth in today’s marketplace? Is that worth as much as being Chairman of the Board? To me it was a priceless gift that bore fruit in the creativity I brought into teaching children in school, grown women in Bible studies, kids and parents in the playful activiti9es I created for the Education Department at the Phoenix Zoo – nobody else would get down on a child’s level and cavort to sing “Did you ever see a monkey to this way and that way” or pop out of a large vinyl zippered “egg” with a chicken comb headband on and peep for the toddlers.
I was a National Merit Scholar. I graduated second in a class of 660 in high school. I am neither stupid nor lazy, but a good friend of mine gave me a backhanded compliment that sounded like criticism when she said about ten years ago, “I though you’d have the Nobel Prize in chemistry by now.” THAT did wonders for my self-esteem… until I looked at the children I played with at the Zoo, and more importantly, at my own children: two God-honoring men of amazing abilities, yes, but with courage and integrity and compassionate hearts that give into their own families, to colleagues at work, and to “the least of these” also.
I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to fight for my equality with a man, or turn myself into someone more like a man to make other women admire me. I am GLAD to be a woman, glad to be wired to nurture and love and create and value and affirm and encourage, as well as wired to write and teach. My value and identity comes from who I am, who God says I am and the immeasurable price He paid for me through Jesus to be adopted into his family, through my character, my commitment to the people I love and care about, my integrity as I walk and now work in the world representing his character and love.
My children never had a boxcar-sized flat screen HDTV or summers in the Bahamas or travertine tile on the floors of our expansive house, but we rolled balls and trucks back and forth on the linoleum and watched meteor showers from the comfort of sleeping bags on the grass in the backyard. While I pulled in $120 a week from the two days I’d substitute teach, or occasionally more if I did a week, we made gingerbread houses and cinnamon-and-applesauce cutout Christmas ornaments. I helped them with their homework after school and was their Den Leader for Cub Scouts – and I have two Eagle Scouts to show for all the junk I collected and turned into art projects and the mess on my garage floor every week. They drew greeting cards and stationery to give their grandparents as gifts, and my younger son is now a designer. We didn’t have a swimming pool, but they took the heads off the in-ground sprinklers and ran through geysers in the back yard, making a huge puddle of mud to squish in and never mind, the grass would grow back.
We prayed together every night, I read them Bible stories, we went to church every Sunday, they went to Vacation Bible School with me in summers, and I had the joy of seeing both of them accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.
No, I didn’t win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Though I’ve helped write five books, I never won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m happy to say my treasures, my “Pulitzers,” are named Eric and Ethan.
Where is your treasure? Where are your treasures? In front of a big-screen HDTV with controllers and your daughters playing shoot and kill video games or I have to look like a queen to be beautiful avatars, your sons telling their teacher at after school care as they finger their I Pad, “No, that isn’t blood coming out of his head – it’s Kool-Aid” as they grow desensitized to violence and disregard for human life?
If you’re a working mom who has to work, I pray God gives you stamina and creative ways to bond with and spend quality time with your children. If you don’t have to work, and you are only working to give yourself a sense of validation and identity, might you rethink that if you have young children? Your treasures need you to treasure them. You are woman, and your are mighty in all that means. “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and in many ways that is absolutely true. Where did Isaac Newton come from, who was Abraham Lincoln’s primary influence, who gave Harry Truman such a compassionate heart and wise understanding?
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
That I’m “buyin'” and investing in! Selah!
Lord Jesus, let me always point to you in all I say and do.