Book Review and My Personal Reactions: “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

To begin my small book review and personal reaction I would like to quote Dr. Schlessinger’s Preface for “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms”: “With appropriate apologies to Shakespeare, I come to praise at-home moms, not to bury full-time working moms. This is not another missile attack in the ‘mommy wars,’ nor is it debate on day care versus mommy care.” These were literally the first two sentences that I read in this book and they served to immediately allow me to enjoy and finish her work in less than a week.

I received the book as a Christmas gift from my husband and appreciated it but in the haste of the holidays and family in town I never looked at it until one of my exhausted and depressed evenings last week. I guess I was a little skeptical at what this Dr. Laura would have to say. In truth, I’ve not listened to her radio show nor read much of her writing expect for excerpts from folks that don’t have glowing feelings for her in the mainstream media.

After ingesting this book I believe it’s a great book for all types of mothers out there, not just those whose full-time position is regarded as SAHM (Stay-at-Home Mom), homemaker, CEO of the Home or my favorite per one of my girlfriends: domestic goddess. She breaks it down into several chapters including poignant sections like: “The Decision, How Staying at Home Impacts the Marriage, The Good the Bad the Unforgettable”.

Overall the style of “In Praise-“ is conversational and has many transcripts and letters from her radio show and correspondence of listeners and readers. It is a strange comfort to read other women’s struggles with leaving the career-driven workforce for what can seem to be mundane housework, child care and certainly no financial rewarding reviews at the end of each pay period.

It was also refreshing to learn of Dr. Laura’s odyssey to becoming a SAHM herself during her life. It was reminiscent of my own experience and those of many of my girlfriends and colleagues in general. She was educated, went on to pursue a path of career excellence and in the course of it all found that even the markers of secular/business success were not “completing” her personhood. A comical reflection on watching the old PBS NOVA 60 minute presentation on the miracle of life is what finally propelled her to seek what ultimately brought her joy, albeit not perfection and not always happy times, but true completion as woman, wife and mother.

Although I was married nearly 8 years when my first child was born I still consider myself a late-bloomer to being a self-professed CEO of the Home and full-time wife and SAHM. I was simply petrified to follow somewhat closely in my own mother’s footsteps of having children at an early age as a young woman in my twenties. It’s as if I felt I needed to rack up respect or evidence that I was competent in “real life” in the full-time workforce. This brings me to Dr. Laura’s Chapter Two: The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Inner Struggles. “The older you are when you decide to marry and have children, the more ingrained you are with your own habits, and the more control you’ve been used to having over your own life…It was remarkable to me that something that barely weighed anything, couldn’t roll over on its own, couldn’t feed itself, and couldn’t talk to me literally ruled me, my husband, our time, and our home…There were days I didn’t shower until my husband came home”.

The dirty little secret for many of us SAHMs is that although our regret ratio is low, we still battle our inner doubts, our jealousy of our husbands and colleagues who have kid-free workdays and the loss of income that is especially felt if we had once enjoyed the cushion of being DINKs (double income no kids). Dr. Laura doesn’t mince words to this truth and share many experiences from her own life as well as other women who have shared their lives.

Undoubtedly the most impacting part of this small book were the tidbits sharing tender interactions between mother and child/children or quoted words from the children of SAHMs or their own written words. I was even more floored when I read about a mother who wasn’t a SAHM but then became one later during her son’s young life: “He handled it all so well, never complained when he had to be shipped off to another location or do things he didn’t want to do. It was the greatest gift to give him when I told him I would be home all the time to take care of him. He became less stressed, happier, calmer, and more loving. He could actually have a childhood with friends, play dates, and join things if he wanted. I will never regret staying home. Wish I could have done it sooner, but it’s never too late to make your child a priority…”

I realize by sharing this book review and personal reaction piece that I risk making some of my female colleagues feel certain emotions that may not be positive, perhaps downright hostile or defensive. Yet I would rather risk this because as my own life journey has taught me, there is nothing like being there for my child and husband even though we at the moment don’t even have our own personal living space. It is not the easiest and many times seems like it lacks any rewarding element—especially as my 33 week pregnant self with our second child fatigues easily. However, there are moments that I am able to witness and relay to my husband that I would otherwise miss if cloistered away in my work office during my son’s active days.

A final note on Dr. Laura’s book “In Praise-” is that even those women who are without children or unmarried can benefit from reading it as there are great pieces of advice on how to prepare for life as a SAHM—even though the reality is you can never be fully prepared for the ride it truly is when it occurs. Another touching shared experience from Dr. Laura’s book: “My son proceeded to tell me that he’s glad that I don’t work because at the CDC (child day-care center) you don’t get to do whatever you want, like go to the fridge to get a snack or go to your room to play with your toys, which he enjoys immensely after a long, structured day at school. He continued with, ‘Mom, do you know why I like to be in the kitchen so much?’ I replied that I didn’t and could he please tell me. My adorable son then went on to tell me that it’s because I’m there”.

Does Dr. Laura ‘preach’ that once you’re a SAHM you can’t take on any work that brings a paycheck to the household?—of course not, she herself still worked on her radio show, the caveat being that she went to the studio after her son had gone to bed for the evening. I myself am hashing out this blog piece at a start time of 4:57am on a Thursday morning; my track record usually is after my little man has passed out in the evenings when my own thought processes are delirious at best.

I encourage you to read this book if possible, especially if you have decided to take on the now-taboo work title of “homemaker, stay-at-home mom”. We need to remember that although the feminist era in the 20th century may have given us some freedoms and allowances, they also did us a disservice by trying to convince us that “quality time” with our children is better than “quantitative time”—try to teach your child or children that when they recall their childhood one day and either remember you being there during the good and bad times or just the “quality times”.

RVSB

Nature as God’s Classroom…

Gardening or farming is not for everyone as a hobby or career, however, I do believe it should be part of our education as children with refresher courses in our adulthood.

This past weekend I worked in my garden and mini-fruit tree orchard with a hired hand to go through my approximately 25 x 75 foot raised bed garden and surrounding area weeding, mulching, digging and planting.  My subject of my nature lesson on Saturday became dramatically clear as we bagged nearly half a dozen black lawn bags with unwanted weeds and dead vegetation.  How do my plants survive through adversity?  Translation:  How do we humans fare in adversity?

In my nearly twenty years of active “gardening” of some sort, I have often run into living analogies of our humanity in the natural world of plants and organisms.  As I’ve matured in my adult life, I’m comforted by witnessing both the triumphs and failures of things in nature as they echo of my own life experiences up to present.

This past Saturday’s lesson is a repeat, I’ve seen it before but I never get bored with its wisdom revealed.  Of the 9 fruit-bearing trees that I’ve planted in the corner of my mother’s property, 5 of them are actually growing well and thriving.  The remaining four have been a struggle to keep from withering away.  Conventional wisdom would have us infer that the five trees which are doing well had been meticulously monitored since their planting complete with consistent water, perhaps a protecting plastic for the young trunks, clean mulch lacking weeds, good feed and soil and so forth.  The reality is that I was only able to really pay special mind to the four trees that are now barely clinging to life–they have been hit with water stress, bugs, molds, fatigue, et cetera.

What does that say?  Does it mean I let the five go on untouched?  No, actually, I have gone in a couple of times this year and cleared the five healthy trees of their choking weeds, refreshed their soil, put down mulch again, fed them and pruned.  However, I did allow them to weather the trials of a record summer of heat in Florida, bear the burden of giant ant hills and thick weeds.  Basically, I didn’t try to protect them from any and all adversity that could strike them.  I did endure guilty feelings this season as I thought I was truly neglecting them and would suffer their loss.  Instead, as I would clean them up periodically, I found that they had gained strength, built immunities, grown thicker and taller and overall have a bright future of bearing me healthy fruit yields in future seasons.

As the worker and I finished our labor this weekend, I walked and inspected each of my nine fruit trees individually.  I’m still amazed by what seems such a backward logic to many of us, especially parents.  By allowing some of my young trees to fend for themselves on a number of naturally occurring elements, I essentially ensured that they would garner their own armor and future strength reserve for battles ahead.  While my poor four trees that I donned so much attention on ended up stifling them and rendering them ill-equipped for the unforseen weather patterns and bug raids that would occur in this summer season.

For myself, this lesson yielded a few layers of personal learning.  As a parent, it tells me that it’s okay to not hover over my son constantly in certain situations.  Obvious things aside like danger of drowning or being burned by the stove, it does benefit my son to let him navigate some social situations on his own or witnessing him making mistakes in a play scenario so that he can nurture his own sense of troubleshooting through things.  As a wife, it reminds me that my husband and I will sometimes feel that God has gone silent in our marriage when we seem to be capsizing in one of life’s tumultuous storms out in the proverbial sea.  But as we cling to each other and our love for our Maker, we will weather those storms and truly enjoy the stronger vessel our love is as we sail gorgeous seas together.  As a friend, it comforts me that while I cannot always properly nurture all my relationships, this doesn’t mean that I will be destined to lose any particular friend as there are those whom we cross paths with in this life that are not affected by the passage of our human time.

This is a pretty inexhaustible subject and yet I wanted to share it with all of you because we are so busy in our lives that when a nature lesson like that hits me with precious information that can help everyone I want to shout it out to the world…so I type this post to you world.

Happy Labor Day!

R.V.S.B.

Fasting: Good for the Soul and Body – A Short Commentary

As an Orthodox Christian wife and mother, my mind tends to focus on the fasting days on our religious calendar.  It has only been in recent years that we have really started to pay mind as it was about 2005-2006 when my husband entered a Greek Orthodox church with me in Northern Virginia in the DC Area where we lived at the time.  He was born and raised a Protestant from South Carolina. I’m what they refer to as “cradle Orthodox” as I was baptized in the Church and then went on a life path of Catholic school upbringing and church-hopping as a teenager and college student. 

So when my husband and I finally rested in the Greek Orthodox church as couple and later small family, we encountered the complex world of fasting not only effective during the 40 day Lenten season, but also weekly and during other special festive occasions.

For instance, unless there is a special time ongoing like Lent or Advent season, every Wednesday and Friday in the Orthodox church we are called to fast.  The fast on those days is supposed to be a ‘strict’ one meaning omitting meat and dairy products.  We are also supposed to abstain from eating the morning prior to receiving communion on Sunday morning.

It was a bit daunting when we came across these calls to fasting.  At first we were pretty sure this stuff was reserved for the monks and nuns up in some remote monastery in the Greek mountains and foothills.

But slowly we both decided that we’d like to make an effort to honor these days of fasting and found that it made us look at our days differently.  Certainly our home dinner menu was adjusted fairly easily.  It was the work day lunches that were a little more complicated but we navigated that by packing our own lunches especially on those days and if we had a business function, we tried to make mindful choices based on the fast.

Overall we have found that habitual fasting throughout the year, whether it be the Lenten season or the regular Wednesdays and Fridays, helps us get our souls in tune with our Lord’s Holy Spirit.  But I’ve also noticed that it’s cleaned up our bodies as well.

If we think about it, Americans really do consume a lot of meat.  Definitely more than many of our ancestries did a few hundred years ago on a daily basis. Most of that is because of supply being greater and more easily accessible, however, that doesn’t mean it’s all the more good for us.

By fasting I’ve found out just how much of meat and dairy we seem to rely on habitually but do fine without when we take the effort to do so.  While spiritual tuning we are also cleansing our bodies ritually speaking and it does both soul and body good.

If you’re not a Jew, Christian, Buddhist or affiliated with any other organized religion, you may not be familiar with fasting at all.  Yet, your doctor may have asked you to ‘fast’ the night before a health test or procedure.  It lends a hiccup to your routine, but not usually a harmful one.  Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to abstain from certain foods at times to help our souls and bodies recalibrate.

In my own family’s case, it isn’t easy to do so especially during the throes of busy and inconsistent schedules.  Still, we continue to try to seek our Lord through not focusing so much on carnal desires and at the same time find our bodies reaping the benefits as well.

RSVB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"