Friday, September 21, 2012

Professionalizing Motherhood, by Jill Savage

I read Professionalizing Motherhood Encouraging, Educating, and Equipping Mothers At Home in conjunction with the Reading to Know book club. This is September's pick and Stephanie from Stephanie's Mommy Brain will be hosting the concluding discussion next Friday, September 28th. I purchased this book (used) on Amazon specifically for this month's read and while I don't regret it, I also don't feel like I got very much out of it. Jill Savage is the founder and director of Hearts at Home ministry. Their goal is to encourage stay-at-home moms to stay the course without losing their minds. (Heh.) They really seem to desire to bless and stregnthen the hearts of mothers who have made the choice to stay at home in order to raise their children. The new "Expanded" edition of this book came out in 2002, so it has been around a bit.

 The basic idea of this book is that vocation of motherhood is a valid one and is worthy of the respect of others, secondarily, and to self, primarily. It seems to be Savage's goal to instill encouragement and a sense of self-worth to the mother who has made a decision to stay in the home full-time, but doesn't have a great support system in place to do so. Please understand that I am writing my opinion on this book as a stay-at-home mom myself. My mother was one, as was my mother-in-law so the idea that I would do anything but stay at home with our children as they are growing up would be a foreign one to Jonathan and myself. I have no issues or hesitations in staying at home. Rather, I believe that's what I was designed to do and called to do! Coupled with the fact that it's what I've always wanted to do, I'm not suffering a lot of regret. I'm right where I'm supposed to be and I've never thought to worry much if others think me odd for doing so. That to say, I have quite a fair amount of confidence about what I'm doing. From that perspective, this book wouldn't fall under the category of a "necessary" read to me. That said, I can think of certain people and certain situations who would likely find Professionalizing Motherhood - which is something of a "How-To" book - to be very informative and helpful. Savage said a lot of things I agree with (obviously) about the importance of having mom stay at home with the kids. I have heard another speaker recently say that staying home with your kids while they are growing up is a kindness to them. Giving them a sense of stability, a knowledge that you will be there for them when they need you, is a great comfort. While it is acknowledged that having only one income can be a difficulty, Savage encourages her reader to consider the cost of not having mom at home (i.e., how many issues does mom tend to that she might not be able to deal with effectively if balancing home and an outside job). In order for mom to be able to stay at home with the kids, a great deal of sacrifice is frequently in order. She writes:
"By practicing delayed gratification we are on our way to understanding what is really important in life - people, not things. The choices we make now will affect our families' lives and future. One day when we reflect on the memories, will they be positive or negative?" (page 23)
She asks important questions and she offers a lot of tips and advice on how to do the "stay-at-home-mom-thing" with enthusiasm and grace. I think the thing that rubbed me wrong about the book is her overarching emphasis on calling this vocation a "profession." I see the point she is trying to argue - that motherhood is just as valid an occupation as any other. She is countering society's claims that being a SAHM isn't at all important and ought not to be thought too highly of. It just feels like she's straining at the bit to make certain we SAHM-ers feel self worth by giving ourselves a title. For example, she writes this:
"Have you changed - or considered changing - the career direction of your life? Are you considering the career of motherhood? Have you considered motherhood to be a valid profession? I invite you to join this time of professional women who are committed to motherhood! Identifying motherhood as a profession is the first step in setting the career direction of your life." (page 29)
Now, to me, that just seems like she cares too much about what society thinks of what she is doing. And to me, motherhood is not a profession. Because in a profession, you aren't required to die to self daily. I worked in an office environment for almost 10 years. I did not have to sacrifice my desires, wants and sense of self worth in an office. I was respected and I respected others. I wore shoes every day. I used long words when I was having conversations and/or typing legal documents. I did not have to wipe my employer's bottom or change their diapers. (Thank the Lord.) I brushed my hair every morning and if there was a fuss in the office, it was rather quickly resolved without anyone screaming like a banshee. (Expect for one time. But that wasn't my fault.)

Motherhood is not a profession which allows you to meet a certain achievement goal and find everyone around you perfectly pleased and satisfied. More often than not, when you achieve a goal worth achieving (potty training! amen?) you aren't awarded a certificate or given a raise. You are just enormously grateful that you don't have to remove the back seat of your car just to fit the stack of diaper boxes that you spent a ton of money on at Costco anymore. When you make a meal for your family, sometimes people cry over it. And when you clean things up, they get dirty again. I just have a problem with trying to puff ourselves up falsely. I also don't feel the need to validate everything I say and do in a society that rejects almost every single value I possess. Being a stay-at-home mom isn't easy but I do believe it is important and there is great value in it. I don't care if anyone else sees it that way. I can't think about presenting myself well in public all of the time. What is more important to me is that my home life is good. Is my husband happy, satisfied, supported and respected? Are my children growing, thriving and feeling my love and joy over their very exuberant and joyful existence? Then that is all that matters. What others think or may say or do is of less consequence to me. I do not need a title. I don't need to feel like I'm setting goals just like I did when I worked in an office. What I need to do is live and do everything I do for the glory of God, the One who made me to do exactly what I'm doing.

All that to say, I get the point of the book and her arguments. Really, I do. But I couldn't take it altogether seriously because in some ways I don't take myself that seriously. I'm not on a career path. I'm on a life path. It's sacrificial, but I'm not going to regret a moment. I know that already.

Reading to Know - Book Club


Barbara H. said...

I can see how the mindset in the book would help some people in different ways.

Annette Whipple said...

I think your summary is well articulated! (Even if I didn't read it.)

I had to skip this one...and likely next month's, too, but will aim for Nov (obviously) and December for the book club!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I didn't buy this one because I figured it would just be preaching to the choir. I don't have to be convinced, though that's no guarantee I'm not going crazy. ;-)

Queen of Carrots said...

I don't care for the "professionalizing" thing either--it makes me think of all the hyper-competitive aspect of motherhood, whether it's getting children to X benchmark sooner or having pinterest-worthy meals or birthday parties or whatever. I realize this is probably not what she is proclaiming, but I think the whole problem is caused by women applying a professional mindset to raising children.
I don't really see why motherhood has to be treated in such a completely different category than fatherhood. Why is motherhood a profession but fatherhood a hobby? Yes, practically it often makes more sense for a mother with young children to be with them at home, but it is in fact a luxury of our society that she can devote herself full-time to such a pursuit--in nearly every previous time and place, unless she was quite wealthy (in which case servants would have done the majority of child care, too), she would have spent most of her time in activities that contributed to the family economically. I was reading "Lark Rise to Candleford" a few weeks ago and the mothers (wives of farm day laborers) shooed their preschoolers (down to two) out the door early in the morning, expecting them to fend for themselves all day, so that the mothers could get on with the business of survival. Wherever possible, of course, children were included in the work, and that was a great thing that our society is sorely missing.
Devoting years to raising children not a luxury we need to be ashamed of choosing any more than we should be ashamed of driving instead of walking everywhere. But it is a luxury.

Unknown said...

What a great paragraph you wrote about the difference between motherhood and a job -- in a job you don't die to self. Great thoughts!

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Carrots always states things so well!

I think the most egregious example of "hobbyizing" fatherhood is the assumption that if one income is insufficient to survive, that the father ought to work multiple jobs - and thereby not be able to see his children - rather than splitting the wage-earning burden. (This same attitude pervades the divorce culture, wherein fathers are a source of money, but little else.)

I also think that rather than admitting that full-time motherhood is a luxury, we tend to make it our idol. This then leads to thinking that we are morally superior to those who are unable to afford such a luxury.

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