Married to the Empire

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Womanhood



As regular readers know, I am not a mother. I'm not going to get into the particulars of why I am not, but I will say that I'm okay with it. I'm something of an oddball in today's world, as I gave up my career a decade ago to stay at home, even though I have no children. I struggled with my identity early on, as our society seems to define women by their careers or their motherhood. Without either, I felt a little lost for a while, and it took a few years to finally become completely comfortable with where I am. (Not because I second-guessed Steven's and my decision for me to be at home, but because our culture told me I had no place.)

I've heard people say that having children is the only way to have purpose in life. I've heard well-meaning Christians say that women are here to be wives and mothers. The implication is that if someone has no children, she's flouting God's will, being punished by God, and/or failing to fulfill her life's purpose.

How utterly hurtful and insulting. I believe God has an individual plan in place for each of us.

Believe it or not, Mother's Day always winds up being a rather sweet day for me. The rose pictured above was given to me at church. Our church chooses to recognize all women, as we all have relationships in which we nurture others. I think it's rather sweet, and I hope no real mothers are bothered by the broad recognition.

But it's also sweet because of things like this:



This card happened to be from our youth minister. (Yes, he's younger than me. No, I'm not old enough to be his mother!) I've received sweet cards like this in the past from some of the kids in our youth group. Always I have kids wishing me a happy Mother's Day.

You see, I'm not anyone's mother, but I choose to build relationships with others in which I have the opportunity to teach, love, and nurture. Sometimes, those kids teach me. It's very much a give-and-take, and it's always worth the time and effort. I love them very much, and it's nice to know that they love me back. As my wise husband often says, life is about relationships. We're here to love God and love others.* Period. How that plays out is unique to each of us.

Why am I writing all this? I suppose to encourage any women out there whose circumstances are like mine. Being without children is not a punishment or a great sorrow (although I realize it may feel like the latter to those who are desperately trying unsuccessfully to have a baby). Just as raising children is a privilege, I consider not raising them to be privilege, as well. I've been able to give time to the teens at my church that I wouldn't otherwise have if I had children of my own. I've developed incredible relationships over the years and been used by God in amazing ways that I didn't even know about until years later. (It's funny how sometimes God just tells us to do something, but he doesn't let us know why until a very long time later.)

Whatever your circumstances, just live life according to God's will. Ignore the world around you and listen only to the Almighty. Rejoice in the life he's given you.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Mark 12:28-31:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

15 comments:

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

This is such a sweet and thoughtful post--much like you are a sweet and thoughtful person.

(PS I still have something for you sitting on my desk waiting to be mailed! i am so sorry!)

ann said...

This is so well said, Anne Marie! And I was going to say the same thing, you are able to give your whole heart to those kids at your church. That is awesome. This is a great message, thank you so much for sharing!

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

Well said!

Allison said...

This was a very brave post, and I really enjoyed reading it. I also wrestle with whether failing to have (or even failing to *want* to have) children violate's God's plan. I try to remind myself that my job is to do what God tells me to do - not what other people think God is telling me to do. I tend to give a lot of weight to what other people say "God told you to do X" because I really struggle to hear God sometimes. Thank you so much for the reminder!

If you don't want to get into it, that's fine :), but I'm curious how you would answer something like the commandment to "go forth and multiply." Do you think God was speaking to Adam and Eve only, or to everyone?

I think your kids (furry ones, too) and very lucky to have you in their lives!

As far as being an "oddball," I remember seeing a CNN article in the past year or so about the increase in stay-at-home wives without children. I'll try to find it.

Allison

Joy of Frugal Living said...

Good post. I struggled with identity in choosing to stay home without children too. In my case I was expecting when I quit and lost that one, then two more, so the motherhood thing has been a looming issue for me. However we never had any doubt that it was the right choice for us, had been discussing me staying home even before that time, and we enjoy the lifestyle of having me at home so much. Our nearly three years of me working no more than very part time have been a blessing, and I think are good preparation for our next phase, when the baby arrives. But they would be good regardless.

I understand how people tend to see the SAHW as the odd duck, but I really think they are the ones missing out by not considering it a viable choice. There are so many good opportunities for us, and you are a great example of how to take advantage of them. :)

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Allison, if the CNN article is the one I think it is, you don't have to find it. I was one of the women interviewed for the article, which frankly, didn't paint me in a very positive light. The author left information out, and I felt objectified by it, to be honest, which was disappointing. The horrid comments that followed it didn't help.

As for God's commandment to Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply, I happen to believe that he was speaking to those 2 people at that point in time. The earth needed to be populated, and they were chosen to do it. There are now over 6 billion people on the planet, so I think they were successful. ;-)

I'm not anti-children or anything; we just don't happen to have any. As I said, I don't really want to publicly get into the particulars of it (but I'm willing to discuss it through email with any readers I recognize). But I do know that there are other women out there who struggle with this. Not everyone has children, but to read some of the blogs out there, you'd think we were committing some horrible sin because of it. People don't really know anyone else's heart, mind, relationship with God, or reproductive issues/history. There is a lot of judgement out there, and many assumptions being made. This has been on my heart and mind lately, so I figured it was about time I posted it.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I forgot to say thank you for all the kind comments. :-)

Joy, I agree. A lot of people really do miss out on the blessings that can come from being at home. I'm all for choice when it comes to women working or not; I just wish there was more acknowledgement that being at home is a viable choice!

Every year when I tutor, I'm reminded of just how much of value I do at home. Even down to things like being available to take the cat to the vet when he's sick, as he was last week. I realize that people manage to hold down jobs AND do everything else, but much of that is crammed into the weekend, or in the case of the cat, would have involved a trip to the emergency vet and a greater case of dehydration, as he would have been home alone all day without anyone to notice he was sick.

I'm not one to rhapsodize about the beauty and wonder and joy of being at home, and I certainly wouldn't EVER want to make another woman feel guilty if she's not at home. We each have to make decisions based on our own situations, desires, and callings. But for us, this really is what works best.

Gavin said...

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. - Genesis 3:20 (ESV)

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." - Genesis 4:1 (ESV)

Technically, and by that I mean biblically and chronologically, Eve was a mother before she ever bore children. I like the English Standard Version quite a bit.

AnneK said...

I have actually ventured to comment from work, because I don't want to miss out on commenting on this one. This was so sweet and thoughtful, Anne Marie. You are one of my favorite SAHW because I can enjoy your lifestyle vicariously without second guessing what God called me to do at this point in my life. That is a very fine line and few people can do that.

May God bless you richly!

Eliza28 said...

What a fantastic post!

God has given you a wonderful blessing of being Mother to all those that you love and spend time with. :)

*carrie* said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Anne Marie. I think it's awesome that you and S invest in the lives of the youth in your church, and I think it's really neat that your church recognizes the nurturing role of all women!

Lynn said...

Very well said :)

Thumperdd said...

Anne Marie,

You are such a strong and lovely woman. You're absolutely right. God has a plan for each and everyone of us. That plan is between the individual and God, not the individual, God, and well-meaning ladies whom believe that marriage = babies... As with anything - our lives can only equal what God wants for us, whatever that may be.

Whatever the situation, I'm glad that you've come to terms with it and accept the path God has given you. What a wonderful path that has been so far and, surely, it will only get better! How fortunate you are to have friends around you that readily support you and love you unconditionally, as you do them.

Sending you lots of love from another sister in Christ!

Danita

Ruthie said...

Ann Marie ~

Thanks so much for the comment on my post and for this post. We really are the odd (and lucky!) duck!

What I find a lot is most people's response lately has been "I wish I could do that!" and I want to tell them that if they work hard that they can. It doesn't take being married to a billionaire. It just takes evaluating your marriage and your wants/goals.

Because of your post I'm considering looking into my new church's youth programs to see if they need any help.

If you ever want to chat -- veganruthie at yahoo dot com. :-)

Cathy VanPatten said...

Lovely post--I have always been conflicted about Mother's Day, because I always wanted to be a mother, but it never has worked out that way.

I am, however, a stepmother, and they don't really have days for us--in fact, I've felt battered all day from the comments coming in on an article on Salon about stemothers (or, rather, stepmonsters, as they so blithely titled it). Even though I have a good relationship with my stepkids and love them very much, I never kidded myself into thinking I was anything to them but a friend who happened to be their dad's wife. That I'm their friend is plenty good enough for me.

Then, this Mother's Day, when we were down in Texas visiting my step-daughter and her husband, she told me that she considered me to be as much a parent as her mom and dad, that she loved me, and that--if it was all right with me--she wanted her kids (when she has them) to call me "grandma," the same as they would call her mom "grandma."

I can't tell you what a glorious Mother's Day I had this year!

All the best--I'm really going to try to be better at writing in my own blog... so don't forget me!