It was the third day in a row, and my 3 year old son was tugging on my hand. “Please, Mommy!” he was saying. “Don’t sit in the chair today!”
I looked into his big green eyes, so like my own. I loved him so very much. I desperately wanted to be a good mother to him, the kind that built her world around her family. The kind that kept the house clean and baked cookies and above all, NEVER let her child darken the door of a daycare center.
Just as desperately, he wanted me to come play with him. To do anything besides what I’d done for 3 days now, which was sit in this chair in the living room and stare out the window. But I was too deep into the black pit of depression. I could barely talk to him. And above all else, I simply could not get out of the chair. So I turned back to the window and he eventually went off to play by himself.
Keepers At Home
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. – Titus 2: 4-5 KJV
I believed wholeheartedly in that verse, and I was trying my best to be one of those women. Of course my husband believed it even more strongly. He just could not fathom why being at home, taking care of him and the kiddo and keeping up the house wasn’t just soul-stirringly fulfilling for me. We had multiple conversations around the fact that I was supposed to be happy, and the fact that I wasn’t meant there was something wrong with ME.
He would read passages from Proverbs to me – especially chapter 31, the be-all-end-all ultimate image of Christian wifehood:
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. – Proverbs 31:10 -15 KJV
One day in particular I remember him coming home to dirty dishes, but a new flower arrangement on the wall. Clearly my priorities were out of order. “You get more fulfillment,” he said in an accusing tone, “from something like that than you do cleaning the house.”
I felt like I was on a treadmill. Every day was the exact same thing – I changed the same diapers, wiped the same rear end, cleaned the same dishes in the same sink. I know that there are women that are perfectly happy doing just that, and they don’t feel like its mind-numbing. And they’re just as smart and creative as I am. More power to them – they are wired very differently than me. It literally drove me to the pits of despair.
Apparently Satan Was The Problem
Fast forward about 17 years, and today I discovered an article that surely explains why I was so miserable as a stay at home mom. Because Satan.
It’s titled, When Satan Tells You, “You’re Too Good For Motherhood,” and like so much I write about here I found it on Facebook. The opening paragraph sounded good to me:
There is a line in Scripture that has always infuriated me. It’s Timothy 2:15, and for years I could not read it without wanting to hurl my Bible at the wall. “The woman,” writes St. Paul, “will be saved by childbearing, if only she continue with faith, love and holiness.” Its baptized misogyny was insulting enough (how typical to posit a woman’s salvation within her social confines of barefoot, pregnant servitude), yet beneath it lurked a more devastating injury: the idea that a woman’s sanctity was tied up in motherhood. That spelled damnation for me, I thought, for the drudgery of childbearing was the last thing I aspired to.
That’s another verse my husband used to read to me. My very SALVATION was at stake if I couldn’t find a way to be happy being Mommy. (The kids, too. He once told me our son could go to Hell if I disobeyed him by taking a course he wanted me to quit.) This author, Marion Fernandez-Cueto, has a lot in common with my husband. To her, wanting to have her own life and interests outside of mommyhood is a selfishness that needs to be scourged. She put off having children for quite some time because she wasn’t ready for such scourging. Then of course she fell in love, got married and eventually had a baby.
Be Mom And Be Happy About It Or Else
Interestingly, she had a blissful easy pregnancy where she felt wonderful, glowed, and never had morning sickness. (Both of mine were hell on earth. Morning, Noon and Night sickness for nine solid months, back pain.. the second one my son decided to lay on my sciatic nerve and gift me with pain that still flares up to this day. I’m sure to remind him whenever it does, too. He loves that.) She attributes this easy pregnancy to “grace” which makes me think maybe my husband was right and I had failed God with my unhappiness because I sure as hell didn’t get any pregnancy grace.
Then, the little buggar had the nerve to be born, and God had the nerve to cut off the grace supply. Suddenly reality hit her with the force of a sledgehammer:
I still remember my feeling of incredulity when the hospital night nurse first woke me to feed him, seemingly minutes after a searing labor. I looked at the clock — 2:20 a.m. — then at my mewling, scrunchy little baby, and knew like Napoleon at Waterloo that the end had come — the end of life as I knew and liked it. This child, this responsibility, was mine for the rest of my life.
Fernandez-Cueto was mad at God for not blessing her with Maternal instinct the way He’d blessed her with such a wonderful pregnancy. And above all, she was not happy that she wasn’t blissfully happy. Which sounds amazingly familiar to me.
A voice in my head echoed the old cry of Lucifer: non serviam — I will not serve. “You’re too good for this,” said the voice. “You were made for better things — not the endless, mind-numbing tedium of diapers and dishes and laundry. Where is the glamour, the intellectual stimulation, the chances and promotions you still deserve? Is this really what God intended for you?”
The rest of the article is Fernandez-Cueto’s attempt to reconcile the fact that she still wanted a career while being a mommy. AS IF THOSE TWO THINGS ARE COMPLETELY MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. She’s utterly jealous of an old friend who is still single and travels the world, only to find the old friend is completely miserable and wishes she could settle down and have kids. Because again, THOSE TWO THINGS ARE COMPLETELY MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.
Because only Satan would tempt a mother to want to do something beyond the “endless, mind-numbing tedium of diapers and dishes and laundry.” To desire anything beyond that is clearly sinful.
But We’re Not All Cut Out For That
It took me well over a decade to realize that needing more from life didn’t mean something was wrong with me. That instead I had talents that needed to be expressed and shared with the world, and burying them under a pile of dirty laundry wasn’t doing me, my children or the world any favors.
Once I figured that out and found ways to fulfill those needs, I became a much happier person. I was able to engage more with my children because I wasn’t stuck in a chair in the depths of despair. My family has benefited by the salary I provide, and I found a way to work from home so I’m still here when anyone needs me. All in all, everyone is better off. The husband of course doesn’t love it, and there is constant struggle since he still thinks all of my attention should be focused at home.
It got so bad that at one point we went to the Pastor for marriage counselling. One of the things he said to me was, “You get your fulfillment from your job,” in the same accusatory tone that my husband had used all those years ago when I decorated instead of doing dishes. But this time I wasn’t having it. “So?” I retorted. He backed down slightly and said, “It’s just an observation.”
But I remembered how it felt sitting in that chair, and the look of disappointment on my son’s face. I’m sorry Pastor, I’m sorry Ms. Fernandez-Cueto, I’m sorry to the writers of the New Testament. I’m sorry to the husband. If its really sinful for me to be fulfilled by things outside of my home and immediate family, then so be it. I’m not going back.
Christianity wants us all to be cookie-cutter copies of a biblical norm. Paganism, on the other hand, generally supports the idea that everyone is unique and has unique gifts to offer the world. The fundamental difference between the two lies in the idea that one wants you to reject who you are to become more like the norm in order to please a god, while the other wants you to be your true and authentic self in order to make the world a better place.
Yeah, I’m gonna stick with Door #2. And Happy Mothers Day!